« PredošláPokračovať »
concealed choice, expatiate over all the beauties of the season, and make my industry my amusement.
This reply may also serve as an apology to the reader, who expects, before he sits down, a bill of his future entertainment. It would be improper to pall his curiosity by lessening his surprize, or anticipate any pleasure I am able to procure him, by saying what shall come next. Thus much, however, he may be assured of, that neither war nor scandal shall make any part of it. Homer finely imagines his deity turning away with horror from the prospect of a field of battle, and seeking tranquillity among a nation noted for peace and simplicity. Happy could any effort of mine, but for a moment, repress that savage pleasure some men find in the daily accounts of human misery! How gladly would I lead them from scenes of blood and altercation, to prospects of innocence and ease, where every breeze breathes health, and every sound is but the echo of tranquillity!
But whatever the merit of his intentions may be, every writer is now convinced that he must be chiefly indebted to good fortune for finding readers willing to allow him any degree of reputation. It has been remarked that almost every character which has excited either attention or praise, has owed part of its success to merit, and part to an happy concurrence of circumstances in its favour. Had Cæsar or Cromwell exchanged countries, the one might have been a serjeant, and the other an exciseman. So it is with wit, which generally succeeds more from being happily addressed, than from its native poignancy. A bon mot, for instance, that might be relished at White's, may lose all its flavour when delivered at the Cat and Bag-pipes in St. Giles's. A jest calculated to spread at a gamingtable, may be received with a perfect neutrality of face, should it happen to drop in a mackrel-boat. We have all seen dunces triumph in some companies, when men
of real humour were disregarded, by a general combination in favour of stupidity. To drive the observation as far as it will go, should the labours of a writer, who designs his performances for readers of a more refined appetite, fall into the hands of a devourer of compilations, what can he expect but contempt and confusion ! If his merits are to be determined by judges who estimate the value of a book from its bulk, or its frontispiece, every rival must acquire an easy superiority, who with persuasive eloquence promises four extraordinary pages of letter press, or three beautiful prints, curiously coloured from nature.
But to proceed; though I cannot promise as much entertainment, or as much elegance, as others have done, yet the reader may be assured he shall have as much of both as I can. He shall, at least, find me alive while I study his entertainment; for I solemnly assure him, I was never yet possessed of the secret at once of writing and sleeping.
During the course of this paper, therefore, all the wit and learning I have are heartily at his service; which if, after so candid a confession, he should, notwithstanding, still find it intolerably dull, low, or sad stuff, this I protest is more than I know. I have a clear conscience, and am entirely out of the secret. Yet I would not have him, upon the perusal of a single paper, pronounce me incorrigible: he may try a second, which, as there is a studied difference in subject and style, may be more suited to his taste; if this also fails, I must refer him to a third, or even to a fourth, in case of extremity: if he should still continue refractory, and find me dull to the last, I must inform him, with Bayes in the Rehearsal, that I think him a very odd kind of a fellow, and desire no more of his acquain
It is with such reflections as these I endeavour to fortify myself against the future contempt or neglect
of some readers, and am prepared for their dislike by mutual recrimination. If such should impute dealing neither in battles nor scandal to me as a fault, instead of acquiescing in their censure, I must beg leave to tell them a story.
A traveller, in his way to Italy, happening to pass at the foot of the Alps, found himself at last in a country where the inhabitants had each a large excrescence depending from the chin, like the pouch of a monkey. This deformity, as it was endemic, and the people little used to strangers, it had been the custom, time immemorial, to look upon as the greatest ornament of the human visage. Ladies grew toasts from the size of their chins, and none were regarded as pretty fellows, but such whose faces were broadest at the bottom. It was Sunday, a country church was at hand, and our traveller was willing to perform the duties of the day. Upon his first appearance at the church door, the eyes of all were naturally fixed upon the stranger; but what was their amazement, when they found that he actually wanted that emblem of beauty, a pursed chin! This was a defect that not a single creature had sɩfficient gravity (though they were noted for being grave) to withstand. Stifled bursts of laughter, winks, and whispers circulated from visage to visage, and the prismatic figure of the stranger's face was a fund of infinite gaiety; even the parson, equally remarkable for his gravity and chin, could hardly refrain joining in the good humour. Our traveller could no longer patiently continue an object for deformity to point at. Good folks, said he, I perceive that I am the unfortunate cause of all this good humour. It is true, I may have faults in abundance, but I shall never be induced to reckon my want of a swelled face among the number.
On a beautiful YOUTH struck blind with lightning.
IMITATED FROM THE SPANISH.
LUMINE Acon dextro capta est Leonida sinistro,
REMARKS ON OUR THEATRES.
OUR theatres are now opened, and all Grubstreet is preparing its advice to the managers; we shall undoubtedly hear learned disquisitions on the structure of one actor's legs, and another's eye-brows. We shall be told much of enunciations, tones, and attitudes, and shall have our lightest pleasures commented upon by didactic dulness. We shall, it is feared, be told, that Garrick is a fine actor, but then as a manager, so avaricious! That Palmer is a most surprising genius, and Holland likely to do well in a particular cast of character. We shall have them giving Shuter instructions to amuse us by rule, and deploring over the ruins of desolated majesty at Covent-Garden. As I love to be advising too, for advice is easily given, and bears a show of wisdom and superiority, I must be permitted to offer a few observations upon our theatres and actors, without, on this trivial occasion, throwing my thoughts into the formality of method.
There is something in the deportment of all our players infinitely more stiff and formal than among the actors of other nations. Their action sits uneasy upon them; for as the English use very little gesture in ordinary conversation, our English-bred actors are obliged to supply stage gestures by their imagination alone. A French comedian finds proper models of action in every company and in every coffee-house he enters. An Englishman is obliged to take his models from the stage itself; he is obliged to imitate nature from an imitation of nature. I know of no set of men more likely to be improved by travelling than those of the theatrical profession. The inhabitants of the continent are less reserved than here; they may be seen through upon a first acquaintance; such are the proper models to draw from; they are at once striking, and are found in great abundance.
Though it would be inexcusable in a comedian to add any thing of his own to the poet's dialogue, yet as to action he is entirely at liberty. By this he may show the fertility of his genius, the poignancy of his humour, and the exactness of his judgment. We scarcely see a coxcomb or a fool in common life, that has not some peculiar oddity in his action. These peculiarities it is not in the power of words to represent, and depend solely upon the actor. They give a relish to the humour of the poet, and make the appearance of nature more illusive. The Italians, it is true, mask some characters, and endeavour to preserve the peculiar humour by the make of the mask; but I have seen others still preserve a great fund of humour in the face without a mask; one actor, particularly, by a squint which he threw into some characters of low life, assumed a look of infinite solidity. This, though upon reflection we might condemn, yet immediately upon representation we could not avoid being pleased with. To illustrate what I have been saying by the plays I