« VorigeDoorgaan »
ent circumstances of the story give occasion for it. He performs the most ordinary action in a manner suitable to the greatness of his character, and shews the prince even in the giving of a letter, or dispatching of a message. Our best actors are somewhat at a loss to support themselves with proper gesture, as they move from any considerable distance to the front of the stage ; but I have seen the person of whom I am now speaking, enter alone at the remotest part of it, and advance from it with such greatness of air and mien, as seemed to fill the stage, and at the same time commanded the attention of the audience with the majesty of his appearance. But notwithstanding the dignity and elegance of this entertainment, I find for some nights past, that Punchinello has robbed this gentleman of the greater part of his female spectators. The truth of it is, I find it so very hard a task to keep that sex under any manner of government, that I have often resolved to give them over entirely, and leave them to their own inventions, I was in hopes, that I had brought them to some order, and was employing my thoughts on the reformation of their petticoats, when on a sudden I received information from all parts, that they run gadding after a puppet-show. I know very well, that what I here say, will be thought by some malicious persons to flow from envy to Mr. Powell; for which reason I shall set the late dispute between us in a true light. Mr. Powell and I had some difference about four months ago, which we managed by way of letter, as learned men ought to do; and I was very well contented to bear such sarcasms as he was pleased to throw upon me, and answered them with the same freedom. In the midst of this our misunderstanding and correspondence, I happened to give the
I world an account of the order of esquires; upon which Mr. Powell was so disingenuous, as to make one of his puppets (I wish I knew which of them it was) declare by way of prologue, that one Isaac Bickerstaff,
a pretended esquire, had wrote a scurrilous piece to the dishonour of that rank of men ; and then, with more art than honesty, concluded, that all the esquires in the pit were abused by his antagonist as much as he was. This public accusation made all the esquires of that county, and several other parts, my professed enemies. I do not in the least question, but that he will proceed in his hostilities ; and I am informed, that part of his design in coming to town, was to carry the war into my own quarters. I do therefore solemnly declare, (notwithstanding that I am a great lover of art and ingenuity) that if I hear he opens any of his people's mouths against me, I shall not fail to write a critique upon his whole performance; for I must confess, that I have naturally so strong a desire of praise, that I cannot bear reproach, though from a piece of timber. As for Punch, who takes all opportunities of bespattering me, I know very well his original, and have been assured by the joiner who put him together, that he was in long dispute with himself, whether he should turn him into several pegs and utensils, or make him the man he is. The same person confessed to me, that he had once actually laid aside his head for a nut-cracker. As for his scolding wife, (however she may value herself at present) it is very well known, that she is but a piece of crab tree. This artificer farther whispered in my ear, that all his courtiers and nobles were taken out of a quickset hedge nei far from Islington; and that Dr. Faustus himself, who is now so great a conjurer, is supposed to have learned his whole art from an old woman in that neighbourhood, whom he long served in the figure of a broomstaff.
But perhaps it may look trivial to insist so much upon men's persons; I shall therefore turn my thoughts rather to examine their behaviour, and consider, whether the several parts are written 'up to that character which Mr. Powell piques himself upon, of an able and
judicious dramatist. I have for this purpose provided myself with the works of above lwenty French critics, and shall examine (by the rules which they have laid down upon the art of the stage) whether the unity of tiine, place, and action, be rightly observed in any one of this celebrated author's productions; as also, whether in the parts of his several actors, and that of Punch in particular, there is not sometimes an impropriety of sentiments, and an impurity of diction.
White's Chocolate-house, January 2. I CAME in here to day at an hour when only the dead appear in places of resort and gallantry, and saw hung up the escutcheon of Sir Hannibal, a gentleman who used to frequent this place, and was taken up and interred by the company of Upholders, as having been seen here at an unlicensed heur. The coat of the deceased is, three bowls and a jack in a green field; the crest, a dice-box, with the king of clubs and pam for supporters. Some days ago the body was carried out of town with great pomp and ceremony, in order to be buried with his ancestors at the Peak. It is a maxim in morality, that we are to speak nothing but truth of the living, nothing but good of the dead. As I have carefully observed the first during his life-time, I shall acquit myself as to the latter now he is deceased.
Ile was knighted very young, not in the ordinary form, but by the common consent of mankind.
He was in his person between round and square ; in the motion and gesture of his body he was unaifected and free, as not having too great a respect for superiors. He was in his discourse bold and intrepid; and as every one has an excellence as well as a failing which distinguishes him from other men, eloquence was his predominant quality, which he had to so great a perfection, that it was easier to him to speak than to
hold his tongue. This sometimes exposed him to the derision of men who had much less parts than himself: and indeed his great volubility and inimitable manner of speaking, as well as the great courage he shewed on those occasions, did sometimes betray him into that figure of speech which is commonly distinguished by the name of gasconade. To mention no other, he professed in this very place some few days before he died, that he would be one of the six that would undertake to assault me ; for which reason I have had his figure upon my wall till the hour of his death ; and am resolved for the future to bury every one forthwith who I hear has an intention to kill me.
Since I am upon the subject of my adversaries, I shall here publish a short letter which I have received from a well-wisher, and is as follows:
“ SAGE SIR,
“ YOU cannot but know, there are many scrib« blers, and others, who revile you and your writings. " It is wondered that you do not exert yourself, and a crush them at once.
“(With great respect)
6 and Disciple.”
In answer to this, I shall act like my predecessor Æsop, and give him a fable instead of a reply.
It happened one dla v, as a stout and honest mastiff (that guarded the village where he lived against thieves and robbers) was very gravely walking, with one of his puppies by his side, all the little dogs in the street gathered about him, and barked at him. The little puppy was so offended at this affront done to his sire, that he asked him, Why he would not fall upon them, and tear them to pieces ? To which the sire answered, with a great composure of mind, “ If there were no
curs, I should be no mastiff.”
Sheer-lane, January 4. THE court being prepared for proceeding on the cause of the petticoat, I gave orders to bring in a criminal who was taken up as she went out of the puppet-show about three nights ago, and was now standing in the street with a great concourse of people about her. Word was brought me, that she had endeavoured twice or thrice to come in, but could not do it by reason of her petticoat, which was too large for the entrance of my house, though I had ordered both the folding doors to be thrown open for its reception. Upon this, I desired a jury of matrons, who stood at my right hand, to inform themselves of her condition, and know whether there were any private reasons why she might not make her appearance separate from her petticoal. This was managed with great discretion, and had such an effect, that upon the return of the verdict from the bench of matrons, I issued out an order forthwith, that the criminal should be stripped of her incumbrances, till she became little enough to enter my house. I had before given direction for an engine of several legs, that could contract or open itself like the top of an umbrella, in order to place the petticoat upon it, by which means I might take a leisurely survey of it, as it should appear in its proper dimensions. This was all done accordingly; and forthwith, upon the closing of the engine, the petticoat was brought into court. I then directed the machine to be set upon the table, and dilated in such a manner as to shew the garment in its utmost circumference; but my great hall was too narrow for the experiment; for before it was half unfolded, it described so immoderate a circle, that the lower part of it brush