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ing one's time as myself: and if a fervent desire after knowledge, and a great sense of our present ignorance, may be thought a good presage and earnest of improvement, you may look upon your time you shall bestow in answering this request not thrown away to no purpose. And I cannot but add, that unless you
have a particular and more than ordinary regard for Leonora, I have a better title to your favour than shie : since I do not content myself with tea-table reading of your papers, but it is my entertainment very often when alone in my closet. To shew you I am capable of improvement, and hate flattery, I acknowledge I do not like some of your papers ; but even there I am readier to call in question my own shallow understanding than Mr. Spectator's profound judgment. am, SIR, your already (and in hopes of being more your) obliged servant,
This last letter is written with so urgent and serious an air, that I cannot but think it incumbent upon me to comply with her commands, which I shall do very suddenly
No 141. SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, 1711.
Migravit ab aure voluptas
HOR, 1 Ep. ii. 187.
In the present emptiness of the town, I have several applications from the lower part of the players, to admit suffering to pass for acting. They in very obliging terms desire me to let a fall on the ground, a stumble, or a good slap on the back, be reckoned a jest. These gambols I shall tolerate for a season, because I hope the evil cannot continue longer than until the people of condition and taste return to town. The method, some time ago, was to entertain that part of the audience, who have no faculty above eyesight, with rope-dancers and tumblers; which was a way
discreet enough, because it prevented confusion, and distinguished such as could shew all the postures which the body is capable of, from those who were to represent all the passions to which the mind is subject. But though this was prudently settled, corporeal and intellectual actors ought to be kept at a still wider distance than to appear on the same stage at all: for which reason I must propose some methods for the improvement of the bear-garden, by dismissing all bodily actors to that quarter.
In cases of greater moment, where men appear in public, the consequence and importance of the thing can bear them out. And though a pleader or preacher is hoarse or aukward, the weight of their matter commands respect and attention ; but in theatrical speaking, if the performer is not exactly proper and graceful, he is utterly ridiculous. In cases where there is little else expected, but the pleasure of the ears and eyes, the least diminution of that pleasure is the highest offence. In acting, barely to perform the part is not commendable, but to be the least out is contemptible. To avoid these difficulties and delicacies, I am informed, that while I was out of town, the actors have flown in the air, and played such pranks, and run such hazards, that none but the servants of the fire-office, tilers, and masous, could have been able to perform the like *. The author of the following letter, it seems, has been of the audience at one of these entertainments, and has accordingly complained to me upon it ; but I think he has been to the utmost degree severe against what is exceptionable in the play he mentions, without dwelling so much as he might have done on the author's most excellent talent of hu
The pleasant pictures he has drawn of life should have been more kindly mentioned, at the same time that he banishes his witches, who are too dull devils to be attacked with so much warmth.
* Upon a report that Moll White bad fol lowed you to town, and was to act a part in the Lancashire Witches, I went last week to see that play. It was my fortune to sit next to a country justice of the peace, a neighbour (as he said) of Sir
Alluding to Shadwell's comedy of the Lancashire Witches, which had been lately acted several times, and was advertised for the very night in which this Spectator is dated.
Roger's, who pretended to shew her to us in one of
the dances. There was witchcraft enough in the entertainment almost to incline me to believe him; Ben Jonson was almost lamed; young Bullock Darrowly saved his neck; the audience was astonished, and an old acquaintance of mine, a person of worth, whom I would have bowed to in the pit, at two yards distance did not know me.
• If you were what the country people reported you, a white witch, I could have wished you had been there to have exorcised that rabble of broomsticks, with which we were haunted for above three hours. I could have allowed them to set Clod in the tree, to have scared the sportsmen, plagued the justice, and employed honest Teague with his holy water f. This was the proper use of them in comedy, if the author had stopped here; but I cannot conceive what relation the sacrifice of the black lamb, and the ceremonies of their worship to the devil t, have to the business of mirth and hu
The gentleman who writ this play, and has drawn some characters in it very justly, appears to have been misled in his witchcraft by an unwary following the inimitable Shakspeare. The incantations in Macbeth have a solemnity admirably adapted to the occasion of that tragedy, and fill the mind with a suitable horror; besides, that the witches are a part of the story itself, as we find it very particularly related in Hector Boetius, from whom he seeins to have taken it. This therefore is a proper machine where the business is dark, horrid, and bloody; but is extremely foreign from the affair of comedy. Subjects of this kind, which are in themselves disagreeable, can at no time become enter taining, but by passing through an imagination like Shakspeare's to form them; for which reason Mr Dryden would not allow even Beaumont and Fletche capable of imitating hini.
* The names of two actors then upon the stage. + Different ineidents in the play of the Lancashire Witches.
But Shakspeare's magic cou'd not copied be:
Within that circle none durst walk but he. • I should not, however, have troubled you witl these remarks, if there were not something else i this comedy, which wants to be exorcised more thai the witches: I mean the freedom of some passages which I should have overlooked, if I had not ob served that those jests can raise the loudest mirth though they are painful to right sense, and an out rage upon modesty.
We must attribute such liberties to the taste of that age : but indeed by such representations a poel sacrifices the best part of his audience to the worst and, as one would think, neglects the boxes, to write to the orange-wenches.
. I must not conclude till I have taken notice ol the inoral with which this comedy ends. The two young ladies having given a notable example of out witting those who had a right in the disposal of them, and marrying without consent of parents, one of the injured parties, who is easily reconciled, winds up all with this remark,
-Design whate'er we will, There is a fate which over-rules us still *. We are to suppose that the gallants are men of merit, but if they had been rakes the excuse might have served as well. Hans Carvel's wife was of the same principle, but has expressed it with a delicacy
* Tlie concluding distich of Shadwell's play.