Polly refers to Miss Polly Peachum, a character in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera of 1728 (January). Henry Carey (1687-1743) set this verse (1728) to his famous tune Sally in our Alley, which Gay had used in the opera. Carey's verse about Polly Peachum became so popular that it was eventually incorporated into The Beggar's Opera libretto, beginning with the third edition.1 Even in this short example, we can detect Carey's delight that Polly had overtaken "the Opera of Rolli," alluding to Italian opera in general by referring specifically to the Italian poet and librettist who adapted libretti for several opera seria composers whilst they were in London. Though this particular victory celebration for English opera would not last long, Polly's triumph was one of the indicators that the period of significant success for Italian opera in London was growing short-a situation that surely would have pleased Henry Carey. Poet, composer, librettist, singer, teacher, and Englishman to the core, Carey was on the frontlines of the battle between the theatres presenting ballad opera and English opera, and the theatres presenting the Italian operas of Handel, Bononcini, Ariosti, Porpora, Hasse, and Broschi. Through studying Carey's innovative songs and poems one immediately discerns Carey's nationalistic sentiments, expressed during a time when the English musical arts were set aside in favor of Italian musical forms and performers.2 Carey was in the forefront of those seeking to change English attitudes towards their own music (in particular English opera) and musicians. Carey also wrote pieces of political and social satire, taking the lead in producing wickedly humorous social commentary. This discussion of Carey's creative output, referencing songs and poems dating from the 1720s and 1730s, will demonstrate the distinctive ways in which artists use their work to lead.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Leadership at the Crossroads by Joanne B. Ciulla, Donelson R. Forsyth, Michael A. Genovese, George R. Goethals, Lori Cox Han, and Crystal L. Hoyt, Editors. Copyright 2008 by the authors. all rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

Please note that downloads of the book chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at ABC-CLIO, LLC.