« AnteriorContinuar »
not be a greater argument of the general good understanding of a people, than a sudden consent to give their approbation of a sentiment which has no emotion in it. If it were spoken with ever so great skill in the actor, the manner of uttering that sentence could have nothing in it which could strike but people of the greatest humanity, nay people elegant and skilful in observations upon it. It is possible he might have laid his hand on his breast, and, with a winning insinuation in his countenance, expressed to his neighbour that he was a man who made his case his own; yet I will engage a player in Covent-garden might hit such an attitude a thousand times before he would have been regarded. I have heard that a minister of state in the reign of queen Elizabeth had all manner of books and ballads brought to him, of what kind soever, and took great notice how much they took with the people ; upon which he would, and certainly might, very well judge of their present dispositions, and the most proper way of applying them according to his own purposes.
What passes on the stage, and the reception it meets with from the audience, is a very useful instruction of this kind. According to what you may observe on our stage, you see them often moved so directly against all common sense and humanity, that you would be apt to pronounce us a nation
savages. It cannot be called a mistake of what is pleasant, but the very contrary to it is what most assuredly takes with them. The other night an old woman carried off with a pain in her side, with all the distortions and anguish of countenance which is natural to one in that condition, was laughed and
clapped off the stage. Terence's comedy, which I am speaking of, is indeed written as if he hoped to please none but such as had
as good a taste as himself. I could not but reflect upon the natural description of the innocent young woman made by the servant to his master, • When I came to the house,' said he, woman opened the door, and I followed her in, because I could, by entering upon them unawares, better observe what was your mistress's ordinary manner of spending her time, the only way of judging any one's inclinations and genius. I found her at her needle in a sort of second mourning, which she wore for an aunt she had lately lost. She had nothing on but what showed she dressed only for herself. Her hair hung negligently about her shoulders. She had none of the arts with which others used to set themselyes off, but had that negligence of person which is remarkable in those who are careful of their minds. Then she had a maid who was at work near her that was a slattern, because her mistress was careless; which I take to be another argument of your security in her; for the go-betweens of women of intrigue are rewarded too well to be dirty. When you were named, and I told her you desired to see her, she threw down her work for joy, covered her face, and decently hid her tears.' He must be a very good actor, and draw attention rather from his own character than the words of the author, that could gain it among us for this speech, though so full of nature and good sense.
The intolerabie folly and confidence of players putting in words of their own, does in a great measure feed the absurd taste of the audience. But however that is, it is ordinary for a cluster of coxcombs to take up the house to themselves, and equally insult both the actors and the company. These savages, who want all manner of regard and deference to the rest of mankind, come
only to show themselves to us, without any other
gross of an audience is composed of two sorts of people, those who know no pleasure but of the body, and those who improve or command corporeal pleasures, by the addition of fine sentiments of the mind. At present the intelligent part of the company are wholly subdued by the insurrections of those who know no satisfactions but what they have in common with all other animals.
This is the reason that when a scene tending to procreation is acted, you see the whole pit in such a chuckle, and old letchers, with mouths open, stare at the loose gesticulations on the stage with shameful earnestness; when the justest pictures of human life in its calm dignity, and the properest sentiments for the
onduct of it, pass by like mere narration, as conducing only to somewhat much better which is to come after. I have seen the whole house at some times in so proper a disposition, that indeed I have trembled for the boxes, and feared the entertainment would end in a representation of the rape of the Sabines.
I would not be understood in this talk to argue that nothing is tolerable on the stage but what has an immediate tendency to the promotion of virtue. On the contrary, I can allow, provided there is nothing against the interest of virtue, and is not offensive to good manners, that things of an indifferent nature may be represented. For this reason I have no exception to the well-drawn rusticities in the Country Wake; and there is something so miraculously pleasant in Dogget's acting the awkward triumph and comic sorrow of Hob in different circumstances, that I shall not be able to stay away whenever it is acted. All
that vexes me is, that the gallantry of taking the cudgels for Gloucestershire, with the pride of heart in tucking himself up, and taking aim at his adversary, as well as the other's protestation in the humanity of low romance, that he could not -promise the 'squire to break Hob's head, but he would, if he could, do it in love ; then flourish and begin : I say what vexes me
that such excellent touches as these, as well as the 'squire's being out of all patience at Hob's success, and venturing himself into the crowd, are circumstances hardly taken notice of, and the height of the jest is only in the very point that heads are broken. I am confident, were there a scene written, wherein Pinkethman should break his leg by wrestling with Bullock, and Dicky come in to set it, without one word said but what should be according to the exact rules of surgery in making this extension, and binding up his leg, the whole house should be in a roar of applause at the dissembled anguish of the patient, the help given by him who threw him down, and the handy address and arch looks of the surgeon. To enumerate the entrance of ghosts, the embattling of armies, the noise of heroes in love, with a thousand other enormities, would be to transgress the bounds of this paper, for which reason it is possible they may have hereafter distinct discourses ; not forgetting any of the audience who shall set up for actors, and interrupt the play on the stage; and players who shall prefer the applause of fools, to that of the reasonable part of the company.
POSTSCRIPT TO SPECTATOR, No. 502. N. B. There are in the play of the Self-Tor. mentor of Terence, which is allowed a most ex
cellent comedy, several incidents which would draw tears from any man of sense, and not one which would move his laughter.-Spect. in folio, No. 521.
This speculation, No. 502, is controverted in the Guard. No. 59, by a writer under the fictitious name of John Lizard; perhaps Dr. Edw. Young.
No. 503. TUESDAY, OCT. 7, 1712.
Deleo omnes dehinc ex animo mulieres.
Ter. Eun. Act ii. Sc. 3. From henceforward I blot out of my thoughts all memory of
"You have often mentioned with great vehemence and indignation the misbehaviour of people at church; but I am at present to talk to you on that subject, and complain to you of one, whom at the same time I know not what to accuse of, except it be looking too well there, and divert
eyes of the congregation to that one object. However, I have this to say, that she might have staid at her own parish, and not come to perplex those who are otherwise intent upon their duty.
• Last Sunday was seven-night I went into a church not far from London-bridge ; but I wish I had been contented to go to my own parish, I am sure it had been better for me;
went to church thither, and got into a pew very near the pulpit. I had hardly been accommodated with a seat, before there entered into the aisle a young