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hint, made the following epigram, which we must suppose was applied to some yrave friend of his, that had been accidentally present at some such entertainment:
• Nonora jocosa duler cum sacrum Flora,
• Why dont thou come, yreat censor of thy age,
An accident of this nature might happen once in an age among the Greeks and Romans ; but they were too wine and good to let the constant nightly entertainment be of such a nature, that people of the most sense and virtue could not be at it. Whatever vicey are represented upon the stage, they ought to be so marked and branded by the poet, as not to appear cither laudalle or amiable in the person who is Ininted with them. But if we look into the English comedies above mentioncil, we would think they were formed upon a quite contrary maxim, and thout this rule, though it hold good upon the beathen stage, was not to be regarded in Christian theatres There is another rule likewise, which was observed by authors of antiquity, and which these modern geniuses have no regard to, and that was, never to chooxc an impropor subject for ridicule. Now a subject is improper for ridicule, if it is apt to stir up horror and commiseration rather than laughter. For this reason, we do not find any comedy, in so polite an author as Terence, raised upon this violations of the marriage-bed. The falsehood of the wife or husband has given occasion to noble tragedies ; but a Scipio and Lelius would have looked upon incest or murder to have been as proper subjects for comedy. On the contrary, cuckoldom is the basis of most of our modern plays. If an alderman appears upon the stage, you may be sure it is in order to be cuckolded. Án husband that is a little grave or elderly generally meets with the same fate. Knights and baronets, country squires, and justices of the quorum, come up to town for no other purpose. I have seen poor Dogget cuckolded in all these capacities. In short, our English writers are as frequently severe upon this innocent unhappy creature, commonly known by the name of a cuckold, as the ancient comic writers were upon an eating parasite, or a vain-glorious soldier.
At the same time the poet so contrives matters, that the two criminals are the favourites of the audience. We sit still, and wish well to them through the whole play, are pleased when they meet with proper opportunities, and out of humour when they are disappointed. The truth of it is, the accomplished gentleman upon the English stage is the person that is familiar with other men's wives, and indifferent to his own; as the fine woman is generally a composition of sprightliness and falsehood. I do not know whether it proceeds from barrenness of invention,, depravation of manners, or ignorance of mankind, but I have often wondered that our ordinary poets cannot frame to themselves the idea of a fine man who is not a whore-master, or a fine woman that is not a jilt.
I have sometimes thought of compiling a system of ethics out of the writings of those corrupt poets under the title of Stage Morality. But I have been diverted from this thought by a project which has been executed by an ir.genious gentleman of my acquaintance. He has composed, it seems, the history of a young teilow who has taken all his notions of the word from the stage, and who has directed himself in esery circumstance of his life and conver-ation, by the maxims and examples of the fire gentlerran in English comedies. If I can prevail upon him to give me a copy of this new-fashioned posel, I will bestow on it a place in my works, and question not but it may have as good an effect upon the drama as Don Quixote had upon romance.
N° 447. SATURDAY, AL'GUST 2, 1712.
φημι τσολυχρονίην μελέτην έμμεναι, φίλε και δε
Tiene is not a common saying which has a better turn of senge in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that' custom is a second uaturc.' It is indeed able to form the man anew, and to give bim inclinations and capacities altogether different from those he was born with. Dr. Plot, in his History of Staffordshire, tells us of an idiot that, chancing to live within the sound of a clock, and always amusing himself with counting the hour of the day whenever the clock struck, the clock being spoiled by accident, the idiot continued to strike and count the hour without the help of it, in the same manner as he had done when it was entire. Though
I dare not vouch for the truth of this story, it is very certain that custom has a mechanical effect upon the body, at the same time that it has a very extraordinary influence upon the mind.
I shall in this paper consider one very remarkable effect which custom has upon human nature, and which, if rightly observed, may lead us into very useful rules of life. What I shall here take notice of in custom, is its wonderful efficacy in making every thing pleasant to us. A person who is ads dicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so strong an inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been for some time disused. Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to pass away his time without it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves, in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise becomes at length an entertainment. Our employments are changed into our diversions. The mind grows fond of those actions she is accustomed to, and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which she has been used to walk.
Not only such actions as were at first indifferent to us, but even such as are painful, will by custom and practice become pleasant. Sir Francis Bacon observes in his natural philosophy, that our taste is. never pleased better than with those things which at first created a disgust in it. He gives particular instances, of claret, coffee, and other liquors, which the palate seldom approves upon the first taste; but,
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when it has coce 71 of them, grtetaliy re12 it for me. Tle mrd N COTAS:tr.ori aiter the Basia frat, almi, atver having baluster herself to worry 0:6. EVETETTE X ernooyment, not only 1x burung triat avenuft towardo it, but conceives a (fra i foortress and areet on top it. I have heard 6","1, :* seatest growth. ae has perabucedo, Who'sind trained up in aii!he posiite studies of
11: ty, alte frie", spun bir fertis obi.ged to Realit into wooral role and records, that, notwithstanding ahı an employment was at first very dry and irksone to hinni, he at last took an incredible piere in it, and pretuired it even to the reading of Virgil or ( xero. The reader will obarve, that I have not brise comidered auton as it makes things (try, but as it render the delightful; and though others have often made the same renexions, it is puble they may not bave drawn those uses from it, with which I intend to fill the renaining part of
11 we consider attentively this property of human nature, it may instructus in very one moralities. In the first place, I would have no man discouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the cluice of others, or his own necessities, may have engaged him. It may perhaps be very dinagrerable to him at tirut; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painful, but pleasing and satisfactory:
Tu the second place, I would recommend to every one that admirable precept which Pythagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon, Optimum rita grnus eligito, nom conmurtudo facict jucundissimum ; . Pitch upon
that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will
* Dr. Atterbury