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would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd several parts of the stage with sheep and oxen. This is joining together inconsistencies, and making the decoration partly real and partly imaginary. I would recommend what I have here said, to the directors, as well as to the admirers, of our modern opera.

As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his shoulder; and, as I was wondering with myself what use he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, he told him, that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. Sparrows for the opera! says his friend, licking his lips; what, are they to be roasted? No, no, says the other; they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to fly about the stage.

This strange dialogue awakened my curiosity so far, that I immediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived the sparrows were to act the part of singing birds in a delightful grove; though, upon a nearer inquiry, I found the sparrows put the same trick upon the audience, that Sir Martin Mar-all' practised upon his mistress; for, though they flew in sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flagelets and bird-calls which were planted behind the scenes. At the same time I made this discovery, I found, by the discourse of the actors, that there were great designs on foot for the improvement of the opera; that it had been

1 Sir Martin Mar-all, or The Feigned Innocence,' a comedy made up of pieces borrowed from Quinault's 'Amant Indiscret,' the Étourdi' of Molière and M. Du Parc's 'Francion'-is founded on a translation of the 'Étourdi' by the Duke of Newcastle, who allowed Dryden to alter and bring it forward for his own benefit. It had a great run-chiefly owing to the comic skill of Nokes-was printed anonymously in 1668, and with Dryden's name in 1697.--G.


proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horse; and that there was actually a project of bringing the New River into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have since heard, is postponed till the summer season; when it is thought the coolness that proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the mean time, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter season, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire-works; which the audience may look upon without catching cold, and indeed without much danger of being burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen. However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before be would let this opera be acted in it.



It is no wonder that those scenes should be very surprising, which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument) was an Amazonian enchantress, and poor Signior Cassani (as we learn from the persons represented) a Christian conjurer; (Mago Christiano). I must confess I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art; or how a good Christian (for such is the part of the magician) should deal with the devil.

To consider the poets after the conjurers, I shall give you a Caste of the Italian, from the first lines of his preface: Eccoti,

1 In modern times, the new river has actually been used both at Covent Garden and in a suburban theatre.-G.

2 An alarm of fire having occasioned great confusion in the play-house, a manager came forward and begged the audience to be composed, for he had the pleasure to assure them that there was water enough a-top to drown them all.-C.

benigno lettore, un parto di poche sere, che sebben nato di notte, non è però aborto di tenebre, ma si farà conoscere figliolo d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnasso. 'Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few evenings, which, though it be the off spring of the night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make itself known to be the son of Apollo, with a certain ray of Parnassus.' He afterwards proceeds to call Mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the same sublimity of style, that he composed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits to whose tastes we so ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians express themselves in such a florid form of words, and such tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country; and at the same time fill their writings with such poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are ashamed of before they have been two years at the university. Some may be apt to think that it is the difference of genius which produces this difference in the works of the two nations; but to shew there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, such as Cicero and Virgil, we shall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expressing themselves, resemble those authors much more than the modern Italians pretend to do. And as for the poet himself, from whom the dreams of this opera1 are taken, I must entirely agree with Monsieur Boileau, that one verse in Virgil is worth all the clinquant or tinsel of Tasso."

1 Rinaldo, an opera, planned by Aaron Hill: versified by G. Rossi, set by Handel. Walsh got £1,500 by printing it.—G.

2 A Malherbe, à Racan préférer Théophile

Et le clinquant du Tasse à tout l'or de Virgile.-Boileau, sat. ix. 175. By consulting this celebrated passage of Boileau, it will be seen that It is far from bearing out Addison's sweeping assertion. French critics have even restricted it to a mere condemnation of some of the acknowledged faults of Tasso's style. V. Notes on Travels' pass.—G.

But to return to the sparrows; there have been so many flights of them let loose in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them; and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's bed-chamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the inconveniences which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a design of casting into an opera the story of Whittington' and his cat, and that in order to do it, there had been got together a great quantity of mice; but Mr. Rich, the proprietor of the playhouse, very prudently considered, that it would be impossible for the cat to kill them all, and that consequently the princes of the stage might be as much infested with mice, as the prince of the island was before the cat's arrival upon it; for which reason he would not permit it to be acted in his house. And indeed I cannot blame him: for, as he said very well upon that occasion, I do not hear that of the performers in our opera pretend to equal the famous pied piper, who made all the mice of a great town in Germany follow his music, and by that means cleared the place of those little noxious animals.


Before I dismiss this paper, I must inform my reader, that I

1 There was a play entered on the books of the stationer's company by Thomas Payner, Feb. 8, 1604. The History of Richard Whittington, of his home, birthe, and of his great fortune, as yt was plaied by the Prynces Servauntes. Powel, the puppet-showman, got up a piece upon the same subject (v. No. 14). It may not be unwelcome to young readers to be told that Whittington lived at the latter part of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century-was a mercer, made a large fortune, was mayor of London four times, and was buried three times in St. Michael's Church, Pater Noster vintry yard.-G.

2 June 26, 1284. The rats and mice by which Hamelin was infested, were allured, it is said, by a piper, to a contiguous river, in which they were all drowned.-C.

hear there is a treaty on foot with London and Wise (who will
be appointed gardeners of the playhouse) to furnish the opera of
Rinaldo and Armida with an orange-grove; and that the next
time it is acted, the singing birds will be personated by tom-tits:
the undertakers being resolved to spare neither pains nor money
for the gratification of the audience.


Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala rides ?

HOR. L. ii. Ep. 2, 、 208.

Visions, and magic spells, can you despise,

And laugh at witches, ghosts, and prodigies?

GOING yesterday to dine with an old acquaintance, I had the misfortune to find his whole family very much dejected. Upon asking him the occasion of it, he told me that his wife had dreamt a strange dream the night before, which they were afraid portended some misfortune to themselves or to their children. At her coming into the room, I observed a settled melancholy in her countenance, which I should have been troubled for, had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no sooner sat

down, but, after having looked upon me a little while, 'My dear, says she, turning to her husband, 'you may now see the stranger that was in the candle last night.' Soon after this, as they began to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday. Thurs day!' says she. No, child, if it please God, you shall not be gin upon Childermas-day; tell your writing master that Friday

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1 London and Wise were the Queen's gardeners at this time, and jointly concerned in the publication of a book on gardening —C.


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