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country; while those, who have the finest walks and most beautiful prospects eternally before them, shut themselves up in theatres and ball-rooms, "lock fair day-light out, and make themselves an artificial London."
WHEREVER the town goes, those who live by the town naturally follow. The facetious and entertaining gentry, who during the winter amused the world within the bills of mortality, are now dispers ed into different parts of the country. We have had most of them here already. The Colossus, the Dwarf, the Female Samson, made some stay with us. We went for a week together to see Mr. Powell eat red-hot tobacco pipes, and swallow fire and brimstone. The Hermaphrodite was obliged to leave the town on a scandalous report, that a lady used frequently to visit him in private. Mr. Church for some time charmed us with concertos and sonatos on the Jew's-Harp, and at our last ball we footed it to our usual melody of the tabor and pipe, accompanied with the cymbal and wooden spoons.
I will not tire you with a particular detail of all our entertainments, but confine myself at present to those of the Stage. About the middle of last month there came among us one of those gentlemen, who are famous for the cure of every distemper, and especially those pronounced incurable by the faculty. The vul gar call him a Mountebank ;....but when I considered his impassioned speeches and the temporary Stage from which he uttered them, I was apt to compare him to Thespis and his cart. Again, when I beheld the Doctor dealing out his drugs, and at the same time saw his Merry Andrew play over his tricks, it put me in mind of a tragi-comedy; where the pathetic and the ludicrous are so intimately connected, and
the whole piece is so merry and so sad, that the audience is at a loss whether they shall laugh or cry.
After the Doctor had been here some time, there came down two or three emissaries from a strolling company, in order (according to the players phrase) to take the Town; but the Mayor being a strict Presbyterian, absolutely refused to license their exhibitions. The players, you must know, finding this a good town, had taken a lease last summer of an old synagogue deserted by the Jews; and were therefore much alarmed at this disappointment: but when they were in the utmost despair, the ladies of the place joined in a petition to Mrs. Mayoress, who prevailed on her husband to wink at their performances. The company immediately opened their synagogue-theatre with the Merchant of Venice: and finding the doctor's Zany a droll fellow, they decoyed him into their service; and he has since performed the part of the Mock Doctor with universal applause. Upon his revolt the Doctor himself found it absolutely necessary to enter as one of the company; and having a talent for tragedy, has performed with great success the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet,
The performers at our rustic theatre are far beyond those paltry strollers, who run about the country, and exhibit in a barn or a cow-house; for (as their bills declare) they are a company of comedians from the Theatres Royal: and I assure you, they are as much applauded by our country critics, as any of your capital actors. The shops of our tradesmen have been almost deserted, and a crowd of weavers and hardware-men have elbowed each other two hours before the opening of the doors, when the bills have informed us in enormous red letters, that the part of George Barnwell was to be performed by Mr........, at the particular desire of several ladies of distinction. It is true, indeed, that our principal actors have most of them had their education in Covent-Garden, or Dru
ry-Lane; but they have been employed in the business of the drama in a degree but just above a scene shifter. An heroine, to whom your managers in town (in envy to her rising merit) scarce allotted the humble part of a confidant, now blubbers out Andromache or Belvidera; the attendants on a monarch struts monarchs themselves, mutes find their voices, and message-bearers rise into heroes. The humour of our best comedian consists in shrugs and grimaces; he jokes in a wry mouth, and repartees in a grin ; in short, he practises on Congreve and Vanbrugh all those distortions, that gained him so much applause from the galleries, in the drubs which he was condemned to undergo in pantomimes. I was vastly diverted at seeing a fellow in the character of Sir Harry Wildair, whose chief action was a continual pressing together of the thumb and fore-finger; which, had he lifted them to his nose, I should have thought he designed as an imitation of taking snuff: but I could easily account for the cause of this singular gesture, when I discovered, that Sir Harry was no less a person than the dextrous Mr. Clippit the candle snuffer.
You would laugh to see, how strangely the parts of a play are cast. They played Cato; and their Marcia was such an old woman, that when Juba came on with his...." Hail! charming maid!"....the fellow could not help laughing. Another night I was surprised to hear an eager lover talk of rushing into his mistress's arms, rioting on the nectar of her lips, and desiring (in the tragedy rapture) to "hug her thus, and thus for ever;" though he always took care to stand at a most ceremonious distance; but I was afterwards very much diverted at the cause of this extraordinary respect, when I was told, that the lady laboured under the misfortune of an ulcer in her leg, which occasioned such a disagreeable stench, that the performers were obliged to keep her at arms'
length. The entertainment was Lethe: and the part of the Frenchman was performed by a South-Briton; who, as he could not pronounce a word of the French language, supplied it's place by gabbling in his native Welch.
The decorations, or (in the theatrical dialect) the property of our company, are as extraordinary as the performers. Othello raves about a checked handkerchief; the ghost of Hamlet stalks in a postilion's leathern-jacket for a coat of mail; and, in a new pantomime of their own, Cupid enters with a fiddle-case slung over his shoulders for a quiver. The apothecary of the town is free of the house, for lending them a pestle and mortar to serve as the bell in Venice Preserved; and a barber-surgeon has the same privilege, for furnishing them with basons of blood to besmear the daggers in Macbeth. Macbeth himself carries a rolling-pin in his hand for a truncheon; and, as the breaking of glasses would be very expensive, he dashes down a pewter pint pot at the sight of Banquo's ghost.
A fray happened here the other night, which was no small diversion to the audience. It seems, there had been a great contest between two of these mimic heroes, who was the fittest to play Richard the Third. One of them was reckoned to have the better person, as he was very round-shouldered, and one of his legs was shorter than the other; but his antagonist carried the part, because he started best in the tent-scene. However, when the curtain drew up, they both rushed in upon the stage at once; and bawling out together "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths," they both went through the whole speech without stopping.
No. XXIV. THURSDAY, JULY 11.
Ille dabit populo, patribusque, equitique legendum.
Books, that the knowledge of the world can shew,
WHEN I consider the absurd taste for literature, that once prevailed among our persons of distinction, I cannot but applaud the reformation, which has been since brought about in this article by the polite world. A Duke of Newcastle made himself remarkable by a Treatise on Horsemanship; a Rochester supplied the place of Ovid in the closets of men of pleasure; and even the ladies of former ages sacrificed to love in novels and romances. I will not mention a Shaftesbury, as our present age has produced a Bolingbroke....We of this generation are wiser than to suffer our youth of quality to lose their precious time in studying the belles lettres, while our only care is to introduce them into the beau monde. A modern peer, instead of laying down the theory of horsemanship, is perfect in the practice, and commences jockey himself; and our rakes of fashion are content with acting the scenes, which Rochester described. Our ladies are, indeed, very well qualified to publish a recital of amours; and one in particular has already entertained the world with memoirs of her own intrigues, cuckoldoms and elopements.
I am very glad to find the present age so entirely free from pedantry. Some part of the polite world read, indeed, but they are so wise as to read only for amusement: or at least only to improve themselves in the more modern and fashionable science. A Treatise on Whist has more admirers than a System of Logic, and a New Atalantis would be more univer sally read than a Practice of Piety. A fine gentle