The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 7. The Virginia Gazette
Early theatrical notices may also be followed in The Virginia Gazette, a paper of unusual excellence, edited by William Parks in Williamsburg, the old capital of Virginia. Here The Busy-Body, The Recruiting Officer, and The Beaux-Stratagem were all performed, often by amateurs, though professionals were known as early as 1716 in Williamsburg. Life in Williamsburg in 1736 had a more cosmopolitan quality than in other towns. A sprightly essay-serial called The Monitor, which fills the first page of The Virginia Gazette for twenty-two numbers, probably reflects not only the social life of the capital, but also the newer fashion in such periodical work. It is dramatic in method, with vividly realized characters who gossip and chat over games of piquet or at the theatre. The Beaux-Stratagem, which had been played in Williamsburg three weeks before, is mentioned as delightful enough to make one of the ladies commit the indiscretion of giggling. The Monitor represents a kind of light social satire unusual in the colonies.
Satire of a heavier sort when attempted by newspaper writers was never long sustained above mere invective, though it sometimes began with tolerable Hudibrastic or Popean couplets. The Dunciad and Hudibras were well known and often quoted in such bitter controversies as the famous Whitefield warfare in Charleston between 1740 and 1745. A Tale of a Tub and Gulliver’s Travels also furnished admirable epithets for one’s foes. Occasionally some journalist tried to moderate the heat of battle by recurring to the dignity of Addison. In political controversy, especially if he happened to be a liberal, he preferred Cato’s Letters, Locke, or Algernon Sidney, throughout the early period. Thus it was that the colonists from Boston to Savannah were constantly imbibing advanced British constitutional theories.