“The New London Spy”

Ned Ward, Writer of The London Spy (1698)by Michael Vandergucht

Ned Ward, Writer of The London Spy (1698)
by Michael Vandergucht

The following advertisement appeared in the Norwich newspapers in 1771. As you can see, people’s tastes in popular magazines seem to have been no different then from now. Nor was this an isolated publication. There were several similar ones during the century, starting with The London Spy published first in 1698.

Note the inclusion of “Shallow Politicians” and “Ministerial Understrappers“ in the list beside pimps, panders and parasites. That seems about right to me!

The New London Spy[1] – containing a true Picture of High and Low Life, from the splendid Mansions in St. ]ames to the subterranean Habitations of St. Giles’s etc — The various Humours of the different Inhabitants of the Metropolis: particularly of Bloods, Bucks, Bullies, Choice Spirits and Fellows of High Fun, Motherly Matrons and their ‘obliging’ Daughters: Jilts, Mock Milliners, Pimps, Panders, Jugglers, Parasites, Mock Patriots, Shallow Politicians, Ministerial Understrappers, French Hair-Dressers, Parish Beadles, Reforming Constables, Decrepit Watchmen, etc. Etc. 2s.

During the eighteenth century, there were a number of such ‘Spy’ titles published. All contained graphic glimpses of the sights and dangers a visitor from the country might encounter in London. They claimed to be instructions on how to avoid the common pitfalls of life in the capital,. Their real purpose, like many of today’s tabloid newspapers, was to offer readers sensational and titillating accounts of London’s low life simply as entertainment.


  1. The New London Spy of 1771 posed as an updating of Ned Ward’s original London Spy of 1698 and 1703. It stated that it would include ‘many scenes.. .that had not taken place in those earlier days’. It also sought to distinguish itself from titles like The Midnight Spy (1766), which focussed primarily on nocturnal goings-on in the metropolis.  ↩

About William Savage

Independent researcher and author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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