• Iain Bell
  • Moll’s a’cold (Mad scene from A Harlot's Progress) (2017)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2+pic.2.2.2+cbn/2221/timp.2perc/hp/str(
  • Soprano
  • 15 min
  • Peter Ackroyd

Programme Note

London, 1730

After a traumatic period in Bridewell Prison, and suffering the devastating effects of syphilis, Moll Hackabout is back at a garret in Drury Lane. Her sanity and health are now at their most fragile and Kitty - her maid and friend - has taken sole charge of Moll’s new-born daughter, Emily. Moll fantasises to the point of hysteria about a future life in the country with her lover (and Emily’s father) James Dalton. She hallucinates Dalton’s return. After an imagined ‘Dalton’ declares his love and devotion, he swiftly and cruelly rejects both her and the child amidst a torrent of abuse, vanishing as suddenly as he appeared. This sets Moll into a violent, deranged frenzy and she lashes out at her baby daughter. To protect the child, Kitty leaves with Emily in her arms, locking Moll in the room.

Mad with syphilis, Moll journeys through varied states of mental anguish, first fixating on her sores, then singing a lullaby to her absent child. Deep melancholy gives way to fits of rage as she recalls the violence with which she was forced into prostitution. She is so overcome by this intense outburst that she is greatly weakened in body and spirit and calls down the night to take her away. Wrapping herself in a sheet, she sings herself to sleep. Finally, at peace, she dies.