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"We were lately informed, that the gallant trainedbands had patrolled all night long about the streets of « London: we indeed could not imagine any occasion for • it, we guessed not a tittle on it aforehand, we were in
nothing of the secret; and that city-tradesinen, or their apprentices, fhould do duty, or work, during the holi
days, we thought absolutely impossible. But Dyer • being positive in it, and some letters from other peo.
ple, who had talked with some who had it from those
who should know, giving fome countenance to it, the • chairman reported from the committee, appointed to
examine into that affair, that it was possible there might • be something in it. I have much more to say to you, • but my two good friends and neighbours, Dominick 4 and Slyboots, are just come in, and the coffee's ready. "I am, in the mean time,
You may observe the turn of their minds tends only to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. It would be disappointment to them, to come to certainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and put an end to their inquiries, which dull fellows do not make for information, but for exercise. I do not know but this may be a very good way of accounting for what we frequently see, to wit, that dull fellows prove very good men of business. Business relieves them from their own natural heaviness, by furnishing them with what to do: whereas business to mercurial men, is an interruption from their real existence and happiness. Though the dull part of mankind are harmless in their amulements, it were to be withed they had no vacant time, because they usually undertake something that makes their wants conspicuous, by their manner of fupplying them. You shall feldom find a dull fellow of good education, but (if he happens to have any leisure upon his hands) will turn his head to one of those two amuse03
ments, for all fools of eminence, politics or poetry. The former of these arts, is the study of all dull people in general; but when dulness is lodged in a person of a quick animal life, it generally exerts itself in poetry. One might here mention a few military writers, who give great entertainment to the age, by reason that the stupidity of their head is quickned by the alacrity of their hearts. This constitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to nonsense, and makes the puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that celebrated poem, which was written in the reign of king Charles the second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such an happy genius as we are speaking of. From among many other diftichs, no less to be quoted on this account, I cannot but recite the two following lines ;
A painted vest prince Voltager had on,
Here if the poet had not been vivacious, as well as stupid, he could not, in the warmth and hurry of nonsente, have been capable of forgetting that neither prince Voltager, nor his grand-father, could strip a naked man of his doublet; but a fool of a colder conftitution would have staid to have flea'd the Pict, and made buff of his skin, for the wearing of the con. queror.
To bring these observations to some useful purpose of life, what I would propose should be, that we imi. tated those wife nations, wherein every man learns fome handicraft-work. Would it not employ a beau prettily cnough, if, instead of eternally playing with a Inuff-box, he spent some part of his time in making one? Such a method as this would very much conduce to the public emolument, by making every man living good for something; for there would then be no one member of human society, but would have some little pretenfions for some degree in it; like him who came to Will's
coffee-house upon the merit of having writ a posy of a ring.
No. XLIV. FRIDAY, APRIL 20.
Tu, quid ego & populus mecum desideret, audi.
Now hear what ev'ry auditor expects.
MONG the several artifices which are put in prac.
tice by the poets to fill the minds of an audience with terror, the first place is due to thunder and lightning, which are often made use of at the descending of a god, or the rising of a ghost, at the vanishing of a devil, or the death of a tyrant. I have known a bell introduced into several tragedies with good effect; and have seen the whole assembly in a very great alarm all the while it has been ringing. But there is nothing which delights and terrifies our English theatre so much as a ghoft, especially when he appears in a bloody shirt. A spectre has very often faved a play, though he has done nothing but stalked across the stage, or role through a cleft of it, and sunk again without speaking one word. There may be a proper season for these several terrors; and when they only come in as aids and assistances to the poet, they are not only to be excufcd, but to be applauded. Thus the sounding of the clock in Venice Preserved, makes the hcarts of the whole audience quake; and conveys a stronger terror to the mind than it is possible for words to do. The appear. ance of the ghost in Hamlet is a master-piece in its kind, and wrought up with all the circumstances that can create either attention or horror. The inind of the reader is wonderfully prepared for his reception by the discourses that precede it: his dumb behaviour at his first enterance strikes the imagination very strongly; but every time he enters,' he is still more terrifying. Who can read the
speech with which young Hamlet accosts him, without trembling
Hor. Look, my Lord, it comes !
Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us !
I do not therefore find fault with the artifices above. mentioned when they are introduced with skill, and accompanied by proportionable sentiments and expressions in the writing.
For the moving of pity, our principal machine is the handkerchief; and indeed, in our common tragedies, we should not know very often that the persons are in distress by any thing they say, if they did not from time to time apply their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Far be it from me to think of banishing this instrument of sorrow from the stage; I know a tragedy could not subsist without it: all that I would contend for, is to keep it from being misapplied. In a word, I would have the actor's tongue sympathize with his eyes.
A disconfolate mother, with a child in her hand, has frequently drawn compafsion from the audience, and has therefore gained a place in several tragedies. A modern writer, that observed how this had took in other plays, being resolved to double the distress, and melt his audience civice as much as those before him had done, brought
& princess upon the stage with a little boy in one hand and a girl in the other. This too had a very good effcét. A third poet, being resolved to outwrite all his predeceffors, a few years ago introduced three children with great fucceís: and as I am informed, a young gentleman, who is fully determined to break the most obdurate hcarts, has a tragedy by him, where the first person that appears upon the fage is an afflicted widow in her mourning-weeds, with half a dozen fatherless children attending her, like those that usually hang about the figure of charity. Thus several incidents, that are beau. tiful in a good writer, become ridiculous by falling into the hands of a bad one.
But among all our methods of moving pity or terror, there is none so absurd and barbarous, and what more exposes us to the contempt and ridicule of our neigh. bours, than that dreadful butchering of one another, which is so very frequent upon the English stage. To delight in seeing men stabbed, poisoned, racked, or impaled, is certainly the sign of a cruel temper: and as this is often practised before the British audience, several French critics, who think these are grateful spectacles to us, take occasion from them to reprelent us as a people that delight in blood. It is indeed very odd, to tee our stage Atrowed with carcases in the last scene of a tragedy; and to observe in the wardrobe of the playhouse several daggers, poinards, wheels, bowls for poifon, and many other instruments of dcath. Murders and executions are always transacted behind the scenes in the French theatre; which in general is very agree, able to the manners of a polite and civilized people: but as there are no exceptions to this rule on the French. stage, it leads them into absurdities almost as ridiculous as that which falls under our present censure. I remember in the famous play of Corneille, written upon the subject of the Horatii and Curiatii; the fierce young hero who had overcome the Curiatii one after another, instead of being congratulated by his sister for his victory, being upbraided by her for having flain her lover, in the height of his passion and resentment kills her.