Page images

As one

neighbourhood as well as in the family) they went on without minding me. I seated myfelf by the candle that stood on a table at one end of the room ; and pretending to read a book that I took out of my pocket, heard feveral dreadful stories of ghosts as pale ás ashes that had stood at the feet of a bed, or walked over a church-yard by moon-light: and of others that had been conjured into the Red-Sea, for disturbing people's rett, and drawing their curtains at midnight, with many other old womens fables of the like nature. spirit raised another, I observed that at the end of every story the whole company closed their ranks, and crouced about the fire : I took notice in particular of a little boy, who was so attentive to every ftory, that I am mislaken if he ventures to go to bed by hiır:self this twelve-month. Indeed they talked so long that the imaginations of the whole assembly were manifeftly crazed, and, I am sure, will be the worse for it as long as they live. I heard one of the girls, that had looked upon me over her shoulder, asking the company how long I had been in the room, and whether I did not look paler than I used to do. This put me under fome 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 weakne's 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 of imagination, 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 can

There are instances of persons, who have been terrified even to distraction, at the figure of a tree, or the shaking of a bull-ruh. The truth of it is, I look upon a found imagination as the greatest blessing of life, next to a clear judgment and a good confcience. In the mean time, since there are very few whose ininds are not more or less subjeđ 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 Perfius 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

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 creation in his hand, and moderates them after such a manner, that it is impollible 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 fpirits; and that we have multitudes of spectators on all our actions, when we think ourselves molt alone : but instead of terrifying myself with such a notion, I am wonderfully pleased to think that am always engaged with such an innumerable society, in searching out the wonders of the creation, and joining in the fame consort 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 Hefiod, which is almost word for word the same with his third line in the following paffage.

Nor think, though men were none, That heav'n would want spectators, God want praise : Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep; All these with ceaseless praise his works behold Both day and night. How often from the steep Of echoing hill or thicket have we heard Celestial voices to the midnight air, Sole, or responsive each to other's note, Singing their great Creator ? oft in bands, While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk, With heav'nly touch of instrumental sounds, In full harmonic number join'd, their fongs Divide the night and lift our thoughts to heav'n. C.

N° 13

Thursday, March 15.

Dic mihi, fi fias tu leo, qualis eris?

Mart. Were you a lion, how would


behave? There

HERE is nothing that of late years has afforded matter of greater amusement to the town than fignior Nicolini's combat with a lion in the HayMarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general fatisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great-Britain. Upon the firlē runour of this intended combat, it was confidently affirmed, and is still believed by many in both galleries, that there would be a tame lion sent from the Tower every opera night, in order to be killed by Hydafpes ; this report, though altogether groundless, lo universally prevailed in the upper regions of the play-house, that some of the most refined politicians in those parts of the audience gave it out in whisper, that the lion was a cousin-german of the tiger who made his appearance in king. William's days, and that the stage would be supplied with lions at the public expence, during the whole session. Many likewise were the conjectures of the treatment which this lion was to meet with from the hands of signior Nicolini ; some supposed that he was to subdue him in Recitativo, as Orpheus used to serve the wild beasts in his time, and afterwards to knock him on the head; fonie fancied that the lion would not pretend to lay his paws upon the hero, by reason of the received opinion, that a lion will not hurt a virgin : several, who pretended to have feen the opera in Italy, had informed their friends, that the lion was to act a part in HighDutch, and roar twice or thrice to a Thorougb-Base, before he fell at the feet of Hydaspes. To clear up a matter that was so variously reported, I have made it my

business to examine whether this pretended lion is really the faxàge he appears to be, or only a counterfeit..

[ocr errors]

But before I communicate my discoveries I must acquaint the reader, that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was thinking on something else, I accidentally justled against a monstrous animal that exé tremely startled me, and upon my nearer survey of it, appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion feeing me very much surprised, told nie, 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 him : and in a little time after saw him leap 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 he ought to have done; besides, 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 beit, and that he suffered himself to be thrown upon his back in the scuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to discard him: and it is verily believed, to this day, that had he been brought upon the stage another time he would certainly have done mischief. Besides it was objected against the first lion, that he reared himself so high upon his hinder paws, and walked in so erect a posture, that he looked more like an old man than a lion.

The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the play-house, and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profession. If the former was too furious, this was too sheepish, for his part ; insomuch, that after a short modest walk upon the stage, he would fall at the first touch of Hydaspes, without grappling with him, and giving him an opportunity of thewing his variety of Italian trips : it is said indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-colour doublet; but this was only to make work for himself, in his private

character of a tailor. I must not omit that it was this fecond lion who treated me with so much humanity behind the scenes.

The acting lion at present is, as I am informed, a country-gentleman who does it for his diversion, but desires his name may be concealed. He says very handsomely, in his own excuse, that he does not act for gain; that he indulges an innocent pleasure in it; and that it is better to pass away an evening in this manner, than in gaming and drinking : but at the same time fays, with a very agreeable raillery upon himself, that if his name should be known, the ill-natured world might call him, The ass in the lion's skin. This gentleman's temper is made of such a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric, that hé 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, w: hout 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 common enemies would insinuate, that iť is but a sham combat which they reprefent upon the ftage : but upon inquiry I find, that if any

such spondence 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 fee a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other to pieces in the court, embracing one another as foon 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 ftatue on the Pont-Neuf at Paris, that more people go ta fee the horse, than the king who fits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just indignation to see a person


« EelmineJätka »