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Indian journal, when we fancy the customs, | desire of multiplying our species, and that dresses, and manners of other countries are is the polite Sir George Etheridge; if I unridiculous and extravagant, if they do not derstand what the lady would be at, in the resemble those of our own. C. play called She would if She could. Other poets have here and there given an intimation that there is this design, under all the disguises and affectations which a lady may put on; but no author, except this, has made sure work of it, and put the imaginations of the audience upon this one purpose from the beginning to the end of the comedy. It has always fared accordingly; for whether it be that all who go to this piece would if they could, or that the innocents go to it, to guess only what she would if she could, the play has always been well received.
Saturday, April 28, 1711.
Torquet ab obscœnis jam nunc sermonibus aurem.
He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth.-Pope. 'MR. SPECTATOR,-My fortune, quality, and person, are such as render me as conspicuous as any young woman in town. It is in my power to enjoy it in all its vanities, but I have from a very careful education, contracted a great aversion to the forward air and fashion which is practised in all public places and assemblies. I attribute this very much to the style and manner of our plays. I was last night at the Funeral, where a confident lover in the play speaking of his mistress, cries out-"Oh that Harriet! to fold these arms about the waist of that beauteous, struggling, and at last yielding fair!" Such an image as this ought by no means to be presented to a chaste and regular audience. I expect your opinion of this sentence, and recommend to your consideration, as a Spectator, the conduct of the stage at present with relation to chastity and modesty. I am, Sir, your constant reader and well-wisher.'
The complaint of this young lady is so just, that the offence is gross enough to have displeased persons who cannot pretend to that delicacy and modesty, of which she is mistress. But there is a great deal to be said in behalf of an author. If the audience would but consider the difficulty of keeping up a sprightly dialogue for five acts together, they would allow a writer, when he wants wit, and cannot please any otherwise, to help it out with a little smuttiness. I will answer for the poets, that no one ever writ bawdry, for any other reason but dearth of invention. When the author cannot strike out of himself any more of that which he has superior to those who make up the bulk of his audience, his natural recourse is to that which he has in common with them; and a description which gratifies a sensual appetite will please, when the author has nothing about him to delight a refined imagination. It is to such a poverty we must impute this and all other sentences in plays, which are of this kind, and which are commonly termed luscious expressions. This expedient to supply the deficiencies of wit, has been used more or less by most of the authors who have succeeded on the stage; though I know but one who has professedly writ a play upon the basis of the
It lifts a heavy empty sentence, when there is added to it a lascivious gesture of body; and when it is too low to be raised even by that, a flat meaning is enlivened by making it a double one. Writers who want genius, never fail of keeping this secret in reserve, to create a laugh or raise a clap. I, who know nothing of women but from seeing plays, can give great guesses at the whole structure of the fair sex, by being innocently placed in the pit, and insulted by the petticoats of their dancers; the advantages of whose pretty persons are a great help to a dull play. When a poet flags in writing lusciously, a pretty girl can move lasciviously, and have the same good consequence for the author. Dull poets in this case use their audiences, as dull parasites do their patrons; when they cannot longer divert them with their wit or humour, they bait their ears with something which is agreeable to their temper, though below their understanding. Apicius cannot resist being pleased, if you give him an account of a delicious meal; or Clodius, if you describe a wanton beauty: though at the same time, if you do not awake those inclinations in them, no men are better judges of what is just and delicate in conversation. But as I have before observed, it is easier to talk to the man than to the man of sense.
It is remarkable that the writers of least
learning are best skilled in the luscious way. The poetesses of the age have done wonders in this kind; and we are obliged to the lady who writ Ibrahim,† for introducing a preparatory scene to the very action, when the emperor throws his handkerchief as a signal for his mistress to follow him into the most retired part of the seraglio. It must be confessed his Turkish majesty went off with a good air, but methought we made but a sad figure who waited without. This ingenious gentlewoman, in this piece of bawdry, refined upon an author of the same sex, who, in the Rover, makes a country 'squire strip to his Holland drawers. For Blunt is disappoint
The Funeral, or Grief Alamode, a comedy by Sired, and the emperor is understood to go on
to the utmost. The pleasantry of stripping
Richard Steele.-Much to the honour of Sir Richard, he attended to the letter of his fair correspondent, and in a subsequent edition of his comedy, expunged all the obnoxious passages.
† Mrs. Mary Pix.
Mrs. Aphara Behn.
almost naked has been since practised | faithful, and honest, may, at the same time,
plays would have a very respectful notion No. 52.] Monday, April 30, 1711.
Omnes ut tecum meritis pro talibus annos Exigat, et pulchra faciat te prole parentem. Virg. Æn. i. 78. To crown thy worth, she shall be ever thine, And make thee father of a beauteous line. AN ingenious correspondent, like a sprightly wife, will always have the last word. I did not think my last letter to the deformed fraternity would have occasioned any answer, especially since I had promised them so sudden a visit; but as they think they cannot show too great a veneration for my person, they have already sent me up an answer. As to the proposal of a marriage between myself and the match
it; which is, that all the society will expect to be acquainted with her; and who can be sure of keeping a woman's heart long, where she may have so much choice? I am the more alarmed at this, because the lady seems particularly smitten with men of their make.
If men of wit, who think fit to write for the stage, instead of this pitiful way of giv-less Hecatissa, I have but one objection to ing delight, would turn their thoughts upon raising it from such good natural impulses as are in the audience, but are choaked up by vice and luxury, they would not only please, but befriend us at the same time. If a man had a mind to be new in his way of writing, might not he who is represented as a fine gentleman, though he betrays the honour and bed of his neighbour and friend, and lies with half the women in the play, and is at last rewarded with her of the best character in it; I say, upon giving the co-recommend her to me. At the same time I cannot but discover that his malice is medy another cast, might not such a one divert the audience quite as well, if at the stolen from Martial: catastrophe he were found out for a traitor, and met with contempt accordingly? There is seldom a person devoted to above one darling vice at a time, so that there is room enough to catch at men's hearts to their good and advantage, if the poets will attempt it with the honesty which becomes their character.
I believe I shall set my heart upon her; and think never the worse of my mistress for an epigram a smart fellow writ, as he thought, against her; it does but the more
Tacta places, audita places, si non videare,
*The appearance of Lady Mary, a rope-dancer at
Bartholomew fair, gave occasion to this proper animad
Your letter to us we have received, as a signal mark of your favour and brotherly affection. We shall be heartily glad to see your short face in Oxford: and since the
There is no man who loves his bottle or his mistress, in a manner so very aban-wisdom of our legislature has been immordoned, as not to be capable of relishing antalized in your speculations, and our persoagreeable character, that is in no way anal deformities in some sort by you recorded slave to either of those pursuits. A man to all posterity; we hold ourselves in gratithat is temperate, generous, valiant, chaste, tude bound to receive, with the highest respect, all such persons as for their extraordinary merit you shall think fit, from time to time, to recommend unto the board. As
for the Pictish damsel, we' have an easy chair prepared at the upper end of the table; which we doubt not but she will grace with a very hideous aspect, and much better become the seat in the native and unaffected uncomeliness of her person, than with all the superficial airs of the pencil, which (as you have very ingeniously observed) vanish with a breath, and the most innocent adorer may deface the shrine with a salutation, and in the literal sense of our poets, snatch and imprint his balmy kisses, and devour her melting lips. In short, the only faces of the Pictish kind that will endure the weather, must be of Dr. Carbuncle's die; though his, in truth, has cost him a world the painting; but then he boasts with Zeuxes, in æternitatem pingo; and oft jocosely tells the fair ones, would they acquire colours that would stand kissing, they must no longer paint, but drink for a complexion: a maxim that in this our age has been pursued with no ill success; and has been as admirable in its effects, as the famous cosmetic mentioned in the Postman, and invented by the renowned British Hippocrates of the pestle and mortar; making the party, after a due course, rosy, hale, and airy; and the best and most approved receipt now extant, for the fever of the spirits. But to return to our female candidate, who, I understand is returned to herself, and will no longer hang out false colours; as she is the first of her sex that has done us so great an honour, she will certainly in a very short time, both in prose and verse, be a lady of the most celebrated deformity now living, and meet with many admirers here as frightful as herself. But being a long-headed gentlewoman, I am apt to imagine she has some further design than you have yet penetrated; and perhaps has more mind to the Spectator than any of his fraternity, as the person of all the world she could like for a paramour. And if so, really I cannot but applaud her choice, and should be glad, if it might lie in my power, to effect an amicable accommodation betwixt two faces of such different ex
tremes, as the only possible expedient to No. 53.] Tuesday, May 1, 1711.
mend the breed, and rectify the physiognomy of the family on both sides. And again, as she is a lady of a very fluent elocution, you need not fear that your first child will be born dumb, which otherwise you might have reason to be apprehensive of. To be plain with you, I can see nothing shocking in it; for though she has not a face like a john-apple, yet as a late friend of mine, who at sixty-five ventured on a lass of fifteen, very frequently in the remaining five years of his life gave me to understand, that as old as he then seemed, when they were first married he and his spouse could make but fourscore; so may madam Hecatissa very justly allege hereafter, that as long-visaged as she may then be thought, upon their wedding-day Mr. Spectator and she had but half an ell of
face betwixt them; and this my worthy predecessor, Mr. Sergeant Chin, always maintained to be no more than the true oval proportion between man and wife. But as this may be a new thing to you, who have hitherto had no expectations from women, I shall allow you what time you think fit to consider on it; not without some hope of seeing at last your thoughts here upon subjoined to mine, and which is an honour much desired by, sir, your assured friend, and most humble servant,
'HUGH GOBLIN, Præses."
The following letter has not much in it, but as it is written in my own praise, I cannot from my heart suppress it.
SIR,-You proposed in your Spectator of last Tuesday, Mr. Hobbs's hypothesis for solving that very odd phænomenon of laughter. You have made the hypothesis valuable by espousing it yourself; for had it continued Mr. Hobbs's, nobody would have minded it. Now here this perplexed case arises. A certain company laughed very heartily upon the reading of that very paper of yours; and the truth of it is, he must be a man of more than ordinary constancy that could stand out against so much comedy, and not do as we did. Now there are few men in the world so far lost to all good sense, as to look upon you to be a man in a state of folly "inferior to himself."-Pray then how do you justify your hypothesis of laughter?
"Your most humble, Thursday, the 26th of the month of fools. desire you to recollect yourself; and you 'SIR,-In answer to your letter, I must will find, that when you did me the honour to be so merry over my paper, you laughed at the idiot, the German courtier, the gaper, the merry-andrew, the haberdasher, the biter, the butt, and not at
"Your humble servant,
-Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus,
that I cannot avoid frequently inserting My correspondents grow so numerous, their applications to me.
'MR. SPECTATOR,-I am glad I can in form you, that your endeavours to adorn that sex, which is the fairest part of the visible creation, are well received, and like to prove not unsuccessful. The triumph of Daphne over her sister Lætitia has been the subject of conversation at several tea-tables where I have been present; and I have observed the fair circle not a little pleased to find you considering them as reasonable creatures, and endeavouring to
banish that Mahometan custom, which had too much prevailed even in this island, of treating women as if they had no souls. I must do them the justice to say, that there seems to be nothing wanting to the finishing of these lovely pieces of human nature, besides the turning and applying their ambition properly, and the keeping them up to a sense of what is their true merit. Epictetus, that plain, honest philosopher, as little as he had of gallantry, appears to have understood them, as well as the polite St. Evremont, and has hit this point very luckily. When young women,' says he, arrive at a certain age, they hear themselves called Mistresses, and are made to believe that their only business is to please the men; they immediately begin to dress, and place all their hopes in the adorning of their persons; it is therefore,' continues he, worth the while to endeavour by all means to make them sensible that the honour paid to them is only upon account of their conducting themselves with virtue, modesty, and discretion.'
the rules of honour and prudence; and have thought it an observation not ill-made, that where that was wholly denied, the women lost their wit, and the men their good manners. It is, sure, from those improper liberties you mentioned, that a sort of undistinguishing people shall banish from their drawing-rooms the best-bred men in the world, and condemn those that do not. Your stating this point might, I think, be of good use, as well as much oblige, sir, your admirer and most humble ANNA BELLA.' servant,
Now, to pursue the matter yet further, and to render your cares for the improvement of the fair ones more effectual, I would propose a new method, like those applications which are said to convey their virtue by sympathy; and that is, that in order to embellish the mistress, you should give a new education to the lover, and teach the men not to be any longer dazzled by false charms and unreal beauty. I cannot but think that if our sex knew always how to place their esteem justly, the other would not be so often wanting to themselves in deserving it. For as the being enamoured with a woman of sense and virtue is an improvement to a man's understanding and morals, and the passion is ennobled by the object which inspires it; so on the other side, the appearing amiable to a man of a wise and elegant mind, carries in itself no small degree of merit and accomplishment. I conclude, therefore, that one way to make the women yet more agreeable is, to make the men more virtuous. I am, sir, your most humble servant, R. B.'
'April 26th. 'SIR,-Yours of Saturday fast I read, not without some resentment; but I will suppose, when you say you expect an inundation of ribands and brocades, and to see many new vanities which the women will fall into upon a peace with France, that you intend only the unthinking part of our sex; and what methods can reduce them to reason is hard to imagine.
No answer to this, till Anna Bella sends bred men in the world. a description of those she calls the best
'But, sir, there are others yet, that your instructions might be of great use to, who, after their best endeavours, are sometimes at a loss to acquit themselves to a censorious world. I am far from thinking you can altogether disapprove of conversation between ladies and gentlemen, regulated by
'MR. SPECTATOR,-I am a gentleman who for many years last past have been well known to be truly splenetic, and that my spleen arises from having contracted so great a delicacy, by reading the best authors, and keeping the most refined company, that I cannot bear the least impropriety of language, or rusticity of behaviour. Now, sir, I have ever looked upon this as a wise distemper; but by late observations find, that every heavy wretch, who has nothing to say, excuses his dulness by complaining of the spleen. Nay, I saw the other day, two fellows in a tavern kitchen set up for it, call for a pint and pipes, and only by guzzling liquor, to each other's health, and by wafting smoke in each other's face, pretend to throw off the spleen. I appeal to you whether these dishonours are to be done to the distemper of the great and the polite. I beseech you, sir, to inform these fellows that they have not the spleen, because they cannot talk without the help of a glass at their mouths, or convey their meaning to each other without the interposition of clouds. If you will not do this with all speed, I assure you, for my part, I will wholly quit the disease, and for the future be merry with the vulgar. I am, sir, your humble servant.'
'SIR,-This is to let you understand that I am a reformed Starer, and conceived a detestation for that practice from what you have writ upon the subject. But as you have been very severe upon the behaviour of us men at divine service, I hope you will not be so apparently partial to the women, as to let them go wholly unobserved. If they do every thing that is possible to attract our eyes, are we more culpable than they, for looking at them? I happened last Sunday to be shut into a pew, which was full of young ladies in the bloom of youth and beauty. When the service began, I had not room to kneel at the confession, but as I stood kept my eyes from wandering as well as I was able, till one of the young ladies, who is a Peeper, resolved to bring down my looks and fix my devotion on herself. You are to know, sir, that a Peeper works with her hands, eyes, and
fan; one of which is continually in motion,
this Peeper so placed herself as to be No. 54.] Wednesday, May 2, 1711.
avoid taking notice also of her fan, which
This Peeper using both fan and eyes, to be considered as a Pict, and proceed cordingly.
Though some may think we descend from our imperial dignity, in holding correspondence with a private literato; yet as we have great respect to all good intentions for our service, we do not esteem it beneath us to return you our royal thanks for what you have published in our behalf, while under confinement in the enchanted castle of the Savoy, and for your mention of a subsidy for a prince in misfortune. This your timely zeal has inclined the hearts of divers to be aiding unto us, if we could propose the means. We have taken their good-will into consideration, and have contrived a method which will be easy to those who shall give the aid, and not unacceptable to us who receive it. A concert of music shall be prepared at Haberdasher's-hall, for Wednesday the second of May, and we will honour the said entertainment with our own presence, where each person shall be assessed but at two shillings and sixpence. What we expect from you is, that you publish these our royal intentions, with injunction that they be read at all tea-tables within the cities of London and Westminster; and so we bid you heartily farewell.
LATINUS, King of the Volscians.
"Given at our court in Vinegar-yard, story the third from the earth, April 28, 1711.'
I have with great pains and industry made my observation from time to time upon these sages; and having now all materials ready, am compiling a treatise, wherein I shall set forth the rise and progress of this famous sect, together with their maxims, austerities, manner of living, &c. Having prevailed with a friend who