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tertain myself either with what is personated on the stage, or observe what appearances present themselves in the audience. If there were no other good consequences in a play-house, than that so many persons of different ranks and conditions are placed there in their most pleasing aspects, that prospect only would be very far from being below the pleasures of a wise man.
There is not one person you can see, in whom, if you look with an inclination to be pleased, you may not behold something worthy or agreeable. Our thoughts are in our features; and the visage of those in whom love, rage, anger, jealousy, or envy, have their frequent mansions, carries the traces of those passions wherever the amorous, the choleric, the jealous, or the envious, are pleased to make their appearance. However, the assembly at a play is usually made up of such as have a sense of some elegance in pleasure; by which means the audience is generally composed of those who have gentle affections, or at least of such, as at that time are in the best humour you can ever find them. This has insensibly a good effect upon our spirits; and the musical airs which are played to us, put the whole company into a participation of the same pleasure, and by consequence, for that time, equal in humour, in fortune, and in quality. Thus far we gain only by coming into an audience; but if we find, added to this, the beauties of proper action, the force of eloquence, and the gaiety of well-placed lights and scenes, it is being happy, and seeing others happy, for two hours; a duration of bliss not at all to be slighted by so short-lived a creature as man. Why then should not the duty of the player be bad in much more esteem than it is at present? If the merit of a performance is to be valued according to the talents which are necessary to it, the qualifications of a player should raise him much above the arts and ways of life which we call mercenary or mechanic. When we look round a full house and behold so few that can, though they set themselves out to show as much as the persons on the stage do, come up to what they would appear even in dumb show; how much does the actor deserve our approbation, who adds to the advantage of looks and motions, the tone of voice, the dignity, the humility, the sorrow, and the triumph, suitable to the character he personates!
It may possibly be imagined by severe men, that I am too frequent in the mention of the theatrical representations; but who is not excessive in the discourse of what he extremely likes? Eugenio can lead you to a gallery of fine pictures, which collection he is always increasing Crassus, through woods and forests, to which he designs to add the neighbouring counties. These are great and noble instances of their magnificence. The players are my pictures, and their scenes my territories. By communicating the pleasure I take in them, it may in some
measure add to men's gratification this way; as viewing the choice and wealth of Eugenio and Crassus augments the enjoyments of those whom they entertain, with a prospect of such possessions as would not otherwise fall within the reach of their fortunes.
It is a very good office one man does another, when he tells him the manner of his being pleased; and I have often thought, that a comment upon the capacities of the players would very much improve the delight that way, and impart it to those who otherwise have no sense of it.
The first of the present stage are Wilks and Cibber, perfect actors in their different kinds. Wilks has a singular talent in representing the VOL. IV.
graces of nature; Cibber the deformity in the afa fectation of them. Were I a writer of plays, I should never employ either of them in parts which had not their bent this way. This is seen in the inimitable strain and run of good humour which is kept up in the character of Wildair, and in the nice and delicate abuse of understanding in that of Sir Novelty. Cibber, in another light, hits exquisitely the flat civility of an affected gentlemanusher, and Wilks the easy frankness of a gentleman.
If you would observe the force of the same capacities in higher life, can any thing be more ingenuous than the behaviour of prince Harry, when his father checks him? any thing more exasperating than that of Richard when he insults his superiors? To beseech gracefully, to approach respectfully, to pity, to mourn, to love, are the places wherein Wilks may be made to shine with the utmost beauty. To rally pleasantly, to scorn artfully, to fatter, to ridicule, and to neglect, are what Cibber would perform with no less excellence.
When actors are considered with a view to their talents, it is not only the pleasure of that hour of action, which the spectators gain from their performance; but the opposition of right and wrong on the stage, would have its force in the assistance of our judgments on other occasions. I have at present under my tutelage a young poet, who, I design, shall entertain the town the ensuing winter. And as he does me the honour to let me see his comedy as he writes it, I shall endeavour to make the parts fit the geniuses of the several actors, as exactly as their habits can their bodies. And because the two I have mentioned are to perform the principal parts, I have prevailed with the house to let the « Careless Husband" be acted on Tuesday This oppor
next, that my young author may have a view of the play, which is acted to perfection, both by them and all concerned in it; as being born within the walls of the theatre, and written with an exact knowledge of the abilities of the performers. Mr. Wilks will do his best in this play, because it is for his own benefit; and Mr. Cibber, because he writ it. Besides which, all the great beauties we have left in town, or within call of it, will be present, because it is the last play this season. tunity will, I hope, inflame my pupil with such generous notions, from seeing so fair an assembly as will be then present, that his play may be composed of sentiments and characters proper to be presented to such an audience. His drama at present has only the outlines drawn. There are, I find, to be in it all the reverend offices of life (such as regard to parents, husbands, and honourable lovers) preserved with the utmost care; and at the same time that agreeableness of behaviour, with the interinixture of pleasing passions which arise from innocence and virtue, interspersed in such a manner, as that to be charming and agreeable, shall appear the natural consequence of being virtuous. This great end is one of those I propose to do in my censorship; but if I find a thin house on an occasion when such a work is to be promoted, my pupil shall return to his commons at Oxford, and Sheer-lane and the theatres be no longer correspondents.
N° 183. SATURDAY, JUNE 10, 1710.
-Fuit hæc sapientia quondam
HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 396.
Our sage forefathers wisely understood
From my own Apartment, June 9. When men look into their own bosoms, and consider the generous seeds which are there planted, that might, if rightly cultivated, enneble their lives, and make their virtue venerable to futurity; how can they, without tears, reflect on the universal de generacy from that public spirit, which ought to be the first and principal motive of all their actions ? In the Grecian and Roman nations, they were wise enough to keep up this great incentive, and it was impossible to be in the fashion without being a patriot. All gallantry had its first source from hence; and to want a warmth for the public welfare, was a defect so scandalous, that he who was guilty of it had no pretence to honour or manhood. What makes the depravity among us, in this behalf, the more vexatious and irksome to reflect upon, is, that the contempt of life is carried as far amongst us, as it could be in those memorable people; and we want only a proper application of the qualities which are frequent among us, to be as worthy as they. There is hardly a man to be found who will not fight upon any occasion, which he thinks may taint