« 上一頁繼續 »
But before I communicate my discoveries, I must acquaint the reader, that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was thinking on something else, I accidentally justled against a monstrous animal that extremely startled me, and upon my nearer survey of it, appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion seeing me very much surprised, told me, in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleased : “For," says he, “I do not intend to hurt anybody." I
thanked him very kindly, and passed by him. And in a little 10 time after saw him leap upon the stage, and act his part with
very great applause. It has been observed by several, that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice since his first appearance; which will not seem strange, when I acquaint my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three several times. The first lion was a candle-snuffer, who being a fellow of a testy, choleric temper, over-did his part, and would not suffer himself to be killed so easily as he ought to have done ; besides, it was observed
of him, that he grew more surly every time he came out of 20 the lion, and having dropt some words in ordinary conversa
tion, as if he had not fought his best, and that he suffered himself to be thrown upon his back in the scufile, and that he would wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to discard him : and it is verily believed, to this day, that had he been brought upon the stage another time, he would certainly have done mischief. Besides, it was objected against the first lion, that he reared himself so high upon his hinder paws, and walked
in so erect a posture, that he looked more like an old man 30 than a lion.
The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the playhouse, and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profession. If the former was too furious, this was too sheepish for his part; insomuch, that after a short modest walk upon the stage, he would fall at the first touch of Hydaspes, without grappling with him, and giving him an opportunity of showing his variety of Italian trips. It is said, indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-coloured doublet; but this was only to make work for himself, in his private character of a tailor. I must not omit that it was this second lion who treated me with so much humanity behind the scenes.
The acting lion at present is, as I am informed, a country gentleman, who does it for his diversion, but desires his name may be concealed. He says, very handsomely, in his own excuse, that he does not act for gain ; that he indulges an 10 innocent pleasure in it; and that it is better to pass away an evening in this manner than in gaming and drinking : but at the same time he says, with a very agreeable raillery upon himself, that if his name should be known, the ill-natured world might call him, “the ass in the lion's skin." This gentleman's temper is made out of such a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric, that he outdoes both his predecessors, and has drawn together greater audiences than have been known in the memory of man.
I must not conclude my narrative, without taking notice 20 of a groundless report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage, of whom I must declare myself an admirer ; namely, that Signior Nicolini and the lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another, and smoking a pipe together behind the scenes ; by which their common enemies would insinuate, that it is but a sham combat which they represent upon the stage : but upon inquiry I find, that if any such correspondence has passed between them, it was not till the combat was over, when the lion was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received rules of the drama. 30 Besides, this is what is practised every day in Westminster Hall, where nothing is more usual than to see a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as soon as they are out of it.
I would not be thought, in any part of this relation, to report upon Signior Nicolini, who in acting this part only
complies with the wretched taste of his audience; he knows very well, that the lion has many more admirers than himself ; as they say of the famous equestrian statue on the Pont Neuf at Paris, that more people go to see the horse than the king who sits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just indignation to see a person whose action gives new majesty to kings, resolution to heroes, and softness to lovers, thus sinking from the greatness of his behaviour, and de
graded into the character of the London Prentice. I have 10 often wished, that our tragedians would copy after this great
master in action. Could they make the same use of their arms and legs, and inform their faces with as significant looks and passions, how glorious would an English tragedy appear with that action which is capable of giving a dignity to the forced thoughts, cold conceits, and unnatural expressions of an Italian opera! In the mean time, I have related this combat of the lion, to show what are at present the reigning entertainments of the politer part of Great Britain.
Audiences have often been reproached by writers for the 20 coarseness of their tastes ; but our present grievance does
not seem to be the want of a good taste, but of common
X. REFLECTIONS IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
March 30, 1711.
Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
Regumque turres, O beate Sexti.
Jam te premet nox, fabulæque manes,
Pale Death with foot impartial tramples down
-STEPHEN DE VERE.
WHEN I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey ; where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed a whole afternoon in the churchyard, the cloisters, and the church, amusing myself with the tombstones and inscriptions that I met with in those several regions of the dead. Most 20 of them recorded nothing else of the buried person, but that he was born upon one day, and died upon another : the whole history of his life being comprehended in those two circumstances, that are common to all mankind. I could not but look upon these registers of existence, whether of brass or marble, as a kind of satire upon the departed persons ; who had left no other memorial of them, but that they were born and that they died. They put me in mind of several persons mentioned in the battles of heroic poems, who have sounding names given them, for no other reason but 30
that they may be killed, and are celebrated for nothing but being knocked on the head. Γλαυκόν τε Μέδοντά τε Θερσίλοχον τε.
€.-HOM. Glaucumque, Medontaque, Thersilochumque.–VIRG. The life of these men is finely described in holy writ by “the path of an arrow," which is immediately closed and lost.
Upon my going into the church, I entertained myself with the digging of a grave; and saw in every shovelful of it that 10 was thrown up, the fragment of a bone or skull intermixt
with a kind of fresh mouldering earth, that some time or other had a place in the composition of a human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together under the pavement of that ancient cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and soldiers, monks and prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same common mass ; how beauty, strength, and youth,
with old age, weakness, and deformity, lay undistinguished 20 in the same promiscuous heap of matter.
After having thus surveyed this great magazine of mortality, as it were, in the lump; I examined it more particularly by the accounts which I found on several of the monuments which are raised in every quarter of that ancient fabric. Some of them were covered with such extravagant epitaphs, that, if it were possible for the dead person to be acquainted with them, he would blush at the praises which his friends have bestowed upon
him. There are others so excessively modest, that they deliver the character of the 30 person departed in Greek or Hebrew, and by that means
are not understood once in a twelvemonth. In the poetical quarter, I found there were poets who had no monuments, and monuments which had no I observed, indeed, that the present war had filled the church with many of these uninhabited monuments, which had been erected to