« PředchozíPokračovat »
by moon-light: and of others that had been conjured into the Red-Sea, for disturbing people's rest, and drawing their curtains at midnight; with many other old women's fables of the like na. ture. As one spirit raised another, I observed that at the end of every story the whole company closed their ranks, and crowded about the fire : I took notice in particular of a little boy, who was so attentive to every story, that I am mistaken if he ventures to go to bed by himself this twelve-month. Indeed they talked so long, that the imaginations of the whole assembly were manifestly crazed, and I am sure will be the worse for it as long as they live. I heard one of the girls, that had looked upon me over her shoulder, asking the company how long I had been in the room, and whether I did not look paler than I used to do. This put me under some apprehensions that I should be forced to explain myself if I did not retire ; for which reason I took the can. dle in my hand, and went up into my chamber, not without won.. dering at this unaccountable weakness in reasonable creatures, that they should love to astonish and terrify one another. Were I a father, I should take a particular care to preserve my children from these little horrors of imagination, which they are apt to contract when they are young, and are not able to shake off when they are in years.
I have known a soldier that has entered a breach, affrighted at his own shadow; and look pale upon a little scratching at his door, who the day before had marched up against a battery of cannon. There are instances of persons, who have been terrified even to distraction, at the figure of a tree, or the shaking of a bull-rush. The truth of it is, I look upon a sound imagination as the greatest blessing of life, next to a clear judg. ment and a good conscience. In the mean time, since there are very few whose minds are not more or less subject to these dreadful thoughts and apprehensions, we ought to arm ourselves against them by the dictates of reason and religion, 'to pull the old wo
man out of our hearts' (as Persius expresses it in the motto of my paper), and extinguish those impertinent notions which we imbibed at a time that we were not able to judge of their absurdity. Or if we believe, as many wise and good men have done, that there are such phantoms and apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavour to establish ourselves an interest in Him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hand, and moderates them after such a manner, that it is impossible for one being to break loose upon another without his knowledge and permission.
For my own part, I am apt to join in opinion with those who believe that all the regions of nature swarm with spirits; and that we have multitudes of spectators on all our actions, when we think ourselves most alone : but instead of terrifying myself with such a notion, I am wonderfully pleased to think that I am always engaged with such an innumerable society, in searching out the wonders of the creation, and joining in the same consort of praise and adoration.
Milton has finely described this mixed communion of men and spirits in Paradise; and had doubtless his eye upon a verse in old Hesiod, which is almost word for word the same with his third line in "he following passage.
-- Nor think, though men were none,
No. 13. THURSDAY, MARCH 15.
Dic mihi, si fueris tu leo, qualis eris?
MART. xii. 93
There is nothing that of late years has afforded matter of greater amusement to the town than Signior Nicolini's' combat with a lion in the Hay-Market, which has been very often exhibited to the general satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great Britain. Upon the first rumour of this intended combat, it was confidently affirmed, and is still believed by many in both galleries, that there would be a tame liop sent from the Tower every opera night, in order to be killed by Hydaspes; this report, though altogether groundless, so universally prevailed in the upper regions of the playhouse, that some of the most refined politicians in those parts of the audience gave it out in whisper, that the lion was a cousin-german of the tiger who made his appearance in king William's days, and that the stage would be supplied with lions at the public expense, during the
1 Nicolini Grimaldi, called Signor Nicolini di Napoli, came into England in 1708, and made his first appearance in the opera of Camilla. He was dignified with the title of Cavaliero di San Marco, not more for his singing than his personal merit. Mr. Galliard affirms, as Steele, or whoever was the author of this paper does here, that he was both a fine actor, and a good singer. He is commended in like manner in both capacities, Sreo TATOR, No. 405, where he is complimented on the generous approbation he had given to an English opera, “ Calypso and Telemachus," written by Mr. John Hughes, and set by Mr. Galliard, when the other Italians were in a confederacy to ruin it. Nicolini seems to have enjoyed the friendship both of Steele and Addison. He entertained an affection for them and their writings, and was inclined to study the English language for the pleasure of reading the Tatler.
Nicolini was in England at two or three different periods, and it is said by some, that he united in himself all the excellencies of many other fine singers, who flourished about the beginning of this century. Sir John Haw kin's Hist. of Music, vol. v. b. 11, p. 133, &c.-N. in notes to Tatler, 116.
whole session. Many likewise were the conjectures of the treatment which this lion was to meet with from the hands of Signior Nicolini : some supposed that he was to subdue him in recitative, as Orpheus used to serve the wild beasts in his time, and after wards to knock him on the head; some fancied that the lion would not pretend to lay his paws upon the hero, by reason of the received opinion, that a lion will not hurt a virgin : several, who pretended to have seen the opera in Italy, had informed their friends, that the lion was to act a part in High-Dutch, and roar twice or thrice to a thorough bass, before he fell at the feet of Hydaspes. To clear up a matter that was so variously reported, I have made it my business to examine whether this pretended lion is really the savage he appears to be, or only a counterfeit.
But before I communicate my discoveries, I must acquaint the reader, that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter as I was thinking on something else, I accidentally justled against a monstrous animal that extremely startled me, and upon my nearer survey of it, appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion seeing me very much surprised, told me, in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleased : 'For’ says he, 'I do not intend to hurt any body.' I thanked him very kindly, and passed by him. And in a little time after saw him leap upon the stage, and act his part with very great applause. It has been observed by several, that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice since his first appearance; which will not seem strange, when I acquaint my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three several times. The first lion was a candlesnuffer, who being a fellow of a testy choleric temper over-did his part, and would not suffer himself to be k'lled so easily as he ought to have done; besides, it was observed of him, that he grew more surly every time he came out of the lion, and having dropt some words in ordinary conversation, as if he had not fought his
best, and that he suffered himself 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
The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the playhouse, 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; insomuch, 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 shewing his variety of Italian trips. It is said, indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-coloured 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 indulges 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 ill-natured world might call him, the ass in the lion's skin.' This gentleman's temper is made out of such 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