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Were you a lion, how would you behave? THERE is nothing that of late years has afforded matter of greater amusement to the town than Signior Nicolini's * combat with a lion in the Haymarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great Britain. Upon the first rumour 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 Hydaspes; this report, though altogether groundless, so universally prevailed in the upper regions of the playhouse, that some of the most refined politicians in those parts of the audience, gave it out in whisper, that the lion was à 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 expense, 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 ; some 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 seen the opera in Italy, had informed their friends, that the lion was to act a part in High Dutch, and roar twice or thrice to a thorough bass, 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 ex
• See No. 405; and Tat. No. 115.
amine whether this pretended lion is really the savage
he appears to be, or only a counterfeit.
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 extremely startled me, and, upon my nearer survey of it, appeared to be a lion rampant. The lion seeing me very much surprised, told me in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleased; “ for,” say 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, overdid 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 best, 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 playhouse, 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 shewing 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 second lion who treated me with so much humanity behind the scenes.
The acting liou at present is, as I am informed, a country gen. tleman, 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
Tmn this my friend the Templar told Sir Andrew, that he Tondered to hear a man of his sense talk after that manner; that the city had always been the province for satire ; and that the wits of King Charles's time jested upon nothing else during his whole Teige He then showed, by the examples of Horace, Juvenal, Buesa, and the best writers of every age, that the follies of the stage and court had never been accounted too sacred for ridicule, bow great soever the persons might be that patronized them. But, after all,
' says he, • I think your raillery has made too great 10 escursion, in attacking several persons of the inns of court; and I do not believe you can show me any precedent for your behaTicar in that particular. My good friend, Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY, wbo had said nothing di tbis while, began his speech with a Pish! and told us, that he Fundered to see so many men of sense so very serious upon fooleries 'Let our good friends,' says he, attack every one that deserves it; I would only advise you, Mr. SPECTATOR, applying himself to me, to take care how you meddle with country squires. They are the ornaments of the English nation ; men of good beads and sound bodies! and let me tell you, some of them take it llos
[you, that you mention fox-hunters with so little respect.' Captain Sentry spoke very sparingly on this occasion. What he said was only to commend my prudence in not touching upon
army, and advised me to continue to act discreetly in that font.
By this time I found every subject of my speculations was taken stay from me, by one or other of the club; and began to think myself in the condition of the good man that had one wife who took a dislike to his grey hairs, and another to his black, till by their picking out what each of them had an aversion to, they left his head altogether bald and naked. While I was thus musing with myself, my worthy friend the clergyman, who, very luckily for me, was at the club that night, undertook my cause. He told us, that he wondered any order of persons should think tbemselves too considerable to be advised. That it was not quality, but innocence, which exempted men from reproof. That vice and folly ought to be attacked wherever they could be met with, and especially when they are placed in high and conspicuous stations in life. He further added, that my paper kould only serve to aggravate the pains of poverty, if it chiefly expased those who are already depressed, and in some measure turned into ridicule, by the meanness of their conditions and cireinstances. He afterwards proceeded to take notice of the great use this paper might be of to the public, by reprehending those vices which are too trivial for the chastisement of the law,
No. 14. FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 1710-11.
Teque his, infelix, exue monstris.
OVID. MET. iv. 590. Wretch that thou art ! put off this monstrous shape. I was reflecting this morning upon the spirit and humour of the public diversions five and twenty years ago, and those of the present time; and lamented to myself
, that though in those days they neglected their morality, they kept up their good sense; but that the beau monde, at present, is only grown more childish, not more innocent, than the former. While † was in this train of thought, an old fellow, whose face I have often seen at the playhouse, gave me the following letter with these words :-"Sir, the Lion presents his humble service to you, and desired me to give this into your own hands."
“From my den in the Haymarket, March 15. SIR, “I have read all your papers, and have stifled my resentment against your reflections upon operas, until that of this day, wherein you plainly insinuate, that Signior Nicolini and myself have a correspondence more friendly than is consistent with the valour of his character, or the fierceness of mine. I desire you would, for your own sake, forbear such intimations for the future; and must say it is a great piece of ill nature in you, to show so great an esteem for a foreigner, and to discourage a Lion that is your own countryman.
" I take notice of your fable of the lion and man,* hut am so equally concerned in that matter, that I shall not be offended to whichsoever of the animals the superiority is given. You have misrepresented me, in saying that I am a country gentleman, who act only for my diversion ; whereas, had I still the same woods to range in which I once had when I was a fox-hunter, I should not resign my manhood for a maintenance; and assure you, as low as my circumstances are at present, I am so much of a man of honour, that I would scorn to be any beast for bread, but a lion.
Yours," &c. I had no sooner ended this, than one of my landlady's children brought me in several others, with some of which I shall make up mp sresent paper, they all having a tendency to the same subject, viz., the elegance of our present diversions.
See No. 11.
“ Covent Garden, March 18. SIR, " I have been for twenty years under-sexton of this parish of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, and have not missed tolling in to prayers six times in all those years; which office I have performed to my great satisfaction, until this fortnight last past, during which time I find my congregation take the warning of my bell, morning and evening, to go to a puppet-show set forth by one Powell under the Piazzas. By this means, I have not only lost my two customers, whom I used to place for sixpence a piece over against Mrs. Rachael Eye-bright, but Mrs. Rachael herself is gone thither also. There now appear among us none but a few ordinary people, who come to church only to say their prayers ; so that I bave no work worth speaking of but on Sundays. I have placed my son at the Piazzas, to acquaint the ladies that the bell rings for church, and that it stands on the other side of the Garden; but they only laugh at the child.
"I desire you would lay this before all the world, that I may not be made such a tool for the future, and that Punchinello may choose hours less canonical. As things are now, Mr. Powell has & full congregation, while we have a very thin house; which if you can remedy, you will very much oblige,
“Sir, yours, &c." The following epistle I find is from the undertaker of the masquerade :
**SIR, "I have observed the rules of my mask* so carefully (in not inquiring into persons), that I cannot tell whether you were one of the company or not, last Tuesday; but if you were not, and still design to come, I desire you would, for your own entertainment, please to admonish the town, that all persons indifferently are not fit for this sort of diversion. I could wish, Sir, you could make them understand, that it is a kind of acting to go into masquerade, and a man should be able to say or do things proper for the dress in which he appears. We have now and then rakes in the habit of Roman senators, and grave politicians in the dress of rakes. The misfortune of the thing is, that people dress themselves in what they have a mind to be, and not what they are fit for. There is not a girl in the town, but let her have her will in going to a mask, and she shall dress as a shepherdess. But let me beg of them to read the Arcadia, or some other good romance, before they appear in any such character at my house. The last day we
* See No. 8 and 101; Guard. No. 142 and 154.