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• I am quite of another opinion. She has, I will allow, a very pleafing afpect, but methinks, that fimplicity 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 that choice is owing to her mother; for though, ' continued he, I allow a beauty to be as much to be 'commended for the elegance of her drefs, as a wit ' for that of his language; yet if she has stolen the co'lour of her ribbands from another, or had advice about
her trimmings, I fhall not allow her the praise of drefs any more than I would call a plagiary an author.' When I threw my eye towards the next woman to her, WILL fpoke what I looked, according to his romantic imagination, in the following manner.
Behold, you who dare, that charming virgin; be'hold the beauty of her perfon chaftifed by the inno< cence of her thoughts. Chaftity, good-nature, and affability, are the graces that play in her countenance; 'fhe knows she is handfome, but she knows fhe is good. "Confcious beauty adorned with conscious virtue! what
a fpirit is there in those eyes! what a bloom in that perfon! how is the whole woman expreffed 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 fex, and move a knowing eye no more than the portraiture of infignificant 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 difcourfe with any but my particular friends, and not in public even with them. Such a 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 thofe of the fight, I take it for a peculiar happiness that I have always had an eafy and familiar admittance to the fair fex. If I never praifed or flattered, I never belied or contradicted them. As thefe compofe half the world,
and are, by the just complaifance and gallantry of our nation, the more powerful part of our people, I fhall dedicate a confiderable fhare of these my speculations to their fervice, and fhall lead the young through all the becoming duties of virginity, marriage, and widowhood. When it is a woman's day, in my works, I fhall endeavour at a ftyle and air fuitable to their understanding. When I fay this, I must be understood to mean, that I fhall not lower but exalt the fubjects I treat upon. Difcourfe for their entertainment, is not to be debased but refihed. A man may appear learned without talking fentences, as in his ordinary gefture he discovers he can dance, though he does not cut capers. In a word, I fhall take it for the greatest glory of my work, if among reasonable women this paper may furnish teatable-talk. In order to it, I fhall treat on matters which relate to females, as they are concerned to approach or fly from the other fex, or as they are tied to them by blood, intereft, or affection. Upon this occafion I think it but reasonable to declare, that whatever skill I may have in fpeculation, I fhall never betray what the eyes of lovers fay to each other in my prefence. At the fame time I fhall not think myself obliged, by this promife, to conceal any falfe proteftations which I obferve made by glances in public affemblies; but endeavour to make both fexes appear in their conduct what they are in their hearts. By this means, love, during the time of my fpeculations, fhall be carried on with the fame fincerity as any other affair of lefs confideration. As this is the greatest concern, men fhall be from henceforth liable to the greatest reproach for misbehaviour in it. Falfhood in love fhall hereafter bear a blacker aspect than infidelity in friendship, or villany in bufinefs. For this great and good end, all breaches against that noble paflion, the cement of fociety, fhall be feverely examined. But this and all other matters loosely hinted at and in my former papers, fhall have their proper place in my following difcourfes: the prefent writing is only to admonish the world, that they shall not find me an idle but a busy spectator. R.
Tuesday, March 6.
Spectatum admiffi rifum teneatis ?
Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 5.
Admitted to the fight, wou'd you not laugh?
AN opera may be allowed to be extravagantly
lavifh in its decorations, as its only defign is to gratify the fenfes, and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Common fenfe however requires, that there fhould be nothing in the scenes and machines which may appear childish and abfurd. How would the wits of king Charles's time have laughed to have feen Nicolini expofed to a tempeft in robes of ermine, and failing in an open boat upon a fea of pafteboard? what a field of raillery would they have been let into, had they been entertained with painted dragons fpitting wild-fire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landscapes? a little fkill in criticism would inform us, that fhadows and realities ought not to be mixed together in the fame piece; and that the scenes which are defigned as the representations of nature fhould be filled with refemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would reprefent a wide champaign country filled with herds and flocks, it would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd feveral parts of the stage with theep and oxen. This is joining together inconfiftencies, and making the decoration partly real and partly imaginary. I would recommend what I have here faid, to the directors, as well as to 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 fhoulder; 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 fame
curiofity. Upon his afking him what he had upon his fhoulder, he told him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. Sparrows for the opera, fays his friend, licking his lips, what are they to be roafted? no, no, fays the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to fly about the stage.
This ftrange dialogue awakened my curiofity fo far, that I immediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived the fparrows were to act the part of finging-birds in a delightful grove; though upon a nearer inquiry I found the fparrows put the fame trick upon the audience, that fir Martin Mar-all practifed upon his miftrefs; for though they flew in fight, the mufic proceeded from a concert of flagelets and birdcalls which were planted behind the scenes. At the fame time I made this discovery, I found by the difcourse of the actors, that there were great defigns on foot for the improvement of the opera; that it had been propofed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horfe, and that there was actually a project of bringing the Newriver into the houfe, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have fince heard, is poftponed till the fummer-feafon; when it is thought the coolnefs that proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the mean time, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter-feafon, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire-works; 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 cafe any fuch accident fhould happen. However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wife enough to infure his house before he would let this opera be acted in it.
It is no wonder, that thofe fcenes should be very furprifing, which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different fexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument) was an
Amazonian enchantrefs, and poor feignior Caffani (as we learn from the perfons reprefented) a chriftian-conjurer (Mago Chriftiano.) I must confefs I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be verfed in the black art, or how a good chriftian, for fuch is the part of the magician, fhould deal with the devil.
To confider the poet after the conjurers, I fhall give you a taste of the Italian from the first lines of his preface. Eccoti, benigno lettore, un parto di poche fere, che fe ben nato di notte, non è però aborto di tenebre, mà st farà conofcere figlio d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnaffe. Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few evenings, which, though it be the offspring of the night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make itself known to be the fon of Apollo, with a certain ray of Parnaffus. He afterwards proceeds to call mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the fame fublimity of ftyle, that he compofed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits, to whofe taftes we fo ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians exprefs themselves in such a florid form of words, and fuch tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country; and at the fame time fill their writings with fuch poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are afhamed 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 fhew there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, fuch as Cicero and Virgil, we fhall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expreffing themselves, refemble thofe 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 monfieur Boileau, that one verfe in Virgil is worth all the clinquant or tinfel of Taffo.
But to return to the fparrows; there have been fo many flights of them let loofe 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 fcenes, fo as to be feen flying in a lady's