Page images
PDF
[blocks in formation]

“My friend Dick Easy,' continued he, “as. sured me, he would rather have written that Ah than to have been the author of the Æneid. He indeed objected, that I made Mira's pen like a quill in one of the lines, and like a dart in the other. But as to that " " Oh as to that,’ says I, ‘it is but supposing Cupid to be like a porcupine, and his quills and darts will be the same thing.” He was going to embrace me for the hint; but half a dozen critics coming into the room, whose faces he did not like, he conveyed the sonnet into his pocket, and whispered me in the ear, “he would show, it me again as soon as his man had written it over fair.’ -

No. 164.] Thursday, April 27, 1710.

— Qui promittit cives, urbem, sibi curr,
Imperium fore, et Italiam, et delubra deorum,
Quo patre sit natus, nun ignota matre inhonestus?
Omnes mortales curare et quarere cogit.

- Hor. Sat. vi. 34.

Whoever promises to guard the state,
The gods, the temples, and imperial seat,
Makes every mortal ask his father's name, ...
Or is his mother was a slave-born dame 3–Francis.

From my own Apartment, April 26.

I have lately been looking over the many packets of letters which I have received from all quarters of Great Britain, as well as from foreign countries, since my entering upon the office of Censor; and indeed am very much surprised to see so great a number of them, and pleased to think that I have so far increased the revenue of the post-office. As this collection will grow daily, I have digested it into several bundles, and made proper indorsements on each particular letter; it being my design, when I lay down the work that I am now engaged in, to erect a paper-office, and give it to the public.

I could not but make scveral observations upon reading over the letters of my correspondents. As, first of all, on the different tastes that reign in the different parts of this city. I find by the approbations which are given me, that I am seldom famous on the same days on both sides of Temple-bar; and that when I am in the greatest repute within the liberties, I dwindle at the court-end of the town. Sometimes I sink in both these places at the same time; but, for my comfort, my name hath then been up in the districts of Wapping and Rotherhithe. Some of my correspondents desire me to be always serious, and others to be always merry. Some of them entreat me to go to bed and fall into a dream, and like me better when I am asleep than when I am awake: others advise me to sit all night upon the stars, and be more frequent in my astrological observations; for that a vision is not properly a lucubration. Some of my readers thank me for filling my paper with the dowers of antiquity, others de

sire news from Flanders. Some approve my criticisms on the dead, and others my censures on the living. For this reason, I once resolved, in the new edition of my works, to range my several papers under distinct heads, according as their principal design was to benefit and instruct the different capacities of my readers; and to follow the example of some very great authors, by writing at the head of each discourse, Ad Aulam, Ad Academiam, Ad Populum, Ad Clerum. There is no particular in which my correspondents of all ages, conditions, sexes, and complexions, universally agree, except only in their thirst after scandal. It is impossible to conceive, how many have recommended their neighbours to me upon this account, or how ummercifully I have been abused by several unknown hands, for not publishing the secret histories of cuckoldom that I have received from almost every street in town. It would indeed be very dangerous for me to read over the many praises and eulogiums, which come post to me from all the corners of the nation, were they not mixed with many checks, reprimands, scurrilities, and reproaches; which several of my good-natured countrymen cannot forbear sending me, though it often costs them twopence or a groat before they can convey them to my hands: so that sometimes when I am put into the best humour in the world, after having read a panegyric upon my performances, and looked upon myself as a benefactor to the British nation, the next letter, perhaps, I open, begins with, “You old doting scoundrel !—Are not you a sad dog? Sirrah, you deserve to have your nose slit;' and the like ingenious conceits. These little mortifications are necessary to suppress that pride and vanity which naturally arise in the mind of a received author, and enable me to bear the reputation which my courteous readers bestow upon me, without becoming a coxcomb by it. It was for the same reason, that when a Roman general entered the city in the pomp of a triumph, the commonwealth allowed of several little drawbacks to his reputation, by conniving at such of the rabble as repeated libels and lampoons upon him within his hearing ; and by that means engaged his thoughts upon his weakness and imperfections, as well as on the merits that advanced him to so great honours. The conqueror, however, was not the less esteemed for being a man in some particulars, because he appeared as a god in others. There is another circumstance in which my countrymen have dealt very perversely with me; and that is, in searching not only into my life, but also into the lives of my ancestors. If there has been a blot in my family for these ten generations, it hath been discovered by some or other of my correspondents. In short, I find the ancient family of the Bickerstaffs has suf. fered very much through the malice and prejudice of my enemies. Some of them twit me in the teeth with the conduct of my aunt Margery. Nay, there are some who have been so disingenuous, as to throw Maud the milk-maid into my dish, notwithstanding I myself was the first who discovered that alliance. I reap however many benefits from the malice of these enemies, as they let me see my own faults, and give me a view of myself in the worst light; as they hinder me from being blown up by flattery and sclf-conceit; as they make me keep a watchful eye over my own actions; and at the same time make me cautious how I talk of others, and particularly of my friends and relations, or value myself upon the antiquity of my family. But the most formidable part of my correspondents are those, whose letters are filled with threats and menaces. I have been treated so often after this manner, that, not thinking it sufficient to fence well, in which I am now arrived at the utmost perfection, and to carry pis. tols about me, which I have always tucked within my girdle; I several months since made my will, settled my estate, and took leave of my friends, looking upon myself as no better than a dead man. Nay, I went so far as to write a long letter to the most intimate acquaintance I have in the world, under the character of a departed person, giving him an account of what brought me to that untimely end, and of the fortitude with which I met it. This letter being too long for the present paper, I intend to print it by itself very suddenly; and, at the same time, I must confess I took my hint of it from the behaviour of an old soldier in the civil wars, who was corporal of a company in a regiment of foot, about the same time that I myself was a cadet in the king's army. This gentleman was taken by the enemy; and the two parties were upon such terms at that time, that we did not treat each other as prisoners of war, but as traitors and rebels. The poor corporal, being condemned to die, wrote a letter to his wife when under sentence of execution. He writ on the Thursday, and was to be executed on the Friday: but, considering that the letter would not come to his wife's hands until Saturday, the day after execution, and being at that time more scrupulous than ordinary in speaking exact truth, he formed his letter rather according to the posture of his affairs when she should read it, than as they stood when he sent it: though, it must be consessed, there is a certain perplexity in the style of it, which the reader will easily pardon, considering his circumstances.

‘DEAR wife, Hoping you are in good health, as I am at this present writing ; this is to let you know, that yesterday, between the hours of eleven and twelve, I was hanged, drawn, and quartered. I died very penitently, and every body thought my case very hard. Remember me kindly to my poor fatherless children.

‘Yours, until death, W. B."

It so happened that this honest follow was relieved by a party of his friends, and had the satisfaction to see all the rebels hanged who had been his enemies. I must not omit a circumstance which exposed him to raillery his whole life after. Before the arrival of the next post, that would have set all things clear, his wife was married to a second husband, who lived in the peaceable possession of her; and the corporal, who was a man of plain under

standing, did not care to stir in the matter, as knowing that she had the news of his death under his own hand, which she might have produced upon occasion.

No. 165.] Saturday, April 29, 1710.

From my own Apartment, April 28.

It has always been my endeavour to distinguish between realities and appearances, and to separate true merit from the pretence to it. As it shall ever be my study to make discoveries of this nature in human life, and to settle the proper distinctions between the virtues and perfections of mankind, and those false colours and resemblances of them that shine alike in the eyes of the vulgar; so I shall be more particularly careful to search into the various merits and pretences of the learned world. This is the more necessary, because there seems to be a general combination among the pedants to extol one another's labours, and cry up one another's parts; while men of sense, either through that nodesty" which is natural to them, or the scorn they have for such trifling commendations, enjoy their stock of knowledge, like a hidden treasure, with satisfaction and silence. Pedantry, . indeed, in learning, islike hypocrisy in religion, a form of knowledge without the power of it; that attracts the eyes of the common people; breaks out in noise and show ; and finds its reward, not from any inward pleasure that attends it, but from the praises and approbations which it receives from men.

Of this shallow species there is not a more importunate, empty, and conceited animal, than that which is generally known by the name of a Critic. This, in the common acceptation of the word, is one that, without entering into the sense and soul of an author, has a few general rules, which, like mechanical instruments, he applies to the works of every writer; and as they quadrate with them, pronounces the author perfect or defective. He is master of a certain set of words, as Unity, Style, Fire, Phlegm, Easy, Natural, Turn, Sentiment, and the like; which he varies, compounds, divides, and throws together, in every part of his discourse, without any thought or meaning. The marks you may know him by are, an elevated eye and a dogmatical brow, a positive voice and a contempt for every thing that comes out, whether he has read it or not. He dwells altogether in generals. He praises or ("spraises in the lump. He shakes his head very frequently at the pedantry of universities, and bursts into laughter when you mention an author that is not known at Will's. He hath formed his judgment upon Homer,

* Addison was undoubtedly a man of sense, and of celebrated moirs”; but when, on the representation of his Cato, he was to stand the hazard of the theat to, that as little might be left to hazard as possible on the first night, Steele, as himself relates, undertook to park an audience. Thus, says Pope, on the testimony of Spore. had been tried, for the first time, in favour of the Distrest Mother,” (a tragedy of Mr. Ambrose Phillips, 1712.) and was now practised with more efficacy for Cato." Dr. Johnson's ‘Lives of English Poets, vol. II. P. 3, 1. 8vo. 1,81.

Horace, and Virgil, not from their own works, but from those of Rapin and Bossu. He knows his own strength so well, that he never dares praise any thing in which he has not a French author for his voucher. With these extraordinary talents and accomplishments, sir Timothy Tittle" puts men in rogue, or condemns them to obscurity; and sits as judge of life and death upon every author that appears in public. It is impossible to represent the pangs, agonies, and convulsions, which sir Timothy expresses in every feature of his face, and muscle of his body, upon the reading of a bad poet. About a week ago, I was engaged, at a friend's house of mine, in an agreeable conversation with his wife and daughters, when, in the height of our mirth, sir Timothy, who makes love to my friend's eldest daughter, came in amongst us, puffing and blowing as if he had been very much out of breath. He immediately called for a chair, and desired leave to sit down without any further ceremony. I asked him, where he had been 2 whether he was out of order He only replied, that he was quite spent, and fell a cursing in soliloquy. I could hear him cry, “A wicked rogue—An execrable wretch Was there ever such a monster '' The young ladies upon this began to be affrighted, and asked, whether any one had hurt him He answered nothing, but still talked to himself. “To lay the first scene,’ says he, ‘in St. James's park and the last in Northamptonshire!’ “Is that all !” said I. ‘Then I suppose you have been at the rehearsal of a play this morning.’ “Been s” says he “I have been at Northampton, in the Park, in a lady's bed-chamber, in a dining-room, every where; the rogue has led me such a dance—." Though I could scarce forbear laughing at his discourse, I told him I was glad it was no worse, and that he was only metaphorically weary. “In short, sir,’ says he, ‘the author has not observed a single unity in his whole play; the scene shifts in every dialogue; the villain has hurried me up and down at such a rate, that I am tired off my legs.' I could not but observe with some pleasure, that the young lady whom he made love to, conceived a very just aversion towards him, upon seeing him so very passionate in trifles. And as she had that natural sense which makes her a better i. than a thousand critics, she began to rally him upon this foolish humour. “For my part,’ says she, ‘I never knew a play take that was written up to your rules, as you call them.' ‘How, madam o' says he, ‘Is that your opinion ? I am sure you have a better taste.” “It is a pretty kind of magic,’ says she, ‘the poets have, to transport an audience from place to F. without the help of a coach and horses; could travel round the world at such a rate. It is such an entertainment as an enchantress finds when she fancies herself in a wood, or upon a mountain, at a feast, or a solemnity; though at the same time she has never stirred out of her cottage.’ ‘Your simile, madam,' says sir Timothy, ‘is by no means just.’ ‘Pray,' says

. Henry Cromwell, Esq. is said to have been the ori. ginal of sir Timothy Tittle.

she, “let my similes pass without a criticism. I must confess,' continued she, (for I found she was resolved to exasperate him) “I laughed very heartily at the last new comedy which you found so much fault with.” “But, madam,” says he, “you ought not to have laughed; and I defy any one to show me a single rule that you could laugh by.” “Ought not to laugh " says she ; ‘pray who should hinder me !” “Madam,' says he, “there are such people in the world as Rapin, Dacier, and several others, that ought to have spoiled your mirth.” “I have heard,' says the young lady, “that your great critics are always very bad poets: I fancy there is as much difference between the works of the one and the other, as there is between the carriage of a dancingmaster and a gentleman. I must confess,' continued she, ‘I would not be troubled with so fine a judgment as yours is ; for I find you feel more vexation in a bad comedy, than I do in a deep tragedy.” “Madam,’ says sir Timothy, “that is not my fault; they should learn the art of writing.’ ‘For my part,' says the young lady, “I should think the greatest art in your writers of comedies is to please.’ ‘To please " says sir Timothy; and immediately fell a-laughing. ‘Truly, says she, “that is my opinion.” Upon this he composed his countenance, looked upon his watch, and took his leave. I hear that sir Timothy has not been at my friend's house since this notable conference, to the great satisfaction of the young lady, who by this means has got rid of a very impertinent fop. I must confess, I could not but observe, with a great deal of surprise, how this gentleman, by his ill-nature, folly, and affectation, had made himself capable of suffering so many imaginary pains, and looking with such a senscless severity upon the common diversions of life.

No. 166.] Tuesday, May 2, 1710.

Dicenda, tacenda locutus. Isor. Ep. vii. 72. ——He said, Or right, or wrong, what came into his head. . Francis.

White's Chocolate-house, May 1.

Tirr world is so overgrown with singularities in behaviour, and method of living, that I have no sooner laid before mankind the absurdity of one species of men, but there starts up to my view some new sect of impertinents that had before escaped notice. This afternoon, as I was talking with fine Mrs. Sprightly's porter, and desiring admittance upon an extraordinary occasion, it was my fate to be spied by Tom Modely, riding by in his chariot. He did me the honour to stop, and asked, ‘what I did there on a Monday ?" I answered, “that I had business of importance, which I wanted to communicate to the lady of the house.’ Tom. is one of those fools, who look upon knowledge of the fashion to be the only liberal science ; and was so rough as to tell me, “that a wellbred man would as soon call upon a lady, who keeps a day, at midnight, as on any day but that which she professes being at home. There are rules and decorums,’ adds he, “which are never to be transgressed by those who understand the world; and he who offends in that kind, ought not to take it ill if he is turned away, even when he sees the person look out at her window whom he inquires for. Nay,” said he, “my lady Dimple is so positive in this rule, that she takes it for a piece of good breeding and distinction to deny herself with her own mouth. Mrs. Comma,

the great scholar, insists upon it, and I myself

have heard her assert, That a lord's porter, or a lady's woman, cannot be said to lie in that case, because they act by instruction; and their words are no more their own, than those of a puppet.” He was going on with his ribaldry, when on a sudden he looked on his watch, and said, “he had twenty visits to make,” and drove away without further ceremony. I was then at leisure to reflect upon the tasteless manner of life, which a set of idle fellows lead in this town, and spend youth itself with less spirit, than other men do their old age. These expletives in human society, though they are in themselves wholly insignificant, become of some consideration when they are mixed with others. I am very much at a loss how to define, or under what character, distinction, or denomination, to place them; except you give me leave to call them the order of the Insipids. This order is in its extent like that of the Jesuits; and you see of them in every way of life, and in every profession. Tom Modely has long appeared to me at the head of this species. By being habitually in the best company, he knows perfectly well when a coat is well cut, or a periwig well mounted. As soon as you enter the place where he is, he tells the next man to him, who is your tailor, and judges of you more from the choice of your periwig-maker than of your friend. His business in this world is to be well dressed; and the greatest circumstance that is to be recorded in his annals is, that he wears twenty shirts a week. Thus, without ever speaking reason among the men, or passion among the women, he is every where well received; and, without any one man's esteem, he has every man's indulgence. This order has produced great numbers of tolerable copiers in painting, good rhymers in poetry, and harmless projectors in politics. You may see them at first sight grow acquainted by sympathy ; insomuch, that one who had not studied nature, and did not know the true cause of their sudden familiarities, would think that they had some secret intimation of each other, like the Free-masons. The other day at Will's I heard Modely, and a critic of the same order, show their equal talents with great delight. The learned Insipid was commending Racine's turns; the genteel Insipid, Devillier's curls. These creatures, when they are not forced into any particular employment, for want of ideas in their own imaginations, are the constant plague of all they meet with, by inquiries for news and scandal, which makes them the heroes of visiting days; where they help the "esign of the meeting, which is to pass away

that odious thing called time, in discourses too trivial to raise any reflections which may put well-bred persons to the trouble of thinking

From my own Apartment, May 1.

I was looking out of my parlour-window this morning, and receiving the honours which Margery, the milk-maid to our lane, was doing me, by dancing before my door with the plate of half her customers on her head, when Mr. Clayton, the author of Arsinoe, made me a visit, and desired me to insert the following advertisement in my ensuing paper.

“The pastoral masque, composed by Mr. Clayton, anthor of Arsinoe, will be performed on Wednesday, the third instant, in the great room at York-buildings. *ickets to be had at White's Chocolate-house, St. James's Coffeehouse, in St. James's-street, and Young Man's Coflee-house.

* Note.—The tickets delivered out for the twenty-seventh of April, will be then taken.”

When I granted his request, I made one to him, which was, that the performers should put their instruments in tune before the audience came in ; for that I thought the resentment of the eastern prince, who, according to the old story, took tuning for playing, to be very just and natural. He was so civil, as not only to promise that favour; but also to assure me, that he would order the heels of the performers to be muffled in cotton, that the artists in so polite an age as ours, may not intermix with their harmony, a custom, which so nearly resembles the stamping dances of the West-Indians or Hottentots.

ATVFRTISEMENTS.

A Bass-viol of Mr. Bickerstaff's acquaintance, whose mind and fortune do not very exactly agree, proposes to set himself to sale by way of lottery. Ten thousand pounds is the sum to be raised, at threepence a ticket, in consideration that there are more women who are willing to be married, than that can spare a greater sum. He has already made over his person to trustees for the said money to be forthcoming, and ready to take to wife the fortunate woman that wins him.

N. B. Tickets are given out by Mr. Charles Lillic, and by Mr. John Morphew. Each adventurer must be a virgin, and subscribe her name to her ticket.

Whereas the several churchwardens of most of the parishes within the bills of mortality have in an earnest manner applied themselves by way of petition, and have also made a presentment, of the vain and loose deportment during divine service, of persons of too great figure in all their said parishes for their reproof: and whereas it is therein set forth, that by salutations given each other, hints, shrugs, ogles, playing of fans, fooling with canes at their mouths, and other wanton gesticulations, their whole congregation appears rather a theatrical audience, than a house of devotion; it is hereby ordered, that all canes, crarats, bosom-laces, muffs, fans, snuffboxes, and all other instruments made use of to

[blocks in formation]

Having received notice, that the famous actor, Mr. Betterton, was to be interred this evening in the cloisters near Westminster-abbey, I was resolved to walk thither; and see the last office done to a man whom I had always very much admired, and from whose action I had received more strong impressions of what is great and noble in human nature, than from the arguments of the most solid philosophers, or the descriptions of the most charming poets I had read. As the rude and untaught multitude are no way wrought upon more effectually, than by seeing public punishments and executions; so men of letters and education feel their humanity most forcibly exercised, when they attend the obsequies of men who had arrived at any perfection in liberal accomplishments. Theatrical action is to be esteemed as such, except it be objected that we cannot call that an art which cannot be attained by art. Voice, stature, motion, and other gifts, must be very bountifully bestowed by nature, or labour and industry will but push the unhappy endeavourer in that way the further off his wishes.

Such an actor as Mr. Betterton ought to be recorded with the same respect as Roscius among the Romans. The greatest orator has thought fit to quote his judgment, and celebrate his life. Roscius was the example to all that would form themselves into proper and winning behaviour. His action was so well adapted to the sentiments he expressed, that the youth of Rome thought they wanted only to be virtuous,

to be as graceful in their appearance as Roscius.

The imagination took a lively impression of what was great and good; and they, who never thought of setting up for the art of imitation, became themselves inimitable characters. There is no human invention so aptly calculated for the forming a free-born people as that of a theatre. Tully reports, that the celebrated player of whom I am speaking, used frequently to say, ‘The perfection of an actor is only to become what he is doing.’ Young men, who are too unattentive to receive lectures, are irresistibly taken with performances. Hence it is, that I extremely lament the little relish the gentry of this nation have, at present, for the just and noble representations in some of our tragedies. The operas, which are of late introduced, can leave no trace behind them that can be of service beyond the present moment. To binor and to dance, are accomplishments very few

justly, and move gracefully, is what every man thinks he does perform, or wishes he did. I have hardly a notion, that any performer of antiquity could surpass the action of Mr. Betterton in any of the occasions in which he has appeared on our stage. The wonderful agony which he appeared in, when he examined the circumstance of the handkerchief in Othello; the mixture of love that intruded upon his mind, upon the innocent answers Desdemona makes, betrayed in his gesture such a variety and vicissitude of passions, as would admonish a man to be afraid of his own heart; and perfectly convince him, that it is to stab it, to admit that worst of daggers, jealousy. Whoever reads in his closet this admirable scene, will find that he cannot, except he has as warm an imagination as Shakspeare himself, find any but dry, incoherent, and broken sentences: but a reader that has seen Betterton act it, observes, there could not be a word added; that longer speeches had been unnatural, nay, impossible, in Othello's circumstances. The charming passage in the same tragedy, where he tells the manner of winning the affection of his inistress, was urged with so moving and graceful an energy, that, while I walked in the cloisters, I thought of him with the same concern as if I waited for the remains of a person who had in real life done all that I had seen him represent. The gloom of the place, and faint lights before the ceremony appeared, contributed to the melancholy disposition I was in ; and I began to be extremely afflicted, that Brutus and Cassius had any difference; that Hotspur's gallantry was so unfortunate; and that the mirth and good humour of Falstaff could not exempt him from the grave. Nay, this occasion, in me who look upon the distinctions amongst men to be merely scenical, raised reflections upon the emptiness of all human perfection and greatness in general; and I could not but regret, that the sacred heads which lie buried in the neighbourhood of this little portion of earth, in which my poor old friend is deposited, are returned to dust as well as he, and that there is no difference in the grave between the imaginary and the real monarch. This made me say of human life itself, with Macbeth,

To-morrow, to-morrow, and to-morrow, Croops in a stealing pace from day to day To the last moment of recorded time ! And all our yesterdays have lighted fools To their eternal night! Out, out, short candle; I s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no inore. The mention I have here made of Mr. Better. ton, for whom I had, as long as I have known any thing, a very great esteen and gratitude for the pleasure he gave me, can do him no good; but it may possibly be of service to the unhappy woman he has left behind him, to have it known, that this great tragedian was never in a scene half so moving, as the circumstances of his af. fairs created at his departure. His wife, after a cohabitation of forty years in the strictest amity, has long pined away with a sense of his decay, as well in his person as his little fortune; and, in proportion to that, she has herself decayed both in her health and reason. Her husband's

have any thoughts of practising; but to speak death, added to her age and infirinities, would

[graphic]
[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »