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very point I shaked my head at, without my speaking: Will Honeycomb was very entertaining the other night at the play, to a gentleman who sat on his right hand, while I was at his left. The gentleman believed Will was talking to himself, when upon my looking with great approbation at a young thing in a box before us, he said, “ I am quite of another opinion. She has, I « allow, a very pleasing aspect, but methinks that “ simplicity in her countenance is rather childish « than innocent.” When I observed her a second time, he said, “ I grant her dress is very becoming, « but perhaps the merit of that choice is owing to her “ mother; for though, continued he, I allow a beauty " to be as much to be commended for the elegance u of her dress, as a wit for that of his language; yet “ if she has stolen the colour of her ribbands from 16 another, or had advice about her trimmings, I shall “ not allow her the praise of dress, any more than I s would call a plagiary an author.” When I threw my eyes-towards the next woman to her, Will spoke what I looked according to his romantic imagination, in the following manner :
“ Behold, you who dare, that charming virgin ; be« hold the beauty of her person chastised by the in. « pocence of her thoughts. Chastity, good-nature, 6 and affability, are the graces that play in her coun“ tenance; she knows she is handsome, but she “ knows she is good. Conscious beauty adorned with « conscious virtue! What a spirit is there in those “ eyes! What a bloom in that person! How is the “ whole woman expressed in her appearance! Her « air has the beauty of motion, and her look the « force of language."
It was prudence to turn away my eyes from this object, and therefore I turned them to the thoughtless creatures who make up the lump of that sex, and move a knowing eye no more than the portraitures of
insignificant people by ordinary painters, which are but pictures of pictures.
Thus the working of my own mind is the general entertainment of my life; I never enter in the commerce of discourse with any but my particular friends, and not in public even with them. Such an habit has perhaps raised in me uncommon reflections; but this effect I cannot communicate but by my writings. As my pleasures are almost wholly confined to those of the sight, I take it for a peculiar happiness that I have always had an easy and familiar admittance to the fair sex. If I never praised or flattered, I never belied or contradicted them. As these compose half the world, and are by the just complaisance and gallantry of our nation, the more powerful part of our people, I shall dedicate a considerable share of these my speculations to their service, and shall lead the young through all the becoming duties of virginity, marriage, and widowhood. When it is a woman's day, in my works, I shall endeavour at a style and air suitable to their understanding. When I say this, I must be understood to mean, that I shall not lower but exalt the subjects I treat upon. Discourse for their entertainment, is not to be debased but refined. A man may appear learned without talking sentences, as in his ordinary gesture he discovers he can dance though he does not cut capers. In a word, I shall take it for the greatest glory of my work, if among reasonable women this paper may furnish Tea-Table Talk. In order to it, I shall treat on matters which relate to females, as they are concerned to approach or fly from the other sex, or as they are tied to them by blood, interest, or affection. Upon this occasion I think it but reasonable to declare, that whatever skill I may have in speculation, I shall never betray what the eyes of lovers say to each other in my presence. At the siame time I shall not think myself obliged, by this
promise, to conceal any false protestations which I observe made by glances in public assemblies; but endeavour to make both sexes appear in their conduct what they are in their hearts. By this means, love, during the time of my speculations, shall be carried on with the same sincerity as any other affairs of less consideration. As this is the greatest concern, men shall be from henceforth liable to the greatest reproach for misbehaviour in it. Falsehood in love shall hereafter bear a blacker aspect, than infidelity in friendship, or villany in business. For this great and good end, all breaches against that noble passion, the cement of society, shall be severely examined. But this, and all other matters loosely hinted at now, and in my former papers, shall have their proper place in my following discourses; the present writing is only to admonish the world that they shall not find me an idle but a busy Spectator.
No. V. TUESDAY, MARCH 6.
AN opera may be allowed to be extravagantly lavish in its decorations, as its only design is to gratify the senses, and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Common sense, however, requires, that there should be nothing in the scenes and machines which may appear childish and absurd. How would the wits of King Charles's time have laughed to have seen Nicolini exposed to a tempest in robes of ermine, and sailing in an open boat upon a sea of pasteboard? What a field of raillery would they have been let into, had they been entertained with painted dragons spitting wild-fire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landskips ? A little skill in criticism would inform us, that shadows and realities ought not to be mixed together in the same piece; and, that the scenes which are designed as the representations of nature, should be filled with resemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would represent a wide champain country filled with herds and flocks, it would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd several parts of the stage with sheep and oxen. This is joining together inconsistencies, and making the decoration partly real and partly imaginary. I would recommend what I have said here to the directors, as well as the admirers of our modern opera.
As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his shoulder; and, as I was wondering with myself what use he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, he told him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. Sparrows for the opera, says his friend, licking his lips, what, are they to be roasted ? No, no, says the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to fly about the stage.
This strange dialogue awakeneil my curiosity so far, that I immediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived that the sparrows were to act the part ofsinging-birds in a delightful grove; though upon a nearer enquiry, I found the sparrows put the same trick upon the audience, that Sir Martin Mar-all practised upon his mistress; for though they flew in sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flagelets and birds-calls
which were planted behind the scenes. At the same time I made this discovery, I found by the discourse of the actors, that there were great designs on foot for the improvement of the opera; that it had been proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horse, and that there was actually a project of bringing the NewRiver into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have since heard, is postponed till the summer season; when it is thought the coolness that proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the mean time, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter season, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire-works; which the audience may look upon without catching cold, and, indeed, without much danger of being burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen. However, as I have very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before he would let this opera be acted in it.
It is no wonder that those scenes should be very surprising which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida(as we are told in the argument) was an Amazonian enchantress, and poor Signior Cassani (as w learn from the persons represented) a Christian conjurer (Mago Christiano'. I must confess I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art, or how a good Christian, for such is the part of the magician, should deal with the devil.
To consider the poet after the conjurer, I shall give you a taste of the Italian from the first lines of his