Изображения страниц

tus;* with a great many others, in which the authors have endeavoured to make the audience merry. If they have not all succeeded so well as the writer of this, they have however shown, that it was not for want of good-will.

I must further observe, that the gayety of it may be still the more proper, as it is at the end of a French play; since every one knows that nation, who are generally esteemed to have as polite a taste as any in Europe, always close their tragic entertainments with what they call a petite pièce, which is purposely designed to raise mirth, and send away the audience well pleased. The same person who has supported the chief character in the tragedy very often plays the principal part in the petite pièce; so that I have myself seen, at Paris, Orestes and Lubin acted the same night by the same man.

Tragi-comedy, indeed, you have yourself, in a former speculation, found fault with very justly, because it breaks the tide of the passions while they are yet flowing; but this is nothing at all to the present case, where they have had already their full course.

'As the new epilogue is written conformably to the practice of our best poets, so it is not such a one, which, as the duke of Buckingham says in his Rehearsal, might serve for any other play; but wholly rises out of the occurrences of the piece it was composed for.

'The only reason your mournful correspondent gives against this facetious epilogue, as he calls it,

* A Tragedy by Mr. Edmund Neal, known by the name of Smith, 8vo. 1707. Addison wrote a prologue to this play when Italian operas were in vogue, to rally the vitiated taste of the town in preferring sound to sense. Prior wrote the epilogue here mentioned.

is, that he has a mind to go home melancholy. I wish the gentleman may not be more grave than wise. For my own part, I must confess, I think it very sufficient to have the anguish of a fictitious piece remain upon me while it is representing; but I love to be sent home to bed in a good humour. If Physibulus is, however, resolved to be inconsolable, and not to have his tears dried up, he need only continue his old custom, and, when he has had his half-crown's worth of sorrow, slink out before the epilogue begins.

"It is pleasant enough to hear this tragical genius complaining of the great mischief Andromache had done him. What was that? Why, she made him laugh. The poor gentleman's sufferings put me in mind of Harlequin's case who was tickled to death. He tells us soon after, through a small mistake of sorrow for rage, that during the whole action he was so very sorry, that he thinks he could have attacked half a score of the fiercest Mohocks in the excess of his grief. I cannot but look upon it as an unhappy accident, that a man who is so bloody-minded in his affliction was diverted from this fit of outrageous melancholy. The valour of this gentleman in his distress brings to one's memory the Knight of the sorrowful Countenance, who lays about him at such an unmerciful rate in an old romance. I shall readily grant him that his soul, as he himself says, would have made a very ridiculous figure, had it quitted the body, and descended to the poetical shades, in such an encounter.

'As to his conceit of tacking a tragic head with a comic tail, in order to refresh the audience, it is such a piece of jargon, that I don't know what to make of it.

The elegant writer makes a very sudden

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

transition from the playhouse to the church, and from thence to the gallows.

'As for what relates to the church, he is of opinion that these epilogues have given occasion to those merry jigs from the organ-loft, which have dissipated those good thoughts and dispositions he has found in himself, and the rest of the pew, upon the singing of two staves culled out by the judicious and diligent clerk.

"He fetches his next thought from Tyburn; and seems very apprehensive lest there should happen any innovations in the tragedies of his friend Paul Lorrain.

"In the mean time, sir, this gloomy writer, who is so mightily scandalized at a gay epilogue after a serious play, speaking of the fate of those unhappy wretches who are condemned to suffer an ignominious death by the justice of our laws, endeavours to make the reader merry on so improper an occasion, by those poor burlesque expressions of tragical dramas and monthly perform



I am, SIR, with great respect, Your most obedient, most humble servant, PHILOMEDES.'

No. 342. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 1713.

Justicia partes sunt non violare homines; verecundiæ non offendere. TULL.

Justice consists in doing no injury to men; decency, in giving them no offence.

As regard to decency is a great rule of life in general, but more especially to be consulted by the

female world, I cannot overlook the following letter, which describes an egregious offender.



'I was this day looking over your papers, and reading, in that of December the 6th, with great delight, the amiable grief of Asteria for the absence of her husband, it threw me into a great deal of reflection. I cannot say but this arose very much from the circumstances of my own life, who am a soldier, and expect every day to receive orders, which will oblige me to leave behind me a wife that is very dear to me, and that very deservedly. She is at present, I am sure, no way below your Asteria for conjugal affection: but I see the behaviour of some women so little suited to the circumstances wherein my wife and I shall soon be, that it is with a reluctance, I never knew before, I am going to my duty. What puts me to present pain is, the example of a young lady, whose story you shall have as well as I can give it "Hortensius, an officer of good rank in his majesty's service, happened in a certain part of England, to be brought to a country gentleman's house, where he was received with that more than ordinary welcome with which men of domestic lives entertain such few soldiers whom a military life, from the variety of adventures, has not rendered overbearing, but humane, easy, and agreeable. Hortensius staid here some time, and had easy access at all hours, as well as unavoidable conversation, at some parts of the day, with the beautiful Sylvana, the gentleman's daughter. People who live in cities are wonderfully struck with every little country abode they see when they take the air; and it is natural to fancy they could live in every neat cottage (by which they pass)


much happier than in their present circumstances. The turbulent way of life which Hortensius was used to made him reflect with much satisfaçtion on all the advantages of a sweet retreat one day; and, among the rest, you will think it not improbable it might enter into his thought, that such a woman as Sylvana would consummate the happiness. The world is so debauched with mean considerations, that Hortensius knew it would be received as an act of generosity, if he asked for a woman of the highest merit, without further questions, of a parent who had nothing to add to her personal qualifications. The wedding was celebrated at her father's house. When that was over, the generous husband did not proportion his provision for her to the circumstances of her fortune, but considered his wife as his darling, his pride, and his vanity; or, rather, that it was in the woman he had chosen that a man of sense could show pride or vanity with an excuse, and therefore adorned her with rich habits and valuable jewels. He did not, however, omit to admonish her, that he did his very utmost in this; that it was an ostentation he could not be guilty of but to a woman he had so much pleasure in, desiring her to consider it as such; and begged of her also to take these matters rightly, and believe the gems, the gowns, the laces, would still become her better, if her air and behaviour was such, that it might appear she dressed thus rather in compliance to his humour that way, than out of any value she herself had for the trifles. To this lesson, too hard for a woman, Hortensius added, that she must be sure to stay with her friends in the country till his return. As soon as Hortensius departed, Sylvana saw in her lookingglass, that the love he conceived for her was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »