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in his extravagance, and makes only a fresh black button upon his iron-gray suit for any potentate of linall territories: he indeed adds his crape harband for a prince whose exploits he has admired in the Gazette. But whatever compliments may be made on these occasions, the true mourners are the mercers, filkmen, lacemen, and milliners. A prince of a merciful and roval disposition would refeet with great anxiety upon the prospect of his death, if he considered what nunbers would be reduced to milery by that accident only; he would think it of moment enough to direct, that in the notification of his departure, the honour done to him might be restrained to those of the hourhold of the prince to whom it should be signified. He would think a general mourning to be in a lets degree the same ceremony which is practised in barbarous nations, of killing their slaves to attend the obsequies of their kings.
I had been wonderfully at a loss for many months rogether, to guess at the character of a man who came now and then to our coffee-house; he ever ended a news-paper with this reflection, · We I see all the • foreign princes are in good health.' If
asked, Pray Sir, what says the Postman from Vienna? he answered, Make us thankful, the German princes
are all well. What does he say from Barcelona ? < He does not speak but that the country agrees very ' well with the new queen.' After very much inquiry, I found this man of universal loyalty was a wholesale dealer in silks and ribbons; his way is, it seems, if he hires a weaver, or workman, to have it inserted in his articles, " That all this shall be well and
truly performed, provided no foreign potentate shall • depart this life within the time above-mentioned.' It happens in all public mournings, that the many trades which depend upon our habits, are during that folly either pinched with present want, or terrified with the apparent approach of it. * All the atonement which men can make for wanton expences, which is a sort of insulting the scarcity under which others
labour, is, that the superfluities of the wealthy give supplies to the necessities of the poor; bur instead of any other good arising from the affectation of being in courtly habits of mourning, all order feems to be deftroyed by it; and the true honour, which we court does to another on that occasion, loses its force and efficacy. When a foreign minister beholds the court of a nation, which flourishes in riches and plenty, lay aside, upon the loss of his master, all marks of splendor and inagnificence, though the head of such a joyful people, he will conceive a greater idea of the honour' done his master, than when he sees the generality of the people in the same habit. When one is afraid to ask the wife of a tradesman whom she has lost of her family; and after some preparation endeavours to know whom she mourns for; how ridiculous is it to hear her explain herself, that we have lost one of the house of Austria? Princes are elevated fo highly above the rest of mankind, that it is a presumptuous distinction to take a part in honours done to their memories, except we have authority for it, by being related in a particular manner to the court which pays that veneration to their friendship, and seems to express on such an occasion the fenle of the uncertainty of human life in general, by affuming the habit of sorrow, though in the full possession of triumph and royalty.
No. LXV. TUESDAY, MAY 15.
Demetri teque Tigelli
AFTER having at large explained what wit is, and
described the falfe appearances of it, all that labour seems but an useless inquiry, without some time
be spent in considering the application of it. The seat of wit, when one fpeaks as a man of the town and the world, is the play-house; I lhall therefore fill this paper with reflections upon the use of it in that place. The application of wit in the theatre has as strong an effect upon the manners of our gentlemen, as the taste of it has upon the writings of our authors. It may, perhaps, look like a very presumptuous work, though not foreign from the duty of a Spectator, to tax the writings of fuch as have long had the general applause of a nation ; but I shall always make reason, truth, and nature, the measures of praise and dispraise; if those are for me, the generality of opinion is of no consequence against me; if they are against me, the general opinion cannot long support me.
Without further preface, I am going to look into some of our most applauded plays, and see whether they deserve the figure they at present bear in the imaginations of men, or not.
In reflecting upon these works, I shall chiefly dwell upon that "for which each respective play is most celebrated. The present paper ihall be employed upon Sir Fopling Flurter. The received character of this play is, that it is the pattern of genteel coinedy. Dorimant and Harriot are the characters of greatest consequence: and if thefe are low and mean, the reputation of the play is very uniuft.
I will take for granted, that a fine gentleman fhould be honest in his actions, and refined in his language. Instead of this, our hero in this piece is a direct knave in his designs, and a clown in his language. Bellair is his admirer and friend; in return for which, because he is forjooth a greater wit than his said friend, he thinks it rcalonable to perfuade him to marry a young lady, whose virtue, he thinks, will last no longer than till she is a wife, and then she cannot but fall to his share, as he is an irresistible fine gentleman. The falfhood to Mrs. Loveit, and the barbarity of triumphing over her anguish for losing him, is an
other instance of his honesty,'as well as his good-na
As to his fine language; he calls the orangewoman, who it seems is inclined to grow fat, “ An “ over-grown jade, with a Hasket of guts before her;" and falutes her with a pretty phrase of, “ How now, double-tripe:" Upon the mention of a country gentlewoman, whom he knows nothing of, no one can imagine why, he “ will lay his life she is some awk“ ward ill-fashioned country toad, who, not having 66 above four dozen of hairs on her head, has adorned “ her baldness with a large white fruz, that the may “ look sparkishly in the fore-front of the king's box at
an old play.” Unnatural mixture of senseless common-place!
As to the generosity of his temper, he tells his poor footman, “ If he did not wait better,” he would turn him away, in the insolent phrase of, “ I'll uncase you.”
Now for Mrs. Harriot; she laughs at obedience to an absent mother, whose tenderness Buly describes to be very exquisite, for “ that she is to pleased with find“ ing Harriot again, that she cannot chide her for
being out of the way.” This witty daughter, and fine lady, has fo little respect for this good woman, that The ridicules her air in taking leave, and cries, “ In “ what struggle is my poor mother yonder? See, see “ her head tottering, her eyes staring, and her under« lip trembling.” But all this is atoned for, becaule " the has more wit than is usual in her sex, and as “ much malice, though the is as wild as you would with « her, and has a demureness in her looks that makes “ it fo surprising!” Then to recommend her as a fit spouse for his hero, the poet makes her speak her fenfe of marriage very ingeniously; “ I think,” lays the, “ I might be brcught to endure him, and that is all a “ reasonable woman should expect in an husband.” It is, methinks, unnatural that we are not made to understand how she that was bred under a hilly pious old mother, that would never trust her out of her light, came to be so polite.
It cannot be denied, but that the negligence of every thing, which engages the attention of the sober and valuable
part of mankind, appears very well drawn in this piece; but it is denied, that it is necessary to the character of a fine gentleman, that he should in that manner trample upon all order and decency. As for the character of Dorimant, it is more of a coxcomb than that of Fopling. He says of one of his companions, that a good correspondence between them is their mutual interest. Spcaking of that friend, he declares, their being much together “ makes the women think the better of his un
derstanding, and judge more favourably of my repu“ tation. It makes him pass upon some for a man of
very good fense, and me upon others for a very civil “ person.”
This whole celebrated piece is a perfect contradiction to good manners, good sense, and common honesty; and as there is nothing in it but what is built upon the ruin of virtue and innocence, according to the notion of merit in this comedy, I take the shoe-maker to be, in reality, the fine gentleman of the play; for it seems he is an Atheist, if we may depend upon his character as given by the orange-woman, who is herself far from being the lowest in the play. She says of a fine man, who is Dorimant's companion, there « is not such an« other heathen in the town, except the shoe-maker.” His pretention to be the hero of the Drama appears still more in his own description of his way of living with his lady. “ There is,” says he, “ never a man in “ town lives more like a gentleman with his wife than “ I do; I never mind her motions; she never inquires “ into mine. We speak to one another civilly, hate
one another hcartily; and because it is vulgar to lie “ and fork together, we have cach of us our several “ fittle-bed.” That of foaking together is as good as if Dorimant had spoken it hitelf; and, I think, since he puts human nature in as ugly a form as the circumitance will bear, and is a staunch unbeliever, he is very much wronged in having no part of the good fortune bestowed in the last act.