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Horace afterward established by a rule, of forbearing to commit parricides or unnatural murders before the audience. Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet.-ARS Poet, ver, 185. Let not Medea draw her murd’ring knife, And spill her children's blood upon the stage.--Roscommon. The French have therefore refined too much upon Horace's rule, who never designed to banish all kinds of death from the stage ; but only such as had too much horror in them, and which would have a better effect upon
the audience when transacted behind the
I would therefore recommend to my countrymen the practice of the ancient poets, who were very sparing of their public executions, and rather chose to perform them behind the scenes, if it could be done with as great an effect upon the audience. At the same time I must observe, that though the devoted persons of the tragedy were seldom slain before the audience, which has generally something ridiculous in it, their bodies were often produced after their death, which has always something melancholy or terrifying: so that the killing on the stage does not seem to have been avoided only as an indecency, but also as an improbability.
Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet;
Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 185.
I hate to see, and never can believe.-Roscommon, I have now gone through the several dramatic inventions which are made use of by the ignorant poets
to supply the place of tragedy, and by the skilful to improve it; some of which I could wish entirely rejected, and the rest to be used with caution. It would be an endless task to consider comedy in the same light, and to mention the innumerable shifts that small wits put in practice to raise a laugh. Bullock in a short coat, and Norris in a long one, seldom fail of this effect. In ordinary comedies, a broad and a narrow-brimmed hat are different characters. Sometimes the wit of the scene lies in a shoulderbelt, and sometimes in a pair of whiskers. A lover running about the stage, with his head peeping out of a barrel*, was thought a very good jest in King Charles the Second's time; and invented by one of the first wits of that age. But because ridicule is not so delicate as compassion, and because the objects that make us laugh are infinitely more numerous than those that make us weep, there is a much greater latitude for comic than tragic artifices, and by consequence a much greater indulgence to be allowed them.-C.
N° 45. SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 1711.
Natio comedia est. Juv. Sat. iii. 100.
The nation is a company of players. There is nothing which I desire more than a safe and honourable peace, though at the same time I am very apprehensive of many ill consequences that may attend it. I do not mean in regard to our politics, but to our manners. What an inundation of ribands and brocades will break in upon us ? What peals of laughter and impertinence shall we be exposed to ? For the prevention of these great evils, I could heartily wish that there was an act of parliament for prohibiting the importation cf French fopperies.
* The comedy of The Comical Revenge, or Love in a Tuh, by Sir George Etheridge, 1664.
The female inhabitants of our island have already received very strong impressions from this ludicrous nation, though by the length of the war (as there is no evil which has not some good attending it) they are pretty well worn out and forgotten. I remember the time when some of our well-bred countrywomen kept their valet de chambre, because, forsooth, a man was much more handy about them than one of their own sex. I myself have seen one of these male Abigails tripping about the room with a looking-glass in his hand, and combing his lady's hair a whole morning together. Whether or no there was any truth in the story of a lady's being got with child by one of these her handmaids, I cannot tell; but I think at present the whole race of them is extinct in our own country.
About the time that several of our sex were taken into this kind of service, the ladies likewise brought up the fashion of receiving visits in their beds. It was then looked upon as a piece of ill-breeding for a woman to refuse to see a man, because she was not stirring; and a porter would have been thought unfit for his place, that could have made so awkward an excuse. As I love to see every thing that is new, I once prevailed upon my friend will Honeycomb to carry me along with him to one of these travelled ladies, desiring him, at the same time, to present me as a foreigner who could not speak English, that so I might not be obliged to bear a part in the discourse. The lady, though willing to appear undrest, had put on her best looks, and painted herself for our reception. Her hair appeared in a very nice disorder, as the night-gown
or an arm.
which was thrown upon her shoulders was ruffled with great care. For my part, I am so shocked with every thing which looks immodest in the fair sex, that I could not forbear taking off my eye from her when she moved in bed, and was in the greatest confusion imaginable every time she stirred a leg,
As the coquettes who introduced this custom grew old, they left it off by degrees; well knowing, that a woman of threescore
kick and tumble her heart out, without making any impression.
Sempronia is at present the most professed admirer of the French nation, but is so modest as to admit her visitants no farther than her toilet. It is a very odd sight that beautiful creature makes, when she is talking politics with her tresses flowing about her shoulders, and examining that face in the glass, which does such execution upon all the male standers-by. How prettily does she divide her discourse between her woman and her visitants ? What sprightly transitions does she make from an opera or a sermon, to an ivory comb or a pin-cushion? How have I been pleased to see her interrupted in an account of her travels, by a message to her footman; and holding her tongue in the midst of a moral reflection, by applying the tip of it to a patch?
There is nothing which exposes a woman to greater dangers, than that gaiety and airiness of temper, which are natural to most of the sex. It should be therefore the concern of every wise and virtuous woman to keep this sprightliness from degenerating into levity. On the contrary, the whole discourse and behaviour of the French is to make the sex more fantastical, or (as they are pleased to term it) more awakened, than is consistent either with virtue or discretion. To speak loud in public assemblies, to let every one hear you talk of things that should only be mentioned in private, or in whisper, are
looked upon as parts of a refined education. At the same time a blush is unfashionable, and silence more ill-bred than any thing that can be spoken. In short, discretion and modesty, which in all other ages and countries have been regarded as the greatest ornaments of the fair sex, are regarded as the ingredients of narrow conversation, and family be haviour.
Some years ago I was at the tragedy of Macbeth, and unfortunately placed myself under a woman of quality that is since dead; who, as I found by the noise she made, was newly returned from France. A little before the rising of the curtain, she broke out into a loud soliloquy, "When will the dear witches enter?' and immediately upon their first appearance, asked a lady that sat three boxes from her on her right hand, if those witches were not charming creaturcs. A little after, as Betterton was in one of the finest speeches of the play, she shook her fan at another lady who sat as far on the left hand, and told her with a whisper that might be heard all over the pit, . We must not expect to see Balloon tonight.' Not long after, calling out to a young baronet, by his name, who sat three seats before me, she asked him whether Macbeth's wife was still alive; and before he could give an answer, fell a talking of the ghost of Banquo. She had by this time formed a little audience to herself, and fixed the attention of all about her. But as I had a mind to hear the play, I got out of the sphere of her impertinence, and planted myself in one of the remotest corners of the pit.
This pretty childishness of behaviour is one of the most refined parts of coquetry, and is not to be attained in perfection by ladies that do not travel for their improvement. A natural and unconstrained behaviour has something in it so agreeable, that it