Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

I must not conclude my narrative, without taking notice of a groundless report that has been raised to a gentleman's disad. vantage, of whom I must declare myself an admirer; namely, that Signior Nicolini and the lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another, and smoaking a pipe together behind the scenes; by which their common enemies would insinuate, that it is but a sham combat which they represent upon the stage : but upon inquiry I find, that if any such correspondence has passed between them, it was not till the combat was over, when the lion was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received rules of the drama. Besides, this is what is practised every day in Westminster Hall, where nothing is more usual than to see a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as soon as they are out of it.

I would not be thought, in any part of this relation, to reflect upon Signior Nicolini, who in acting this part only complies with the wretched taste of his audience; he knows very well, that the lion has many more admirers than himself; as they say of the famous equestrian statue on the Pont-Neuf at Paris,' that more people go to see the horse than the king who sits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just indignation to see a person whose action gives new majesty to kings, resolution to heroes, and softness to lovers, thus sinking from the greatness of his behaviour, and degraded into the character of the London Prentice. I have often wished, that our tragedians would copy after this great master in action. Could they make the same use of their arms and legs, and inform their faces with as significant looks and passions, how glorious would an English tragedy appear with that action which is capable of giving a dignity to the forced thoughts, cold conceits, and unnatural expressions of an Italian opera! In the mean time, I have related this combat of the lion, to shew what are at present the reigning entertainments of the politer part of Great Britain.

1 The Statue of Henry IV.

Audiences have often been reproached by writers for the coarseness of their taste; but our present grievance does not seem to be the want of a good taste, but of common sense.' C

No. 15. SATURDAY, MARCH 17.

Parva leves cap'ant animos

Ovid. Møte iv. 590.
Light minds are pleased with trifles,

WHEN I was in France, I used to gaze with great astonishment at the splendid equipages, and party-coloured habits, of that fantastic nation. I was one day in particular contemplating a lady that sate in a coach adorned with gilded Cupids, and finely painted with the loves of Venus and Adonis. The coach was drawn by six milk-white horses, and loaden behind with the same number of powdered footmen. Just before the lady were a couple of beautiful pages, that were stuck among the harness, and, by their gay dresses, and smiling features, looked like the elder brothers of the little boys that were carved and painted in every corner of the coach.

The lady was the unfortunate Cleanthe, who afterwards gave

1 Addison from the bad success of Rosamond was led to think that only nonsense was fit to be set to music; and this error was further to be accounted for by that want of taste, not to say of skill in music, which he manifests in preferring the French to the Italian composers, and in bis general sentiments of music and composers, in which he is ever wrong. Hawkins' History of Music, 4to. vol. v. b. 11, ch. v. pp. 147,148—-note.-C.

It is now well known that very little reliance is to be placed on the criticisms of Sir John Hawkins.-G

an occasion to a pretty melancholy novel. She had, for several years, received the addresses of a gentleman, whom, after a long and intimate acquaintance, she forsook, upon the account of this shining equipage, which had been offered to her by one of great riches, but a crazy constitution. The circumstances in which I saw her were, it seems, the disguises only of a broken heart, and a kind of pageantry to cover distress; for in two months after she was carried to her grave with the same pomp and magnificence; being sent thither partly by the loss of one lover, and partly by the possession of another.

I have often reflected with myself on this unaccountable hu. mour in womankind, of being smitten with every thing that is showy and superficial; and on the numberless evils that befal the sex, from this light fantastical disposition. I myself remember a young lady, that was very warmly solicited by a couple of im. portunate rivals, who, for several months together, did all they could to recommend themselves, by complacency of behaviour, and agreeableness of conversation. At length, when the competition was doubtful, and the lady undetermined in her choice, one of the young lovers very luckily bethought himself of adding a supernumerary lace to his liveries, which had so good an effect, that he married her the very week after.

The usual conversation of ordinary women very much cherishes this natural weakness of being taken with outside and appearance. Talk of a new-married couple, and you immediately hear whether they keep their coach and six, or eat in plate. Mention the name of an absent lady, and it is ten to one but you learn something of her gown and petticoat. A ball is a great help to discourse, and a birth-day furnishes conversation for a twelvemonth after. A furbelow of precious stones, an hat buttoned with a diamond, a brocade waistcoat or petticoat, are standing topics. In short, they consider only the drapery of the spe. cies, and never cast away thought on those ornaments of the mind, that make persons illustrious in themselves, and useful to others. When women are thus perpetually dazzling one another's imagi nations, and filling their heads with nothing but colours, it is no wonder that they are more attentive to the superficial parts of life, than the solid and substantial b)-zssings of it. A girl, who has been trained up in this kind of conversation, is in danger of every embroidered coat that comes in her way. A pair of fringed gloves may be her ruin. In a word, lace and ribbons, silver and gold galloons, with the like glittering gewgaws, are so many lures to women of weak minds or low educations, and, when artificially displayed, are able to fetch down the most airy coquette from the wildest of her flights and rambles. Il True hapiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise : it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self; and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions// It loves shade and solitude, and naturally haunts groves and fountains, fields and meadows in short, it feels every thing it wants within itself, and receives no addition from multitudes of witnesses and spectators./. On the contrary, false happiness loves to be in a crowd, and to draw the eyes of the world upon her. She does not receive any satisfaction from the applauses which she gives herself, but from the admiration which she raises in others. She flourishes in courts and palaces, theatres and assemblies, and has no existence but when she is

looked upon.

Aurelia, though a woman of great quality, delights in the privacy of a country life, and passes away a great part of her time in her own walks and gardens. Her husband, who is her bosom friend, and companion in her solitudes, has been in love with her ever since he knew her. They both abound with good sense, con summate virtue, and a mutual esteer; and are a perpetual en

tertainment to one another. Their family is under so regular an economy, in its hours of devotion and repast, employment and diversion, that it looks like a little commonwealth within itself They often go into company, that they may return with the greater delight to one another; and sometimes live in town, not to enjoy it so properly, as to grow weary of it, that they may renew in themselves the relish of a country life. By this means they are happy in each other, beloved by their children, adored by their servants, and are become the envy, or rather the delight, of all that know them.

How different to this is the life of Fulvia ! She considers her husband as her steward, and looks upon discretion and qnod housewifery as little domestic virtues, unbecoming a woman of quality. She thinks life lost in her own family, and fancies her. self out of the world, when she is not in the ring, the playhouse, or the drawing-room. She lives in a perpetual motion of body and restlessness of thought, and is never easy in any one plam, when she thinks there is more company in another. The missing of an opera the first night, would be more afflicting to her than the death of a child. She pities all the valuable part of her own sex; and calls every woman of a prudent, modest, retired life, a poorspirited, unpolished creature. What a mortification would it be to Fulvia, if she knew that her setting herself to view, is but exposing herself, and that she grows contemptible by being conspicuous !

I cannot conclude my paper, without observing, that Virgil has very finely touched upon this female passion for dress and show, in the character of Camilla; who, though she seems to have shaken off all the other weaknesses of her sex, is still described as a woman in this particular. The poet tells us, that, after having made a great slaughter of the enemy, she unfortunately cast her eye on a Trojan, who wore an embroidered tunio

« ПредишнаНапред »