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measure of the same narrow way of thinking which we meet with in this abstract of the Indian journal, when we fancy the customs, dresses, and manners of other countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.
C*. At the desire of several ladies of quality, and for the entertainment of the Emperor of the Mohocks, and the three Indian kings, being the last time of their public appearance, on Monday next, May 1, for the benefit of Mr. Hemmings, will be performed, at the Great Room in York Buildings, a Confort of Music, &c. See Tat. N° 171, Note.
N° 51. Saturday,
Saturday, April 28, 1711.
Torquet ab obscenis jam nunc fermonibus aurem.
Hor. 1 Ep. ii. 127. He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth.
render me as conspicuous as any young woman in town. It is in my power to enjoy
it in all its vanities, but I have, from a very careful education, contracted a great averfion • to the forward air and fashion wich is prac. tiled in all public places and assemblies. I "attribute this very much to the style and manner of our plays. I was last night at the
* It appears from the preceding quotation, that Swift believed STEELE to have been the writer of this Paper ; for it seems he gave the hint of it to him. Nevertheless it has Addison's signature in the original publication in folio, and is reprinted by Mr. Tickell in his edition of Addison's Works in 4to.
; Funeral, • Funeral *, where a confident lover in the play, speaking of his inistress, cries out« Oh that Harriot! to fold these arms about
the waist of that beauteous, struggling, and • at last yielding fair !” Such an image as this ought, by no means, to be presented to a • chaste and regular audience. I expect your
opinion of this sentence, and recommend to * your consideration, as a SpecTATOR, the con* duct of the stage at present with relation to chastity and modesty. . I am, SIR,
• Your constant reader and well-wisher." The complaint of this young lady is so just, that the offence is gross enough to have displeased persons who cannot pretend to that delicacy and modesty, of which she is mistress. But there is a great deal to be said in behalf of an author. If the audience would but consider the difficulty of keeping up a sprightly dialogue for five acts together, they would allow a writer, when he wants wit, and cannot please any otherwise, to help it out with a little sinuttiness. I will answer for the poets, that no one ever writ bawdry for
other reason but dearth of invention. When the author cannot strike out of himself any more of that which he has superior to those who make up the bulk of his audience, his natural recourse is to that which he has in common with them; and a descrip
* A Comedy by Sir R. Steele, acted at Drury-Lane, 470. 1702. Act II. Scene 1. See" Le Spect.” ou “Le Socrate Moderne," Tome I. Pref. p. iv.
tion which gratifies a sensual appetite will please, when the author has nothing about him to delight a refined imagination. It is to such a poverty, we must impute this and all other sentences in plays, which are of this kind, and which are çommonly termed luscious expressions *.
This expedient to supply the deficiencies of wit, has been used more or less by moft of the authors who have succeeded on the stage; though I know but one who has professedly writ a play upon the basis of the desire of multiplying our species, and that is the polite Sir George Etheridge ; if I understand what the lady would be at, in the play called She would if she could. Other poets have here and there, given an intimation that there is this design, under all the disguises and affectations which a lady may put on; but no author except this, has made sure work of it, and put the imaginations of the audience upon this one purpose, from the beginning to the end of the comedy. It has always fared accordingly; for whether it be that all who go to this piece would if they could, or that the innocents go to it, to guess only what she would if she could, the play has always been well received.
It lifts an heavy empty sentence, when there is * Be it said here, to the honour of the author of this Paper, that he practised the leffons which he taught, and did not reject good advice from what quarter foever it came. He publihed this lady's letter, and approved of her indignation. He submitted to her censure, condemned himself publicly, and corrected the obnoxious paflage of his play, in a new edition which was published in 1712.
added added to it a lascivious gesture of body; and when it is too low to be raised even by that, a flat meaning is enlivened by making it a double one. Writers who want Genius, never fail of keeping this secret in reserve, to create a laugh or raise a clap. I, who know nothing of women but from seeing plays, can give great guesses at the whole structure of the fair sex, by being innocently placed in the pit, and insulted by the petticoats of their dancers; the advantages of whole pretty persons are a great help to a dull play. When a poet flags in writing lusciously, a pretty girl can move lasciviously, and have the same good consequence for the author. Dull poets in this case use their audiences, as dull parasites do their patrons; when they cannot longer divert them with their wit or humour, they bait their ears with something which is agreeable to their temper, though below their understanding. Apicius cannot resist being pleased, if you give him an account of a delicious meal; or Clodius, if you
describe a wanton beauty: though at the same time, if you do not awake those inclinations in them, no men are better judges of what is just and delicate in conversation. But as I have before observed, it is easier to talk to the man, than to the man of sense.
It is remarkable that the writers of least learning are best skilled in the luscious way. The poeteffes of the age have done wonders in this kind; and we are obliged to the lady who wsit Ibrahim*, for introducing a preparatory scene to
• Mrs. Mary Pix,
the very action, when the emperor throws his handkerchief as a signal for his mistress to follow him into the most retired part of the seraglio. It must be confessed his Turkish majesty went off with a good air, but methought, we made but a fad figure who waited without. This ingenious gentlewoman*, in this piece of bawdry, refined upon an author of the fame sex, who, in the Rover, makes a country 'fquire strip to his Holland drawers. For Blunt is disappointed, and the emperor, is unde stood to go on to the utmost. The pleasantry of stripping almost naked has been fince practised (where indeed it should have bcen begun) very successfully at Bartholomew fair t.
It is not here to be omitted, that in one of the above-mentioned female compositions, the Rover is very frequently sent on the fame errand; as I take it, above once every act. This is not wholly unnatural; for, they say, the men authors draw themselves in their chief charact is, and the women writers may be allowed the fame liberty. Thus, as the male-wit gives his hero a great fortune, the female gives her heroine a good gallant, at the end of the play. But, indeed, there is hardly a play one can go to, but the hero or fine gentleman of it struts off upon the same account, and leaves us to consider what good office he has put us to, or to employ our
* Mrs. Behn.
+ The appearance of Lady Mary, a rope-dancer at Bartholomew-t air, gaye occafion to this very proper animad. persion.