Not all Lucys are strumpets

I picked up a copy of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ by John Gay and Johann Christoph Pepusch whilst in Aberdeen, at the Oxfam bookshop, as it’s the Easter holidays and in between revising for exams my teenage daughter has done very little other than Skype, Youtube and Minecraft. So I led her, blinking like a pit pony in the bright sunlight of the city centre. I fed her in Slane’s Castle, a church turned pub, full of gloomily-lit gothy things.

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The chap was in a case next to our table. He's a grotesque. It annoys me when grotesques are called gargoyles. If water doesn't go through them, they are not gargoyles. Town of Pedantry, population, me.

The chap in a case next to our table is a grotesque. It annoys me when grotesques are called gargoyles. If water doesn’t go through them, they are not gargoyles. Town of Pedantry, population, me.

The Beggar’s Opera, written in 1728, interested me as there is a character called Lucy Lockit, a jailer’s daughter who wants to marry a highwayman called Macheath, but he’s carrying on with Polly the thief-catcher’s daughter. Lucy tries to poison her, but it doesn’t work, and when four other women claim Macheath has got them pregnant too, he says he’s happy to hang.

There is also a Lucy Lockett, the rhyme based on a immoral barmaid at The Cock  Alehouse (yes, really. Samuel Pepys had a drink there, first established in 1554 and rebuilt in 1888) who used men for money. Kitty Fisher was a famous courtesan, who it seems took up with one of Lucy’s cast offs out of spite. The pocket Lucy lost meant her purse, and the fact it was found with a ribbon round it probably suggested she was a prostitute, as they tied their purses to their thighs.

But before we give up on my name as being that of highwayman’s molls and scheming sluts, let’s not forget St. Lucy, patron saint of blind people. She was so virtuous St Agatha came to her in a dream and said her mother’s blindness would be cured on account of Lucy’s awesomeness and choice to remain a virgin. As punishment for upsetting some rich people and men and there’s a betrothed in there, too, she was sentenced to be defiled, but a team of oxen could not drag her from her cell to the brothel where the sentence was to be carried out. They then decided to bring wood and burn her, but it wouldn’t light, so in the end they cut her with a sword. In some versions her eyes were also gouged out. In others, she took them out herself, and they magically popped back in when she died. Either way, she was made of pretty solid stuff, and no theft or hooking anywhere.

Saint_Lucy_by_Domenico_di_Pace_BeccafumiSaint Lucy with her novelty eyeball cake stand. Perfect for a Purgatory wedding cake.

Link to Beggar’s Opera ebook on Project Gutenberg

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