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increasing. Crassus, through woods and forests, to which he designs to add the neighbouring counties. These are great and noble instances of their magnificence. The players are my pictures, and their scenes my territories. By communicating the pleasure I take in them, it may in some measure add to men's gratifications this way, as viewing the choice and wealth of Eugenio and Crassus augments the enjoyments of those whom they entertain, with a prospect of such possessions as would not otherwise fall within the reach of their fortunes.
It is a very good office one man does another, when he tells him the manner of his being pleased; and I have often thought that a comment upon the capaci. ties of the players would very much improve the delight that way, and impart it to those who otherwise have no sense of it.
The first of the present stage are Wilks and Cibber, perfect actors in their different kinds. Wilks has a singular talent in representing the graces of nature ; Cibber the deformity in the affectation of them. Were I a writer of plays, I should never employ either of them in parts which had not their bent this way. This is seen in the inimitable strain and run of good humour which is kept up in the character of Wildair, and in the nice and delicate abuse of understanding in that of Sir Novelty. Cibber, in another light, hits exquisitely the flat civility of an affected gentlemanusher, and Wilks the easy frankness of a gentleman.
If you would observe the force of the same capacities in higher life, can any thing be more ingenious than the behaviour of Prince Harry when his father checks him ? Any thing more exasperating, than that of Richard, when he insults his superiors? To beseech gracefully, to approach respectfully, to pity, to mourn, to love, are the places wherein Wilks may be made to shine with the utmost beauty : to rally pleasantly, in
scorn artfully, to flatter, to ridicule, and to neglect, are what Cibber would perform with no less excellence.
When actors are considered with a view to their talents, it is not only the pleasure of that hour of action which the spectators gain from their performance, but the opposition of right and wrong on the stage, would have its force in the assistance of our judgments on other occasions. I have at present under my tutelage a young poet, who, I design, shall entertain the town the ensuing winter. And as he does me the honour to let me see his comedy as he writes it, I shall endeavour to make the parts fit the genius of the several actors, as exactly as their habits can their bodies. And because the two I have mentioned are to perform the principal parts, I have prevailed with the house to let the Careless Husband be acted on Tuesday next, that my young author may have a view of a play which is acted to perfection, both by them and all concerned in it, as being born within the walls of the theatre, and written with an exact knowledge of the abilities of the performers. Mr. Vilks will do his best in this play, because it is for his own benefit ; and Mr. Cibber, because he wrote it. Besides which, all the great beauties we have left in town, or within call of it, will be present, because it is the last play this
This opportunity will, I hope, inflame my pupil with such generous notions from seeing the fair assembly as will be then present, that his play may be composed of sentiments and characters proper to be presented to such an audience. His drama at present has only the outlines drawn. There are, I find, to be in it all the reverend offices of life, such as regard to parents, husbands, and honourable lovers, preserved with the utmost care ; and at the same time that agreeableness of behaviour, with the intermixture of pleasing passions as arise from innocence and virtue, interspersed in such a manner, as that to be charming and agreeable, shall appear the natural consequence of being virtuous. This great end is one of those I propose to do in my censorship; but if I find a thin house, on an occasion when such a work is to be promoted, my pupil shall return to his commons at Oxford, and Sheer-lane and the theatres be no longer correspondents.
No. CLXXXIII. SATURDAY, JUNE 10.
Fuit hæc sapientia quondam
From my own Apartment, June 9. WHEN men look into their own bosoms, and consider the generous seeds which are there planted, that might if rightly cultivated, ennoble their lives, and make their virtue venerable to futurity'; how can they, without tears, reflect on the universal degene. racy from that public spirit, which ought to be the first and principal motive of all their actions ? In the Grecian and Roman nations, they were wise enough to keep up this great incentive, and it was impossible to be in the fashion without being a patriot. All gallantry had its first source from hence ; and to want a warmth for the public welfare, was a defect so scandalous, that he who was guilty of it had no pretence to honour or manhood. What makes the depravity among us in this behalf the more vexatious and irksome to reflect upon, is, that the contempt of life is carried as far amongst us, as it could be in those memorable people ; and we want only a proper application of the qualities which are frequent among us to be as worthy as they. There is hardly a man to be found who will not fight upon any occasion which he thinks may taint his own honour. Were this motive as strong in every thing that regards the public, as it is in this our private case, no man would pass his life away without having distinguished himself by some gallant instance of his zeal towards it in the respective incidents of his life and profession. But it is so far otherwise, that there cannot at present be a more ridiculous animal than one who seems to regard the good of others. He in civil life, whose thoughts turn upon schemes which may be of general benefit, without farther reflection, is called a projector ; and the man whose mind seems intent upon glorious achievements, a knight-errant. The ridicule among us rurs strong against laudable actions ; nay, in the ordinary course of things, and the common regards of life, negligence of the public is an epidemic vice. The brewer in his excise, the merchant in his customs, and, for ought we know, the soldier in his muster-rolls, think never the worse of themselves for being guilty of their res. pective frauds towards the public. This evil is come to such a fantastical height, that he is a man of a public spirit, and heroically affected to his country, who can go so far as even to turn usurer with all he has in her funds. There is not a citizen in whose imagination such a one does not appear in the same light of glory, as Codrus, Scævola, or any other great name in old Rome. Were it not for the heroes of so much per cent, as have regard enough for themselves and their nation to trade with her with their wealth, the very notion of public love would long ere now have vanished from among us.
But however general custom may hurry us away in the stream of a common error, there is no evil, no crime, so great as that of being cold in matters which relate to the common good. This is in nothing more conspicuous than in a certain willingness to receive any thing that tends to the diminution of such as have been conspicuous in. struments in our service. Such inclinations proceed
from the most low and vile corruption of which the soul of man is capable. This effaces not only the practice, but the very approbation of honour and virtue; and has had such an effect, that to speak freely, the very sense of public good has no longer a part even in our conversations. Can then the most generous motive of life, the good of others, be so easily banished the breast of man? Is it possible to draw all our passions inward ? Shall the boiling heat of youth be sunk in pleasures, the ambition of manhood in selfish intrigues? Shall all that is glorious, all that is worth the pursuit of great minds, be so easily rooted out ? When the universal bent of a people seems diverted from the sense of their common good, and common glory, it looks like a fatality, and crisis of impending misfortune.
The generous nations we just now mentioned understood this so very well, that there was hardly an oration ever made which did not turn upon this
general sense, that the love of their country was the first and most essential quality in an honest mind. Demosthenes, in a cause wherein his fame, reputation, and fortune, were embarked, puts his all upon this issue : “ Let the Athenians (says he) be benevolent to « me, as they think I have been zealous for them.” This great and discerning orator knew there was nothing else in nature could bear him up against his adversaries, but this one quality of having shewn limself willing or able to serve his country. This certainly is the test of merit; and the first foundation for deserving good-will, is having it yourself. The adversary of this orator, at that time was Æschines, a man of wily arts and skill in the world who could, as occasion served, fall in with a national start of passion, or sullenness of humour, (which a whole nation is sometimes taken with as well as a private man) and by that means divert them from their common sense, into an aversion for receiving any thing in its true