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• I am quite of another opinion. She has, I will allow, a very pleasing aspect, 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 dress, 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 shall not allow her the praise of dress any more than I would call a plagiary an author.' When I threw my eye towards the next woman to her, Will spoke 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 person chastised by the inno
of her thoughts. Chastity, good-nature, and affability, are the graces that play in her countenance; ' she knows she is handsome, but she knows she is good. ' Conscious beauty adorned with conscious virtue! what a spirit is there in those eyes! what a bloom in that person! how is the whole woman expressed 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 sex, 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
I never enter into the commerce of discourse 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 those of the fight, I take it for a peculiar happiness that I have always had an easy and familiar admittance to the fair sex. If I never praised or Aattered, I never belied or contradicted them. As these compose half the world, VOL. I.
and are, by the just complaisance and gallantry of our nation, the more powerful part of our people, I shall dedicate a considerable share of these my speculations to their service, and shall lead the young through all the becoming duties of virginity, marriage, and widowhood. When it is a woman's day, in my works, I shall endeavour at a style and air suitable to their understanding. When I say this, I must be understood to mean, that I shall not lower but exalt the subjects I treat upon. Discourse for their entertainment, is not to be debased but refined. A man may appear learned without talking sentences, as in his ordinary gesture he discovers he can dance, though he does not cut capers. In a word, I shall take it for the greatest glory of my work, if anong reasonable women this paper may furnish teatable-talk. In order to it, I shall treat on matters which relate to females, as they are concerned to approach or fly from the other sex, or as they are tied to them by blood, interest, or affection. Upon this occasion I think it but reasonable to declare, that whatever skill I may have in speculation, I shall never betray what the eyes of lovers say to each other in my presence. At the same time I shall not think myself obliged, by this promise, to conceal any false protestations which I observe made by glances in public assemblies; but endeavour to make both sexes appear in their conduct what they are in their hearts. By this means, love, during the time of my speculations, shall be carried on with the same sincerity as any other affair of less consideration. As this is the greatest concern, men shall be from henceforth liable to the greatest reproach for misbehaviour in it. Falfhood in love shall hereafter bear a blacker aspect than infidelity in friendship, or villany in business. For this great and good end, all breaches against that noble paslion, the cement of society, shall be feverely examined. But this and all other matters loosely hinted at
shall have their proper place in my following discourses: the present writing is only to admonish the world, that they shall not find me an idle but a busy spectator.
now, and in
Tuesday, March 6.
Spectatum admisli risum teneatis ?
Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 5. Admitted to the fight, wou'd you not laugh?
An opera may be allowed to be extravagantly
lavish in its decorations, as its only design is to gratify the senses, and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Common sense however requires, that there should be nothing in the scenes and machines which may appear childish and absurd. How would the wits of king Charles's time have laughed to have seen Nicolini exposed to a tempest in robes of ermine, and failing in an open boat upon a fea of pasteboard? what a field of raillery would they have been let into, had they been entertained with painted dragons spitting wild-fire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landscapes ? a little skill in criticism would inform us, that shadows and realities ought not to be mixed together in the same piece; and that the scenes which are designed as the representations of nature should be filled with resemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would represent a wide champaign country filled with herds and flocks, it would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd several parts of the stage with theep and oxen. This is joining together inconsistencies, 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 ftreets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds
upon his shoulder; 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 same
curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, he told him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. Sparrows for the opera, says his friend, licking his lips, what are they to be roasted ? no, no, says the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to fly about the stage.
This strange dialogue awakened my curiosity so far, that I immediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived the sparrows were to act the part of finging-birds in a delightful grove ; though upon a nearer inquiry I found the sparrows put the same trick upon the audience, that fir Martin Mar-all practised upon his mistress ; for though they flew in sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flagelets and birdcalls which were planted behind the icenes. At the same time I made this discovery, I found by the discourse of the actors, that there were great designs on foot for the improvement of the opera ; that it had been proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horse, and that there was actually a project of bringing the Newriver into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have since heard, is poftponed till the summer-season ; when it is thought the coolness 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-season, 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 case any such accident should happen. However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before he would let this opera be acted in it.
It is no wonder, that those scenes should be very prising, which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument) was an
Amazonian enchantress, and poor feignior Casani (as we learn from the persons represented) a chriftian-conjurer (Mago Christiano.) I must confess I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art, or how a good christian, for such is the part of the magician, should deal with the devil.
To consider the poet after the conjurers, I shall give you a taste of the Italian from the first lines of his
preface. Eccoti, benigno lettore, un parto di poche fere, che se ben nato di notte, non è però aborto di tenebre, nà farà conoscere figlio d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnase. 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 son of Apollo, with a certain ray of Parnassus. He afterwards proceeds to call mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the same fublimity of style, that he composed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits, to whose tastes we so ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians express themselves in such a florid form of words, and such tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country; and at the same time fill their writings with such poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are ashamed of before they have been two years at the
university. Some may be apt to think that it is the difference of genjas which produces this difference in the works of the two nations, but to shew there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, such as Cicero and Virgil, we shall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expressing themselves, resemble those 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 monsieur Boileau, that one verse in Virgil is worth all the clinquent or tinsel of Talo.
But to return to the sparrows; there have been fo many flights of them let loose 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 scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's