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No. 31. THURSDAY, APRIL 5.
Sit mihi fas audita loqui.
VIRG. Æn. vi. 266.
What I have beard permit me to relate.
Last night, upon my going into a coffee-house not far from the Haymarket Theatre, I diverted myself for above half an hour with overhearing the discourse of one, who, by the shabbiness of his dress, the extravagance of his conceptions, and the hurry of his speech, I discovered to be of that species who are generally distinguished by the title of projectors. This gentleman, for I found he was treated as such by his audience, was entertaining a whole table of listeners with the project of an opera, which he told us had not cost him above two or three mornings in the contrivance, and which he was ready to put in execution, provided he might find his account in it. He said, that he had observed the great trouble and inconvenience which ladies were at, in travelling up and down to the several shows that are exhibited in different quarters of the town. The dancing monkies are in one place; the puppet-show in another; the opera in a third ; not to mention the lions, that are almost a whole day's journey from the politer part of the town. By this means people of figure are forced to lose half the winter after their coming to town, before they have seen all the strange sights about it. In order to remedy this great inconvenience, our projector drew out of his pocket the scheme of an opera, entitled, The Expedition of Alexander the Great;' in which he had disposed all the remarkable shows about town, among the scenes and decorations of his piece. The thought, he confessed, was not originally his own, but that he had taken the hint of it from several performances which he had seen upon our stage; in one of which there
V. Nichols's notes to No. 14 of Tatler, and Spec. 36,-G.
was a raree-show; in another a ladder-dance; and in others a posture-man, a moving picture, with many curiosities of the like nature.
This Expedition of Alexander opens with his consulting the Oracle of Delphos, in which the dumb conjurer, who has been visited by so many persons of quality of late years, is to be introduced as telling him his fortune; at the same time Clench of Barnet is represented in another corner of the temple, as ringing the bells of Delphos, for joy of his arrival. The tent of Darius is to be peopled by the ingenious Mrs. Salmon, where Alexander is to fall in love with a piece of wax-work, that rep resents the beautiful Statira. When Alexander comes into that country, in which Quintus Curtius tells us the dogs were so exceedingly fierce that they would not loose their hold, though they were cut to pieces limb by limb, and that they would hang upon their prey by their teeth, when they had nothing but a mouth left, there is to be a scene of Hockley in the Hole, in which is to be represented all the diversions of that place, the bull-baiting only excepted, which cannot possibly be exhibited in the theatre, by reason of the lowness of the roof. The several woods in Asia, which Alexander must be supposed to pass through, will give the audience a sight of monkies dancing upon the ropes, with the many other pleasantries of that ludicrous species. At the same time, if there chance to be any strange animals in town, whether birds or beasts, they may be either let loose among the woods, or driven across the stage by some of the country people of Asia. In the last great battle, Pinkethman is to personate King Porus upon an elephant, and is to be encountered by Powell, representing Alexander the Great, upon a dromedary, which, nevertheless, Mr. Powell is desired to call by the name of Bucephalus. Upon the close of this great decisive battle, when the two kings are thoroughly reconciled
to show the mutual friendship and good correspondence that reigns between them, they both of them go together to a puppetshow, in which the ingenious Mr. Powell, junior, may have an opportunity of displaying his whole art of machinery, for the diversion of the two monarchs. Some at the table urged, that a puppet-show was not a suitable entertainment for Alexander the Great; and that it might be introduced more properly, if we suppose
that part of India which is said to be inhabited by pigmies. But this objection was looked upon as frivolous, and the proposal immediately over-ruled. Our projector further added, that after the reconciliation of these two kings, they might invite one another to dinner, and either of them entertain his guest with the German artist, Mr, Pinkethman's heathen' gods, or any of the like diversions, which shall then chance to be in vogue.
This project was received with very great applause by the whole table. Upon which the undertaker told us, that he had not yet communicated to us above half his design , for that Alexander being a Greek, it was his intention that the whole opera should be acted in that language, which was a tongue he was sure would wonderfully please the ladies, especially when it was a little raised and rounded by the Ionic dialect; and could not but be acceptable to the whole audience, because there are fewer of them who understand Greek than Italian. The only difficulty that remained, was, how to get performers, unless we could persuade some gentlemen of the universities to learn to sing, in order to qualify themselves for the stage: but this objection soou vanished, when the projector informed us, that the Greeks were at present the only musicians in the Turkish empire, anu that it would be very easy for our factory at Smyrna to furnish us every year with a colony of musicians, by the opportunity of the Tur key fleet. Besides, (says he,) if we want any single voice for any lower part in the opera, Lawrence can learn to speak Greek, as well as he does Italian, in a fortnight's time.'
'Lately arrived a rare and curious artist, who in the presence of all spectators, makes all sorts and fashions of Indian, China, and other curious figures, in various colours, ás small as they please. Also all sorts of birds fowls, images of men, &c. He bloweth all sorts of glass curiously, La V Nichols's notes to Tatler, No. 266.-6.
The projector having thus settled matters, to the good liking of all that heard him, he left his seat at the table, and planted himself before the fire, where I had unluckily taken my stand for the convenience of overhearing what he said. Whether he had observed me to be more attentive than ordinary, I cannot tell, but he had not stood by me above a quarter of a minute, but he turned short upon me on a sudden, and catching me by a button of my coat, attacked me very abruptly after the following manner. Besides, sir, I have heard of a very extraordinary genius for music that lives in Switzerland, who has so strong a spring in his fingers, that he can make the board of an organ sound like a drum; and if I could but procure a subscription of about ter thousand pounds every winter, I would undertake to fetch him over, and oblige him by articles to set every thing that should be sung upon the English stage. After this he looked full in my face, expecting I would make an answer; when, by good luck, a gentleman that had entered the coffee-house since the projector applied himself to me, hearing him talk of his Swiss compositions, cried out with a kind of laugh, Is our music then to receive fur. ther improvements from Switzerland ? This alarmed the projector, who immediately let go my button, and turned about to answer him.
I took the opportunity of the diversion which seemed to be made in favour of me, and laying down my penny upon the bar, retired with some precipitation.
V. Guardian, 84-and Spectator, 268.-C.
No. 34. MONDAY, APRIL 9.
-parcit Cognatis maculis similis fera
Juv. Sat. 159.
From spotted skins the leopard does refrain.
The club of which I am a member, is very luckily composed of such persons as are engaged in different ways of life, and deputed as it were out of the most conspicuous classes of man. kind: by this means I am furnished with the greatest variety of hints and materials, and know every thing that passes in the different quarters and divisions, not only of this great city, but of the whole kingdom. My readers, too, have the satisfaction to find, that there is no rank or degree among them who have not their representative in this club, and that there is always somebody present who will take care of their respective interests, that nothing may be written or published to the prejudice or infringement of their just rights and privileges.
I last night sate very late in company with this select body of friends, who entertained me with several remarks which they and others had made upon these my speculations, as also with the various success, which they had met with among their several ranks and degrees of readers. Will. Honeycomb told me, in the softest manner he could, that there were some ladies (but for your comfort, says Will, they are not those of the most wit) that were offended at the liberties I had taken with the opera and the puppet-show; that some of them were likewise
much surprised . that I should think such serious points as the dress and equipage of persons of quality, proper subjects for raillery.
He was going on, when Sir Andrew Freeport took him up