longs to them and their nation, is great, magnificent beyond expreffion, quite romantic! every garden is a paradife every hovel a palace, and every woman an angel! They shut their eyes clofe, throw their mouths wide open, and cry out in a rapture: Sacré ! What beauty! O Ciel, what taste! mort de ma vie, what grandeur ! was ever any people like ourselves! we are the nation of men, and all the rest no better than two-legged barbarians.

I fancy the French would make the best cooks in the world, if they had but meat; as it is, they can dress you out five different dishes from a nettle-top, feven from a dock leaf, and twice as many from a frog's haunches; thefe eat prettily enough when one is a little used to them, are easy of digeftion, and feldom overload the ftomach with crudities. They feldom dine under seven hot dishes; it is true indeed, with all this magnificence, they feldom fpread a cloth before the guests; but in that I cannot be angry with them, fince those that have got no linen upon their backs, may very well be excused for wanting it upon their tables.

Even religion itself lofes its folemnity among them. Upon their roads, at about every five miles diftance, you fee an image of the Virgin Mary, dreffed up in grim head cloths, painted cheeks, and an old red petticoat; before her a lamp is often seen burning, at which, with the faint's permiffion, I have frequently lighted my pipe. Instead of the Virgin, you are sometimes presented with a crucifix, at other times with a wooden Saviour, fitted out in complete garniture, with sponge, spear, nails, pincers, hammer, bees-wax, and vinegar bottle. Some of these images, I have been told, came down from heaven; if fo, in heaven they have but bungling workmen.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

In paffing through their towns, you frequently fee the men fitting at the doors knitting stockings, while the care of cultivating the ground and pruning the vines falls to the women. This is, perhaps, the reason why the fair fex are granted fome peculiar privileges in this country; particularly when they can get horses of riding without a fide-faddle.

But I begin to think you may find this defcription pert and dull enough; perhaps it is fo, yet in general it is the manner in which the French ufually defcribe foreigners; and it is but just to force a part of that ridicule back upon them, which they attempt to lavish upon others. Adieu.



THE two theatres which ferve to amufe the citizens

here are again opened for the winter. The mimetic troops, different from those of the state, begin their campaign when all the others quit the field; and at a time when the Europeans cease to destroy each other in reality, they are entertained with mock battles, upon the stage.

The dancing mafter once more shakes his quivering feet; the carpenter prepares his paradise of paste-board; the hero refolves to cover his forehead with brafs, and the heroine begins to fcour up her copper-tail preparative to future operations; in short, all are in motion, from the theatrical letter-carrier in yellow clothes, to Alexander the Great that stands on a ftool.

Both houses have already commenced hoftilities. War, open war! and no quarter received or given! Two finging women, like heralds, have begun the conteft; the whole town is divided on this folemn occafion; one has the finest pipe, the other the finest manner; one courtefies to the ground, the other falutes the audience with a fmile; one comes on with modefty, which afks, the other with boldness, which extorts applause; one wears powder, the other has none; one has the longest waist, but the other appears moft eafy; all, all is important and ferious; the town as yet perseveres in its neutrality, a caufe of fuch moment demands the moft mature deliberation; they continue to exhibit, and it is very poffible this con. teft may continue to please to the end of the seafon.

But the generals of either army have, as I am told, feveral reinforcements to lend occafional affiftance. If they produce a pair of diamond buckles at one house, we have a pair of eye-brows that can match them at the other. If we outdo them in our attitude, they can overcome us by a shrug; if we can bring more children on the stage, they can bring more guards in red clothes, who ftrut and fhoulder their fwords, to the astonishment of every spectator.

They tell me here, that people frequent the theatre in order to be inftructed as well as amufed. I smile to hear the affertion. If I ever go to one of their play-houses, what, with trumpets, hallowing behind the ftage, and bawling upon it, I am quite dizzy before the performance is over. If I enter the house with any fentiments in my head, I am fure to have none going away, the whole mind being filled with a dead march, a funeral proceffion, a cat-call, a jig, or a tempeft.

There is, perhaps, nothing more easy than to write properly for the English theatre; I am amazed that none are apprenticed to the trade. The author, when well acquainted with the value of thunder and lightning, when verfed in all the mystery of scene-shifting and trap-doors; when skilled in the proper periods to introduce a wirewalker, or a water-fall; when inftructed in every actor's peculiar talent, and capable of adapting his speeches to the fuppofed excellence; when thus inftructed, knows all that can give a modern audience pleasure. One player fhines in an exclamation, another in a groan, a third in a horror, a fourth in a start, a fifth in a smile! a fixth faints, and a feventh fidgets round the ftage with peculiar vivacity; that piece therefore will fucceed beft where each has a proper opportunity of fhining; the actor's business is not so much to adapt himself to the poet, as the poet's to adapt himself to the actor.

The great fecret, therefore, of tragedy-writing at prefent, is a perfect acquaintance with theatrical ah's and oh's; a certain number of these interfperfed with gods, tortures, racks, and damnation, shall distort every actor almost into convulfions, and draw tears from every spectator; a proper use of these will infallibly fill the whole house with applaufe. But, above all, a whining scene must strike moft forcibly. I would advise, from my prefent knowledge of the audience, the two favourite players of the town, to introduce a fcene of this fort in every play. Towards the middle of the laft act, I would have them enter with wild' looks and out-fpread arms; there is no neceffity for fpeaking, they are only to groan at each other, they must vary the tones of exclamation and defpair through the whole theatrical gamut, wring

their figures into every shape of distress, and when their calamities have drawn a proper quantity of tears from the fympathetic fpectators, they may go off in dumb folemnity at different doors, clasping their hands, or flapping their pocket-holes; this, which may be called a tragic pantomime, will answer every purpose of moving the paffions, as well as words could have done, and it must fave thofe expences which go to reward an author.

All modern plays that would keep the audience alive, must be conceived in this manner, and indeed, many a modern play is made up on no other plan. This is the merit that lifts up the heart, like opium, into a rapture of infenfibility, and can difmifs the mind from all the fatigue of thinking: this is the eloquence that shines in many a long forgotten fcene, which has been reckoned exceffive fine upon acting: this the lightning that flashes no less in the hyperbolical tyrant, who breakfafts on the wind, than in little Norval, as harmless as the babe unborn. Adieu.



I HAVE always regarded the spirit of mercy which

appears in the Chinese laws with admiration. An order for the execution of a criminal is carried from court by flow journies of fix miles a day; but a pardon is fent down with the most rapid dispatch. If five fons of the fame father be guilty of the fame offence, one of them

« VorigeDoorgaan »