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drinks a glass of ale, like any reasonable creature. He gives great satisfaction to the quality; and if they will make a subscription for him, I will send for a brother of his out of Holland thai is a very good tumbler; and also for another of the same family whom I design for my merry-andrew, as being an excellent mimic, and the greatest droll in the country where he now is. I hope to have this entertainment in a readiness for the next winter; and doubt not but it will please more than the opera or puppet-show. I will not say that a monkey is a better man than some of the opera heroes; but certainly he is a better representative of a man than the most artificial composition of wood and wire. If you will be pleased to give me a good word in your paper, you shall be every night a spectator at my show for nothing.
"I am ' &c.
No. 29. TUESDAY, APRIL 3.
Sermo lingua concinnus utraque
HOR. I. Sat. x. 23.
There is nothing that has more startled our English audience, than the Italian recitativo at its first entrance upon People were wonderfully surprised to hear generals singing the word of command, and ladies delivering messages in music. Our countrymen could not forbear laughing when they heard a lover chanting out a billet-doux, and even the superscription of a letter set to a tune. The famous blunder in an old play of * Enter a king and two fiddlers solus,' was now no longer an ab surdity; when it was impossible for a hero in a desert, or a prin
cess in her closet, to speak any thing unaccompanied with musi cal instruments.
But however this Italian method of acting in recitativo might appear at first hearing, I cannot but think it much more just than that which prevailed in our English opera before this innovation; the transition from an air to recitative music being more natural, than the passing from a song to plain and ordinary speak. ing, which was the common method in Purcell's operas.
The only fault I find in our present practice, is the making use of Italian recitativo with English words. To
go to the bottom of this matter, I must observe, that the tone or (as the French call it) the accent of every nation in their ordinary speech, is altogether different from that of every other people; as we may see even in the Welsh and Scotch, who border so near upon us. By the tone or accent, I do not mean thu pronunciation of each particular word, but the sound of the whole sentence. Thus it is very common for an English gentleman, when he hears a French tragedy, to complain that the actors all of them speak in a tone; and therefore he very wisely prefers his own countrymen, not considering that a foreigner complains of the same tone in an English actor.
For this reason, the recitative music in every language, should be as different as the tone or accent of each language; for otherwise, what may properly express a passion in one language, will not do it in another. Every one who has been long in Italy, knows very well, that the cadences in the recitativo bear a remote affinity to the tone of their voices in ordinary conversation; or, to speak more properly, are only the accents of their language made more musical and tuneful.
Thus the notes of interrogation, or admiration, in the Italian
" Might appear] I should rather have said “might affect us at first hearing.”—H.
music, (if one may so call them,) which resemble their accents in discourse on such occasions, are not unlike the ordinary tones of an English voice when we are angry; insomuch that I have often seen our audiences extremely mistaken as to what has been doing upon the stage, and expecting to see the hero knock down his messenger, when he has been asking him a question; or fancying that he quarrels with his friend, when he only bids him good-morrow.
For this reason the Italian artists cannot agree with our Eng. lish musicians, in admiring Purcell's compositions, and thinking his tunes so wonderfully adapted to his words; because both nations do not always express the same passions by the same sounds.
I am therefore humbly of opinion, that an English composer should not follow the Italian recitative too servilely, but make use of many gentle deviations from it, in compliance with his own native language. He may copy out of it all the lulling softness and dying falls,' (as Shakespear calls them,) but should still remember that he ought to accommodate himself to an English audience; and by humouring the tone of our voices in ordinary conversation, have the same regard to the accent of his own lan guage, as those persons had to theirs whom he professes to imi. tate. It is observed, that several of the singing birds of our own country learn to sweeten their voices, and mellow the harshness of their natural notes, by practising under those that come from warmer climates. In the same manner I would allow the Italian opera to lend our English music as much as may grace and soften it, but never entirely to annihilate and destroy it. Let the infusion be as strong as you please, but still let the subject matter of it be English.
A composer should fit his music to the genius of the people, and consider that the delicacy of hearing, and taste of harmony, has been formed upon those sounds which every country abounda
with : in shcrt, that music is of a relative nature; and what is har. mony to one ear, may be dissonance to another.
The same observations which I have made upon the recitative part of music, may be applied to all our songs and airs in general.
Signor Baptist Lully acted like a man of sense in this particular. He found the French music extremely defective, and very often barbarous : however, knowing the genius of the people, the humour of their language, and the prejudiced ears he had to deal with, he did not pretend to extirpate the French music, and plant the Italian in its stead; but only to cultivate and civilize it with innumerable graces and modulations which he borrowed from the Italian. By this means the French music is now perfect in its kind; and when you say it is not so good as the Italian, you only mean that it does not please you so well, for there is scarce a Frenchman who would not wonder to hear you give the Italian such a preference. The music of the French is indeed very properly adapted to their pronunciation and accent, as their whole opera wonderfully favours the genius of such a gay, airy people. The chorus in which that opera abounds, gives the parterre frequent opportunities of joining in concert' with the stage.
This inclination of the audience to sing along with the actors, 80 prevails with them, that I have sometimes known the performer on the stage do no more in a celebrated song, than the clerk of a parish church, who serves only to raise the psalm, and is afterwards drowned in the music of the congregation. Every actor that comes on the stage is a beau. The
queens and heroines are 80 painted, that they appear as ruddy and cherry-cheeked as milkmaids. The shepherds are all embroidered, and acquit themselves in a ball better than our English dancing-masters. I have seen a couple of rivers appear in red stockings; and Alpheus, instead of having his head covered with sedge and bull-rushes, making 10. J. These means.
20. F. Consort.
love in a fair full-bottomed perriwig, and a plume of feathers; but with a voice so full of shakes and quavers, that I should have thought the murmurs of a country brook the much more agreeable music.
I remember the last opera I saw in that merry nation, was the Rape of Proserpine; where Pluto, to make the more tempting figure, puts himself in a French equipage, and brings Ascalaphus along with him as his valet de chambre. This is what we call folly and impertinence; but what the French look upon as gay and polite.
I shall add no more to what I have here offered, than that music, architecture, and painting, as well as poetry and oratory, are to deduce their laws and rules from the general sense and taste of mankind, and not from the principles of those arts themselves; or, in other words, the taste is not to conform to the art, but the art to the taste. Music is not designed to please only chromatic ears, but all that are capable of distinguishing harsh from disagreeable notes. A man of an ordinary ear is a judge whether a passion is expressed in proper sounds, and whether the melody of those sounds be more or less pleasing.
Complete sets of this paper for the month of March, are sold by Mr. Greaves in St. James's-street; Mr. Lillie, perfumer, the corner of Beaufort-buildings; Messrs. Sanger, Knapton, Round, and Mrs. Baldwin. V Syect. in fol.