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to be thrown upon his back in the scuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr Nicolini for what he pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to discard him: and it is verily believed to this day, that, had he been brought upon the stage another time, he would certainly have done mischief. Besides, it was objected against the first lion that he reared himself so high upon His hinder paws, and walked in so erect a posture, that he looked more like an old man than a lion.
The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to th play-house, and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profession. If the former was too furious, this was too sheepish for his part; insoa much that, after a short modest walk upon the stage, he would fall at the first touch of Hydaspes, without grappling with him, and giving him an opportunity of showing his variety of Italian trips. It is said, indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-colour doublet; but this was only to make work for himself in his private character of a tailor. I must not omit, that it was this second lion who treated me with so much humanity behind the scenes.
The acting lion at present is, as I am informed, a country-gentleman, who does it for his diversion, but desires his name may be concealed. He says very handsomely, in his own excuse, that he does not act for gain, that he indułges an innocent pleasure in it; and that it is better to pass away an evening in this manner, than in gaming and drinking: but at the same time says, with a very agreeable raillery upon himself, that, if his name should be known, the illnatured world might call him “The ass in the lion's skin.” This gentleman's temper is made out of such
a happy a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric, that he outdoes both his predecessors, and has drawn together greater audiences than have been known in the memory of man.
I must not conclude my narrative, without taking notice of a groundless report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage, of whom I must declare myself an admirer; namely, that signior Nicolini and the lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another, and smoking a pipe to ether behind the scenes; by which their enemies would insinuate that it is but a shun 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. often wished that our tragedians would copy after this
great master in action. Soylu 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 dignity to the forced thoughts, cold conceits, and unneural expressions of an Italian opera! In the mean time, I have related this combat of the lion, to show what are at present the reigning entertainments of the politer part of Great-Britain.
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.
ON THE ITALIAN OPERA. No, 18.
It is my design in this paper to deliver down to posterity a faithful account of the Italian opera, and of the gradual progress which it has made upon the English stage; for there is no question but our great grandchildren will be very curious to know the reason why their forefathers used to sit together like an audience of foreigners in their own country, and to hear whole plays acted before then, in a tongue which they did not understand.
Arsinoë was the first opera that gave us a taste of Italian music. The great success this opera met with produced some attempts of forming pieces upon Italian plans, which should give a more natural and reasonable entertainment than what can be met with in the elaborate trifles of that nation. This alarmed the
poetasters and fidlers of the town, who were used
to deal in a more ordinary kind of ware; and therefore laid down an established rule, which is received as such to this day, “ That nothing is capable of being well set to music, that is not nonsense.”
This maxim was no sooner received, but we immediately fell to translating the Italian operas ; and as there was no great danger of hurting the sense of those extraordinary pieces, our authors would often make words of their own which were entirely foreign to the meaning of the passages they pretended to translate; their chief care being to make the numbers of the English verse 'answer to those of the Italian, that both of them might go to the same tunes. Thus the famous song in Camilla,
Barbara, si, t'intendo, &c.
Barbarous woman, yes, I know your meaning, which
expresses the resentments of an angry lover, was translated into that English lamentation,
“ Frail are a lover's hopes,” &c. And it was pleasant enough to see the most refined persons of the British nation dying away and languishing to notes that were filled with a spirit of rage and indignation. It happened also very frequently, where the sense was rightly translated, the necessary transposition of words, which were drawn out of the phrase of one tongue into that of another, made the music appear very absurd in one tongue that was very natural in the other. remember an Italian verse that ran thus, word for word,
5. And turned my rage into pity;" which the English for rhyme sake translated, " And into pity turned my rage."
By this means the soft notes that were adapted to pity in the Italian, fell upon the word rage in the English; and the angry sounds that were turned to rage in the original, were made to express pity in the translation. It oftentimes happened, likewise, that the finest notes in the air fell upon the most insignificant words in the sentence. I have known the word and pursued through the whole gamut, have been entertained with many a melodious the, and have heard the most beautiful graces, quavers, and divisions bestowed upon then, for, and from; to the eternal honour of our English particles.
The next step to our refinement was the introducing of Italian actors into our opera ; who sung
parts in their own language, at the saine time that our countrymen perforined theirs in our native tongue. The king or hero of the play generally spoke in Italian, and his slaves answered him in English. The lover frequently made his court, and gained the heart of his princess, in a language which she did not understand. One would have thought it very difficult to have carried on dialogues after this manner, without an interpreter between the persons that conversed together; but this was the state of the English stage for about three years.
At length the audience grew tired of understanding half the opera ; and therefore, to ease themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, have su ordered it at present, that the whole opera is performed in an unknown tongue. We no longer understand the language
of our own stage; insomuch that I have often been afraid, when I have seen our Italian performers chattering in the vehemence of action, that they have been calling us names, and abusing us among themselves: but I hope, since we do put such an entire