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A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea of an army or a battle in a description, than if he actually saw them
make the actors represent them in dresses and clothes that were thread-bare and decayed. This artifice for moving pity, seems as ill-contrived as that we have been speak-drawn up in squadrons and battalions, or ing of, to inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upon the stage. In short, I would have our conceptions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a plume of feathers.
engaged in the confusion of a fight. Our
Another mechanical method of making great men, and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accompany them with halberds and battle-axes. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, make up a complete body of guards upon the En-No. 43.] Thursday, April 19, 1711.
glish stage; and by the addition of a few porters dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies drawn up together upon the stage, when the poet has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's imagination to multiply twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in compass. Incidents of such a nature should be told, not represented.
Hæ tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
Be these thy arts, to bid contention cease,
THERE are crowds of men whose great misfortune it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some contínual task or employment. These are such as we commonly call dull fellows; persons, who for want of something to do, out of a certain vacancy of thought, rather than curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. I cannot give you a notion of them better, than by presenting you with a letter from a gentleman, who belongs to a society of this order of men, residing at Oxford.
I should, therefore, in this particular, recommend to my countrymen the example of the French stage, where the kings and queens always appear unattended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. I should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trumpets, and huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when there is a battle in the Haymarket theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing-be carried on in such assemblies. I shall,
I have here only touched upon those particulars which are made use of to raise and aggrandize the persons of a tragedy; and shall show, in another paper, the several expedients which are practised by authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or admiration, in their hearers.
'Oxford, April 13, 1711, 4 o'clock in the morning. 'SIR,-In some of your late speculations, I find some sketches towards a history of clubs; but you seem to me to show them in somewhat too ludicrous a light. I have well weighed that matter, and think, that the most important negociations may best
therefore, for the good of mankind (which I trust you and I are equally concerned for) propose an institution of that nature for example sake.
'I must confess that the design and transactions of too many clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no consequence to the nation or public weal. Those I will give you up. The tailor and the painter often contri-But you must do me then the justice to own, bute to the success of a tragedy more than that nothing can be more useful or laudathe poet. Scenes affect ordinary minds as ble, than the scheme we go upon. To much as speeches; and our actors are very avoid nicknames and witticisms, we call sensible, that a well-dressed play has some- ourselves the Hebdomadal Meeting. Our times brought them as full audiences as a president continues for a year at least, and well-written one. The Italians have a very sometimes four or five; we are all grave, good phrase to express this art of imposing serious, designing men, in our way: we upon the spectators by appearances; they think it our duty, as far as in us lies, to call it the Fourberia della scena.' The take care the constitution receives no harm knavery or trickish part of the drama.' But-Ne quid detrimenti res capiat publica.— however the show and outside of the tragedy To censure doctrines or facts, persons or may work upon the vulgar, the more un-things, which we do not like; to settle the derstanding part of the audience immedi-nation at home, and carry on the war ately see through it, and despise it. abroad, where and in what manner we see
fit. If other people are not of our opinion, | to their inquiries, which dull fellows do not we cannot help that. It were better they make for information, but for exercise. I were. Moreover, we now and then con- do not know but this may be a very good descend to direct, in some measure, the little affairs of our own university.
Verily, Mr. Spectator, we are much offended at the act for importing French wines. A bottle or two of good solid edifying port at honest George's, made a night cheerful, and threw off reserve. But this plaguy French claret will not only cost us more money, but do us less good. Had we been aware of it before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we would have petitioned to be heard upon that subject. But let that pass.
'I must let you know likewise, good sir, that we look upon a certain northern prince's march, in conjunction with infidels, to be palpably against our good-will and liking; and, for all monsieur Palmquist, a most dangerous innovation: and we are by no means yet sure, that some people are not at the bottom of it. At least my own private letters leave room for a politician, well versed in matters of this nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend of mine tells me.
way of accounting for what we frequently see, to wit, that dull fellows prove very good men of business. Business relieves them from their own natural heaviness, by furnishing them with what to do; whereas business to mercurial men, is an interruption from their real existence and happiness. Though the dull part of mankind are harmless in their amusements, it were to be wished they had no vacant time, because they usually undertake something that makes their wants conspicuous, by their manner of supplying them. You shall seldom find a dull fellow of good education, but if he happens to have any leisure upon his hands, will turn his head to one of those two amusements for all fools of eminence, politics or poetry. The former of these arts is the study of all dull people in general; but when dulness is lodged in a person of a quick animal life, it generally exerts itself in poetry. One might here mention a few military writers, who give great entertainment to the age, by reason that the stupidity of their heads is quickened
'We think we have at least done the bu-by the alacrity of their hearts. This consiness with the malcontents in Hungary, and shall clap up a peace there.
'What the neutrality army is to do, or what the army in Flanders, and what two or three other princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and we wait impatiently for the coming in of the next Dyer, who you must know is our authentic intelligence, our Aristotle in politics. And, indeed, it is but fit there should be some dernier resort, the absolute decider of all controversies.
"We were lately informed that the gallant trained-bands had patrolled all night long about the streets of London. We indeed could not imagine any occasion for it, we guessed not a tittle on it aforehand, we were in nothing of the secret; and that city tradesmen, or their apprentices, should do duty or work through the holidays, we thought absolutely impossible. But Dyer being positive in it, and some letters from other people, who had talked with some who had it from those who should know, giving some countenance to it, the chairman reported from the committee appointed to examine into that affair, that it was possible there might be something in it. I have much more to say to you, but my two good friends and neighbours, Dominíc and Slyboots, are just come in, and the coffee is ready. I am, in the meantime, Mr. Spectator, your admirer and humble servant, 'ABRAHAM FROTH.'
You may observe the turn of their minds tends only to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. It would be disappointment to them, to come to certainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and put an end
stitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to nonsense, and makes the puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that celebrated poem, which was written in the reign of King Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such a happy genius as we are speaking of. From among many other distichs no less to be quoted on this account, I cannot but recite the two following lines:
'A painted vest Prince Voltager had on,
Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won."* Here, if the poet had not been vivacious, as well as stupid, he could not, in the warmth and hurry of nonsense, have been capable of forgetting that neither Prince Voltager, nor his grandfather, could strip a naked man of his doublet; but a fool of a colder constitution would have stayed to have flayed the Pict, and made buff of his skin, for the wearing of the conqueror.
To bring these observations to some use
*Absurd as these lines are, they found an apologist in the late Edward King, esq. who, in his Munimenta Antiqua, after alluding to the practice of tattooing being prevalent amongst the Britons, Picts, and other northern nations, continues-"The figures thus marked, however, were as indelible as they were honourable; and they were even badges of their chieftains; insomuch that it is not quite impossible to make sense of their burlesque nonsense :— those lines, so elegantly censured in the Spectator, for
A painted vest Prince Voltager had on, Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won.' For amongst a people, such as the ancient Britons, who were so barbarous that, like the Scythians, they deemed
the skulls of their enemies an ornament to their horsetrappings, it is not absolutely impossible to suppose that the skin of a poor painted Pict, as well as the skin of a Wolf, might be worn as a trophy!"
Munimenta Antiqua, vol. í. p. 186.
ful purpose of life, what I would propose should be, that we imitated those wise nations wherein every man learns some handicraft-work.-Would it not employ a beau, prettily enough, if, instead of eternally playing with a snuff-box, he spent some part of his time in making one? Such a method as this would very much conduce to the public emolument, by making every man living good for something; for there would then be no one member of human society, but would have some little pretension for some degree in it; like him who came to Will's coffee-house, upon the merit of having writ a posy of a ring. R.
No.44.] Friday, April 20, 1711.
Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death,
I do not therefore find fault with the artifices above mentioned, when they are introduced with skill, and accompanied by proportionable sentiment and expressions in the writing.
For the moving of pity, our principle machine is the handkerchief: and indeed in our common tragedies, we should not know very often that the persons are in distress by any thing they say, if they did not from time to time apply their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Far be it from me to think of banishing this instrument of sorrow from Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 153. the stage; I know a tragedy could not subsist without it: all that I would contend for, is to keep it from being misapplied. In a word, I would have the actor's tongue sympathize with his eyes.
Tu quid ego, et populus mecum desideret, audi.
Now hear what every auditor expects.
AMONG the several artifices which are put in practice by the poets to fill the minds of an audience with terror, the first place A disconsolate mother, with a child in is due to thunder and lightning, which her hand, has frequently drawn compassion are often made use of at the descending from the audience, and has therefore gained of a god, or the rising of a ghost, at the a place in several tragedies. A modern vanishing of a devil, or at the death of a writer, that observed how this had took in tyrant. I have known a bell introduced other plays, being resolved to double the into several tragedies with good effect; and distress, and melt his audience twice as have seen the whole assembly in a very much as those before him had done, great alarm all the while it has been ring- brought a princess upon the stage with a ing. But there is nothing which delights little boy in one hand, and a girl in the and terrifies our English theatre so much other. This too had a very good effect. A as a ghost, especially when he appears in third poet being resolved to outwrite all his a bloody shirt. A spectre has very often predecessors, a few years ago introduced saved a play, though he has done nothing three children with great success: and, as I but stalked across the stage, or rose through am informed, a young gentleman, who is a cleft of it, and sunk again without speak-fully determined to break the most obduing one word. There may be a proper rate hearts, has a tragedy by him, where the season for these several terrors; and when first person that appears upon the stage is they only come in as aids and assistances an afflicted widow in her mourning weeds, to the poet, they are not only to be excused, but to be applauded. Thus the sounding of the clock in Venice Preserved, makes the hearts of the whole audience quake; and conveys a stronger terror to the mind than it is possible for words to do. The appearance of the ghost in Hamlet is a masBut among all our methods of moving ter-piece in its kind, and wrought up with pity or terror, there is none so absurd and all the circumstances that can create either barbarous, and what more exposes us to attention or horror. The mind of the rea- the contempt and ridicule of our neighder is wonderfully prepared for his recep-bours, than that dreadful butchering of one tion by the discourses that precede it. His dumb behaviour at his first entrance, strikes the imagination very strongly; but every time he enters, he is still more terrifying. Who can read the speech with which young Hamlet accosts him, without trembling.
Hor. Look, my lord, it comes !
'Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
with half a dozen fatherless children attending her, like those that usually hang about the figure of Charity. Thus several incidents that are beautiful in a good writer, become ridiculous by falling into the hands of a bad one.
another, which is very frequent upon the English stage. To delight in seeing men stabbed, poisoned, racked, or impaled, is certainly the sign of a cruel temper: and as this is often practised before the British audience, several French critics, who think these are grateful spectacles to us, take occasion from them to represent us a people that delight in blood. It is indeed very odd to see our stage strewed with carcases in the last scenes of a tragedy; and to observe in the wardrobe of the playhouse several daggers, poniards, wheels, bowls for poison, and many other instruments of
whose murder he would revenge in the very same place where it was committed. By this means the poet observes that decency, which Horace afterwards establishIed by a rule, of forbearing to commit parricides or unnatural murders before the audience.
'Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet.'
death. Murders and executions are always | before he would despatch him, and by ortransacted behind the scenes in the French dering him to retire into that part of the theatre; which in general is very agree- palace where he had slain his father, able to the manners of a polite and civilized people: but as there are no exceptions to this rule on the French stage, it leads them into absurdities almost as ridiculous as that which falls under our present censure. remember in the famous play of Corneille, written upon the subject of the Horatii and Curiatii; the fierce young hero who had overcome the Curiatii one after another, (instead of being congratulated by his sister for his victory, being upbraided by her for having slain her lover) in the height The French have, therefore, refined too of his passion and resentment kills her. If any thing could extenuate so brutal an ac- much upon Horace's rule, who never detion, it would be the doing of it on a sudden, signed to banish all kinds of death from the before the sentiments of nature, reason, or stage: but only such as had too much hormanhood could take place in him. How-ror in them, and which would have a better ever, to avoid public bloodshed, as soon as effect upon the audience when transacted I would therefore rehis passion is wrought to its height, he behind the scenes. follows his sister to the whole length of the commend to my countrymen the practice of stage, and forbears killing her till they are the ancient poets, who were very sparing of both withdrawn behind the scenes. I must their public executions, and rather chose to confess, had he murdered her before the perform them behind the scenes, if it could audience, the indecency might have been be done with as great an effect upon the augreater; but as it is, it appears very unna-dience. At the same time I must observe, tural and looks like killing in cold blood. To give my opinion upon this case, the fact ought not to have been represented, but to have been told, if there was any occasion for it.
that though the devoted persons of the
'Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet;
'Medea must not draw her murd'ring knife,
I hate to see, and never can believe.'-Roscommon.
I have now gone through the several dramatic inventions which are made use
It may not be unacceptable to the reader to see how Sophocles has conducted a tragedy under the like delicate circumstances. Orestes was in the same condition with Hamlet in Shakspeare, his mother having murdered his father, and taken possession of his kingdom in conspiracy with her adulterer. That young prince, therefore, being determined to revenge his father's death upon those who filled his throne, conveys himself by a beautiful stratagem into his mother's apartment, with a resolution to kill her. But because such a spectacle would have been too shocking to the audience, this dreadful resolution is executed behind the scenes: the mother is heard calling out to her son for mercy; and the son answering of by the ignorant poets to supply the place her, that she showed no mercy to his fa- of tragedy, and by the skilful to improve ther; after which she shrieks out she is it; some of which I could wish entirely rewounded, and by what follows we find that jected, and the rest to be used with caushe is slain. I do not remember that in tion. It would be an endless task to consider comedy in the same light, and to any of our plays there are speeches made mention the innumerable shifts that small behind the scenes, though there are other wits put in practice to raise a laugh. Bulinstances of this nature to be met with in lock in a short coat, and Norris in a long one, seldom fail of this effect. In ordinary comedies, a broad and a narrow brimmed hat are different characters. Sometimes the wit of the scene lies in a shoulder-belt, and sometimes in a pair of whiskers.A lover running about the stage, with his head peeping out of a barrel,* was thought a very good jest in King Charles the Second's time; and invented by one of the
those of the ancients: and I believe my reader will agree with me, that there is something infinitely more affecting in this dreadful dialogue between the mother and her son behind the scenes, than could have been in any thing transacted before the audience. Orestes immediately after meets the usurper at the entrance of his palace; and by a very happy thought of the poet avoids killing him before the audience, by telling him that he should live some time in his present bitterness of soul
*The comedy of The Comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub, by Sir George Etheridge.
first wits of that age. But because ridicule | which looks immodest in the fair sex, that is not so delicate as compassion, and be- I could not forbear taking off my eye from cause the objects that make us laugh are her when she moved in bed, and was in the infinitely more numerous than those that greatest confusion imaginable every time make us weep, there is a much greater she stirred a leg, or an arm. As the colatitude for comic than tragic artifices,quettes who introduced this custom grew and by consequence a much greater indul- old, they left it off by degrees; well knowgence to be allowed them. ing that a woman of threescore may kick and tumble her heart out, without making any impression.
No. 45.] Saturday, April 21, 1711.
Natio comoda est
Juv. Sat. iii. 100.
The nation is a company of players. THERE is nothing which I desire more than a safe and honourable peace, though at the same time I am very apprehensive of many ill consequences that may attend it. I do not mean in regard to our politics, but to our manners. What an inundation of ribands and brocades will break in upon us? What peals of laughter and impertinence shall we be exposed to? For the prevention of those great evils, I could heartily wish that there was an act of parliament for prohibiting the importation of French fopperies.
Sempronia is at present the most professed admirer of the French nation, but is so modest as to admit her visitants no further than her toilet. It is a very odd sight that beautiful creature makes, when she is talking politics, with her tresses flowing about her shoulders, and examining that face in the glass, which does such execution upon all the male standers-by. How prettily does she divide her discourse between her women and her visitants! What sprightly transitions does she make from an opera or a sermon, to an ivory comb or a pin-cushion! How have I been pleased to see her interrupted in an account of her travels, by a message to her footman; and holding her tongue in the midst of a moral reflection, by applying the tip of it to a patch.
The female inhabitants of our island have already received very strong impressions There is nothing which exposes a woman from this ludicrous nation, though by the to greater dangers, than that gayety and length of the war (as there is no evil which airiness of temper, which are natural to has not some good attending it) they are most of the sex. It should be therefore pretty well worn out and forgotten. I re- the concern of every wise and virtuous member the time when some of our well-woman to keep this sprightliness from debred country-women kept their valet de generating into levity. On the contrary, chambre; because, forsooth, a man was the whole discourse and behaviour of the much more handy about them than one of French is to make the sex more fantastical, their own sex. I myself have seen one of or (as they are pleased to term it) more these male Abigails tripping about the awakened, than is consistent either with room with a looking-glass in his hand, and virtue or discretion. To speak loud in pubcombing his lady's hair a whole morning lic assemblies, to let every one hear you together. Whether or no there was any talk of things that should only be mentioned truth in the story of a lady's being got with in private, or in whisper, are looked upon child by one of these her hand-maids, I as parts of a refined education. At the cannot tell; but I think at present the whole same time, a blush is unfashionable, and race of them is extinct in our own country. silence more ill-bred than any thing that About the time that several of our sex can be spoken. In short, discretion and were taken into this kind of service, the modesty, which in all other ages and counladies likewise brought up the fashion of tries have been regarded as the greatest receiving visits in their beds. It was then ornaments of the fair sex, are considered looked upon as a piece of ill-breeding for a as the ingredients of narrow conversation, woman to refuse to see a man because she and family behaviour. was not stirring; and a porter would have been thought unfit for his place, that could have made so awkward an excuse. As I love to see every thing that is new, I once prevailed upon my friend Will Honeycomb to carry me along with him to one of these travelled ladies, desiring him at the same time to present me as a foreigner who could not speak English, that so I might not be obliged to bear a part in the discourse. The lady, though willing to appear undrest, had put on her best looks, and painted herself for our reception. Her hair appeared in a very nice disorder, as the night-gown which was thrown upon her shoulders was ruffled with great care. For my part, I am so shocked with every thing
Some years ago I was at the tragedy of Macbeth, and unfortunately placed myself under a woman of quality that is since dead; who as I found by the noise she made was newly returned from France. A little before the rising of the curtain, she broke out into a loud soliloquy, 'When will the dear witches enter?' and immediately upon their first appearance, asked a lady that sat three boxes from her on her right hand, if those witches were not charming creatures. little after, as Betterton was in one of the finest speeches of the play, she shook her fan at another lady, who sat as far on her left hand, and told her with a whisper that might be heard all over the pit, 'We must not expect to see Balloon to-night,' Not