Edward (Ned) Ward

A tavern keeper of obscure background and a prolific writer, Ned Ward belonged to the emerging class of professional writers associated with Grub Street. They were called hacks because their services could be bought, like those of a hackney horse—or, in the common trope for professional writing that Ward elaborates below, a prostitute. Writing anonymously or pseudonymously and often lacking the gentleman’s thorough classical education, they were disparaged by some aristocratic patrons of letters and satirized in works like Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub and Alexander Pope’s Dunciad. Yet the Grub-Street commodification of letters created a profession open to Daniel Defoe as well as Ward. It was open too to women like Delarivier Manley and Eliza Haywood, writers who were doubly burdened by the sexual analogy Ward handles so lightly.

Ward was a professional. Even his extravagant satire of himself as a poverty-stricken near whore is shrewder than we might think. His difference from better bred, more conventionally educated writers is the novelty that he is selling: it gives him his market value. In “Ward, Edward [Ned] (1667–1731),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), article 28682, James Sambrook identifies his subject not as a hack but as a satirist. In The Practice of Satire in England, 1658–1770 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), Ashley Marshall credits Ward and his contemporaries with developing kinds of commercial satire that have little in common with the in-group satire circulated in Court circles after the Restoration of Charles II. In his most famous work, The London Spy (1698–1700), Ward represents trips within London; his rambling spectator anticipates a strategy central Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s more celebrated periodical, The Spectator (1711–1714). Ward shares his love of extravagant similes and his knowing masculine jocularity, both conspicuous in A Trip to Jamaica, with the wits and would-be wits of Restoration comedy. His High-Church satire of politics in Hudibras Redivivus (1705–1707) invited the same fate as Defoe's anti-High-Church satire, The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1703): the author was fined and sentenced to the pillory. Ward belongs in this company.

With several editions by 1700, A Trip to Jamaica was Ward's first real success. Ward, who seems to have visited Port Royal, obviously targets Jamaica, an English plantation vigorously promoted since the island’s capture from Spain in 1655. Celebrating England as a Paradise, he represents Jamaica as a hell on earth in which the criminal dregs of English society now unfairly prosper. (In a quick sequel, A Trip to New England (1699), he was equally dismissive of Bostonians: “Bishops, Bailiffs, and Bastards, were the three Terrible Persecutions which chiefly drove our unhappy Brethren to seek their Fortunes in our Forreign Colonies.”) He also resents the presence in England of a Jamaica interest, complaining memorably that he will need colonial wealth to live at home.

This is sharply observed. Under William III, who with Mary II had replaced James II on the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, England had committed itself to imperial rivalry with France. An expensive foreign war—the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697), which overlapped with war in Ireland (1688–1691)—made military manpower more valuable than a writer's wits, as Ward complains. Demand for bullion to pay soldiers overseas strained a debased coinage to the limit. The resulting great recoinage of 1696 took out of circulation many of the shillings and pence needed to conduct day-to-day transactions like buying food, drink, and (a little higher in the social scale) pamphlets like Ward’s. It is not fanciful to connect Ward’s struggle to live by his pen in London with England's emergence as an imperial power.

On Ward, Howard W. Troyer, Ned Ward of Grubstreet (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1946), is still indispensible; Five Travel Scripts Commonly Attributed to Edward Ward, ed. Troyer (1933), is still useful. On Ward’s milieu, although neither says much about Ward in particular, see J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction (New York: Norton, 1990), and Paula McDowell, The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace 1678–1730 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998).

The copytext here is the 1698 third edition. I have normalized the scribal s and corrected a very few obvious typographical errors, but inconsistent and eccentric spelling, punctuation, and typography are features of Ward’s Grub Street.

—David Oakleaf, Calgary, 2015