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a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric, that he outdoes both his predecessors, and has drawn together greater audiences than have been known in the memory of man.
I must not conclude my narrative, without taking notice of a groundless report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage, of whom I must declare myself an admirer; namely, that signior Nicolini and the lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another, and smoking a pipe together behind the scenes ; by which their enemies would insinuate that it is but a sham combat which they represent upon the stage: but, upon inquiry, I find that, if any such correspondence has passed between them, it was not till the combat was over, when the lion was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received rules of the drama. Besides, this is what is practised every day in Westminster-hall, where nothing is more usual than to see a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as soon as they are out of it.
I would not be thought in any part of this relation to reflect upon signior Nicolini, who in acting this part only complies with the wretched taste of his audience: he knows very well that the lion has many more admirers than himself; as they say of the famous equestrian statue on the Pont-neuf at Paris, that more people go to see the horse, than the king who sits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just indignation to see a person whose action gives new majesty to kings, resolution to heroes, and softness to lovers, thus sinking from the greatness of his behaviour, and degraded into the character of the London 'Prentice. I have often wished that our tragedians would copy after this
great master in action. Boyd they make the same use of their arms and legs, and inform their faces with as significant looks and passions, how glorious would an English tragedy appear with that action which is capable of giving defnity to the forced thoughts, cold conceits, and unndural expressions of an Italian opera! In the mean time, I have related this combat of the lion, to show what are at present the reigning entertainments of the politer part of Great-Britain.'
Audiences have often been reproached by writers for the coarseness of their taste: but our present grievance does not seem to be the want of a good taste, but of
ON THE ITALIAN OPERA. No, 18.
Ir is my design in this paper to deliver down to posterity a faithful account of the Italian opera, and of the gradual progress which it has made upon the English stage; for there is no question but our great grandchildren will be very curious to know the reason why their forefathers used to sit together like an audience of foreigners in their own country, and to hear whole plays acted before them, in a tongue which they did not understand.
Arsinoë was the first opera that gave us a taste of Italian music. The great success this opera met with produced some attempts of forming pieces upon Italian plans, which should give a more natural and reasonable entertainment than what can be met with in the elaborate trifles of that nation. This alarmed the poetasters and fidlers of the town, who were used
pany how long I had been in the rooni, and whicther I did not look paler than I used to do. This put me under some apprehensions that I should be forced to explain myself if I did not retire; for which reason I took the candle in my hand, and went up into my chamber, not without wondering at this unaccountable weakness in reasonable creatures, that they should love to astonish and terrify one another. Were I a father, I should take a particular care to preserve my children from these little horrors and imaginations, which they are apt to contract when they are young, and are not able to shake off when they are in years. I have known a soldier that has entered a breach, affrighted at his own shadow, and look pale upon a little scratching at his door, who the day before had marched up against a battery of cannon. There are instances of persons who have been terrified even to distraction at the figure of a tree, or the shaking of a bulrush. The truth of it is, I look upon a sound imagination as the greatest blessing of life, next to a clear judgment, and a good conscience. In the mean time, since there are very few whose minds are not more or less subject to these dreadful thoughts and apprehensions, we ought to arm ourselves against them by the dictates of reason and religion, to pull the old woman out of our hearts, (as Persius expresses it in the motto of my paper) and extinguish those impertinent notions which we imbibed at a time that we were not able to judge of their absurdity. Or, if we believe, as many wise and good men have done, that there are such phantoms and apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him who holds the reins of the whole crcation in his
hands, and moderates them after such a manner, that it is impossible for one being to break loose upon another, without his knowledge and permission.
For my own part, I am apt to join in opinion with those who believe that all the regions of nature swarm with spirits, and that we have multitudes of spectators on all our actions, when we think ourselves most alone : but instead of terrifying myself with such a notion, I am wonderfully pleased to think that I am always engaged with such an innumerable society, in searching out the wonders of the creation, and joining in the same concert of praise and adoration.
Milton has finely described this mixed communion of men and spirits in paradise; and had doubtless his eye upon a verse in old Hesiod, which is almost word for word the same with his third line in the following passage:
-Nor think, though men were none,
ON TIE OPERA L10Xs. No. 13. Tarne is nothing that of late years has afforded mitter or greater amusement to the town than siguior Nicolini's combat with a lon in the Haymarket, which bas been very often exhibited to the general satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great Britain. To clear up a matter that was so variourly reported, I have made it my business to examine whether this pretended lion is Rally the savaçe be appears to be, or only a counterfeit.
But before I communicate my discoveries, I must aciduaint the reader, that, upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was thinking on something else, I accidentilly jo tled against a monstrous animal that extremely startled me, and upon my nearer survey of it appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion, seeing me very much surprised, told me, in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleased; “ for (says he) I do not intend to hurt any body.” I thanked him very kindly, and passed by bim; and in a little time after saw him Irap upon the stage, and act his part with very great applause. It has been observed by several, that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice since his first appearance; which will not seem strange when I acquaint my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three several times. The first lion was a candle-snuffer, who, being a fellow of a testy choleric temper, over-did his part, and would not suffer himself to be killed so easily as ke ought to have done : berides, it was observed of him, that he grew more surly every time he came out of the lion; and having dropt some words in ordinary conversation, as if he had not fought his beat, and that he suffered himself