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divine, whose passions transport him to say any thing with any view but promoting the interests of true piety and religion, is a player with a still greater imputation of guilt, in proportion to his depreciating a character more sacred. Consider all the different pursuits and employments of men, and you will find half their actions tend to nothing else but disguise. and imposture; and all that is done which proceeds not from a man's very self, is the action of a player. For this reason it is that I make so frequent mention of the stage. It is with me a matter of the highest consideration, what parts are well or ill performed, what passions or sentiments are indulged or cultivated, and consequently what manners and customs are transfused from the stage to the world, which reciprocally imitate each other. As the writers of epic poems introduce shadowy persons, and represent vices and virtues under the character of men and women; so I, who am a Spectator in the world, may perhaps sometimes make use of the names of the actors of the stage, to represent or admonish those who transact affairs in the world. When I am commending Wilks for representing the tenderness of a husband and a father in Macbeth, the contrition of a reformed prodigal in Harry the Fourth, the winning emptiness of a young man of good-nature and wealth in The Trip to the Jubilee, the officiousness of an artful servant in the Fox; when thus I celebrate Wilks, I talk to all the world who are engaged in any of those circumstances. If I were to speak of merit neglected, misapplied, or misunderstood, might I not say Estcourt has a great capacity? But it is not the interest of others who bear a figure on the stage, that his talents were understood; it is their business to impose upon him what cannot become him, or keep out of his hands any thing in which he would shine. Were one to raise
a suspicion of himself in a man who passes upon the world for a fine thing, in order to alarm him, one might say, If Lord Foppington was not on the stage (Cibber acts the false pretensions to a genteel behaviour so very justly,) he would have in the generality of mankind more that would admire than deride him. When we come to characters directly comical, it is not to be imagined what effect a well-regulated stage would have upon men's manners. The craft of an usurer, the absurdity of a rich fool, the awkward roughness of a fellow of half courage, the ungraceful mirth of a creature of half wit, might for ever be put out of countenance by proper parts for Dogget. Johnson, by acting Corbacchio the other night, must have given all who saw him a thorough detestation of aged avarice. The petulancy of a peevish old fellow, who loves and hates he knows not why, is very excellently performed by the ingenious Mr. William Penkethman in the Fop's Fortune; where, in the character of Don Choleric Snap Shorto de Testy, he answers no questions but to those whom he likes, and wants no account of any thing from those he approves. Mr. Penkethman is also master of as many faces in the dumb scene as can be expected from a man in the circumstances of being ready to perish out of fear and hunger. He wanders through the whole scene very masterly, without neglecting his victuals. If it be, as I have heard it sometimes mentioned, a great qualification of the world to follow business and pleasure too, what is it in the ingenious Mr. Penkethman to represent a sense of pleasure and pain at the same time as you may see him do this evening?
As it is certain that a stage ought to be wholly suppressed, or judiciously encouraged, while there is one in the nation, men turned for regular pleasure cannot employ their thoughts more usefully,
for the diversion of mankind, than by convincing them that it is in themselves to raise this entertainment to the greatest height. It would be a great improvement, as well as embellishment to the theatre, if dancing were more regarded, and taught to all the actors. One who has the advantage of such an agreeable girlish person as Mrs. Bicknell, joined with her capacity of imitation, could in proper gesture and motion represent all the decent characters of female life. An amiable modesty in one aspect of a dancer, and assumed confidence in another, a sudden joy in another, a falling-off with an impatience of being beheld, a return towards the audience with an unsteady resolution to approach them, and well-acted solicitude to please, would revive in the company all the fine touches of mind raised in observing all the objects of affection and passion they had before beheld. Such elegant entertainments as these would polish the town into judgment in their gratifications; and delicacy in pleasure is the first step people of condition take in reformation from vice. Mrs. Bicknell has the only capacity for this sort of dancing of any on the stage; and I dare say all who see her performance tomorrow night, when sure the romp will do her best for her own benefit, will be of my mind.
N° 371. TUESDAY, MAY 6, 1712.
Jamne igitur laudas quod de sapientibus unus
Juv. Sat. x. 28.
And shall the sage your approbation win,
I SHALL Communicate to my readers the following letter for the entertainment of this day.
'You know very well that our nation is more famous for that sort of men who are called "whims" and "humourists," than any other country in the world: for which reason it is observed, that our English comedy excels that of all other nations in the novelty and variety of its characters.
Among those innumerable sets of whims which our country produces, there are none whom I have regarded with more curiosity than those who have invented any particular kind of diversion for the entertainment of themselves and their friends. My letter shall single out those who take delight in sorting a company that has something of burlesque and ridicule in its appearance. I shall make myself understood by the following example. One of the wits of the last age, who was a man of a good estate, thought he never laid out his money better than in a jest. As he was one year at the Bath,
Villars, the last Duke of Buckingham, and father of the late Lady Mary Wortley Montague.
observing that, in the great confluence of fine people, there were several among them with long chins, a part of the visage by which he himself was very much distinguished, he invited to dinner half a score of these remarkable persons who had their mouths . in the middle of their faces. They had no sooner placed themselves about the table but they began to stare upon one another, not being able to imagine what had brought them together. Our English proverb says,
'Tis merry in the hall, When beards wag all.'
It proved so in the assembly I am now speaking of, who seeing so many peaks of faces agitated with eating, drinking, and discourse, and observing all the chins that were present meeting together very often over the centre of the table, every one grew sensible of the jest, and gave into it with so much good humour, that they lived in strict friendship and alliance from that day forward.
The same gentleman some time after packed together a set of oglers, as he called them, consisting of such as had an unlucky cast in their eyes. His diversion on this occasion was to see the cross bows, mistaken signs, and wrong connivances, that passed amidst so many broken and refracted rays of sight.
The third feast which this merry gentleman exhibited was to the stammerers, whom he got together in a sufficient body to fill his table. He had ordered one of his servants, who was placed behind a screen, to write down their table-talk, which was very easy to be done without the help of short hand. It appears by the notes which were taken, that though their conversation never