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It is remarkable, that those who want any one sense, possess the others with greater force and vivacity. Thus my want of, or rather resignation of speech, gives me all the advantuges of a dumb man. I have, methinks, a more than ordinary penetration in seeing ; and flatter myself that I have looked into the highest and lowest of mankind; and make shrewd guesses, without being admitted to their conversation, at the inmost thoughts and reflections of all whom I behold. It is from hence that good or ill fortune has no manner of force towards affecting my judgment. I see men flourishing in courts, and languishing in jails, without being prejudiced from their circumstances, to their favour or disadvantage; but from their inward manner of bearing their condition, often pity the prosperous, and admire the unhappy.
Those who converse with the dumb, know from the turn of their eyes, and the changes of their countenance, their sentiments of the objects before them. I bave indulged my silence to such an extravagance, that the few who are intimate with me, answer my smiles with concurrent sentences, and argue to the very point Y shaked my head at, without my speaking. WILL HONEYCOMB was very entertaining the other night at a play, to a gentleman who sat on his right hand, while I was at his left. The gentleman believed WILL was talking to himself, when upon my looking with great approbation at a young thing in a box before us, he said, “I am quite of another opinion. She has, I will allow, a very pleasing aspect, but, methinks, that simplicity in her countenance is rather childish than innocent.” When I observed her a second time, he said, “I grant her dress is very becoming, but perhaps the merit of choice is owing to her mother; for though,” continued he, “ I allow a beauty to be as much commended for the elegance of her dress as a wit for that of his language; yet if she has stolen the colour of her ribbands from another, or ḥad advice about her trimmings, I shall not allow her the praise of dress, any more than I would call a plagiary an author.” When I threw my eye towards the next woman to her, Will spoke what I looked, according to his romantic imagination, in the following manner.-
Behold, you who dare, that charming virgin; behold the beauty of her person chastised by the innocence of her thoughts. Chastity, good nature, and affability, are the graces that play in her countenance; she knows she is handsome, but she knows she is good. Conscious beauty adorned with conscious virtue! What a spirit is there in those eyes ! What a bloom in that person! How is the whole woman expressed in her appearance ! Her air has the beauty of motion, and her look the force of language
It was prudence to turn away my eyes from this object, and therefore I turned them to the thoughtless creatures who make up the lump of that sex, and move a knowing eye no more than the portraiture of insignificant people by ordinary painters, which are but pictures of pictures.
Thus the working of my own mind is the general entertainment of my life; I never enter into the commerce of discourse with any but my particular friends, and not in public even with them. Such an habit has perhaps raised in me uncommon reflections; but this effect I cannot communicate but by my writings. As my pleasures are almost wholly confined to those of the sight, I take it for a peculiar happiness that I have always had an easy and familiar admittance to the fair sex. If I never praised or flattered, I never belied or contradicted them. As these compose half the world, and are, by the just complaisance and gallantry of our nation, the more powerful part of our people, I shall dedicate a considerable share of these my speculations to their service, and shall lead the young through all the becoming duties of virginity, marriage, and widowhood. When it is a woman's day, in my works, I shall endeavour at a style and air suitable to their understanding: When I say this, I must be understood to mean, that I shall not lower but exalt the subjects I treat upon. Discourse for their entertainment, is not to be debased, but refined. A man may appear learned without talking sentences, as in his ordinary gesture he discovers he can dance, though he does not cut capers. In a word, I shall take it for the greatest glory of my work, if among reasonable women this paper may furnish tea-table talk. In order to it, I shall treat on matters which relate to females, as they are concerned to approach or fly from the other sex, or as they are tied to them by blood, interest, or affection. Upon this occasion I think it but reasonable to declare, that whatever skill I may have in speculation, I shall never betray what the eyes of lovers say to each other in my presence. At the same time I shall not think myself obliged by this promise, to conceal any false protestations which I observe made by glances in public assemblies; but endeavour to make both sexes appear in their conduct what they are in their hearts. By this means, love, during the time of my speculations, shall be carried on with the same, sincerity as any other affair of less consideration. As this is the greatest concern, men shall be from henceforth liable to the greatest reproach for misbehaviour in it. Falsehood in love shall hereafter bear a blacker aspect than infidelity in friendship, or villainy in business. For this great and good end, all breaches against that noble passion, the cement of society, shall be severely examined. But this and all other matters, loosely hinted at now, and in my former papers, shall have their proper place in my following discourses.
writing is only to admonish the world, that they shall not find me an idle, but a busy SPECTATOR.
Spectatum admissi risum teneatis ?
HOR. ARS. VOET. VER. 5. Admitted to the sight, would you not laugh? An opera may be allowed to be extravagantly lavish in its decorations, as its only design is to gratify the senses, and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Common sense, however, requires that there should be nothing in the scenes and machines which may appear childish and absurd. How would the wits of King Charles's time have laughed to see Nicolini exposed to a tempest in robes of ermine, and sailing in an open boat upon a sea of pasteboard? What a field of raillery would they have been led into, had they been entertained with painted dragons spitting wild-fire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landscapes? A little skill in criticism would inform us, that shadows and realities ought not to be mixed together in the same piece; and that the scenes which are designed as the representations of nature should be filled with resemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would represent a wide champaign country filled with herds and flocks, it would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd several parts of the stage with sheep and oxen. This is joining together inconsistencies, and making the decoration partly real, and partly imaginary. I would recommend what I have here said to the directors, as well as the admirers, of our modern opera.
As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his shoul. der; and as I was wondering with myself what use he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, be told him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. Sparrows for the opera, says his friend, licking his lips, what! are they to be roasted ? No, no, says the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and fly about the stage.
This strauge dialogue awakened my curiousity so far, that I im.
mediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived the sparrows were to act the part of singing-birds in a delightful grove; though, upon a nearer inquiry, I found the sparrows put the same trick upon the audience, that Sir Martin Mar-all * practised upon his mistress; for though they flew in sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flageolets and bird-calls, which were planted hehind the scenes. At the same time I made this discovery, I found, by the discourse of the actors, that there were great designs on foot for the improvement of the opera ; that it had been proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horse, and that there was actually a project of bringing the New River into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have since heard, is postponed till the summer season; when it is thought that the coolness which proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the meantime, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter season, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fireworks; which the audience may look upon without catching cold, and indeed without much danger of being burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen.f However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before he would let this opera be acted in it.
It is no wonder that those scenes should be very surprising, which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument), was an Amazonian enchantress, and poor Signior Cassani (as we learn from the persons represented), a Christian conjuror (Mago Christiano). I must confess I am very much puz. zled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art, or how a good Christian, for such is the nart of the magician, should deal with the devil.
To consider the poet after the conj Lors, I shall give you a taste of the Italian from the first lines of his preface; “Eccoti, benigno lettore, un parto di poche sere, che se ben nato di notte, non è però aborto di tenebre, mà si farà conoscere figlio d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnasso.” Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few
In Dryden's comedy of that name. + An alarm of fire having occasioned great confusion in the playhouse, a manager came forward, and begged the audience to be composed, for he had the pleasure to assure them that there was water enough a-top to drown them all.
evenings, which, though it be the offspring of the night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make itself known to be the son of Apollo, with a certain ray of Parnassus." He afterwards proceeds to call Mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the same sublimity of style, that he composed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits to whose tastes we so ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians express themselves in such a florid form of words, and such tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country; and, at the same time, fill their writings with such poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are ashamed of, before they have been two years at the university. Some may be apt to think that it is the difference of genius which produces this difference in the works of the two nations; but to show that there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, such as Cicero and Virgil, we shall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expressing themselves, resemble those authors much more than the modern Italians pretend to do. And as for the poet himself from whom the dreams of this opera* are taken, I must entirely agree with Monsieur Boileau, that one verse in Virgil is worth all the clinquant or tinsel of Tasso.
But to return to the sparrows: there have been so many flights of them let loose in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them; and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's bed-chamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the inconveniences which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a design of casting into an opera the story of Whittington and bis Cat,t and that in order to it, there had been got together a great quantity of mice; but Mr. Rich, the proprietor of the playhouse, very prudently considered that it would be impossible for the cat to kill them all, and that consequently the princes of the stage might be as much infested with mice, as the prince of the island was before the cat's arrival upon it; for which reason he would not permit it to be acted in his house. And indeed I cannot blame him; for, as he said very well upon that occasion, I do not hear that any of the performers in our opera pretend to equal the famous pied piper, who made all the mice of a great town in Ger
* Rinaldo, an opera, by Aaron Hill. + See No. 14; and Tat. No. 78.
# The records of Hamelen, an ancient city on the banks of the Weser, give an account of a strange accident which befel them, on the 26th of June, 1284:
“Being at that time much pestered with rats, which they could by no