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Othello, &c. King Lear is an admirable | very often raise himself a loud clap by this
The tragi-comedy, which is the product of the English theatre, is one of the most monstrous inventions that ever entered into a poet's thoughts. An author might as well think of weaving the adventures of Æneas and Hudibras into one poem, as of writing such a motley piece of mirth and sorrow. But the absurdity of these performances is so very visible, that I shall not insist upon it.
The same objections which are made to tragi-comedy, may in some measure be applied to all tragedies that have a double plot in them; which are likewise more frequent upon the English stage, than upon any other; for though the grief of the audience, in such performances, be not changed into another passion, as in tragicomedies; it is diverted upon another object, which weakens their concern for the principal action, and breaks the tide of sorrow, by throwing it into different channels. This inconvenience, however, may, in a great measure be cured, if not wholly removed, by the skilful choice of an underplot, which may bear such a near relation to the principal design as to contribute to wards the completion of it, and be concluded by the same catastrophe.
There is also another particular, which may be reckoned among the blemishes, or rather the false beauties of our English tragedy: I mean those particular speeches which are commonly known by the name of rants. The warm and passionate parts of a tragedy, are always the most taking with the audience; for which reason we often see the players pronouncing, in all the violence of action, several parts of the tragedy which the author writ with great temper, and designed that they should have been so acted. I have seen Powell*
* Mr. George Powell, though moving in the same sphere with Betterton, Booth, Wilkes, &c. maintained no inconsiderable rank in the public estimation: un
I shall here add a remark, which I am afraid our tragic writers may make an ill use of. As our heroes are generally lovers, their swelling and blustering upon the stage very much recommends them to the fair part of their audience. The ladies are wonderfully pleased to see a man insulting kings, or affronting the gods in one scene, and throwing himself at the feet of his mistress in another. Let him behave himself insolently towards the men, and abjectly towards the fair one, and it is ten to one but he proves a favourite with the boxes. Dryden and Lee, in several of their tragedies, have practised this secret with good success.
But to show how a rant pleases beyond the most just and natural thought that is not pronounced with vehemence, I would desire the reader when he sees the tragedy of Edipus, to observe how quietly the hero is dismissed at the end of the third act, after having pronounced the following lines, in which the thought is very natural, and apt to move compassion:
formed for a tragedian, and, when he pleases, deserves the admiration of the best judges: as I doubt not but he
will in the Conquest of Mexico, which is acted for his
own benefit, to-morrow night.
No. 41.] Tuesday, April 17, 1711.
of the lady will do for this injured gentleman, but must allow he has very much justice on his side. I have indeed very long observed this evil, and distinguished those of our women who wear their own, from those in borrowed complexions, by the Picts and the British. There does not need any great discernment to judge which are which. The British have a lively animated aspect; the Picts, though never so beautiful,
Tu non inventa reperta es.
So found, is worse than lost.
COMPASSION for the gentleman who writes the following letter, should not pre-have dead uninformed countenances. The vail upon me to fall upon the fair-sex, if it muscles of a real face sometimes swell with were not that I find they are frequently soft passion, sudden surprise, and are flushfairer than they ought to be. Such impos-ed with agreeable confusions, according as tures are not to be tolerated in civil society, the objects before them, or the ideas preand I think his misfortune ought to be made sented to them, affect their imagination. public, as a warning for other men always But the Picts behold all things with the to examine into what they admire. same air, whether they are joyful or sad; all occasions. A Pict, though she takes all the same fixed insensibility appears upon that pains to invite the approach of lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain distance; a sigh in a languishing lover, if fetched too near her, would dissolve a feature; and a kiss snatched by a forward one, might transfer the complexion of the misthese false fair ones, without saying sometress to the admirer. It is hard to speak of thing uncomplaisant, but I would only recommend to them to consider how they like coming into a room new painted; they may assure themselves the near approach of a lady who uses this practice is much more
'SIR,-Supposing you to be a person of general knowledge, I make my application to you on a very particular occasion. I have a great mind to be rid of my wife, and hope, when you consider my case, you will be of opinion I have very just pretensions to a divorce. I am a mere man of the town, and have very little improvement, but what I have got from plays. I remember in The Silent Woman, the learned Dr. Cutberd, or Dr. Otter, (I forget which) makes one of the causes of separation to be Error Personæ, when a man marries a woman, and finds her not to be the same woman
whom he intended to marry, but another. If that be law, it is, I presume, exactly my Will Honeycomb told us, one day, an adcase. For you are to know, Mr. Spectator, venture he once had with a Pict. This that there are women who do not let their lady had wit, as well as beauty, at will; and husbands see their faces till they are mar-made it her business to gain hearts, for no Not to keep you in suspense, other reason but to rally the torments of plainly that part of the sex who paint. her lovers. She would make great adThey are some of them so exquisitely skil-vances to ensnare men, but without any ful this way, that give them but a tolerable manner of scruple break off when there was pair of eyes to set up with, and they will no provocation. Her ill nature and vanity make bosom, lips, cheeks, and eye-brows, the charms of her wit and conversation; but made my friend very easily proof against by their own industry. As for my dear, never was a man so enamoured as I was of her beauteous form, instead of being blemher fair forehead, neck, and arms, as well ished by her falsehood and inconstancy, as the bright jet of her hair; but, to my every day increased upon him, and she had great astonishment, I find they were all the new attractions every time he saw her. effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with When she observed Will irrevocably her this practice, that when she first wakes in slave, she began to use him as such, and after many steps towards such a cruelty, a morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to she at last utterly banished him. The unbed the night before. I shall take the happy lover strove in vain, by servile epistles, to revoke his doom, till at length he liberty to part with her by the first oppor- was forced to the last refuge, a round sum tunity, unless her father will make her portion suitable to her real, not her assumed of money to her maid. This corrupt atCountenance. This I thought fit to let him behind the hangings in her mistress's dresstendant placed him early in the morning and her know by your means. I am, Sir, ing-room. He stood very conveniently to your most obedient, humble servant.' observe, without being seen. The Pict begins the face she designed to wear that day, and I have heard him protest she had worked a full half hour before he knew her to be the same woman. As soon as he saw the dawn of that complexion for which he had so long languished, he thought fit to break from his concealment, repeating that verse of Cowley:
I cannot tell what the law, or the parents
Epicene, or The Silent Woman, a comedy by Ben Jonson.-It is much to be regretted that this fine comedy has for several years been totally neglected by the mana. gers of our theatres. Unless the public taste has greatly declined from what it was, this excellent performance would certainly be more acceptable than the flippant Valgar nonsense with which we are so often annoyed from the pens of some of our modern dramatists.
Such is the shout, the long applauding note, At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat Or when from court a birth-day suit bestow'd Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load. Booth entershark! the universal peal!But has he spoken-Not a syllableWhat shook the stage, and made the people stare? Cato's long wig, flowr'd gown, and lacker'd chair. Pope. ARISTOTLE has observed, that ordinary writers in tragedy endeavour to raise terror and pity in their audience, not by proper dresses and decorations of the stage. There sentiments and expressions, but by the the English theatre. When the author has is something of this kind very ridiculous in a mind to terrify us, it thunders; when he would make us melancholy, the stage is darkened. But among all our tragic artifices, I am the most offended at those which are made use of to inspire us with magnificent ideas of the persons that speak. The ordinary method of making a hero, is to
It is certain no faith ought to be kept with cheats, and an oath made to a Pict is of itself void. I would therefore exhort all the British ladies to single them out, nor do I know any but Lindamira who should be exempt from discovery; for her own complexion is so delicate that she ought to be allowed the covering it with paint, as a punishment for choosing to be the worst piece of art extant, instead of the master-clap a huge plume of feathers upon his piece of nature. As for my part, who have head, which rises so very high, that there no expectations from women, and consider is often a greater length from his chin to them only as they are part of the species, I the top of his head, than to the sole of his do not half so much fear offending a beauty foot. One would believe, that we thought a as a woman of sense; I shall therefore pro- great man and a tall man the same thing. duce several faces which have been in pub-who is forced to hold his neck extremely This very much embarrasses the actor,
stiff and steady all the while he speaks; and notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for his mistress, his country, or his friends, one may see by his action, that
How like is this lady, and how unlike is a Pict, to that description Dr. Donne gives
of his mistress?
lic these many years, and never appeared. It will be a very pretty entertainment in the playhouse, (when I have abolished this custom) to see so many ladies, when they first lay it down, incog. in their own faces. In the mean time, as a pattern for im-his greatest care and concern is to keep the proving their charms, let the sex study the plume of feathers from falling off his head. agreeable Statira. Her features are enFor my own part, when I see a man utterlivened with the cheerfulness of her mind, ing his complaints under such a mountain and good humour gives an alacrity to her of feathers, I am apt to look upon him raeyes. She is graceful without affecting anther as an unfortunate lunatic than a disair, and unconcerned without appearing tressed hero. As these superflucus ornacareless. Her having no manner of art in ments upon the head make a great man, a her mind, makes her want none in her princess generally receives her grandeur from those additional incumbrances that fall person. into her tail; I mean the broad sweeping train that follows her in all her motions, and finds constant employment for a boy who stands behind her to open and spread it to advantage. I do not know how others are affected at this sight, but I must confess, my eyes are wholly taken up with the page's part; and as for the queen, I am not so attentive to any thing she speaks, as to the right adjusting of her train, lest it should chance to trip up her heels, or incommode her, as she walks to and fro upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a very odd spectacle, to see a queen venting her passion in a disordered motion, and a little boy taking care all the while that they do not ruffle the tail of her gown. The parts that the two persons act on the stage at the same time are very different. The princess is afraid lest she should incur the displeasure of the king her father, or lose the hero her lover, whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should entangle her feet in her petticoat.
We are told, that an ancient tragic poet, to move the pity of his audience for his exiled kings and distressed heroes, used to
Th' adorning thee with so much art,
"Tis like the pois'ning of a dart,
The Pict stood before him in the utmost confusion with the prettiest smirk imaginable on the finished side of her face, pale as ashes on the other. Honeycomb seized all her galley-pots and washes, and carried off his handkerchief full of brushes, scraps of Spanish wool, and phials of unguents. The lady went into the country: the lover was
-Her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
A young gentlewoman of about nineteen years of age
(bred in the family of a person of quality, lately deceased) who paints the finest flesh-colour, wants a place, and is to be heard of at the house of Mynheer Grotesque,
a Dutch painter in Barbican.
N. B. She is also well skilled in the drapery part, and puts on hoods, and mixes ribands so as to suit the colours of the face with great art and success.
No. 42.] Wednesday, April 18, 1711.
Garganum mugire putes nemus, aut mare Tuscum;
Hor. Lib. 2. Ep. i. 202.
A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea of an army or a battle in a description, than if he actually saw them
make the actors represent them in dresses and clothes that were thread-bare and decayed. This artifice for moving pity, seems as ill-contrived as that we have been speak-drawn up in squadrons and battalions, or engaged in the confusion of a fight. Our minds should be opened to great conceptions, and inflamed with glorious sentiments by what the actor speaks more than by what he appears. Can all the trapping or equipage of a king or hero, give Brutus half that pomp and majesty which he re ceives from a few lines in Shakspeare?
ing of, to inspire us with a great idea of the persons introduced upon the stage. In short, I would have our conceptions raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or a plume of feathers.
Another mechanical method of making great men, and adding dignity to kings and queens, is to accompany them with halberds and battle-axes. Two or three shifters of scenes, with the two candle-snuffers, make
up a complete body of guards upon the En-No. 43.] Thursday, April 19, 1711.
glish stage; and by the addition of a few porters dressed in red coats, can represent above a dozen legions. I have sometimes seen a couple of armies drawn up together upon the stage, when the poet has been disposed to do honour to his generals. It is impossible for the reader's imagination to multiply twenty men into such prodigious multitudes, or to fancy that two or three hundred thousand soldiers are fighting in a room of forty or fifty yards in compass. Incidents of such a nature should be told, not represented.
Non tamen intus
Yet there are things improper for a scene, Which men of judgment only will relate.'
I should, therefore, in this particular, recommend to my countrymen the example of the French stage, where the kings and queens always appear unattended, and leave their guards behind the scenes. should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our stage the noise of drums, trumpets, and huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when there is a battle in the Haymarket theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing
Hæ tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem,
The tailor and the painter often contribute to the success of a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affect ordinary minds as much as speeches; and our actors are very sensible, that a well-dressed play has sometimes brought them as full audiences as a well-written one. The Italians have a very good phrase to express this art of imposing upon the spectators by appearances; they call it theFourberia della scena.' The knavery or trickish part of the drama.' But however the show and outside of the tragedy may work upon the vulgar, the more understanding part of the audience immediately see through it, and despise it.
Virg. Æn. vi. 853, Be these thy arts, to bid contention cease, Chain up stern war, and give the nations peace; O'er subject lands extend thy gentle sway, And teach with iron rod the haughty to obey. THERE are crowds of men whose great misfortune it is that they were not bound to mechanic arts or trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some contínual task or employment. These are such as we commonly call dull fellows; persons, who for want of something to do, out of a certain vacancy of thought, rather than curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. I cannot give you a notion of them better, than by presenting you with a letter from a gentleman, who belongs to a society of this order of men, residing at Oxford.
'Oxford, April 13, 1711, 4 o'clock in the morning. 'SIR,-In some of your late speculations, I find some sketches towards a history of clubs; but you seem to me to show them in somewhat too ludicrous a light. I have well weighed that matter, and think, that the most important negociations may best be carried on in such assemblies. I shall, therefore, for the good of mankind (which
I have here only touched upon those par-I trust you and I are equally concerned for ticulars which are made use of to raise and propose an institution of that nature for ex aggrandize the persons of a tragedy; and ample sake. shall show, in another paper, the several expedients which are practised by authors of a vulgar genius to move terror, pity, or admiration, in their hearers.
'I must confess that the design and transactions of too many clubs are trifling, ano manifestly of no consequence to the natior or public weal. Those I will give you up. But you must do me then the justice to own, that nothing can be more useful or laudable, than the scheme we go upen. To avoid nicknames and witticisms, we cal ourselves the Hebdomadal Meeting. Our president continues for a year at least, and sometimes four or five; we are all grave, serious, designing men, in our way: we think it our duty, as far as in us lies, tc take care the constitution receives no harm —Ne quid detrimenti res capiat publica.— To censure doctrines or facts, persons or things, which we do not like; to settle the nation at home, and carry on the war abroad, where and in what manner we see
fit. If other people are not of our opinion, | to their inquiries, which dull fellows do not
What the neutrality army is to do, or what the army in Flanders, and what two or three other princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and we wait impatiently for the coming in of the next Dyer, who you must know is our authentic intelligence, our Aristotle in politics. And, indeed, it is but fit there should be some dernier resort, the absolute decider of all controversies.
"We think we have at least done the bu-by the alacrity of their hearts. This consiness with the malcontents in Hungary, stitution in a dull fellow, gives vigour to and shall clap up a peace there. nonsense, and makes the puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that celebrated poem, which was written in the reign of King Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the wits of that age incomparable, was the effect of such a happy genius as we are speaking of. From among many other distichs no less to be quoted on this account, I cannot but recite the two following lines:
Verily, Mr. Spectator, we are much offended at the act for importing French wines. A bottle or two of good solid edifying port at honest George's, made a night cheerful, and threw off reserve. But this plaguy French claret will not only cost us more money, but do us less good. Had we been aware of it before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we would have petitioned to be heard upon that subject. But let that pass.
'I must let you know likewise, good sir, that we look upon a certain northern prince's march, in conjunction with infidels, to be palpably against our good-will and liking; and, for all monsieur Palmquist, a most dangerous innovation: and we are by no means yet sure, that some people are not at the bottom of it. At least my own private letters leave room for a politician, well versed in matters of this nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend of mine tells me.
'We were lately informed that the gallant trained-bands had patrolled all night long about the streets of London. We indeed could not imagine any occasion for it, we guessed not a tittle on it aforehand, we were in nothing of the secret; and that city tradesmen, or their apprentices, should do duty or work through the holidays, we thought absolutely impossible. But Dyer being positive in it, and some letters from other people, who had talked with some who had it from those who should know, giving some countenance to it, the chairman reported from the committee appointed to examine into that affair, that it was possible there might be something in it. I have much more to say to you, but my two good friends and neighbours, Dominic and Slyboots, are just come in, and the coffee is ready. I am, in the meantime, Mr. Spectator, your admirer and humble servant, 'ABRAHAM FROTH.'
You may observe the turn of their minds tends only to novelty, and not satisfaction in any thing. It would be disappointment to them, to come to certainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and put an end
'A painted vest Prince Voltager had on,
To bring these observations to some use
*Absurd as these lines are, they found an apologist
A painted vest Prince Voltager had on,
the skin of a poor painted Pict, as well as the skin of a
Munimenta Antiqua, vol. i. p. 186