Obrázky stránek

neighbourhood as well as in the family) they went on without minding me. I feated myfelf 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 feveral dreadful ftories of ghofts as pale as afhes that had stood at the feet of a bed, or walked over a church-yard by moon-light: and of others that had been. conjured into the Red-Sea, for disturbing people's reft, and drawing their curtains at midnight, with many other old womens fables of the like nature. As one fpirit raised another, I obferved that at the end of every story the whole company clofed their ranks, and crouded about the fire: I took notice in particular of a little boy, who was fo attentive to every story, that I am mistaken if he ventures to go to bed by him felf this twelve-month. Indeed they talked fo long that the imaginations of the whole affembly were manifeftly crazed, and, I am fure, will be the worfe for it as long as they live. I heard one of the girls, that had looked upon me over her fhoulder, afking 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 fome apprehenfions that I fhould be forced to explain myself if I did not retire; for which reafon I took the candle in my hand, and went up into my chamber, not without wondering at this unaccountable weakne's in reasonable creatures, that they should love to aftonish and terrify one another. Were I a father, I fhould take a particular care to preferve my children from thefe 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 foldier that has entered a breach, affrighted at his own fhadow; and look pale upon a little fcratching at his door, who the day before had marched up against a battery of cannon. There are inftances of perfons, who have been terrified even to diftraction, at the figure of a tree, or the fhaking of a bull-rufh. The truth of it is, I look upon a found imagination as the greatest bleffing of life, next to a clear judgment and a good confcience. In the mean time, fince there are very few whofe minds are not more or less fubject to thefe dreadful thoughts and

apprehenfions, we ought to arm ourselves against them by the dictates of reafon and religion, to pull the old woman out of our hearts (as Perfius expreffes 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 abfurdity. Or, if we believe, as many wife and good men have done, that there are fuch phantoms and apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an intereft in him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hand, and moderates them after fuch a manner, that it is impoffible 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 thofe who believe that all the regions of nature fwarm with fpirits; and that we have multitudes of spectators on all our actions, when we think ourselves moít alone : but instead of terrifying myself with fuch a notion, I am wonderfully pleased to think that I am always engaged with fuch an innumerable fociety, in fearching out the wonders of the creation, and joining in the fame confort of praise and adoration.

Milton has finely-described this mixed communion of men and fpirits in paradife; and had doubtlefs his eye upon a verfe in old Hefiod, which is almoft word for word the fame with his third line in the following paffage.

-Nor think, though men were none,

That heav'n would want fpectators, God want praife :
Millions of fpiritual creatures walk the earth
Unfeen, both when we wake and when we sleep;
All thefe with ceafelefs praise his works behold
Both day and night. How often from the fleep
Of echoing bill or thicket have we heard
Celeftial voices to the midnight air,
Sole, or refponfive each to other's note,
Singing their great Creator? oft in bands,
While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk,
With heav'nly touch of inftrumental founds,
In full harmonic number join'd, their fongs
Divide the night and lift our thoughts to heav'n.


N° 13.

Thursday, March 15.

behave ?


Dic mihi, fi fias tu leo, qualis eris ? Were you a lion, how would you THERE is nothing that of late years has afford

ed matter of greater amusement to the town than fignior Nicolini's combat with a lion in the HayMarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general fatisfaction 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 fent from the Tower every opera night, in order to be killed by Hydafpes; this report, though altogether groundless, fo univerfally prevailed in the upper regions of the play-houfe, that fome of the moft refined politicians in thofe parts of the audience gave it out in whisper, that the lion was a coufin-german of the tiger who made his appearance in king William's days, and that the ftage would be fupplied with lions at the public expence, during the whole feffion. Many likewife were the conjectures of the treatment which this lion was to meet with from the hands of fignior Nicolini ; fome fuppofed that he was to fubdue him in Recitativo, as Orpheus ufed to ferve the wild beafts in his time, and afterwards to knock him on the head ; fome 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: feveral, who pretended to have feen the opera in Italy, had informed their friends, that the lion was to act a part in HighDutch, and roar twice or thrice to a Thorough-Bafe, before he fell at the feet of Hydafpes. To clear up a matter that was fo variously reported, I have made it my business to examine whether this pretended lion is really the favage 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 fcenes laft winter, as I was thinking on fomething else, I accidentally juftled against a monftrous animal that extremely ftartled me, and upon my nearer furvey of it, appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion feeing me very much furprifed, told me, in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleafed: For, (fays he) I do not intend to hurt any body. I thanked him very kindly, and paffed by him and in a little time after faw him leap upon the stage, and act his part with very great applaufe. It has been obferved by feveral, that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice fince his first appearance; which will not feem ftrange, when I acquaint my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three feveral times. The firft lion was a candle-fruffer, who being a fellow of a tefty choleric temper over-did his part, and would not fuffer himself to be killed fo eafily as he ought to have done; befides, it was obferved of him, that he grew more furly every time he came out of the lion; and having dropt fome words in ordinary converfation, as if he had not fought his best, and that he fuffered himself to be thrown upon his back in the fcuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to difcard him and it is verily believed, to this day, that had he been brought upon the ftage another time he would certainly have done mischief. Befides it was objected against the firft lion, that he reared himself fo high upon his hinder paws, and walked in fo erect a pofture, that he looked more like an old man than a lion.

The fecond lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the play-house, and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profeffion. If the former was too furious, this was too fheepish, for his part; infomuch, that after a fhort modeft walk upon the ftage, he would fall at the firft touch of Hydafpes, without grappling with him, and giving him an opportunity of fhewing his variety of Italian trips: it is faid 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 fecond lion who treated me with fo much humanity behind the fcenes.

The acting lion at prefent is, as I am informed, a country-gentleman who does it for his diverfion, but defires his name may be concealed. He fays very handfomely, 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 pafs away an evening in this manner, than in gaming and drinking: but at the fame time fays, with a very agreeable raillery upon himfelf, that if his name fhould be known, the ill-natured world might call him, The afs in the lion's fkin. This gentleman's temper is made of fuch a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric, that he outdoes both his predeceffors, and has drawn together greater audiences than have been known in the memory of man.

I must not conclude my narrative, whout taking notice of a groundless report that has been raised, to a gentleman's difadvantage, of whom I muft declare myself an admirer; namely, that fignior Nicolini and the lion have been feen fitting peaceably by one another, and fmoking a pipe together behind the scenes; by which their common enemies would infinuate, that it is but a fham combat which they reprefent upon the ftage but upon inquiry I find, that if any fuch correfpondence has paffed between them, it was not till' the combat was over, when the lion was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received rules of the Drama. Befides, this is what is practifed every day in Westminster-Hall, where nothing is more ufual than to fee a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as foon as they are out of it.

I would not be thought in any part of this relation, to reflect upon fignior Nicolini, who in acting this part only complies with the wretched tafte of his audience; he knows very well, that the lion has many more admirers than himself; as they fay of the famous Equestrian ftatue on the Pont-Neuf at Paris, that more people go fee the horse, than the king who fits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a juft indignation to fee a perfon


« PředchozíPokračovat »