Marx knew the Prussians were watching him. Irritated at being spied on in a free country, he and his friend Friedrich Engels complained in a letter to the Spectator:
‘Really, sir, we should never have thought that there existed in this country so many police spies as we have had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of in the short space of a week. Not only that the doors of the houses where we live are closely watched by individuals of a more than doubtful look, who take down their notes very coolly every time one enters or leaves it; we cannot make a single step without being followed by them wherever we go.
We cannot get into an omnibus or enter a coffee house without being favoured with the company of at least one of these unknown friends.’
Since rebuilt, the original piazza at Covent Garden dated from the 1630s and was modelled on the one at Livorno in Italy. It was a popular meeting place for 18th century Londoners. William Hogarth lived nearby and drew some of his most famous pictures here.
The piazza swarmed with prostitutes in Hogarth’s time. One of them was picked up by a man about town in 1763:
‘I went to Covent Garden, and on meeting an attractive young woman, I accosted her in French, and asked if she would sup with me.
‘How much will you give me?’
‘After the play, I ordered a good supper for two, and she display’d an appetite after my own heart. When we had supp’d, I asked her name and address. Her name was Kennedy. I was astonished to find that she was one of the girls whom Lord Pembroke had assessed at six guineas. I concluded that it was best to do one’s own negotiating, or at any rate not to employ a nobleman as an agent.’
Three guineas? James Boswell was picking them up for sixpence in St James’ Park the same year (Question 27).
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 78. Who was this idiotic man about town who thought himself such an astute negotiator?
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