Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]

down-right raillery from that side. According as he sees his practice succeed, he goes to the opposite party, and tells him, he cannot imagine how it happens that some people know one another so little; You spoke with so much coldness `of a gentleman who said more good of you, than, let me tell you, any man living deserves.' The success of one of these incidents was, that the next time one of the adversaries spied the other, he hems after him in the public street, and they must crack a bottle at the next tavern, that used to turn out of the other's way to avoid one another's eye-shot. He will tell one beauty she was commended by another, nay, he will say she gave the woman he speaks to the preference in a particular for which she herself is admired. The pleasantest confusion imaginable is made through the whole town by my friend's indirect offices. You shall have a visit returned after half a year's absence, and mutual railing at each other every day of that time. They meet with a thousand lamentations for so long a separation, each party naming herself for the greatest delinquent, if the other can possibly be so good as to forgive her, which she has no reason in the world, but from the knowledge of her goodness, to hope for. Very often a whole train of railers of each side tire their horses in setting matters right which they have said during the war between the parties; and a whole circle of acquaintance are put into a thousand pleasing passions and sentiments, instead of the pangs of anger, envy, detraction, and malice.

The worst evil I ever observed this man's falsehood occasion, has been, that he turned detraction into flattery. He is well skilled in the manners of the world, and by overlooking what men really

are, he grounds, his artifices upon what they have a mind to be. Upon this foundation, if two distant friends are brought together, and the cement seems to be weak, he never rests until he finds new appearances to take off all remains of ill-will, and that by new misunderstandings they are thoroughly reconciled.

( SIR,

[ocr errors]


Devonshire, Nov. 14, 1711.

THERE arrived in this neighbourhood two days ago one of your gay gentlemen of the town, who being attended at his entry with a servant of his own, besides a countryman he had taken up for a guide, excited the curiosity of the village to learn whence and what he might be. The countryman (to whom they applied as most easy of access) knew little more than that the gentleman came from London to travel and see fashions, and was, as he heard say, a free-thinker.* What religion that might be, he could not tell: and for his own part, if they had not told him the man was a free-thinker, he should have guessed, by his way of talking, he was little better than a heathen; excepting only that he had been a good gentleman to him, and made him drunk twice in one day, over and above what they had bargained for.

'I do not look upon the simplicity of this, and several odd inquiries with which I shall not trouble you, to be wondered at, much less can I think that our youths of fine wit, and enlarged underThere is no standings, have any reason to laugh.

*The person here alluded to was probably Mr. Toland, who is said by the Examiner to have been the butt of the Tatler and Spectator.

necessity that every 'squire in Great Britain should know what the word free-thinker stands for; but it were much to be wished, that they who value themselves upon that conceited title, were a little better instructed in what it ought to stand for; and that they would not persuade themselves a man is really and truly a free-thinker, in any tolerable sense, merely by virtue of his being an atheist, or an infidel of any other distinction. It may be doubted with good reason, whether there ever was in nature a more abject, slavish, and bigotted generation than the tribe of beauxesprits, at present so prevailing in this island. Their pretension to be free-thinkers, is no other than rakes have to be free-livers, and savages to be free-men; that is, they can think whatever they have a mind to, and give themselves up to whatever conceit the extravagancy of their inclination, or their fancy, shall suggest; they can think as wildly as they talk and act, and will not endure that their wit should be controlled by such formal things as decency and common sense. Deduction, coherence, consistency, and all the rules of reason they accordingly disdain, as too precise and mechanical for men of a liberal education.

This, as far as I could ever learn from their writings, or my own observation, is a true account of the British free-thinker. Our visitant here, who gave occasion to this paper, has brought with him a new system of common sense, the particu Jars of which I am not yet acquainted with, but will lose no opportunity of informing myself whether it contain any thing worth Mr. Specta→ tor's notice. In the mean time, sir, I cannot but think it would be for the good of mankind, if you would take this subject into your consideration, and convince the hopeful youth of our nation, that

licentiousness is not freedom; or, if such a paradox will not be understood, that a prejudice towards atheism is not impartiality.

[blocks in formation]

THERE is nothing which lies more within the province of a Spectator than public shows and diversions; and as among these there are none which can pretend to vie with those elegant éntertainments that are exhibited in our theatres, I think it particularly incumbent on me to take notice of every thing that is remarkable in such numerous and refined assemblies.

It is observed, that of late years there has been a certain person in the upper gallery of the playhouse, who when he is pleased with any thing that is acted upon the stage, expresses his approbation by a loud knock upon the benches or the wainscot, which may be heard over the whole theatre. The person is commonly known by the name of the Trunk-maker in the upper gallery.' Whether it be that the blow he gives on these occasions resembles that which is often heard in the shops of such artisans, or that he was supposed to have been a real trunk-maker, who, after the

finishing of his day's work, used to unbend his mind at these public diversions with his hammer in his hand, I cannot certainly tell. There are some, I know, who have been foolish enough to imagine it is a spirit which haunts the upper gallery, and from time to time makes those strange noises; and the rather, because he is observed to be louder than ordinary every time the ghost of Hamlet appears. Others have reported, that it is a dumb man, who has chosen this way of uttering himself when he is transported with any thing he sees or hears. Others will have it to be the playhouse thunderer, that exerts himself after this manner in the upper gallery; when he has nothing to do upon the roof.

But having made it my business to get the best information I could in a matter of this moment, I find that the trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large, black man, whom nobody knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant with great attention to every thing that passes upon the stage. He is never seen to smile; but upon hearing any thing that pleases him, he takes up his staff with both hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands in his way with exceeding vehemence: after which, he composes himself in his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again at work.

It has been observed, his blow is so well timed, that the most judicious critic could never except against it. As soon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or any uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or wainIf the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time; and if the audience is not yet awakened, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which


« PředchozíPokračovat »