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they have in the consciousness that they are the objects of love and admiration, are ever changing the air of their countenances, and altering the attitude of their bodies, to strike the hearts of the beholders with new fenfe of their beauty. The dreifing part of our fex, whofe minds are the fame with the fillier part of the other, are exactly in the like uneafy condition to be regarded for a well-tied cravat, an hat cocked with an unusual brifknefs, a very well-chofen coat, or other inftances of merit, which they are impatient to fee unobferved.
But this apparent affectation, arifing from an ill-governed confcioufnefs, is not fo much to be wondered at in fuch loofe and trivial minds as thefe; but when you fee it reign in characters of worth and distinction, it is what you cannot but lament, not without fome indignation. It creeps into the heart of the wife man as well as that of the coxcomb. When you fee a man of fenfe look about for applaufe, and discover an itching inclination to be commended; lays traps for a little incenfe, even from those whofe opinion he values in nothing but his own favour; who is fafe against this weakness? or who knows whether he is guilty of it or not? The best way to get clear of fuch a light fondness for applause, is to take all poffible care to throw off the love of it upon occafions that are not in themf Ives laudable, but as it appears, we hope for no praise from them. Of this nature are all graces in mens perfons, drefs and bodily deportment; which will naturally be winning and attractive if we think not of them, but lofe their force in proportion to our endeavour to make them fuch.
When our consciousness turns upon the main defign of life, and our thoughts are employed upon the chief purpose either in business or pleasure, we fhall never betray an affectation, for we cannot be guilty of it; but when we give the paffion for praife an unbridled liberty, our pleasure in little perfections robs us cf what is due to us for great virtues and worthy qualities. How many excellent fpeeches and honest actions are loft, for want of being indifferent where we ought? Men are oppreffed with regard to their way of speaking and acting, instead of having their thoughts bent upon what they should do or fay; and by that means bury a capacity for great things by their fear of failing in indifferent things. This, perhaps, cannot be called affectation: but it has fome tincture of it, at least so far, as that their fear of erring in a thing of no confequence, argues they would be too much pleafed in performing it.
It is only from a thorough difregard to himself in fuch particulars, that a man can act with a laudable fufficiency; his heart is fixed upon one point in view; and he commits no errors, because he thinks nothing an error but what deviates from that intention,
The wild havoc affectation makes in that part of the world which should be moft polite, is vifible where-ever we turn our eyes; it pufhes men not only into impertinencies in converfation, but alfo in their premeditated fpeeches. At the bar it tormerts the bench, whofe bufinefs it is to cut off all fuperfluities in what is fpoken before it by the practitioner; as well as feveral little pieces of injustice which arife from the law itfelf. I have feen it make a man run from the purpofs before a Judge, who was, when at the bar himself, so clofe and logical a pleader that with all the pomp
of eloquence in his power, he never spoke a word too much.
It might be borne even here, but it often afcends the pulpit itfelf: and the declaimer, in that facred place, is frequently fo impertinently witty, fpeaks of the laft day itself with fo many quaint phrafes, that there is no man who understands raillery, but muft refolve to fin no more: nay, you may behold him fometimes in prayer, for a proper delivery of the great truths he is to utter, humble himself with so very well-turned phrase, and mention his own unworthiness in a way fo very becoming, that the air of the pretty gentleman is preferved, under the lowlinefs of the preacher,
I fhall end this with a fhort letter I writ the other day to a witty man, over-run with the fault I am fpeaking of.
Spent fome time with you the other day, and must take the liberty of a friend to tell you of the unfufferable affectation you are guilty of in all you fay and do. When I gave you an hint of it, you asked me whether a man is to be cold to what his friends think of him? No: 'but praise is not to be the entertainment of every moment; he that hopes for it must be able to fufpend the poffeffion of it till proper periods of life, or death itself. If you would not rather be commended than be praife-worthy, contemn little merits; and allow no man to be fo free with you, as to praise you to your face. Your vanity by this means will want its food. At the fame time your paffion for esteem will be more fully gratified; men will praise you in their actions; where you now receive one compliment, you will then receive twenty civilities. Till then you will never have of either, further ‹ than, Sir, Your humble fervant,*
Sa perfect tragedy is the nobleft production of human nature, fo it is capable of giving the mind one of the most delightful and most imA virtuous man, fays proving entertainments. Seneca, ftruggling with misfortunes, is fuch a fpectacle as gods might look upon with pleasure; and fuch a pleasure it is which one meets with in the reprefentation of a well-written tragedy. Diverfions of this kind wear out of our thoughts every thing that is mean and little. They cher.th and cultivate that humanity which is the ornaThey foften infolence, footh ment of our nature. affliction, and subdue the mind to the difpenfations of providence.
It is no wonder therefore that in all the polite nations of the world, this part of the Drama has met with public encouragement,
The modern tragedy excels that of Greece and Rome in the intricacy and difpofition of the fa
ble; but, what a chriftian writer fhould be afhamed to own, fails infinitely short of it in the moral part of the performance.
This I may fhew more at large hereafter; and in the mean time, that I may contribute fomething towards the improvement of the English tragedy, I fhall take notice, in this and in other following papers, of fome particular parts in it that feem liable to exception.
Ariftotle obferves, that the Iambic verfe in the Greek tongue was the most proper for tragedy; because at the fame time that it lifted up the difcourfe from profe, it was that which approached nearer to it than any other kind of verfe. For, fays he, we may obferve that men in ordinary difcourfe very often speak Iambics, without taking notice of it. We make the fame obfervation of our English blank verfe, which often enters into our common difcourfe, though we do not attend to it, and is fuch a due medium between rhyme and profe, that it feems wonderfully adapted to tragedy. I am therefore very much offended when I fee a play in rhyme; which is as abfurd in English, as a tragedy of Hexameters would have been in Greek or Latin. The folecifm is, I think, ftill greater in thofe plays that have fome fcenes in rhyme and fome in blank verfe, which are to be looked upon as two feveral languages; or where we fee fome particular fimilies dignified with rhyme, at the fame time that every thing about them lies in blank verfe, I would not however debar the poet from concluding his tragedy, or, if he pleases every act of it, with two or three couplets, which may have the fame effect as an air in the Italian opera after a long Recitativo, and give the actor a graceful Exit. Befides, that we fee a diverfity of numbers in fome parts of the old tragedy, in order to hinder the ear from being tired with the fame continued modulation of voice. For the fame reason I do not diflike the fpeeches in our English tragedy that clofe with an Hemiftic, or half verfe, notwithstanding the perfon who fpeaks after it begins a new verfe, without filling up the preceding one: nor with abrupt paufes and breakings-off in the middle of a verfe, when they humour any paffion that is expreffed by it.
divefted of all its tragic ornaments. By this means without being impofed upon by words, we may judge impartially of the thought, and confider whether it be natural or great enough for the perfon that utters it, whether it deferves to thine in fuch a blaze of eloquence, or fhew itself in such a variety of lights as are generally made use of by the writers of our English tragedy.
Since I am upon this fubject, I muft obferve that our English poets have fucceeded much better in the ftile, than in the fentiments of their tragedies. Their language is very often noble and fonorous, but the fenfe either very trifling or very common. On the contrary, in the ancient tragedies, and indeed in thofe of Corneifle and Racine, though the expreffions are very great, it is the thought that bears them up and fwells them. For my own part, I prefer a noble fentiment that is depreffed with homely language, infinitely before a vulgar one that is blown up with all the found and energy of expreffion. Whether this defect in our tragedies may arife from want of genius, knowledge, or experience in the writers, or from their compliance with the vicious tafte of their readers, who are better judges of the language than of the fentiments, and confequently relish the one more than the other, I cannot determine, But I believe it might rectify the conduct both of the one and of the other, if the writer laid down the whole contexture of his dialogue in plain English, before he turned it into blank verfe; and if the reader, after the perufal of a scene, would confider the naked thought of every speech in it, when
I must in the next place obferve, that when our thoughts are great and juft, they are often obfcured by the founding phrafes, hard metaphors, and forced expreffions in which they are cloathed. Shakespear is often very faulty in this particular. There is a fine obfervation in Aristotle to this purpofe, which I have never seen quoted. The expreffion, fays he, cught to be very much laboured in the unactive parts of the fable, as in defcriptions, fimilitudes, narrations, and the like; in which the opinions, manners, and paffions of men are not represented; for thefe, namely the opinions, manners, and paffions, are apt to be obfcured by pompous phrafes and elaborate expreffions. Horace, who copied most of his criticisms after Ariftotle, feems to have had his eye on the foregoing rule, in the following verfes :
Et Tragicus plerumque dolet fermone pedeftri:
Among our modern English poets, there is none who was better turned for tragedy than Lee: if, inftead of favouring the impetuofity of his genius, he had reftrained it, and kept it within its proper bounds. His thoughts are wonderfully fuited to tragedy, but frequently loft in fuch a cloud of words, that it is hard to fee the beauty of them; there is an infinite fire in his works, but fo involved in fmoke, that it does not appear in half its luftre. He frequently fucceeds in the passionate parts of the tragedy, but more particulary where he flackens his efforts, and eafes the ftile of thofe epithets and metaphors, in which he fo much abounds. What can be more natural, more foft, or more paffionate, than that line in Statira's fpeech, where the defcribes the charms of Alexander's converfation?
Then he would talk- Good Gods; how he would
great a familiarity of phrafe in those parts, which, by Ariftotle's rule, ought to have been raised and fupported by the dignity of expreffion.
It has been obferved by others, that this poet has founded his tragedy of Venice Preferved on fo wrong a plot, that the greatest characters in it are those of rebels and traitors. Had the hero of his play difcovered the fame good qualities in the defence of his country, that he fhewed for its ruin and fubverfion, the audience could not enough pity and admire him; but as he is now reprefented, we can only fay of him what the Roman hiftorian fays of Catiline, that his fall would have been glorious (fi pro Patria fic concidiffet) had he fo fallen in the fervice of his country.
N° 40. MONDAY, APRIL 16.
Ac ne fortè putes, me, quæ facere ipfe recufem,
the tragedies that were written in either of these kinds, and obferves, that those which ended unhappily had always pleafed the people, and carried away the prize in the public difputes of the stage, from thofe that ended happily. Terror and commiferation leave a pleafing anguish in the mind; and fix the audience in fuch a ferious compofure of thought, as is much more lafting and delightful than any little tranfient starts of joy and fatisfaction. Accordingly we find, that more of our Englih tragedies have fucceeded, in which the favourites of the audience fink under their calamities, than thofe in which they recover themfelves out of them. The best plays of this kind are the Orphan, Venice Preferved, Alexander the Great, Theodofius, All for Love, Oedipus, Oroonoko, Othello, &c. King Lear is an admirable tragedy of the fame kind, as Shakespeare wrote it; but as it is reformed according to the chimerical notion of poetical justice, in my opinion it has loft half its beauty. At the fame time I muft allow, that there are very noble tragedies, which have been framed upon the other plan, and have ended happily; as indeed most of the good tragedies which have been writ ten fince the starting of the abovementioned criticifm, have taken this turn; as the Mourning Bride, Tamerlane, Ulyffes, Phædra and Hippolitus, with moft of Mr. Dryden's. I muft alfo allow, that many of Shakespeare's, and feveral of the celebrated tragedies of antiquity, are cast in the fame form, I do not therefore difpute against this way of writing tragedies, but against the criticism that would eftablish this as the only method: and by that means would very much cramp the English tragedy, and perhaps give a wrong bent to the genius of our wri
Yet left you think I rally more than teach,
HE English writers of tragedy are poffeffed
ΤΗ with a notion, that when they represent a
virtuous or innocent perfon in diftrefs, they ought not to leave him 'till they have delivered him out of his troubles, or made him triumph over his enemies. This error they have been led into by a ridiculous doctrine in modern criticifm, that they are obliged to an equal diftribution of rewards and punishments, and an impartial execution of poetical justice. Who were the first that established this rule I know not; but I am fure it has no foundation in nature, in reafon, or in the practice of the ancients. We find that good and evil happen alike to all men on this fide the grave; and as the principal defign of tragedy is to raife commiferation and terror in the minds of the audience, we fhall defeat this great end, if we always make virtue and innocence happy and fuccefsful. Whatever crofles and disappointments a good man fuffers in the body of the tragedy, they will make but small impreflion on cur minds, when we know that in the last act he is to arrive at the end of his wishes and defires. When we fee him engaged in the depth of his affictions, we are apt to comfort ourfelves, becaufe we are fure he will find his way out of them; and that his grief, how great foever it may be at prefent, will foon terminate in gladnefs. For this rea fon the ancient writers of tragedy treated men in their plays, as they are dealt with in the world, by making virtue fometimes happy and fometimes miferable, as they found it in the fable which they made choice of, or as it might affect their audience in the most agreeable manner, Aristotle considers
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 Aneas and Hudibras into one poem, as of writing fuch a motly piece of mirth and forrow. But the abfurdity of thefe performances is fo very visible, that I fhall not infift upon
The fame objections which are made to tragicomedy, may in fome measure be applied to all tragedies that have a double plot in them; which are likewife more frequent upon the English stage, than upon any other; for though the grief of the audience,in fuch performances, be not changed into another paffion, as in tragi-comedies; it is diverted upon another object, which weakens their concern for the principal action, and breaks the tide of for row, by throwing it into different channels. This inconvenience, however, may in a great measure be cured, if not wholly removed, by the fkilful choice of an under-plot, which may bear fuch a near rela tion to the principal defign, as to contribute towards the completion of it, and be concluded by the fame catastrophe.
There is also another particular, which may be reckoned among the blemishes, or rather the falfe beauties, of our English tragedy: I mean thofe particular speeches which are commonly known by the name of rants. The warm and paffionate parts of a tragedy are always the moft taking with the audi ence; for which reason we often fee the players pronouncing, in all the violence of action, feveral parts of the tragedy which the author writ with great temper, and designed that they should have been fo acted. I have teen Powell very often raise himself a loud clap by this artifice. The poets that were acquainted
acquainted with this fecret, have given frequent occafion for fuch emotions in the actor, by adding vehemence to words where there was no paffion, or inflaming a real paffion into fuftian. This hath filled the mouths of our heroes with bombaft; and given them fuch fentiments, as proceed rather from a fwelling than a greatness of mind. Unnatural exclamations, curfes, vows, blafphemies, a defiance
of mankind, and an outraging of the gods, frequent-S
ly pafs upon the audience for tow'ring thoughts, and have accordingly met with infinite applaufe.
I fhall here add a remark, which I am afraid our tragic writers may make an ill ufe of. As our heroes are generally lovers, their fwelling and b uftring upon the stage very much recommends them to the fair part of their audience. The ladies are wonderfully pleased to fee a man infulting kings, or affronting the gods in one fcene, and throwing himfelf at the feet of his miftrefs in another. Let him behave himself infolently towards the men, and ahjectly towards the fair one, and it is ten to one but he proves a favourite of the boxes. Dryden and Lee, in feveral of their tragedies, have practifed this fecret with good fuccefs.
But to fhew how arant pleases beyond the most juft and natural thought that is not pronounced with vehemence, I would defire the reader, when he fees the tragedy of Oedipus, to obferve how quietly the hero is difmiffed at the end of the third act, after having pronounced the following lines, in which the thought is very natural, and apt to move compaffion;
to fall upon the fair fx, if it were not that I find they are frequently fairer than they ought to be. Such impoftures are not to be tolerated in civil fociety; and I think his misfortune ought to be made public, as a warning for other men always to examine into what they admire.
Uppofing you to be a perfon of general knowledge, I make my application to you on a very particular occafion. I have a great mind to be rid of my wife, and hope, when you confider my cafe, you will be of opinion I have very just pretenfions 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 feparation to be Error Perfonæ, when a man marries a woman, and finds her not to be the 'fame woman whom he intended to marry, but another. If that be law, it is, I prefume, exactly my cafe. For you are to know, Mr. Spectator, that there are women who do not let their husband fee their faces till they are married.
Not to keep you in fufpence, I mean plainly that part of the fex who paint. They are fome of them fo exquifitely skilful this way, that give them but a tolerable pair of eyes to fet up with, and they will make befom, lips, cheeks, and eye-brows, by their own induftry. As for my dear, never man was fo enamonred as I was of her fair forehead, neck, and arms, as well as the bright jet of her hair; but to my great aftonish. ment I find they were all the effects of art; her fkin is fo tarnished with this practice, that when fhe first wakes in a morning, fhe fearce feems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to bed the night before. I fhall take the liberty to part with her by the first opportunity, unless her father will make her portion fuitable to her real, not her affumed, countenance. This 'I thought fit to let him and her know by your means. I am, Sir,
Your most obedient humble fervant.'
I cannot tell what the law, or the parents of the lady, will do for this injured gentleman, but must allow he has very much juftice on his fide. I have indeed very long obferved this evil, and diftinguished thofe of our women who wear their own, from thofe in borrowed complexions, by the Picts and the British. There does not need any great difcernment to judge which are which. The British have a lively animated afpect; the Pics, though never fo beautiful, have dead uninformed countenances. The mufcles of a real face fometimes fwell with foft paffion, fudden furprise, and are flushed with agreeable confufions, according as the objects before them, or the ideas prefented to them, affcet their imagination. But the Picts behold all things with the fame air, whether they are joyful or fad; the fame fixed infenfibility appears upon all occafions. A Pict, though fhe takes all that pains to invite the approach of lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain diftance; a figh in a languifling lover, if fetched too near her, would diffolve a feature and a kifs fnatched by a forward one, might transfer the complexion of the mistress to the admirer. It is hard to fpeak of thefe falfe fair ones? without faying fomething uncomplaifant, but I would only recommend to them to confider how they like coming into a room new-painted; they
may affure themselves, the near approach of a lady who uses this practife is as much more offenfive.
Will Honeycomb told us, one day, an adventure he once had with a Pict. This lady had wit, as well as beauty, at will; and made it her business to gain hearts, for no other reafon but to railly the torments of her lovers. She would make great advances to infnare men, but without any manner of fcruple break off when there was no provocation. Her ill-nature and vanity made my friend very easily proof against the charms of her wit and converfation; but her beauteous form, instead of being blemished by her falfhood and inconftancy, every day increased upon him, and the had new attractions every time he faw her. When the obferved Will irrevocably her flave, fhe began to use him as fuch, and after many steps towards fuch a cruelty, he at laft utterly banished him. The un-" happy lover ftrove in vain, by fervile epiftles, to revoke his doom; till at length he was forced to the last refuge, a found fum of money to her maid. This corrupt attendant placed him early in the morning, behind the hangings in her mistress's dreffing-room. He stood very conveniently to obferve, without being feen. The Pict begins the face the defigned to wear that day, and I have heard him protest she had worked a full half hour before he knew her to be the fame woman. foon as he faw the dawn of that complexion, for which he had fo long languished, he thought fit to break from his concealment, repeating that of Cowley:
Th' adorning Thee with fo much art,
'Tis like the pois'ning of a dart,
The Pict ftood before him in the utmoft confufion, with the prettieft fmirk imaginable on the finifhed fide of her face, pale as afhes on the other. Honeycomb feized all her gallypots and washes, and carried off his handkerchief full of brushes, fcraps of Spanish wool, and phials of unguents. The lady went into the country, the lover was cured.
It is certain no faith ought to be kept with cheats, and an oath made to a Pict is of itfelf void. I would therefore exhort all the British ladies to fingle them out, nor do I know any but Lindamira who should be exempt from difcovery; for her own complexion is fo delicate, that he ought to be allowed the covering it with paint, as a punishment for choofing to be the worst piece of art extant, instead of the masterpiece of nature. As for my part, who have no expectations from women, and confider them only as they are part of the fpecies, I do not half so much fear offending a beauty as a woman of fenfe; I fhall therefore produce feveral faces which have been in public this many years, and never appeared. It will be a very pretty entertainment in the play-houfe, when I have abolished this cuftom, to fee fo many ladies, when they first lay it down, incog. in their
In the mean time, as a pattern for improving their charms, let the fex ftudy the agreeable Statira. Her features are enlivened with the chearfulr.efs of her mind, and good-humour gives an alacrity to her eyes. She is graceful without affecting an air, and unconcerned without appear ing careless. Her having no manner of art in her mind, makes her want none in her perfon,
Riftotle has obferved, that crdinary writers in tragedy endeavour to raife terror and pity in their audience, not by proper fentiments and expreffions, but by the dreffes and decorations of the ftage. There is fomething of this kind very ridiculous in the English theatre. When the author has 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 moft offended at thofe which are made use of to infpire us with magnificent ideas of the perfons that fpeak. The ordinary method of making an hero, is to clap a huge plume of feathers upon his head, which rifes fo very high, that there is often a greater length from his chin to the top of his head, than to the fole of his foot. One would believe, that we thought a great man and a tall man the fame thing. This very much embarrasses the actor, who is forced to hold his neck extremely stiff and steady all the while he speaks; and notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for his miftrefs, his country, or his friends, one may fee by his action, that his greatest care and concern is to keep the plume of feathers from falling off his head. For my own part, when I fee a man uttering his complaints under fuch a mountain of feathers, I am apt to look upon him rather as an unfortunate