Includes bibliographical references (pages 347-365) and index.
1. Showing the poor a good time : gender, class, and charitable cultures. Two cultures of charity ; "Good mothers of the family" -- 2. Worthy poor, worthy rich : women's poverty and charitable institutions. The turning wheel : charitable institutions and life cycle poverty ; The critical decade ; Nights and days at the opera -- 3. Tightening control : the narrowing politics of charity. Making it work ; People versus patricians : civil society and controlling charity -- 4. Meeting the bottom line : alms, taxes, work and legacies. Begging for beggars : keeping the opera Pia dei Poveri Mendicanti afloat ; Taxation by other means ; Making a workhouse ; Deeper in debt and richer all the time : building a legacy -- 5. The wheel keeps turning : moving beyond the opera. Enclosing the circle : shelters and the reform of poor women ; Credit where credit was due : investing in marriage ; Beyond charity : mutual assistance and the working poor -- 6. Baroque piety and the qualità of mercy. Bringing discipline to practical charity ; The aesthetics of poverty and the qualità of mercy.