« PředchozíPokračovat »
but the gentleman (for that is the name which I go by in the neighbourhood, as well as in the family) they went on without minding me. I seated myself by the candle that stood on a table at one end of the room ; and pretending to read a book that I took out of my pocket, heard several dreadful stories of ghosts, as pale as ashes, that had stood at the feet of a bed, or walked over a church-yard by moonlight; and of others that had been conjured into the Redsea, for disturbing people's rest, and drawing their curtains at midnight, with many other old women's fables of the like nature. As one spirit raised another, I observed that at the end of every story the whole company closed their ranks, and creaded "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 twelvemonth. 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 candle into my hand, and went up into my chamber, not without wondering 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 iny 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 bullrush. The truth of it is, I look upon a sound imagination as the greatest blessing of life, next to a clear judgment, 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 woman 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 liave done, that there are such phantoms and apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hands, 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 the 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 the following passage :
-Nor think, though men were none,
N° 13. THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 1710-11.
Dic mihi, si fueris tu leo, qualis eris?
Were you a lion, how would you behave?
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 Haymarket, 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 lion 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 expence, during the 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 recitativo, as Orpheus used to serve the wild beasts in his time, and afterwards 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 thoroughbass, 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 accidently 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 candle-snuffer, who being a fellow of a testy choleric temper, overdid his part, and would not suffer himself to be killed so easily as he ought to have done ; besides, it was observed of him, that he grew more surly every time that 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 a lion.
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; inasmuch, 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-colour 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 luis diversion, hut desires his name may be concealed. He says,