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poned till the summer season, when it is thought the coolness that proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the mean time, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter season, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire-works, which the audience may look upon without catching cold, and indeed without much danger of being burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen. However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before he would let this opera be acted in it.
But to return to the sparrows: there have been so many flights of them let loose in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them; and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in á lady's bed-chamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the inconveniencies which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a design of casting into an opera the story of Whittington and his cat, and that, in order to it, there had been got together a great quantity of mice: but Mr. Rich, the proprietor of the playhouse, very prudently considered, that it would be impossible for the cat to kill them all, and that consequently the princes of the stage might be as much infested with mice, as the prince of the island was before the cat’s arrival upon it; for which reason he would not permit it to be acted in his house. And indeed I cannot blame him : for, as he said very well upon that occasion, I do not hear that any of the VOL. I.
performers in our opera pretend to equal the famous pied piper, who made all the mice of a great town in Germany follow his music, and by that means cleared the place of those little noxious animals.
Before I dismiss this paper, I must inform my reader, that I hear there is a treaty on foot between London and Wise *, (who will be appointed gardeners of the playhouse,) to furnish the opera of Rinaldo and Armida with an orange-grove; and that the next time it is acted, the singing-birds will be personated by tomtits, the undertakers being resolved to spare neither pains nor money for the gratification of the audience.
ON OMENS. No.7.
GOING yesterday to dine with an old acquaintance, I had the misfortune to find his whole family very much dejected. Upon asking him the occasion of it, he told me that his wife had dreamt a strange dream the night before, which they were afraid portended some misfortune to themselves, or to their children. At her coming into the room, I observed a settled melancholy in her countenance, which I should have been
* London and Wise were the queen's gardeners at this time, and jointly concerned in the publication of a book on gardening. The plan of this opera, 8vo. 1711, was laid by Aaron Hill, it was filled up with Italian words by sig. Giacomo Rossi, and the music was composed by Handel. The success of this opera, neither better nor worse than most compositions of the kind, was greater than can be imagined. Walsh got igool. by the printing of it.
troubled for, had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no sooner sat down, but after having looked upon me a little while, “ My dear,” (says she, turning to her husband) “ you may now see the stranger that was in the candle last night.” Soon after thiş, as they began to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday. “Thursday !” (says she) “ No, child, if it please God, you shall not begin upon Childermas-day; tell your writing-master that Friday will be soon enough.” I was reflecting with myself on the oddness of her fancy, and wondering that any body would establish it as a rule, to lose a day in every weck. In the midst of these my musings, she desired me to reach her a little salt upon the point of my knife; which I did in such a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at which she immediately startled, and said it fell towards her. Upon this I looked very blank; and, observing the concern of the whole table, began to consider myself, with some confusion, as a person that had brought a disaster upon the family. The lady, however, recovering herself after a little space, said to her husband, with a sigh, “My dear, misfortynes never come single.” My friend, I found, acted but an under-part at his table, and, being a man of more good nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to fall in with all the passions and humours of his yoke-fellow. “Do not you remember, child,” says she, “ that the pigeon-house fell the very afternoon that our careless wench spilt the salt upon the table?" Yes," says he, “ my dear, and the next post brought us an account of the battle of Almanza.” The reader may guess at the figure I made, after having
done all this mischief. I dispatched my dinner as soon as I could with my usual taciturnity; when, to my utter confusion, the lady seeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side. What the absurdity was which I had comniitted I did not know, but I suppose there was some traditionary superstition in it; and therefore, in obedience to the lady of the house, I disposed of my knife and fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I shall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reason for it.
It is not difficult for a man to see that a person has conceived an aversion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, by the lady's looks, that she regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect. For which reason I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend these superstitious follies of mankind; how they subject us to imaginary afflictions, and additional sorrows, that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not sufficient for it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes, and suffer as much from trifling accidents as from real evils. I have known the shooting of a star spoil a night's rest; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lose his appetite, upon the plucking of a merrythought. A screech-owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers; nay, the voice of a cricket hath struck more terror than the roaring of a lion. There is nothing so inconsiderable, which
may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognostics. A rusty nail, or a crooked pin, shoot up into prodigies.
I remember I was once in a mixed assembly, that was full of noise and mirth, when on a sudden an old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company. This remark struck a panic terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room ; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, instead of portending one of the company should die, it plainly foretold one of them should be born. Had not my friend found ihis expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen sick that very night.
An old maid that is troubled with the vapours produces infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt of a great family, who is one of these antiquated Sybils, that forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions, and hearing death-watches ; and was the other day almost frighted out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudes of people not only in impertinent terrors, but in supernumerary duties of life ; and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the soul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death, (or indeed of any future evil,) and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a inelancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and