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public writer was owing to his connexions with herst, were possessed of great abilities, yet they Mr. Addison, yet after their intimacy was formed, were suffered to feel all the miseries that usually Steele sunk in his merit as an author. This was attend the ingenious and the imprudent, that atnot owing so much to the evident superiority on tend men of strong passions, and no phlegmatic rethe part of Addison, as to the unnatural efforts serve in their command. which Steele made to equal or eclipse him. This At present, were a nian to attempt to improve emulation destroyed that genuine flow of diction his fortune, or increase his friendship, by poetry, which is discoverable in all his former composi- he would soon feel the anxiety of disappointment. tions.
The press lies open, and is a benefactor to every Whilst their writings engaged attention and the sort of literature but that alone. favour of the public, reiterated but unsuccessful en I am at a loss whether to ascribe this falling off deavours were made towards forming a grammar of the public to a vicious taste in the poet, or in of the English language. The authors of those them. Perhaps both are to be reprehended. The efforts went upon wrong principles. Instead of poet, either drily didactive, gives us rules which endeavouring to retrench the absurdities of our lan-might appear abstruse even in a system of ethics. guage, and bringing it to a certain criterion, their or triflingly volatile, writes upon the most unworthy grammars were no other than a collection of rules subjects; content, if he can give music instead of attempting to naturalize those absurdities, and sense ; content, if he can paint to the imagination bring them under a regular system.
without any desires or endeavours to affect: the Somewhat effectual, however, might have been public, therefore, with justice, discard such empty done towards fixing the standard of the English sound, which has nothing but a jingle, or, what is language, had it not been for the spirit of party. worse, the unmusical flow of blank verse to recomFor both whigs and tories being ambitious to stand mend it. The late method, also, into which our at the head of so great a design, the Queen's death newspapers have fallen, of giving an epitome of happened before any plan of an academy could be every new publication, must greatly damp the resolved on.
writer's genius. He finds himself, in this case, at Meanwhile the necessity of such an institution the mercy of men who have neither abilities nor became every day more apparent. The periodical learning to distinguish his merit. He finds his and political writers, who then swarmed, adopted own composition mixed with the sordid trash of the very worst manner of L'Estrange, till not only every daily scribbler. There is a sufficient speciall decency, but all propriety of language, was lost men given of his work to abate curiosity, and yet in the nation. Leslie, a pert writer, with some wit so mutilated as to render him contemptible. His and learning, insulted the government every week first, and perhaps his second work, by these means with the grossest abuse. His style and manner, sink, among the crudities of the age, into oblivion. both of which were illiberal, were imitated by Rid- Fame he finds begins to turn her back: he therepath, De Foe, Dunton, and others of the opposite fore flies to profit which invites him, and he enparty, and Toland pleaded the cause of atheism rols himself in the lists of dulness and of avarice and immorality in much the same strain; his sub- for life. ject seemed to debase his diction, and he ever Yet there are still among us men of the greatest failed most in one when he grew most licentious in abilities, and who in some parts of learning have the other,
surpassed their predecessors : justice and friendship Towards the end of Queen Anne's reign, some might here impel me to speak of names which will of the greatest men in England devoted their time shine out to all posterity, but prudence restrains to party, and then a much better manner obtained me from what I should otherwise eagerly embrace. in political writing. Mr. Walpole, Mr. Addison, Envy might rise against every honoured name I Mr. Mainwaring, Mr. Steele, and many members should mention, since scarcely one of them has not of both houses of parliament, drew their pens for those who are his enemies, or those who despise the whigs; but they seem to have been overmatch- him, etc. ed, though not in argument yet in writing, by Bolingbroke, Prior, Swift, Arbuthnot, and the other friends of the opposite party. They who oppose a OF THE OPERA IN ENGLAND. ministry have always a better field for ridicule ard reproof than they who defend it.
The rise and fall of our amusements pretty Since that period, our writers have either been much resemble that of empire. They this day encouraged above their merits or below them, flourish without any visible cause for such vigour, Some who were possessed of the meanest abilities the next, they decay without any reason that can acquired the highest preferments, while others who be assigned for their downfal. Some years ago the seemed born to reflect a lustre upon the age, perish- Italian opera was the only fashionable amusement ed by want and neglect. More, Savage, and Am- among our nobility. The managers of the play
houses dreaded it as a mortal enemy, anů our very |ther Corelli nor Pergolesi ever permitted them, and poets listed themselves in the opposition: at present they even begin to be discontinued in Italy, where the house seems deserted, the castrati sing to empty they first had their rise. benches, even Prince Vologese himself, a youth of And now I am upon the subject: our composers great expectations, sings himself out of breath, and also should affect greater simplicity; let their bass rattles his chain to no purpose.
cliff have all the variety they can give it; let the To say the truth, the opera as it is conducted body of the music (if I may so express it) be as va. among us, is but a very humdrum amusement : in rious as they please; but let them avoid ornamentother countries, the decorations are entirely magnifi- ing a barren ground-work; let them not attempt cent, the singers all excellent, and the burlettas or by flourishing to cheat us of solid harmony. interludes quite entertaining; the best poets com The works of Mr. Rameau are never heard pose the words, and the best masters the music, but without a surprising effect. I can attribute it only with us it is otherwise; the decorations are but tri- to the simplicity he every where observes, insomuch fling and cheap; the singers, Matei only excepted, that some of his finest harmonies are only octave but indifferent. Instead of interlude, we have those and unison. This simple manner has greater sorts of skipping dances, which are calculated for powers than is generally imagined ; and were not the galleries of the theatre. Every performer sings such a demonstration misplaced, I think, from the his favourite song, and the music is only a medley of principles of music it might be proved to be most old Italian airs, or some meagre modern Capriccio. agreeable.
When such is the case, it is not much to be But to leave general reflection. With the present wondered if the opera is pretty much neglected; set of performers, the operas, if the conductor thinks the lower orders of people have neither taste nor proper, may be carried on with some success, since fortune to relish such an entertainment; they they have all some merit, if not as actors, at least as would find more satisfaction in the Roast Beef singers. Signora Matei is at once both a perfect of Old England than in the finest closes of a eu- actress and a very fine singer. She is possessed nuch; they sleep amidst all the agony of recita- of a fine sensibility in her manner, and seldom intive; on the other hand, people of fortuno or taste dulges those extravagant and unmusical flights of can hardly be pleased, where there is a visible voice complained of before. Cornacini, on the other poverty in the decorations, and an entire want of hand, is a very indifferent actor, has a most untaste in the composition.
meaning face, seems not to feel his part, is infected Would it not surprise one, that when Metasta- with a passion of showing his compass; but to resio is so well known in England, and so universal- compense all these defects, his voice is melodious ly admired, the manager or the composer should he has vast compass and great volubility, his swell have recourse to any other operas than those writ- and shake are perfectly fine, unless that he con. ten by him? I might venture to say, that written tinues the latter too long. In short, whatever the by Metastasio, put up in the bills of the day, would defects of his action may be, they are amply recomalone le sufficient to fill a house, since thus the pensed by his excellency as a singer; nor can I admirers of sense as well as sound might find enter- avoid fancying that he might make a much greattainment.
er figure in an oratorio than upon the stage. The performers also should be entreated to sing However, upon the whole, I know not whether only their parts without clapping in any of their ever operas can be kept up in England; they seem own favourite airs. I must own, that such songs to be entirely exotic, and require the nicest manageare generally to me the most disagreeable in the ment and care. Instead of this, the care of them is world. Every singer generally chooses a favourite assigned to men unacquainted with the genius and air, not from the excellency of the music, but from disposition of the people they would amuse, and difficulty; such songs are generally chosen as sur-whose only motives are immediate gain. Whether prise rather than please, where the performer may a discontinuance of such entertainments would be show his compass, his breath, and his volubility. more to the loss or advantage of the nation. I will
Hence proceed those unnatural startings, those not take upon me to determine, since it is as much unmusical closings, and shakes lengthened out to our interest to induce foreigners of taste among us a painful continuance; such indeed may show a on the one hand, as it is to discourage those trifting voice, but it must give a truly delicate ear the ut- members of society who generally compose the Irinel uneasiness. Such tricks are not music; nei- loperatical dramatis personæ on the other.
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1765.)
have been objected to the following Essays, and it
must be owned in some measure that the charge The following Essays have already appeared at is true. However, I could have made them more different times, and in different publications. The metaphysical had I thought fit ; but I would ask, pamphlets in which they were inserted being gen- whether, in a short Essay, it is not necessary to be erally unsuccessful, t'nese shared the common fate, superficial ? Before we have prepared to enter without assisting the bookseller's aims, or extend-into the depths of a subject in the usual forms, we ing the writer's reputation. The public were too have arrived at the bottom of our scanty page, and strenuously employed with their own follies to be thus lose the honours of a victory by too tedious a assiduous in estimating mine ; so that many of my preparation for the combat. best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the
There is another fault in this collection of tritransient topic of the times—the Ghost in Cock- les, which, I fear, will not be so easily pardoned. lane, or the siege of Ticonderoga.
It will be alleged, that the humour of them (if any But though they have passed pretty silently in be found) is stale and hackneyed. This may be to the world, I can by no means complain of their true enough, as matters now stand; but I may circulation. The magazines and papers of the with great truth assert, that the humour was new day have indeed been liberal enough in this re- when I wrote it. Since that time, indeed, many spect. Most of these essays have been regularly of the topics, which were first stated here, have reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to been hunted down, and many of the thoughts the public through the kennel of some engaging blown upon. In fact, these Essays were considercompilation. If there be a pride in multiplied edi- ed as quietly laid in the grave of oblivion ; and our tions, I have seen some of my labours sixteen modern compilers, like sextons and executioners, times reprinted, and claimed by different parents think it their undoubted right to pillage the dead. as their own. I have seen them flourished at the
However, whatever right I have to complain of beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the public, they can, as yet, have no just reason w the names of Philautos, Philalethis, Phileleutheros, complain of me. If I have written dull Essays, and Philanthropos. These gentlemen have kindly they have hitherto treated them as dull Essays. stood sponsors to my productions, and, to flatter Thus far we are at least upon par, and until they me more, have always passed them as their own. think fit to make me their humble debtor by praise,
It is time, however, at last to vindicate my I am resolved not to lose a single inch of my selfclaims; and as these entertainers of the public, as
importance. Instead, therefore, of attempting to they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for establish a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be some years, let me now try if I can not live a little wiser to apply to some more distant correspondent; upon myself. I would desire, in this case, to imi- and as my drafts are in some danger of being protate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard tested at home, it may not be imprudent, upon this of in a shipwreck, who, when the sailors, pressed occasion, to draw my bills upon Posterity. by famine, were taking slices from his posteriors to satisfy their hunger, insisted, with great justice, on MR. POSTERITY, having the first cut for himself. Yet, after all, I can not be angry with any who have
Sir, taken it into their heads, to think that whatever I
Nine hundred and ninety-nine years write is worth reprinting, particularly when I consid- after sight hereof, pay the bearer, or order, a thouer how great a majority will think it scarcely worth sand pounds worth of praise, free from all deducreading. Trifling and superficial are terms of re- tions whatsoever, it being a commodity that will proach that are easilv objected, and that carry an then be very serviceable to him, and place it to the air of penetration in the observer. These faults account of, etc.
something touched off to a nicety, for Mr. Sprig. ESSAY I.
gins was going to give us Mad Tom in all its glo
ry. Mr. Spriggins endeavoured to excuse himself, I REMEMBER to have read in some philosopher for as he was to act a madman and a king, it was (I believe in Tom Brown's works), that, let a impossible to go through the part properly without man's character, sentiments, or complexion be a crown and chains. His exeuses were overruled what they will, he can find company in London to by a great majority, and with much vociferation. match them. If he be splenetic, he may every The president ordered up the jack-chain, and inday meet companions on the seats in St. James's stead of a crown, our performer covered his brows Park, with whose groans he may mix his own, with an inverted jorden. After he had rattled his and pathetically talk of the weather. If he be pas-chain, and shook his head, to the great delight of sionate, he may vent his rage among the old ora- the whole company, he began his song. As! tors at Slaughter's Coffee-house, and damn the have heard few young fellows offer to sing in comnation because it keeps him from starving. If he pany, that did not expose themselves, it was no be phlegmatic, he may sit in silence at the hum- great disappointment to me to find Mr. Spriggins drum ciub in Ivy-lane; and, if actually mad, he among the number; however, not to seem an odd may find very good company in Moorfields, either fish, I rose from my seat in rapture, cried out, at Bedlam or the Foundry, ready to cultivate a bravo ! encore ! and slapped the table as loud as nearer acquaintance.
any of the rest. But, although such as have a knowledge of the The gentleman who sat next me seemed highly town may easily class themselves with tempers pleased with my taste and the ardour of my apcongenial to their own, a countryman, who comes probation ; and whispering told me that I had sufto live in London, finds nothing more difficult. fered an inmense loss, for had I come a few mi. With regard to myself, none ever tried with more nutes sooner, I might have heard Gee ho Dobbin assiduity, or came off with such indifferent suc- sung in a tip-top manner by the pimple-nosed spicess. I spent a whole season in the search, dur- rit at the president's right elbow; but he was evap ing which time my name has been enrolled in so- orated before I came. cieties, lodges, convocations, and meetings, with As I was expressing my uneasiness at this disout number. To some I was introduced by a appointment, I found the attention of the compafriend, to others invited by an advertisement; to ny employed upon a fat figure, who, with a voice these I introduced myself, and to those I changed more rough than the Staffordshire giant's, was my name to gain admittance. In short, no co- giving us the Softly Sweet in Lydian Measure of quette was ever more solicitous to match her ri- Alexander's Feast. After a short pause of adbands to her complexion, than I to suit my club to miration, to this succeeded a Welsh dialogue, my temper; for I was too obstinate to bring my with the humours of Teague and Taffy : after that temper to conform to it.
came on Old Jackson, with a story between every The first club I entered upon coming to town stanza ; next was sung the Dustcart, and then was that of the Choice Spirits. The name was Solomon's Song. The glass began now to circuentirely suited to my taste; I was a lover of mirth, late pretty freely : those who were silent when so good-humour, and even soinetimes of fun, from ber would now be heard in their turn; every man my childhood.
had his song, and he saw no reason why he should As no other passport was requisite but the pay- not be heard as well as any of the rest ; one hegged to ment of two shillings at the door, I introduced my- be heard while he gave Death and the Lady in high self without further ceremony to the members, who taste; another sung to a plate which he kept were already assembled, and had for some time trundling on the edges ; nothing was now heard begun upon business. The Grand, with a mallet but singing ; voice rose above voice ; and the whole in his hand, presided at the head of the table. I became one universal shout, when the landlord could not avoid, upon my entrance, making use of came to acquaint the company that the reckoning all my skill in physiognomy, in order to discover was drank out. Rabelais calls the moment in that superiority of genius in men, who had taken which a reckoning is mentioned the most melana title so superior to the rest of mankind. I ex- choly of our lives ; never was so much noise se pected to see the lines of every face marked with quickly quelled as by this short but pathetic orastrong thinking; but though I had some skill in tion of our landlord : drank out! was echoed in a this science, I wuld for my life discover nothing tone of discontent round the table : drank out albut a pert simper, fat or profound stupidity. ready! that was very odd ! that so much punch
My speculations were soon interrupted by the could be drank already—impossible! The landGrand, who had knocked down Mr. Spriggins for lord, however, seeming resolved not to retreat from & song. I was upon this whispered by one of the his first assurances, the company was dissolved company who sat next me, that I should now see and a president chosen for the night ensuing.
A friend of mine, to whom I was complaining and they sometimes whip for a double reckoning. some time after the entertainment I have been de- To this club few recommendations are requisite, scribing, proposed to bring me to the club that he except the introductory fourpence and my landfrequented, which he fancied would suit the gravity lord's good word, which, as he gains by it, he never of my temper exactly. “We have at the Muzzy refuses. Club,” says he, “no riotous mirth nor awkward We all here talked and behaved as every body ribaldry; no confusion or bawling; all is conducted else usually does on his club-night; we discussed with wisdom and decency: besides, some of our the topic of the day, drank each other's healths, members are worth forty thousand pounds; men of snuffed the candles with our fingers, and filled our prudence and foresight every one of them: these are pipes from the same plate of tobacco. The comthe proper acquaintance, and to such I will to night pany saluted each other in the common manner; introduce you.” I was charmed at the proposal : Mr. Bellows-mender hoped Mr: Currycomb-maker to be acquainted with men worth forty thousand had not caught cold going home the last clubpounds, and to talk wisdom the whole night, were night ; and he returned the compliment by hoping offers that threw me into raptures.
that young Master Bellows-mender had got well At seven o'clock I was accordingly introduced again of the chincough. Dr. Twist told us a story by my friend, not indeed to the company, for, of a parliament-man, with whom he was intimately though I made my best bow, they seemed insensi- acquainted; while the bug-man, at the same time, ble of my approach, but to the table at which they was telling a better story of a noble lord with whom were sitting. Upon iny entering the room, I could he could do any thing. A gentleman, in a black not avoid feeling a secret veneration from the so- wig and leather breeches at the other end of the lemnity of the scene before me; the members kept table, was engaged in a long narrative of the Ghost a profound silence, each with a pipe in his mouth, in Cock-lane: he had read it in the papers of the and a pewter pot in his hand, and with faces that day, and was telling it to some that sat next him, might easily be construed into absolute wisdom. who could not read. Near him Mr. Dibbins was Happy society, thought I to myself, where the disputing on the old subject of religion with a Jew members think before they speak, deliver nothing pedler, over the table, while the president vainly rashly, but convey their thoughts to each other knocked down Mr. Leathersides for a song. Bepregnant with meaning and matured by reflection. sides the combinations of these voices, which i
In this pleasing speculation I continued a full could hear altogether, and which formed an upper half-hour, expecting each moment that somebody part to the concert, there were several others play. would begin to open his mouth: every time the pipe ing under-parts by themselves, and endeavouring was laid down I expected it was to speak; but it to fasten on some luckless neighbour's ear, who was was only to spit. At length resolving to break the himself bent upon the same design against some charm myself, and overcome their extreme diffi- other. dence, for to this I imputed their silence, I rubbed We have often heard of the speech of a corporamy hands, and, looking as wise as possible, ob- tion, and this induced me to transcribe a speech of served that the nights began to grow a little coolish this club, taken in short-hand, word for word, as it at this time of the year. This, as it was directed was spoken by every member of the company. It to none of the company in particular, none thought may be necessary to observe, that the man who told himself obliged to answer, wherefore I continued of the ghost had the loudest voice, and the longest still to rub my hands and look wise. My next story to tell, so that his continuing narrative filled effort was addressed to a gentleman who sat next every chasm in the conversation. me; to whom I observed, that the beer was ex “So, sir, d'ye perceive me, the ghost giving three tremely good. My neighbour made no reply, but loud raps at the bed-post-Says my Lord to me, by a large puff of tobacco-smoke.
my dear Smokeum, you know there is no man I now hegan to be uneasy in this dumb society, upon the face of the earth for whom I have so hightill one of them a little relieved me by observing A damnable false heretical opinion of all sound that bread had not risen these three weeks : " Aye," doctrine and good learning; for I'll tell it aloud says another, still keeping the pipe in his mouth, and spare not that—Silence for a song; Mr. Leath. "that puts me in mind of a pleasant story about ersides for a song—As I was walking upon the that-hem—very well; you must know—but, be- highway, I met a young damsel — Then what fore I begin-sir, my service to you—where was brings you here ? says the parson to the ghost 1 ?"
Sanconiathan, Manetho, and Berosus—The whole My next club goes by the name of the Harmo-way from Islington-turnpike to Dog-house barnical Society ; probably from that love of order and Dam-As for Abel Drugger, sir, be's damn'd low friendship which every person commends in insti- in it; my 'prentice boy has more of the gentleman tutions of this nature. The landlord was himself than he–For murder will out one time or anothe fovnder. The money spent is fourpence each ;lther and none but a ghost, you know, gentlemen,