Page images


The variety of images in this passage is infinitely pleasing, and the recapitulation of each particular image, with a little varying of the expression, makes one of the finest turns of words that I have ever seen; which I rather mention, because Mr. Dryden has said in his preface to Juvenal, that he could meet with no turn of words in Milton. It may be further observed, that though the sweetness of these verses has something in it of a pastoral, yet it excels the ordinary kind, as much as the scene of it is above an ordinary field or meadow. I might here, since I am accidentally led into this subject, show several passages in Milton that have as excellent turns of this nature as any of our English poets whatsoever; but shall only mention that which follows, in which he describes the fallen angels engaged in the intricate disputes of predestination, free-will, and fore-knowledge; and, to humour the perplexity, makes a kind of labyrinth in the very words that describe it. • Others apart sat on a hill retired, In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high Of providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate, Fixed fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute, And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.”

[blocks in formation]

I wront on Friday last to the opera, and was surprised to find a thin house at so noble an entertainment, until I heard that the tumbler was not to make his appearance that night. For my own part, I was fully satisfied with the sight of an actor, who, by the grace and propriety of his action and gesture, does honour to a human figure, as much as the other vilifies and degrades it. Every one will easily imagine I mean signior Nicolini, who sets off the character he bears in an opera by his action, as much as he does the words of it by his voice. Every limb, and every finger, contributes to the part he acts, insomuch that a deaf man might go along with him in the sense of it. There is scarce a beautiful posture in an old statue which he does not plant himself in, as the different circumstances of the story give occasion for it. He performs the most ordinary action in a manner suitable to the greatness of his character, and shows the prince even in the giving of a letter, or despatching of a message... Our best actors are somewhat at a loss to support them. selves with proper gesture, as they move from any considerable distance to the front of the stage; but I have seen the person of whom I am now speaking, enter alone at the remotest part of it, and advance from it, with such great. ness of air and mien, as seemed to fill the stage,

* Paradise Lost, hook ii. ver, 55.

and, at the same time, commanded the attention of the audience with the majesty of his appearance. But, notwithstanding the dignity and elegance of this entertainment, I find for some nights past, that Punchinello has robbed this gentleman of the greater part of his female spectators. The truth of it is, I find it so very hard a task to keep that sex under any manner of government, that I have often resolved to give them over entirely, and leave them to their own inventions. I was in hopes that I had brought them to some order, and was employing my thoughts on the reformation of their petticoats, when, on a sudden, I received information from all parts, that they run gadding after a puppet-show. I know very well, that what I here say will be thought by some malicious persons to flow from envy to Mr. Powell; for which reason I shall set the late dispute between us in a true light. Mr. Powelland H had some difference about four months ago, which we managed by way of letter, as learned men ought to do; and I was very well contented to bear such sarcasms as he was pleased to throw upon me, and answered them with the same freedom. In the midst of this our misunderstanding and correspondence, I happened to give the world an account of the order of Es. quires; upon which Mr. Powell was so disingenuous, as to make one of his puppets, I wish I knew which of them it was, declare, by way of prologue, “that one Isaac Bickerstaff, a pretended esquire, had written a scurrilous piece, to the dishonour of that rank of men;' and then, with more art than honesty, concluded, ‘that all the esquires in the pit were abused by his antagonist as much as he was.” This public accusation made all the esquires of that county, and several of other parts, my professed enemies. I do not in the least question but that he will proceed in his hostilities; and I am informed, that part of his design in coming to town, was to carry the war into my own quarters. I do therefore solemnly declare, notwithstanding that I am a great lover of art and ingenuity, that if I hear he opens any of his people's mouths against me, I shall not fail to write a critique upon his whole performance; for I must confess, that I have naturally so strong a desire of praise, that I cannot bear reproach, though from a piece of timber. As for Punch, who takes all opportunities of bespattering me, I know very well his original, and have been assured by the joiner who put him together, “that he was in long dispute with himself, whether he should turn him into several pegs and utensils, or make him the man he is.’ The same person confessed to me, ‘that he had once actually laid aside his head for a nut-cracker." As for his scolding wife, however she may value herself at present, it is very well known, that she is but a piece of crab-tree. This artificer further whispered in my ear, “that all his courtiers and nobles were taken out of a quickset hedge not far from Islington; and that doctor Faustus himself, who is now so great a conjurer, is supposed to have learned his whole art from an old woman in that neighbourhood, whom he long served in the figure of a broom-staff.” But perhaps it may look trivial to insist so

much upon men's persons; I shall, therefore, turn my thoughts rather to examine their behaviour, and consider, whether the several parts are written up to that character which Mr. Powell piques himself upon, of an able and judicious dramatist. I have for this purpose provided myself with the works of above twenty French critics, and shall examine, by the rules which they have laid down upon the art of the stage, whether the unity of time, place, and action, be rightly observed in any one of this celebrated author's productions; as also, whether in the parts of his several actors, and that of Punch in particular, there is not sometimes an impropriety of sentiments, and an impurity of diction.

White's Chocolate-house, January 2.

I came in here to-day at an hour, when only the dead appear in places of resort and gallantry, and saw hung up the escutcheon of sir Hannibal, a gentleman who used to frequent this place, and was taken up and interred by the company of upholders, as having been seen here at an unlicensed hour. The coat of the deceased is, three bowls and a jack in a green field; the crest, a dice-box, with the king of clubs and pam for supporters. Some days ago the body was carried out of town with great pomp and ceremony, in order to be buried with his ances. tors at the Peak. It is a maxim in morality, that we are to speak nothing but truth of the living, mothing but good of the dead. As I have carefully observed the first during his life-time, I shall acquit myself as to the latter now he is deceased.

He was knighted very young, not in the ordinary form, but by the common consent of mankind.

He was in his person between round and square; in the motion and gesture of his body he was unaffected and free, as not having too great a respect for superiors. He was in his discourse bold and intrepid; and as every one has an excellence, as well as a failing, which distinguishes him from other men, eloquence was his predominant quality, which he had to so great persection, that it was easicr to him to speak, than to hold his tongue. This sometimes exposed him to the derision of men who had much less parts than himself; and, indecd, his great volubility, and inimitable manner of speaking, as well as the great courage he showed on those occasions, did sometimes be. tray him into that figure of speech which is commonly distinguished by the name of Gasconade. To mention no other, he professed in this very place, some days before he died, “that he would be one of the six that would undertake to assault me;" for which reason I have had his figure upon my wall until the hour of his death; and am resolved for the future to bury every one forthwith who I hear has an intention to kill me.

Since I am upon the subject of my adver. saries, I shall here publish a short letter, which I have received from a well-wisher, and is as follows:

“SAGE siR,-You cannot but know, there are many scribblers, and others, who revile you and

your writings. It is wondered that you do not exert yourself, and crush them at once. I am, Sir, with great respect, your most humble ad. mirer and disciple.’

In answer to this, I shall act like my predecessor Æsop, and give him a fable instead of a reply.

It happened one day, as a stout and honest mastiff, that guarded the village where he lived against thieves and robbers, was very gravely walking, with one of his puppies by his side, all the little dogs in the street gathered about him and barked at him. The little puppy was so offended at this affront done to his sire, that he asked him why he would not fall upon them, and tear them to pieces 2 To which the sire answered, with great composure of mind, ‘If there were no curs, I should be no mastiff.”

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The court being prepared for proceeding on the cause of the petticoat, I gave orders to bring in a criminal, who was taken up as she went out of the puppet-show about three nights ago, and was now standing in the street, with a great concourse of people about her. Word was brought me, that she had endeavoured twice or thrice to come in, but could not do it by reason of her petticoat, which was too large for the entrance of my house, though I had ordered both the solding-doors to be thrown open for its reception. Upon this, I desired the jury of matrons, who stood at my right hand, to inform themselves of her condition, and know whether there were any private reasons why she might not make her appearance separate from her petticoat. This was managed with great discretion, and had such an effect, that upon the return of the verdict from the bench of matrons, I issued out an order forth with, ‘that the criminal should be stripped of her incumbrances, until she became little enough to enter my house.' I had before given directions for an engine of several legs, that could contract or open itself like the top of an umbrella, in order to place the petticoat upon it, by which means I might leisurely take a survey of it, as it should appear in its proper dimensions. This was all done accordingly ; and, forthwith, upon the closing of the engine, the petticoat was brought into court. I then directed the machine to be sct upon the table, and dilated in such a manner as to show the garment in its utmost circumference; but my great hall was too narrow for the experiment; for before it was half unfolded, it described so immoderate a circle, that the lower part of it brushed upon my face as I sat in my chair of judicature. I then inquired for the person that belonged to the petticoat; and to my great surprise was directed to a very beautiful young damsel, with so pretty a face and shape, that I bid her come out of the crowd, and seated her upon a little crock at my

left hand, “My pretty maid,” said I, ‘do you own yourself to have been the inhabitant of the garment before us?' The girl, I found, had good sense, and told me, with a smile, that, • notwithstanding it was her own petticoat, she should be very glad to see an example made of it; and that she wore it for no other reason, but that she had a mind to look as big and burly as other persons of her quality; that she had kept out of it as long as she could, and until she began to appear little in the eyes of her acquaintance; that, if she laid it aside, people would think she was not made like other women.' I always give great allowances to the fair sex upon account of the fashion, and, therefore, was not displeased with the defence of my pretty criminal. I then ordered the vest which stood before us to be drawn up by a pully to the top of my great hall, and afterwards to be spread open by the engine it was placed upon, in such a manner, that it formed a very splendid and ample canopy over our heads, and covered the whole court of judicature with a kind of silken rotunda, in its form not unlike the cupola of Saint Paul's. I entered upon the whole cause with great satisfaction, as I sat under the shadow of it. The counsel for the petticoat were now called in, and ordered to produce what they had to say against the popular cry which was raised against it. They answered the objections with great strength and solidity of argument, and expati. ated in very florid harangues, which they did not fail to set off and furbelow, if I may be allowed the metaphor, with many periodical sentences and turns of oratory. The chief arguments for their client were taken, first, from the great benefit that might arise to our woollen manufac. tory from this invention, which was calculated as follows. The common petticoat has not above four yards in the circumference; whereas this over our heads had more in the semi-diameter; so that, by allowing it twenty-four yards in the circumference, the five millions of woollen petticoats which, according to sir William Petty, supposing what ought to be supposed in a wellgoverned state, that all petticoats are made of that stuff, would amount to thirty millions of those of the ancient mode. A prodigious improvement of the woollen trade and what could not fail to sink the power of France in a few years. To introduce the second argument, they begged leave to read a petition of the rope. makers, wherein it was represented, ‘that the demand for cords, and the price of them, were much risen since this fashion came up.” At this, all the company who were present listed up their eyes into the vault; and, I must confess, we did discover many traces of cordage, which were interwoven in the stiffening of the drapery. A third argument was founded upon a pe. tition of the Greenland trade, which likewise represented the great consumption of whalebone which would be occasioned by the present fashion, and the benefit which would thereby accrue to that branch of the British trade. To conclude, they gently touched upon the weight and unwieldiness of the garment, which, they insinuated, might be of great use to preserve the honour of families.

These arguments would have wrought very much upon me, as I then told the company in a long and elaborate discourse, had I not considered the great and additional expence which such fashions would bring upon fathers and husbands; and, therefore, by no means to be thought of until some years after a peace. I further urged, that it would be a prejudice to the ladies themselves, who could never expect to have any money in the pocket, if they laid out so much on the petticoat. To this I added, the great temptation it might give to virgins, of acting in security like married women, and by that means give a check to matrimony, an institution always encouraged by wise societies. At the same time, in answer to the several petitions produced on that side, I showed one subscribed by the women of several persons of quality, humbly setting forth, “that, since the introduction of this mode, their respective ladies had, instead of bestowing on them their cast gowns, cut them into shreds, and mixed them with the cordage and buckram, to complete the stiffening of their under petticoats.” For which, and sundry other reasons, I pronounced the petticoat a forfeiture: but, to show that I did not make that judgment for the sake of filthy lucre, I ordered it to be folded up, and sent it as a present to a widow-gentlewoman, who has five daughters; desiring she would make each of them a petticoat out of it, and send me back the remainder, which I design to cut into stomachers, caps, facings of my waiscoat sleeves, and other garnitures suitable to my age and quality. I would not be understood, that, while I discard this monstrous invention, I am an enemy to the proper ornaments of the fair sex. On the contrary, as the hand of nature has poured on them such a profusion of charms and graces, and sent them into the world more amiable and finished than the rest of her works; so I would have them bestow upon themselves all the additional beauties that art can supply them with, provided it does not interfere with, disguise, or pervert those of nature. I consider woman as a beautiful romantic animal, that may be adorned with furs and feathers, pearls and diamonds, ores and silks. The lynx shall cast its skin at her feet to make her a tippet; the peacock, parrot, and swan shall pay contributions to her muff; the sea shall be searched for shells, and the rocks for gems; and every part of nature furnish out its share towards the embellishment of a creature that is the most consummate work of it. All this I shall indulge them in ; but as for the petticoat I have been speaking of, Incither can nor will allow it

No. 117.] Saturday, January 7, 1709-10.

Durate, et vosmet rebus servate serundis.
Porg. AEm. i. 211.

Endure the hardship of your present state,

Live, and reserve yourselves for better fate. Dryden.

Sheer-lane, January 6.

wins I look into the frame and constitution of my own mind, there is no part of it which I

observe with greater satisfaction, than that tenderness and concern which it bears for the good and happiness of mankind. My own circumstances are indeed so narrow and scanty, that I should taste but very little pleasure, could I receive it only from those enjoyments which are in my own possession; but by this great tincture of humanity, which I find in all my thoughts and reflections, I am happier than any single person can be, with all the wealth, strength, beauty, and success, that can be conferred upon a mortal, if he only relishes such a proportion of these blessings as is vested in himself, and in his own private property. By this means, every man that does himself any real service does me a kindness. I come in for my share in all the good that happens to a man of merit and virtue, and partake of many gifts of fortune and power that I was never born to. There is nothing in particular in which I so much rejoice as the deliverance of good and generous spirits out of dangers, difficulties, and distresses. And be. cause the world does not supply instances of this kind to furnish out sufficient entertainments for such a humanity and benevolence of temper, I have ever delighted in reading the history of ages past, which draws together into a narrow compass the great occurrences and events that are but thinly sown in those tracts of time, which lie within our own knowledge and observation. When I see the life of a great man, who has deserved well of his country, after having struggled through all the oppositions of prejudice and envy, breaking out with lustre, and shining forth in all the splendour of success, I close my book, and am a happy man for a whole evening. But, since, in history, events are of a mixed nature, and often happen alike to the worthless and the deserving, insomuch, that we frequently see a virtuous man dying in the midst of disappointments and calamities, and the vicious ending their days in prosperity and peace, I love to amuse myself with the accounts I meet with in fabulous histories and fictions; for in this kind of writing we have always the pleasure of seeing vice punished, and virtue rewarded. Indecd, were we able to view a man in the whole circle of his existence, we should have the satisfaction of seeing it close with happiness or misery, according to his proper merit: but though our view of him is interrupted by death before the finishing of his adventures, if I may so speak, we may be sure that the conclusion and catastrophe is altogether suitable to his behaviour. On the contrary, the whole being of a man, considered as a hero or a knight-errant, is comprehended within the limits of a poem or romance, and, therefore, always ends to our satisfaction; so that inventions of this kind are like food and exercise to a good-natured disposition, which they please and gratify at the same time that they nourish and strengthen. The greater the affliction is in which we see our favourites in these relations engaged, the greater is the pleasure we take in seeing them relieved. Among the many feigned histories which I have met with in my reading, there is none in which the hero's perplexity is greater, and the winding out of it more difficult, than that in a

French author whose name I have forgot. It so happens, that the hero's mistress was the sister of his most intimate friend, who, for certain reasons, was given out to be dead, while he was preparing to leave his country in quest of adventures. The hero having heard of his friend's death, immediately repaired to his mistress, to condole with her, and comfort her. Upon his arrival in her garden, he discovered at a distance a man clasped in her arms, and embraced with the most endearing tenderness. What should he do? It did not consist with the gentleness of a knight-errant either to kill his mistress, or the man whom she was pleased to favour. At the same time, it would have spoiled a romance, should he have laid violent hands on himself. In short, he immediately entered upon his adventures; and, after a long series of exploits, found out by degrees that the person he saw in his mistress's arms was her own brother, taking leave of her before he left his country, and the embrace she gave him nothing else but the af. fectionate faerwell of a sister: so that he had at once the two greatest satisfactions that could enter into the heart of man, in finding his friend alive, whom he thought dead; and his mistress faithful, whom he had believed inconstant. There are indeed some disasters so very fatal, that it is impossible for any accidents to rectify them. Of this kind was that of poor Lucretia; and yet we see Ovid has found an expedient even in this case. He describes a beautiful and royal virgin walking on the sea shore, where she was discovered by Neptune, and violated after a long and unsuccessful importunity. To mitigate her sorrow, he offers her whatever she could wish for. Never certainly was the wit of woman more puzzled in finding out a stratagem to retrieve her honour. Had she desired to be changed into a stock or stone, a beast, fish, or fowl, she would have been a loser by it: or, had she desired to have been made a sea nymph, or a goddess, her immortality would but have perpetuated her disgrace. ‘Give me, therefore,’ said she, “such a shape as may make me incapable of suffering again the like calamity, or of being reproached for what I have already suffercd.’ To be short, she was turned into a man, and, by that only means, avoided the danger and imputation she so much dreaded. I was once myself in agonies of grief that are unutterable, and in so great a distraction of mind that I thought myself even out of the possibility of receiving comfort. The occasion was as follows. When I was a youth in a part of the army which was then quartered at Dover, I fell in love with an agreeable young woman, of a good family in those parts, and had the satisfaction of seeing my addresses kindly received, which occasioned the perplexity I am going to relate. We were in a calm evening diverting ourselves, upon the top of the cliff, with the prospect of the sea, and trifling away the time in such little fondnesses as are most ridiculous to people in business, and most agreeable to those in love. In the midst of these our innocent endearments, she snatched a paper of verses out of my hand, and ran away with them. I was following her, when on a sudden the ground, though

at a considerable distance from the verge of the precipice, sunk under her, and threw her down from so prodigious a height upon such a range of rocks, as would have dashed her into ten thousand pieces, had her body been made of adamant. It is much easier for my reader to imagine my state of mind upon such an occasion, than for me to express it. I said to myself, it is not in the power of heaven to relieve me ! when I awaked, equally transported and astonished, to see myself drawn out of an affliction which the very moment before appeared to me altogether inextricable. The impressions of grief and horror were so lively on this occasion, that while they lasted they made me more miserable than I was at the real death of this beloved person, which happened a few months after, at a time when the match between us was concluded ; inasmuch as the imaginary death was untimely, and I myself in a sort an accessary; whereas her real disease had at least these alleviations, of being natural and inevitable. The memory of the dream I have related still dwells so strongly upon me, that I can never read the description of Dover-cliff in Shakspeare's tragedy of King Lear, without a fresh sense of my escape. The prospect from that place is drawn with such proper incidents, that whoever can read it without growing giddy, must have a good head, or a very bad one. Come on. sir, here's the place; stand still how fearful And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low ! The crows and choughs that ring the midway air, Show scarce as gross as beetles. Half way down Hangs one that gathers samphire—Dreadful trade 1 Methinks he seems no bigger than his head. The fisherinen that walk upon the beach Appear like mice, and yon tall anchoring bark Diminished to her boat ; her boat a buoy Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge, That on th' unnumbered idle pebbles beats, Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more, Lest my brain turn.

No. 118.] Tuesday, January 10, 1709–10.

Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti, Tempus abire tibi— Hor. 2. Ep. ii. 214.

Already glutted with a farce of age,
'Tis tilne for thee to quit the wanton stage.

From my own Apartment, January 8.

I thought to have given over my prosecution of the dead for this season, having by me many other projects for the reformation of mankind; but I have received so many complaints from such different hands, that I shall disoblige multitudes of my correspondents, if I do not take notice of thern. Some of the deceased, who, I thought, had been laid quietly in their graves, are such hobgoblins in public assemblies, that I must be forced to deal with them as Evander did with his triple-lived adversary; who, according to Virgil, was forced to kill him thrice over, before he could despatch him.

Ter letho sternendus erat.—

—Thrice I sent him to the Stygian shore.

I am likewise informed, that several wives of my dead men have, since the decease of their husbands, been seen in many public places, without mourning or regard to common decency.

I am further advised, that several of the defunct, contrary to the woollen act, presume to dress themselves in lace, embroidery, silks, muslims, and other ornaments forbidden to persons in their condition. These and other the like informations moving me thereunto, I must desire, for distinction sake, and to conclude this subject for ever, that when any of these posthumous persons appear, or are spoken of that their wives may be called widows ; their houses, sepulchres; their chariots, hearses; and their garments, flannel: on which condition, they shall be allowed all the conveniences that dead men can in reason desire.

As I was writing this morning on this subject, I received the following letter:

From the banks of Styx. ' ‘MR. Bickerstaff, I must confess, I treated }. very scurrilously when you first sent me hither; but you have despatched such multitudes after me to keep me in countenance, that I am very well reconciled both to you and my condition. We live very lovingly together; for, as death makes us all equal, it makes us very much delight in one another's company. Our time passes away much after the same manner as it did when we were among you : eating, drinking, and sleeping, are our chief diversions. Our Quidnuncs between whiles go to a coffeehouse, where they have several warm liquors made of the waters of Lethe, with very good poppy-tea. We that are the sprightly geniuses of the place refresh ourselves frequently with a bottle of mum, and tell stories until we fall asleep. You would do well to send among us Mr. Dodwell's book against the immortality of the soul, which would be of great consolation to our whole fraternity, who would be very glad to find that they are dead for good and all, and would, in particular, make me rest for ever yours, JOHN PARTRIDGE.

• P. S. Sir James is just arrived here in good health.'

The foregoing letter was the more pleasing to me, because I perceived some little symptoms in it of a resuscitation; and having lately seen the predictions of this author, which are written in a true protestant spirit of prophecy, and a particular zeal against the French king, I have some thoughts of sending for him from the banks of Styx, and reinstating him in his own house, at the sign of the Globe in Salisburystreet. For the encouragement of him and others, I shall offer to their consideration a letter, which gives me an account of the revival of one of their brethren.

December 31.

‘SIR-I have perused your Tatler of this day, and have wept over it with great pleasure; I wish you would be more frequent in your family-pieces. For, as I consider you under the notion of a great designer, I think these are

not your least valuable performances. I am

« PreviousContinue »