« ZurückWeiter »
stage at present. It is the business of the stage poet therefore to watch the appearance of every new player at his own house, and so come out next day with a flaunting copy of newspaper verses. In these Nature and the actor may be set to run races, the player always coming off victorious; or Nature may mistake him for herself; or old Shakspeare may put on his winding-sheet and pay him a visit; or the tuneful Nine may strike up their harps in his praise; or should it happen to be an actress, Venus, the beauteous queen of Love, and the naked Graces are ever in waiting: the lady must be herself a goddess bred and born ; she must—but you shall have a specimen of one of these poems, which may convey a more precise idea,
On seeing Mrs. ** fierform in the character of ****.
To you, bright fair, the Nine address their lays,
And yet think not, my friend, that I have any particular animosity against the champions who are at the head of the present commotion ; on the contrary, I could find pleasure in their music, if served up at proper intervals; if I heard it only on proper occasions, and not about it wherever I go. In fact, I could patronize them both : and as an instance of my condescension in this particular, they may come and give me a song at my lodging, on any evening when I am at leisure, provided they keep a becoming distance, and stand, while they continue to entertain me, with decent humility at the door. You perceive I have not read the seventeen books of Chinese ceremonies to no purpose. I know the proper share of respect due to every rank in society. Stage-players, fire-eaters, singing women, dancingdogs, wild beasts, and wire-walkers, as their efforts are exerted for our amusement, ought not entirely to be despised. The laws of every country should allow them to play their tricks at least with impunity. They should not be branded with the ignominious appellation of vagabonds; at least they deserve a rank in society equal to the mystery of barbers, or undertakers, and could my influence extend so far, they should be allowed to earn even forty or fifty pounds a year, if eminent in their profession. I am sensible however that you will censure me for profusion in this respect, bred up as you are in the narrow prejudices of Eastern frugality. You will undoubtedly assert, that such a stipend is too great for so useless an employment. Yet how will your surprise increase, when told, that though the law holds them as vagabonds, many of them earn more than a thousand a year. You are amazed : there is cause for amazement. A vagabond with a thousand a year is indeed a curiosity in nature ; a wonder far surpassing the flying fish, petrified crab, or travelling lobster. However, from my great love to the profession, I would willingly have them divested of part of their contempt, and part of their finery; the law should kindly take them under the wing of protection, fix them into a corporation, like that of the barbers, and abridge their ignominy and their pensions. As to their abilities in other respects, I would leave that entirely to the public, who are certainly in this case the properest judges, whether they despise them or no. Yes, my Fum, I would abridge their pensions. A theatrical warrior, who conducts the battles of the stage, should be cooped up with the same caution as a Bantum cock that is kept for fighting. When one of those animals is taken from its native dunghill, we retrench it both in the quantity of its food, and the number of its seraglio : players should in the same manner be fed, not fattened; they should be permitted to get their bread, but not to eat the people's bread into the bargain; and instead of being permitted to keep four mistresses, in conscience they should be contented only with two. Were stage-players thus brought into bounds, perhaps we should find their admirers less sanguine, and consequently less ridiculous in patronizing them. We should no longer be struck with the absurdity of seeing the same people, whose valour makes such a figure abroad, apostrophizing in the praise of a bouncing blockhead, and wrangling in the defence of a copper-tailed actress at home. I shall conclude my letter with the sensible admonition of Mé the philosopher. “You love harmony,” says he, “and are charmed with music. I do not “ blame you for hearing a fine voice, when you are in “ your closet with a lovely parterre under your eye, “ or in the night-time, while perhaps the moon diffu“ses her silver rays. But is a man to carry this pas“sion so far as to let a company of comedians, musi* cians, and singers grow rich upon his exhausted * fortune? If so, he resembles one of those dead bo. 4 dies, whose brains the embalmer has picked out “ through its ears.” Adieu.
FROM THE SAME'.
Of all the places of amusement where gentlemen and ladies are entertained, I have not been yet to visit Newmarket. This, I am told, is a large field; where upon certain occasions three or four horses are brought together, then set a running, and that horse which runs fastest wins the wager. This is reckoned a very polite and fashionable amusement here, much more followed by the nobility than partridge fighting at Java, or paper kites in Madagascar; several of the great here, I am told, understand as much of farriery as their grooms; and a horse, with any share of merit, can never want a patron among the nobility. We have a description of this entertainment almost every day in some of the gazettes, as for instance: “. On such a day the Give and Take Plate was run for between his Grace’s Crab, his Lordship’s Periwinkle, and "Squire Smackem's Slamerkin. All rode their own horses. There was the greatest concourse of nobility that has been known here for several seasons. The odds were in favour of Crab in the beginning, but Slamerkin, after the first heat, seemed to have the match hollow ; however, it was soon seen that Periwinkle improved in wind, which at last turned out accordingly; Crab was run to a stand-still, Slamerkin was knockedup, and Periwinkle was brought in with universal
“ applause.” Thus you see Periwinkle received universal applause, and no doubt his Lordship came in for some share of that praise which was so liberally bestowed upon Periwinkle. Sun of China ; how glorious must the Senator appear in his cap and leather breeches, his whip crossed in his mouth, and thus coming to the goal amongst the shouts of grooms, jockies, pimps, stable-bred Dukes, and degraded Generals! From the description of this princely amusement, now transcribed, and from the great veneration I have for the characters of its principal promoters, I make no doubt but I shall look upon an horse-race with becoming reverence, pre-disposed as I am by a similar amusement, of which I have lately been a spectator; for just now I happened to have an opportunity of being present at a Cart-race. Whether this contention between three earts of different parishes was promoted by a subscription among the nobility, or whether the grand jury, in council assembled, had gloriously combined to encourage plaustral merit, I cannot take upon me to determine ; but certain it is, the whole was conducted with the utmost regularity and decorum, and the company, which made a brilliant appearance, were universally of opinion, that the sport was high, the running fine, and the riders influenced by no bribe. It was run on the road from London to a village called Brentford, between a turnip cart, a dust cart, and a dung cart; each of the owners condescending to mount and be his own driver. The odds at starting were dust against dung five to four; but after half a mile's going, the knowing ones found themselves ail on the wrong side, and it was turnish against the field, brass to silver. Soon however the contest became more doubtful;