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them to send their deputies to receive the propositions of peace made by the court of France.
In the absence of Mr. Bickerstaff, Mrs. Distaff has received Mr. Nathaniel Broomstick's letter.
N° 11. THURSDAY, MAY 5, 1709.
Quicquid agunt bomines
nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. I. 85, 86.
Whate'er men do, or say, or think, or dream,
By ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Esquire.
Will's Coffee-house, May 3.
A KINSMAN has sent me a letter, wherein he informs me, he had lately resolved to write an heroic poem, but by business has been interrupted, and has only made one similitude, which he should be afflicted to have wholly lost; and begs of me to apply it to something, being very desirous to see it well placed in the world. I am so willing to help the distressed, that I have taken it in: but, though his greater genius might very well distinguish his verses from mine, I have marked where his begin. His lines are a description of the sun in eclipse, which I know nothing more like than a brave man in sorrow, who bears it as he should, without imploring the pity of his friends, or being dejected
with the contempt of his enemies as in the case of
When all the globe to Cæsar's fortune bow'd,
With inborn strength alone oppos'd mankind,
"Thus when the Ruler of the genial day
And proves the more illustrious by defect.”
This is a very lively image; but I must take the fiberty to say, my kinsman drives the sun a little like Phaeton: he has all the warmth of Phoebus, but will not stay for his direction of it. Avail and toil, defect and tract, will never do for rhymes. But, however, he has the true spirit in him; for which reason I was willing to entertain any thing he pleased to send me. The subject which he writes upon naturally raises great reflexions in the soul, and puts us in mind of the mixed condition which we mortals are to support; which, as it varies to good or bad, adorns or defaces our actions to the beholders: all which glory and shame must end in, what we so much repine at, death. But doctrines
The verses are by Mr. Jabez Hughes,
on this occasion, any other than that of living well, are the most insignificant and most empty of all the labours of men. None but a tragedian can die by rule, and wait till he discovers a plot, or says a fine thing upon his exit. In real life, this is a chimera; and by noble spirits it will be done decently, without the ostentation of it. We see men of all conditions and characters go through it with equal resolution: and if we consider the speeches of the mighty philosophers, heroes, lawgivers, and great captains, they can produce no more in a discerning spirit, than rules to make a man a fop on his deathbed. Commend me to that natural greatness of soul, expressed by an innocent, and consequently resolute country-fellow, who said in the pains of the cholick, "If I once get this breath out of my body, you shall hang me before you put it in again." Honest Ned! and so he died *.
But it is to be supposed, that from this place you may expect an account of such a thing as a new play is not to be omitted. That acted this night is the newest that ever was writ. The author is my ingenious friend Mr. Thomas Durfey. This Drama is called, "The Modern Prophets," and is a most unanswerable satire against the late spirit of enthusiasm. The writer had by long experience observed that, in company, very grave discourses had been followed by bawdry; and therefore has turned the humour that way with great success, and taken from his audience all manner of superstition, by the agitations of pretty Mrs. Bignell, whom he has, with great subtlety, made a lay-sister, as well as a prophetess; by which means she carries on the affairs of both worlds with great success. My friend
This Ned was a farmer of Anthony Henley, Esq. whe mentions this saying of his in a letter to Swift.
designs to go on with another work against winter, which he intends to call, "The Modern Poets," a people no less mistaken in their opinions of being inspired, than the other. In order to this, he has by him seven songs, besides many ambiguities, which cannot be mistaken for any thing but what he means them. Mr. Durfey generally writes state-plays, and is wonderfully useful to the world in such representations. This method is the same that was used by the old Athenians, to laugh out of countenance, or promote, opinions among the people. My friend has therefore, against this play is acted for his own benefit, made two dances, which may be also of an universal benefit. In the first he has represented absolute power in the person of a tall man with a hat and feather, who gives his first minister, that stands just before him, an huge kick; the minister gives the kick to the next before; and so to the end of the stage. In this moral and practical jest, you are made to understand, that there is, in an absolute government, no gratification, but giving the kick you receive from one above you, to one below you. This is performed to a grave and melancholy air; but on a sudden the tune moves quicker, and the whole company fall into a circle, and take hands; and then, at a certain sharp note, they move round, and kick as kick can. This latter performance he makes to be the representation of a free state; where, if you all mind your steps, you may go round and round very jollily, with a motion pleasant to yourselves and those you dance with: nay, if you put yourselves out, at the worst you only kick and are kicked, like friends and equals.
From my own Apartment, May 4.
Of all the vanities under the sun, I confess that of being proud of one's birth is the greatest. At the
same time, since in this unreasonable age, by the force of prevailing custom, things in which men have no hand are imputed to them; and that I am used by some people, as if Isaac Bickerstaff, though I write myself Esquire, was nobody to set the world right in that particular, I shall give you my genealogy, as a kinsman of ours has sent it me from the Heralds Office. It is certain, and observed by the wisest writers, that there are women who are not nicely chaste, and men not severely honest, in all families; therefore let those who may be apt to raise aspersions upon ours, please to give us as impartial an account of their own, and we shall be satisfied. The business of heralds is a matter of so great nicety, that, to avoid mistakes, I shall give you my cousin's letter, verbatim, without altering a syllable.
"Since you have been pleased to make yourself so famous of late, by your ingenious writings, and some time ago by your learned predictions: since Partridge, of immortal memory, is dead and gone, who, poetical as he was, could not understand his own poetry; and philomatical as he was, could not, read his own destiny: since the pope, the king of France, and great part of his court, are either literally or metaphorically defunct: since, I say, these things (not foretold by any one but yourself) have come to pass after so surprising a manner; it is with no small concern I see the original of the Staffian race so little known in the world as it is at this time; for which reason, as you have employed your studies in astronomy, and the occult sciences, so I, my mother being a Welsh woman, dedicated mine to genealogy, particularly that of our own family, which, for its antiquity and number, may challenge