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MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1711.
Veniunt spectentur ut ipsæ.
OVID, ARS AM. I. i. 99. “ To be themsclves a spectacle they come.”
ON BEHAVIOUR AT PLAYS.
I HAVE several letters of people of good sense, who lament the depravity or poverty of taste the town is fallen into with relation to plays and public spectacles, A lady in particular observes, that there is such a levity in the minds of her own sex, that they seldom attend any thing but impertinences. It is indeed prodigious to observe how little notice is taken of the most exalted parts of the best tragedies in SHAKESPEAR; nay, it is not only visible that sensuality has devoured all greatness of soul, but the under-passion (as I may so call it) of a noble spirit, Pity, seems to be a stranger to the generality of an audience. The minds of men are indeed very
differently disposed; and the reliefs from care and attention are of one sort in a great spirit, and of another in an ordinary one. The man of a great heart, and a serious complexion, is more pleased with instances of generosity and pity, than the light and ludicrous spirit can possibly be with the highest strains of mirth and laughter. It is therefore a melancholy prospect when we see a numerous assembly lost to all serious entertainments, and such incidents, as should move one sort of concern, excite in them a quite contrary one. In the tragedy of Macbeth, the other night, when the lady who is conscious of the crime of murdering the King seems ut
terly astonished at the news, and makes an exclamation at it, instead of the indignation which is natural to the occasion, that expression is received with a loud laugh. They were as merry when a criminal was stabbed. It is certainly an occasion of rejoicing when the wicked are seized in their designs; but I think it is not such a triumph as is exerted by laughter.
You may generally observe, that the appetites are sooner moved than the passions. A sly expression which alludes to baudry, puts a whole row into a plea. sing smirk; when a good sentence that describes an inward sentiment of the soul, is received with the greatest coldness and indifference. A correspondent of mine upor. this subject, has divided the female part of the, audience, and accounts for their prepossessions against this reasonable delight in the ollowing manner. The Prude, says he, as she acts always in contradiction, so she is gravely sullen at a comedy, and extravagantly gay at a tragedy. The Coquette is so much taken up with throwing her eyes around the audience, and considering the effect of them, that she cannot be expected to observe the actors but as they are her rivals, and take off the observation of the men from herself. Besides these species of women, there are the Examples, or the first of the mode. These are to be supposed too well acquainted with what the actor was going to say to be moved at it. After these one might mention a certain flippant set of females who are mimics, and are wonderfully diverted with the conduct of all the people around them, and are spectators only of the audience. But what is of all the most to be lamented, is the loss of party whom it would be worth preserving in their right senses upon all occasions, and these are those whom we may indifferently call the innocent, or the unaffected. You may sometimes see one of these sensibly touched with a well-wrought incident; but then she is immediately so impertinently observed by the men, and frowned at by some insensibly superior of her own sex, that she сс 4
is ashamed, and loses the enjoyment of the most laudable concern, Pity. Thus the whole audience is afraid of letting fall a tear, and shun as a weakness the best and worthiest part of our sense.
• As you are one that does not only pretend to reform, but affects it amongst people of any sense; makes me (who am one of the greatest of your admirers) give you this trouble to desire you will settle the method of us females knowing when one another is in town: for they have now got a trick of never sending to their acquaintance when they first come; and if one does not visit them within the week which they stay at home, it is a mortal quarrel. Now, dear Mr. Spec, either command them to put it in the advertisement of your paper, which is generally read by our sex, or else order them to breathe their saucy footmen (who are good for nothing else) by sending them to tell all their acquaintance. If you think to print this, pray put it into better stile as to the speiling part. The town is now filling every day, and it cannot be deferred, because people take advantage of one another by these means, and break off acquaintance, and are rude. Therefore, pray, put this in your paper as soon as you can possibly, to prevent any future miscarriages of this nature. I am, as I ever shall be, dear Spec, Your most obedient humble servant,
Pray settle what is to be a proper notification of a person's, being in town, and how that differs according to people's quality.'
October 20. " I have been out of town, so did not meet with your paper dated September the 28th, wherein you, to my 3
heart's desire, expose that cursed vice of insnaring poor young girls, and drawing them from their friends. I assure you, without flattery, it has saved a 'prentice of mine from ruin; and in token of giatitude as well as for the benefit of my family, I have put it in a frame and glass, and hung it behind my counter. I shall take care to make my young ones read it every morning, to fortify them against such pernicious rascals. I know not whether what you writ was matter of fact, or your own invention; but this I will take my oath on, the first part is so exactly like what happened to my 'prentice, that had I read your paper then, I should have taken your method to have secured a villain. Go on and prosper.
Your most obliged humble servant,'
MR. SPECTATOR, • Without raillery, I desire you to insert this, word for word, in your next, as you value a lover's prayers. You see it is an hue and cry after a stray heart (with the marks and blemishes underwritten); which whoever shall bring to you, shall receive satisfaction. Let me beg of you not to fail, as you remember the passion you had for her to whom you lately ended a paper.
THERE are no authors I am more pleased with, than those who shew human nature in a variety of views, and describe the several ages of the world in their different manners. A reader cannot be more rationally entertained, than by comparing the virtues and vices of his own times with those which prevailed in the times of his forefathers; and drawing a parallel in his mind between his own private character, and that of other persons, whether of his own age, or of the ages that went before him. The contemplation of mankind, under these changeable colours, is apt to shame us cut of any particular vice, or animate us to any particular virtue ; to make us'pleased or displeased with ourselves in the most proper points, to clear our minds of prejudice and prepossession, and rectify that narrowness of temper which inclines us to think amiss of those who differ from ourselves.
If we look into the manners of the most remote ages of the world, we discover human nature in her simplicity; and the more we come downward towards our own times, may observe her hiding herself in artifices and refinements, polished insensibly out of her original plainness, and at length intirely lost under form and ceremony, and (what we call) good-breeding. Read