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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 there 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 of 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, " old 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 shewed she dressed only for herself. Her hair hung negligently about her shoulders. She had none of the arts with which others used to set themselves off, but had that negligence of person which is remarkable in those who are careful of their minds. Then she had à 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 intolerable 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 shew themselves to us,
than to let us know they despise us.
The 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 lechers, with mouths open, stare at the loose gesticulations on the stage with shameful earnestness; when the justest pictures of human life in its calın dignity, and the properest sentiments for the conduct 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 trem, bled for the boxes, and feared the entertainment would end in the representation of the rape of the Sabines.
I would not be understood in ihis 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 interests 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 is, 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 Penkethman 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 the 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.
T. POSTSCRIPT TO SPECTATOR, N° 502. N. B. There are in the play of the Self-Tormentor of Terence, which is allowed a most excellent comedy, several incidents which would draw tears from any man of sense, and not one which would move his laughter.--Spec. in folio, No 521..
This speculation, No 502, is controverted in the Guard. N° 59, by a writer under the fictitious name of John Lizard; perhaps Dr. Edw. Young.
No 503. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1712.
Ter. Eun. act. ii. sc. 3.
womankind. “ MR. SPECTATOR, COU 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 welli there, and diverting the eyes of the congregation to that one object. However, I have this to say, that she might have stayed at her own parish, and not come to perplex those who are otherwise intent upon their duty.
“ Last Sunday was sevennight 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 ;
I 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 lady in the very bloom of youth and beauty, and dressed in the most elegant manner imaginable. Her form was such that it engaged the eyes of the whole congregation in an instant, and mine among the rest. Though we were all thus fixed upon her, she was not in the least out of countenance, or under the least disorder, though unattended by any one, and not seeming to know particularly where to place herself. However, she had not in the least a confident aspect, but moved on with the most graceful modesty, everyone making way until she came to a seat just over against that in which I was placed. The deputy of the ward sat in that pew, and she stood opposite to him, and at a glance into the seat, though she did not appear the least acquainted with the gentleman, was let in, with a confusion that spoke much admiration at the novelty of the thing. The service immediately began, and she composed herself for it with an air of so much goodness and sweetness, that the confession which she uttered, so as to be heard where I sat, appeared an act of humili
ation more than she had occasion for. The truth is, her beauty had something so innocent, and yet so sublime, that we all gazed upon her like a phantom. None of the pictures which we behold of the best Italian painters have any thing like the spirit which appeared in her countenance, at the different sentiments expressed in the several parts of divine service. That gratitude and joy at a thanksgiving, that lowliness and sorrow at the prayers for the sick and distressed, that triumph at the passages which gave instances of the divine mercy, which appeared respectively in her aspect, will be in my memory to my last hour. I protest to you, Sir, she suspended the devotion of every one around her; and the ease she did every thing with soon dispersed the churlish dislike and hesitation in approving what is excellent, too frequent among us, to a general attention and entertainment in observing her behaviour. All the while that we were gazing at her, she took notice of no object about her, but had an art of seeming awkwardly attentive, whatever else her eyes were accidentally thrown upon. One thing indeed was particular, she stood the whole service, and never kneeled or sat: I do not question but that was to shew herself with the greater advantage, and set forth to better grace her: hands and arms, lifted up with the most ardent devotion ; and her bosom, the fairest that ever was seen, bare to observation; while she, you must think, knew nothing of the concern she gave others, any other than as an example of devotion, that threw herself out, without regard to dress or garment, all contrition, and loose of all worldly regards, in ecstasy of devotion. Well; now the organ was to play a voluntary, and she was so skilful in music, and so touched with it, that she kept time not only with some motion of her head, but also with a different air in her countenance. When the music was strong and bold, she looked exalted, but serious; when lively and airy, she was smiling and gracious ; when the notes were more soft and languishing, she was kind and full of pity. When she had now made it visible to the whole congregation, by her motion and ear, that she could dance, and she wanted now only to inform us that she could sing too; when the psalm. was given out, her voice was distinguished above all the rest, or rather people did not exert their own, in order to