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shall, at least, find me alive while I study his entertainment; for I solemnly assure him, I was never yet possessed of the secret at once of writing and sleeping.
During the course of this paper, therefore, all the wit and learning I have are heartily at his service; which if, after so candid a confession, he should, notwithstanding, still find it intolerably dull, low, or sad stuff, this I protest is more than I know. I have a clear conscience, and am entirely out of the secret.
Yet I would not have him, upon the perusal of a single paper, pronounce me incorrigible: he may try a second, which, as there is a studied difference in subject and style, may be more suited to his taste; if this also fails, I must refer him to a third, or even to a fourth, in case of extremity. If he should still continue refractory, and find me dull to the last, I must inform him, with Bays in the Rehearsal, that I think him a very odd kind of a fellow, and desire no more of his acquaintance.
It is with such reflections as these I endeavor to fortify myself against the future contempt or neglect of some readers, and am prepared for their dislike by mutual recrimination. If such should impute dealing neither in battles nor scandal to me as a fault, instead of acquiescing in their censure, I must beg leave to tell them a story.
A traveller, in his way to Italy, happening to pass at the foot of the Alps, found himself at last in a country where the inhabitants had each a large excrescence depending from the chin, like the pouch of a monkey. This deformity, as it was endemic, and the people little used to strangers, it had been the custom, time immemorial, to look upon as the greatest ornament of the human visage. Ladies grew toasts from the size of their chins, and none were regarded as pretty fellows, but such whose faces
were broadest at the bottom. It was Sunday, a country church was at hand, and our traveller was willing to perform the duties of the day. Upon his first appearance at the church door, the eyes of all were naturally fixed upon the stranger; but what was their amazement, when they found that he actually wanted that emblem of beauty, a pursed chin! This was a defect that not a single creature had sufficient gravity (though they were noted for being grave) to withstand. Stifled bursts of laughter, winks, and whispers circulated from visage to visage, and the prismatic figure of the stranger's face was a fund of infinite gayety; even the parson, equally remarkable for his gravity and chin, could hardly refrain joining in the good humor. Our traveller could no longer patiently continue an object for deformity to point at. "Good folks," said he, "I perceive that I am the unfortunate cause of all this good humor. It is true, may have faults in abundance, but I shall never be induced to reckon my want of a swelled face among the number."*
ON A BEAUTIFUL YOUTH STRUCK BLIND WITH LIGHTNING.
Imitated from the Spanish.
Sure 'twas by Providence design'd,
To save him from Narcissus' fate.
* [The swelling here alluded to, which the French term goître, and which is so frequent among the inhabitants of the Alps, is said to be owing to the use of snow-water.]
Another, in the same spirit.
Lumine Acon dextro, capta est Leonida sinistro,
REMARKS ON OUR THEATRES.
Our theatres are now open, and all Grub-street is preparing its advice to the managers. We shall undoubtedly hear learned disquisitions on the structure of one actor's legs, and another's eyebrows. We shall be told much of enunciations, tones, and attitudes, and shall have our lightest pleasures commented upon by didactic dulness. We shall, it is feared, be told, that Garrick is a fine actor, but then, as a manager, so avaricious! That Palmer is a most surprising genius, and Holland likely to do well, in a particular cast of character. We shall have them giving Shuter instructions to amuse us by rule, and deploring over the ruins of desolated Majesty at Covent-Garden. As I love to be advising too, for advice is easily given, and bears a show of wisdom and superiority, I must be permitted to offer a few observations upon our theatres and actors, without, on this trivial occasion, throwing my thoughts into the formality of method.
There is something in the deportment of all our players infinitely more stiff and formal than among the actors of other nations. Their action sits uneasy upon them; for as the English
* ["The Princess of Eboli, the mistress of Philip II. of Spain, and Maugiron, the minion of Henry III. of France, had each of them lost an eye; and the famous epigram, which Goldsmith has imitated, was written on them."-LORD BYRON, Works, vol. vi. p. 390.]
use very little gesture in ordinary conversation, our English-bred actors are obliged to supply stage gestures by their imagination alone. A French comedian finds proper models of action in every company and in every coffee-house he enters. An Englishman is obliged to take his models from the stage itself; he is obliged to imitate nature from an imitation of nature. I know of no set of men more likely to be improved by travelling than those of the theatrical profession. The inhabitants of the continent are less reserved than here; they may be seen through upon a first acquaintance: such are the proper models to draw from; they are at once striking, and are found in great abundance.
Though it would be inexcusable in a comedian to add any thing of his own to the poet's dialogue, yet as to action he is entirely at liberty. By this he may show the fertility of his genius, the poignancy of his humor, and the exactness of his judgment; we scarcely see a coxcomb or a fool in common life, that has not some peculiar oddity in his action. These peculiarities it is not in the power of words to represent, and depend solely upon the actor. They give a relish to the humor of the poet, and make the appearance of nature more illusive: the Italians, it is true, mask some characters, and endeavor tc preserve the peculiar humor by the make of the mask; but I have seen others still preserve a great fund of humor in the face without a mask; one actor, particularly, by a squint which he threw into some characters of low life, assumed a look of infinite stolidity. This, though upon reflection we might condemn, yet immediately, upon representation, we could not avoid being pleased with.
To illustrate what I have been saying by the plays I have of late gone to see; in the "Miser," which was played a few nights ago at Coyent-Garden, Lovegold appears through the
whole in circumstances of exaggerated avarice; all the player's action, therefore, should conspire with the poet's design, and represent him as an epitome of penury. The French comedian, in this character, in the midst of one of his most violent passions, while he appears in an ungovernable rage, feels the demon of avarice still upon him, and stoops down to pick up a pin, which he quilts into the flap of his coat-pocket with great assiduity. Two candles are lighted up for his wedding; he flies, and turns one of them into the socket; it is, however, lighted up again; he then steals to it, and privately crams it into his pocket. The "Mock-Doctor" was lately played at the other house.* Here again the comedian had an opportunity of heightening the ridicule by action. The French player sits in a chair with a high back, and then begins to show away by talking nonsense, which he would have thought Latin by those who he knows do not understand a syllable of the matter. At last he grows enthusiastic, enjoys the admiration of the company, tosses his legs and arms about, and in the midst of his raptures and vociferation he and the chair fall back together. All this appears dull enough in the recital; but the gravity of Cato could not stand it in the representation.
In short, there is hardly a character in comedy, to which a player of any real humor might not add strokes of vivacity that could not fail of applause. But instead of this, we too often see our fine gentlemen do nothing through a whole part, but strut, and open their snuffbox; our pretty fellows sit indecently with their legs across, and our clowns pull up their breeches. These, if once, or even twice repeated, might do well enough; but to see them served up in every scene, argues the actor almost as barren as the character he would expose.
* [Molière's 'L'Avare' and Medecin malgré lui, were both translated by Fielding.]