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exerts himself after this manner in the upper gallery, when he has nothing to do upon the roof.
But having made it my business to get the best information I could in a matter of this moment, I find that the Trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large black man, whom nobody knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant, with great attention to everything that passes upon the stage. He is never seen to smile; but upon hearing anything that pleases him, he takes up his staff with both 10 hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands in his way with exceeding vehemence after which he composes himself in his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again at work.
It has been observed, his blow is so well timed, that the most judicious critic could never except against it. As soon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or any uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or wainscot. If the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time; and if the audience is not yet awaked, 20 looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which never fails to produce the clap. He sometimes lets the audience begin the clap of themselves, and at the conclusion of their applause ratifies it with a single thwack.
He is of so great use to the play-house, that it is said a former director of it, upon his not being able to pay his attendance by reason of sickness, kept one in pay to officiate for him till such time as he recovered; but the person so employed, though he laid about him with incredible violence, 30 did it in such wrong places, that the audience soon found out that it was not their old friend the Trunk-maker.
It has been remarked, that he has not yet exerted himself with vigour this season. He sometimes plies at the opera ; and upon Nicolini's first appearance, was said to have demolished three benches in the fury of his applause. He has broken half a dozen oaken plants upon Dogget; and seldom
goes away from a tragedy of Shakespeare, without leaving the wainscot extremely shattered.
The players do not only connive at this his obstreperous approbation, but very cheerfully repair at their own cost whatever damage he makes. They had once a thought of erecting a kind of wooden anvil for his use, that should be made of a very sounding plank, in order to render his strokes more deep and mellow; but as this might not have been distinguished from the music of a kettle-drum, the project was laid aside.
In the mean while I cannot but take notice of the great use it is to an audience, that a person should thus preside over their heads, like the director of a concert, in order to awaken their attention, and beat time to their applauses; or, to raise my simile, I have sometimes fancied the Trunk-maker in the upper gallery to be like Virgil's ruler of the wind, seated upon the top of a mountain, who, when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, roused an hurricane, and set the whole cavern in an uproar.
It is certain the Trunk-maker has saved many a good play, and brought many a graceful actor into reputation, who would not otherwise have been taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audience is not a little abashed if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it; so the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but regard it as a mere brutum fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the sound of the oaken plant in it. I know it has been given out by those who are enemies to the Trunk-maker, that he has sometimes been bribed to be in the interest of a bad poet, or a vicious 30 player; but this is a surmise which has no foundation; his strokes are always just, and his admonitions seasonable; he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. That inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on, sufficiently shows the evidence and strength of his conviction. His zeal for a good author is in
deed outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, every board and plank, that stands within the expression of his applause.
As I do not care for terminating my thoughts, in barren speculations, or in reports of pure matter of fact, without drawing something from them for the advantage of my countrymen, I shall take the liberty to make an humble proposal, that whenever the Trunk-maker shall depart this life, or whenever he shall have lost the spring of his arm by sickness, old age, 10 infirmity, or the like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to this post, and have a competent salary settled on him for life, to be furnished with bamboos for operas, crab-tree cudgels for comedies, and oaken plants for tragedy, at the public expense. And to the end that this place should be always disposed of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it, who has not given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment and a strong arm, and who could not, upon occasion, either knock down an ox, or write a comment upon Horace's Art of Poetry. In short, I would have him a 20 due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for this important office, that the Trunk-maker may not be missed by our posterity.
XXIII. VARIOUS WAYS OF MANAGING A DEBATE.
Tuesday, December 4, 1711.
Bella, horida bella!-Virg. Æn. vi. 86.
Wars, horrid wars!
I HAVE Sometimes amused myself with considering the several methods of managing a debate which have obtained in the world.
The first races of mankind used to dispute, as our ordinary people do now-a-days, in a kind of wild logic, uncultivated 30 by rules of art.
Socrates introduced a catechetical method of arguing. He would ask his adversary question upon question, till he had convinced him out of his own mouth that his opinions were wrong. This way of debating drives an enemy up into a corner, seizes all the passes through which he can make an escape, and forces him to surrender at discretion.
Aristotle changed this method of attack, and invented a great variety of little weapons, called syllogisms. As in the Socratic way of dispute you agree to everything which your opponent advances, in the Aristotelic you are still denying 10 and contradicting some part or other of what he says. Socrates conquers you by stratagem, Aristotle by force: the one takes the town by sap, the other sword in hand.
The Universities of Europe, for many years, carried on their debates by syllogism, insomuch that we see the knowledge of several centuries laid out into objections and answers, and all the good sense of the age cut and minced into almost an infinitude of distinctions.
When our universities found that there was no end of wrangling this way, they invented a kind of argument, 20 which is not reducible to any mood or figure in Aristotle. It was called the Argumentum Basilinum (others write it Bacilinum or Baculinum) which is pretty well expressed in our English word 'club-law.' When they were not able to confute their antagonist, they knocked him down. It was their method in these polemical debates, first to discharge their syllogisms, and afterwards to betake themselves to their clubs, till such time as they had one way or other confounded their gainsayers. There is in Oxford a narrow defile (to make use of a military term), where the partizans used to 30 encounter, for which reason it still retains the name of Logic Lane. I have heard an old gentleman, a physician, make his boasts, that when he was a young fellow he marched several times at the head of a troop of Scotists, and cudgelled a body of Smiglesians half the length of High-street, till they had dispersed themselves for shelter into their respective garrisons.
This humour, I find, went very far in Erasmus's time. For that author tells us, that upon the revival of Greek letters, most of the universities in Europe were divided into Greeks and Trojans. The latter were those who bore a mortal enmity to the language of the Grecians, insomuch that if they met with any who understood it, they did not fail to treat him as a foe. Erasmus himself had, it seems, the misfortune to fall into the hands of a party of Trojans, who laid him on with so many blows and buffets that he 10 never forgot their hostilities to his dying day.
There is a way of managing an argument not much unlike the former, which is made use of by states and communities, when they draw up a hundred thousand disputants on each side, and convince one another by dint of sword. A certain grand monarch was so sensible of his strength in this way of reasoning, that he wrote upon his great guns-Ratio ultima Regum, The Logic of Kings; but, God be thanked, he is now pretty well baffled at his own weapons. When one has to do with a philosopher of this kind, one should remember the old 20 gentleman's saying, who had been engaged in an argument with one of the Roman Emperors. Upon his friends telling him, that he wondered he would give up the question, when he had visibly the better of the dispute; "I am never ashamed," says he, "to be confuted by one who is master of fifty legions."
I shall but just mention another kind of reasoning, which may be called arguing by poll; and another which is of equal force, in which wagers are made use of as arguments, according to the celebrated line in Hudibras.
But the most notable way of managing a controversy, is that which we may call Arguing by Torture. This is a method of reasoning which has been made use of with the poor refugees, and which was so fashionable in our country during the reign of Queen Mary, that in a passage of an author quoted by Monsieur Bayle, it is said that the price of wood was raised in England, by reason of the executions that were