Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

ܪ

which has excited either attention or praise, has pass at the foot of the Alps, found himself at last owed part of its success to merit, and part to a in a country where the inhabitants had each a happy concurrence of circumstances in its favour. large excrescence depending from the chin, like Had Cæsar or Croinwell exchanged countries, the the pouch of a monkey. This deformity, as it one might have been a sergeant, and the other an was endemic, and the people little used to stranexciseman. So it is with wit, which generally gers, it had been the custom, time immemorial, to succeeds more from being happily addressed, than look upon as the greatest ornament of the human from its native poignancy. A bon mot, for in- visage. Ladies grew toasts from the size of their stance, that might be relished at White's, may chins; and none were regarded as pretty fellows, lose all its flavour when delivered at the Cat and but such whose faces were broadest at the bottom. Bagpipes in St. Giles's. A jest, calculated to It was Sunday, a country church was at hand, spread at a gaming-table, may be received with a and our traveller was willing to perform the duties perfect neutrality of face, should it happen to drop of the day. Upon his first appearance at the in a mackerel-boat. We have all seen dunces church-door, the eyes of all were naturally fixed triumph in such companies, when men of real hu- upon the stranger ; but what was their amazemour were disregarded, by a general combination ment, when they found that he actually wanted in favour of stupidity. To drive the observation that emblem of beauty, a pursed chin! This was as far as it will go, should the labours of a writer, a defect that not a single creature had sufficient who designs his performances for readers of a gravity (though they were noted for being grave) more refined appetite, fall into the hands of a de- to withstand. Stifled bursts of laughter, winks vourer of compilations, what can he expect but and whispers, circulated from visage to visage, and contempt and confusion ? If his merits are to be the prismatic figure of the stranger's face was a determined by judges, who estimate the value of fund of infinite gaiety ; even the parson, equally a book from its bulk, or its frontispiece, every rival remarkable for his gravity and chin, could hardly must acquire an easy superiority, who, with per- refrain joining in the good-humour. Our traveller suasive eloquence, promises four extraordinary could no longer patiently continue an object for pages of letter-press, or three beautiful prints, curi- deformity to point at. “Good folks,” said he, “I ously coloured from nature.

perceive that I am the unfortunate cause of all this But to proceed : though I cannot promise as good-humour. It is true, I may have faults in much entertainment, or as much elegance, as abundance ; but I shall never be induced to reckothers have done, yet the reader may be assured, on my want of a swelled face among the numhe shall have as much of both as I can. He shall, at least, find me alive while I study his entertainment ;

for I solemnly assure him, I was never yet possessed of the secret at once of writing and sleeping.

During the course of this paper, therefore, all the wit and learning I have are heartily at his service ; which if, after so candid a confession, he

Imitated from the Spanish. should, notwithstanding, still find intolerably dull, low, or sad stuff, this I protest is more than I

Lumine Acon dextro, capta est Leonida sinistro, know. I have a clear conscience, and am entirely

Et poterat formâ vincere uterque Deos. out of the secret.

Parve puer, lumen quod habes concede puellæ ; Yet I would not have him, upon the perusal of

Sic tu cæcus amor, sic erit illa Venus. a single paper, pronounce meincorrigible; he may try a second, which, as there is a studied difference in subject and style, may be more suited to his taste ; if this also fails, I must refer him to a

REMARKS ON OUR THEATRES. third, or even to a fourth, in case of extremity. If he should still continue to be refractory, and

Our Theatres are now opened, and all Grubfind me dull to the last, I must inform him, with

street is preparing its advice to the managers. We Bays in the Rehearsal, that I think him a very odd shall undoubtedly hear learned disquisitions on kind of a fellow, and desire no more of his ac

the structure of one actor's legs, and another's eyequaintance.

brows. We shall be told much of enunciations, It is with such reflections as these I endeavour tones, and attitudes ; and shall have our lightest to fortify myself against the future contempt or

pleasure commented upon by didactic dulness. neglect of some readers, and am prepared for their

We shall, it is feared, be told, that Garrick is a dislike by mutual recrimination. If such should fine actor ; but then as a manager, so avaricious! impute dealing neither in battles nor scandal to

That Palmer is a most surprising genius, and Holme as a fault, instead of acquiescing in their censure, I must beg leave to tell them a story.

* Dr. Goldsmith inserted this Introduction, with a

few trifling alterations, in the volume of Essays he A traveller, in his way to Italy, happening to published in the year 1765.

ber."*

BLIND WITH

ON A BEAUTIFUL YOUTH STRUCK

LIGHTNING.

[ocr errors]

land likely to do well in a particular cast of character. We shall have them giving Shuter instructions to amuse us by rule, and deploring over the ruins of desolated majesty at Covent-Garden. As I love to be advising too, for advice is easily given, and bears a show of wisdom and superiority, I must be permitted to offer a few observations upon our theatres and actors, without, on this trivial occasion, throwing my thoughts into the formality of method.

There is something in the deportment of all our players infinitely more stiff and formal than among the actors of other nations. Their action sits uneasy upon them; for, as the English use very little gesture in ordinary conversation, our English-bred actors are obliged to supply stage gestures by their imagination alone. A French comedian finds proper models of action in every company and in every coffee-house he enters. An Englishman is obliged to take his models from the stage itself ; he is obliged to imitate nature from an imitation of nature. I know of no set of men more likely to be improved by travelling than those of the theatrical profession. The inhabitants of the continent are less reserved than here ; they may be seen through upon a first acquaintance ; such are the proper models to draw from ; they are at once striking, and are found in great abundance.

Though it would be inexcusable in a comedian to add any thing of his own to the poet's dialogue, yet, as to action, he is entirely at liberty. By this he may show the fertility of his genius, the poignancy of his humour, and the exactness of his judgment : we scarcely see a coxcomb or a fool in common life, that has not some peculiar oddity in his action. These peculiarities it is not in the power of words to represent, and depend solely upon the actor. They give a relish to the humour of the poet, and make the appearance of nature more illusive. The Italians, it is true, mask some characters, and endeavour to preserve the peculiar humour by the make of the mask ; but I have seen others still preserve a great fund of humour in the face without a mask ; one actor, particularly, by a squint which he threw into some characters of low life, assumed a look of infinite stolidity. This, though upon reflection we might condemn, yet innmediately upon representation we could not avoid being pleased with. To illustrate what I have been saying by the plays which I have of late gone to see : in the Miser, which was played a few nights ago at Covent-Garden, Lovegold appears through the whole in circumstances of exaggerated avarice ; all the player's action, therefore, should conspire with the poet's design, and represent him as an epitome of penury. The French comedian, in this character, in the midst of one of his most violent passions, while he appears in an ungovernable rage, feels the demon of avarice still upon him, and stoops down to pick up a pin, which he quilts into the flap of his coatpocket with great assiduity. Two candles are

lighted up for his wedding; he flies, and turns one of them into the socket : it is, however, lighted up again ; he then steals to it, and privately crams it into his pocket. The Mock-Doctor was lately played at the other house. Here again the comedian had an opportunity of heightening the ridicule by action. The French player sits in a chair with a high back, and then begins to show away by talking nonsense, which he would have thought Latin by those who he knows do not understand a syllable of the matter. At last he grows enthusiastic, enjoys the admiration of the company, tosses his legs and arnis about, and, in the midst of his raptures and vociferation, he and the chair fall back together. All this appears dull enough in the recital, but the gravity of Cato could not stand it in the representation. In short, there is hardly a character in comedy to which a player of any real humour might not add strokes of vivacity that could not fail of applause. But, instead of this we too often see our fine gentlemen do nothing, through a whole part, but strut and open their snuff-box; our pretty fellows sit indecently with their legs across, and our clowns pull up their breeches. These, if once, or even twice repeated, might do well enough ; but to see them served up in every scene, argues the actor almost as barren as the character he would expose.

The magnificence of our theatres is far superior to any others in Europe, where plays only are acted. The great care our performers take in painting for a part, their exactness in all the minutiæ of dress, and other little scenical properties, have been taken notice of by Ricoboni, a gentleman of Italy, who travelled Europe with no other design but to remark upon the stage ; but there are several improprieties still continued, or lately come into fashion. As, for instance, spreading a carpet punctually at the beginning of the death scene, in order to prevent our actors from spoiling their clothes ; this immediately apprises us of the tragedy to follow; for laying the cloth is not a more sure indication of dinner, than laying the carpet of bloody work at Drury-Lane. Our little pages also, with unmeaning faces, that bear up the train of a weeping princess, and our awkward lords in waiting, take off much from her distress. Mutes of every kind divide our attention, and lessen our sensibility ; but here it is entirely ridiculous, as we see them seriously employed in doing nothing. If we must have dirty-shirted guards upon the theatres, they should be taught to keep their eyes fixed on the actors, and not roll them round upon the audience, as if they were ogling the boxes.

Beauty, methinks, seems a requisite qualification in an actress. This seems scrupulously observed elsewhere, and, for my part, I could wish to see it observed at home. I can never conceive a hero dying for love of a lady totally destitute of beauty. I must think the part unnatural ; for I cannot bear to hear him call that face angelic, where even paint cannot hide its wrinkles. I must

condemn him of stupidity, and the person whom I An exultation in his own happiness, or his becan accuse for want of taste, will seldom become ing unable to enjoy any satisfaction without making the object of my affections or admiration. But if his friend Septimius a partner, prevailed upon him this be a defect, what must be the entire perver- to introduce his mistress to his fellow-student, sion of scenical decorum, when, for instance, we which he did with all the gaiety of a man who see an actress, that might act the Wapping land- found himself equally happy in friendship and love. lady without a bolster, pining in the character of But this was an interview fatal to the peace of Jane Shure, and while unwieldy with fat, endea- both. Septimius no sooner saw her, but he was vouring to convince the audience that she is dying smitten with an involuntary passion. He sed with hunger !

every effort, but in vain, to suppress desires at once For the future, then, I could wish that the parts so imprudent and unjust. He retired to his apartof the young or beautiful were given to performers ment in inexpressible agony; and the emotions of of suitable figures; for I must own, I could rather his mind in a short time became so strong, that see the stage filled with agreeable objects, though they brought on a fever, which the physicians they might sometimes bungle a little, than see it judged incurable. crowded with withered or misshapen figures, be During this illness, Alcander watched him with their emphasis, as I think it is called, ever so proper. all the anxiety of fondness, and brought his misThe first may have the awkward appearance of tress to join in those amiable offices of friendship. new raised troops ; but in viewing the last, I can- The sagacity of the physicians, by this means, soon not avoid the mortification of fancying myself discovered the cause of their patient's disorder; placed in an hospital of invalids.

and Alcander, being apprized of their discovery, at length extorted a confession from the reluctant dying lover.

It would but delay the narrative to describe the

conflict between love and friendship in the breast THE STORY OF ALCANDER AND SEPTIMIUS. of Alcander on this occasion; it is enough to say,

that the Athenians were at this time arrived to Translated from a Byzantine Historian. such refinement in morals, that every virtue was

carried to excess. In short, forgetful of his own ATHENS, even long before the decline of the

felicity, he gave up his intended bride, in all her Roman empire, still continued the seat of learning, charms, to the young Roman. They were married politeness, and wisdom. The emperors and gene- privately by his connivance; and this unlooked-for rals, who in these periods of approaching ignorance, change of fortune wrought as unexpected a change still felt a passion for science, from time to time in the constitution of the now happy Septimius. added to its buildings, or increased ils professor- In a few days he was perfectly recovered, and set ships. Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, was of the num- out with his fair partner for Rome. Here, by an ber; he repaired those schools, which barbarity exertion of those talents of which he was so emiwas suffering to fall into decay, and continued nently possessed, he in a few years arrived at the those pensions to men of learning, which avari- highest dignities of the state, and was constituted cious governors had monopolized to themselves. the city judge, or prætor.

In this city, and about this period, Alcander Meanwhile, Alcander not only felt the pain of and Septimius were fellow-students together. The being separated from his friend and mistress, but a one the most subtle reasoner of all the Lyceum ; prosecution was also commenced against him by the other the most eloquent speaker in the academic the relations of Hypatia, for his having basely given grove.

Mutual admiration soon begot an ac. her up, as was suggested, for money. Neither his quaintance, and a similitude of disposition made innocence of the crime laid to his charge, nor his them perfect friends. Their fortunes were nearly eloquence in his own defence, was able to withequal, their studies the same, and they were na- stand the influence of a powerful party. He was tives of the two most celebrated cities in the world ; cast, and condemned to pay an enormous fine. for Alcandar was of Athens, Septimius came from Unable to raise so large a sum at the time apRome.

pointed, his possessions were confiscated, himself In this mutual harmony they lived for some time stripped of the habit of freedom, exposed in the together, when Alcander, after passing the first market-place, and sold as a slave to the highest part of his youth in the indolence of philosophy, bidder. thought at length of entering into the busy world, A merchant of Thrace becoming his purchaser, and as a step previous to this, placed his affections Alcander, with some other companions of distress, on Hypatia, a lady of exquisite beauty. Hypatia was carried into the region of desolation and steshowed no dislike to his addresses. The day of rility. His stated employment was to follow the their intended nuptials was fixed, the previous herds of an imperious master; and his skill in ceremonies were performed, and nothing now re- hunting was all that was allowed him to supply a mained but her being conducted in triumph to the precarious existence. Condemned to hopeless apartment of the intended bridegroom.

servitude, every morning waked him to a renewal

a

of famine or toil, and every change of season serv- ing him in such circumstances. Thus agitated by ed but to aggravate his unsheltered distress. No- contending passions, he flew from his tribunal, and thing but death or flight was left him, and almost falling on the neck of his dear benefactor, burst certain death was the consequence of his attempt- into an agony of distress. The attention of the ing to fly. After some years of bondage, however, multitude was soon, however, divided by another an opportunity of escaping offered; he embraced it object. The robber who had been really guilty, with ardour, and travelling by night, and lodging was apprehended selling his plunder, and struck in caverns by day, to shorten a long story, he at with a panic, confessed his crime. He was brought last arrived in Rome. The day of Alcander's ar- bound to the same tribunal, and acquitted every rival, Septimius sat in the forum administering other person of any partnership in his guilt. Need justice; and hither our wanderer came, expecting the sequel be related? Alcander was acquitted, to be instantly known, and publicly acknowledged. shared the friendship and the honours of his friend Here he stood the whole day among the crowd, Septimius, lived afterwards in happiness and ease, watching the eyes of the judge, and expecting to and left it to be engraved on his tomb, “ That no be taken notice of; but so much was he altered by circumstances are so desperate which Providence a long succession of hardships, that he passed en

may not relieve.” tirely without notice ; and in the evening, when he was going up to the prætor's chair, he was brutally repulsed by the attending lictors. The at. tention of the poor is generally driven from one A LETTER FROM A TRAVELLER. ungrateful object to another. Night coming on, he now found himself under a necessity of seeking

Cracow, August 2, 1758. a place to lie in, and yet knew not where to apply. All emaciated and in rags as he was, none

MY DEAR WILL, of the citizens would harbour so much wretched- You see by the date of my letter that I am arness, and sleeping in the streets might be attend- rived in Poland. When will my wanderings be ed with interruption or danger: in short, he was at an end ? When will my restless disposition obliged to take up his lodging in one of the tombs give me leave to enjoy the present hour ? When without the city, the usual retreat of guilt, poverty, at Lyons, I thought all happiness lay beyond the or despair.

Alps : when in Italy, I found myself still in want In this mansion of horror, laying his head upon of something, and expected to leave solicitude bean inverted urn, he forgot his miseries for a while hind me by going into Romelia; and now you in sleep; and virtue found, on this flinty couch, find me turning back, still expecting ease every more ease than down can supply to the guilty. where but where I am. It is now seven years

It was midnight when two robbers came to make since I saw the face of a single creature who carthis cave their retreat, but happening to disagree ed a farthing whether I was dead or alive. Seabout the division of their plunder, one of them cluded from all the comforts of confidence, friendstabbed the other to the heart, and left him welter- ship, or society, I feel the solitude of a hermit, but ing in blood at the entrance. In these circum- not his ease. stances he was found next morning, and this natu- The prince of *** has taken me in his train, so rally induced a further inquiry. The alarm was that I am in no danger of starving for this bout. spread, the cave was examined, Alcander was The prince's governor is a rude ignorant pedant, found sleeping, and immediately apprehended and and his tutor a battered rake ; thus, between two accused of robbery and murder. The circum- such characters, you may imagine he is finely instances against him were strong, and the wretched- structed. I made some attempts to display all the ness of his appearance confirmed suspicion. Mis- little knowledge I had acquired by reading or obfortune and he were now so long acquainted, that servation ; but I find myself regarded as an igno-, he at last became regardless of life. He detested a rant intruder. The truth is, I shall never be able world where he had found only ingratitude, false- to acquire a power of expressing myself with ease hood, and cruelty, and was determined to make no in any language but my own; and, out of my own defence. Thus, lowering with resolution, he was country, the highest character I can ever acquire, dragged, bound with cords, before the tribunal of is that of being a philosophic vagabond. Septimius. The proofs were positive against him, When I consider myself in the country which and he offered nothing in his own vindication; the was once so formidable in war, and spread terror judge, therefore, was proceeding to doom him to a and desolation over the whole Roman empire, I most cruel and ignominious death, when, as if illu- can hardly account for the present wretchedness mined by a ray from Heaven, he discovered, and pusillanimity of its inhabitants : a prey to through all his misery, the features, though dim every invader ; their cities plundered without an with sorrow, of his long-lost, loved Alcander. It is enemy; their magistrates seeking redress by comimpossible to describe his joy and his pain on this plaints, and not by vigour. Every thing conspires strange occasion; happy in once more seeing the to raise my compassion for their miseries, were person he most loved on earth, distressed at find- not my thoughts too busily engaged by my own.

a

:

The whole kingdom is in a strange disorder : when our equipage, which consists of the prince and thirteen attendants, had arrived at some towns, there were no conveniences to be found, and we were obliged to have girls to conduct us to the next. I have seen a woman travel thus on horseback before us for thirty miles, and think herself highly paid, and make twenty reverences, upon receiving, with ecstacy, about twopence for her trouble. In general, we were better served by the women than the men on those occasions. The men seemed directed by a low sordid interest alone : they seemed mere machines, and all their thoughts were employed in the care of their horses. If we gently desired them to make more speed, they took not the least notice ; kind language was what they had by no means been used to. It was proper to speak to them in the tones of anger, and semetimes it was even necessary to use blows, to excite them to their duty. How different these from the common people of England, whom a blow might induce to return the affront seven fold! These poor people, however, from being brought up to vile usage, lose all the respect which they should have for themselves. They have contracted a habit of regarding constraint as the great rule their duty. When they were treated with mildness, they no longer continued to perceive a superiority. They fancied themselves our equals, and a continuance of our humanity might probably have rendered them insolent ; but the imperious tone, menaces and blows, at once changed their sensations and their

their ears and shoulders taught their souls to shrink back into servitude, from which they had for some moments fancied themselves disengaged.

The enthusiasm of liberty an Englishman feels is never so strong, as when presented by such prospects as these. I must own, in all my indigence, it is one of my comforts (perhaps, indeed, it is my only boast,) that I am of that happy country; though I scorn to starve there ; though I do not choose to lead a life of wretched dependence, or be an object for my former acquaintance to point at. While you enjoy all the ease and elegance of prudence and virtue, your old friend wanders over the world, without a single anchor to hold by, or a friend except you to confide in.*

Yours, etc.

The romantic system of Descartes was adapted to the taste of the superficial and the indolent; the foreign universities had embraced it with ardour, and such are seldom convinced of their errors till all others give up such false opinions as untenable. The philosophy of Newton, and the metaphysics of Locke, appeared ; but, like all new truths, they were at once received with opposition and contempt. The English, it is true, studied, understood, and consequently admired them ; it was very different on the continent. Fontenelle, who seemed to preside over the republic of letters, unwilling to acknowledge that all his life had been spent in erroneous philosophy, joined in the universal disapprobation, and the English philosophers seemed entirely unknown.

Maupertuis, however, made them his study; he thought he might oppose the physics of his country, and yet still be a good citizen ; he defended our countrymen, wrote in their favour, and at last, as he had truth on his side, carried his cause. Almost all the learning of the English, till very lately, was conveyed in the language of France. The writings of Maupertuis spread the reputation of his master, Newton, and, by a happy fortune, have united his fame with that of our human prodigy.

The first of his performances, openly, in vindication of the Newtonian system, is his treatise, entitled, Sur la figure des Astres, if I remember right ; a work at once expressive of a deep geometrical knowledge, and the most happy manner of delivering abstruse science with ease. This met with violent opposition from a people, though fond of novelty in every thing else, yet, however, in matters of science, attached to ancient opinions with bigotry. As the old and obstinate fell away, the youth of France embraced the new opinions, and now seem more eager to defend Newton than even his countrymen.

The oddity of character which great men are sometimes remarkable for, Maupertuis was not entirely free from. If we can believe Voltaire, be once attempted to castrate himself; but whether this be true or no, it is certain he was extremely whimsical. Though born to a large fortune, when employed in mathematical inquiries, be disregarded his person to such a degree, and loved retire. ment so much, that he has been more than once put on the list of modest beggars by the curates of Paris, when he retired to some private quarter of the town, in order to enjoy his meditations without interruption. The character given of him by one of Voltaire's antagonists, if he can be depended upon, is much to his honour. “You,” says this writer to Mr. Voltaire, “ were entertained by the King of Prussia as a buffoon, but Maupertuis as a philosopher.” It is certain, that the preference which this royal scholar gave to Maupertuis was the cause of Voltaire's disagreement with him. Voltaire could not bear to see a man whose talents he had no great opinion of preferred

ideas ;

[blocks in formation]

MR. MAUPERTUIs lately deceased, was the first to whom the English philosophers owed their being particularly admired by the rest of Europe.

* The sequel of this correspondence to be continued occasionally. I shall alter nothing either in the style or substance of these letters, and the reader may depend on their being genuine.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »