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< of the house, and found, upon inquiry, as I had guesicd
by the little agremeni upon his fign, that he was a • Frenchman. I know, Sir, it is not requisite for me
to enlarge upon these hints to a gentleman of your great abilities; so humbly recommending myself to your favour and patronage,
I remain, &c.'
I shall add to the foregoing letter, another which came to me by the same penny-post.
• From my own apartment near Charing-Cross.
« Honoured Sir, HAVING heard that this nation is a great encou :
rager of ingenuity, I have brought with me a rope-dancer that was caught in one of the woods be
longing to the Great Mogul. He is by birth a mon• key, but swings upon a rope, takes a pipe of tobacco, ( and drinks a glass of ale, like any reasonable creature. • He gives great fatisfaction to the quality; and if
they will make a subscription for him, I will send for • a brother of his out of Holland that is a very good • tumbler; and also for another of the same family
whom I design for my Merry-Andrew, as being an - excellent mimic, and the greatest droll in the country (where he now is.
I hope to have this entertainment s in a readiness for the next winter; and doubt not but " it will pleafé' more than the opera or puppet-fhow. I
will not say that a monkey is a better man than fome • of the opera-heroes; but certainly he is a better repres fentative of a man, than the inoff artificial composition
of wood and wire. If you will be pleased to give me • a good word in your paper, you thall be every night a • fpectator at my thow for nothing.
No. XXIX. TUESDAY, APRIL
-Sermo linguâ concinnus utrâque
THERE is nothing that has more startled our Eng.
lith audience, than the Italian Recitativo at it's first entrance upon the stage. People were wonderfully furprised to hear generals finging the word of command, and ladies delivering messages in music. Our countrymen could not forbear laughing when they hcard a lover chanting out a billet-doux, and even the superscription of a letter set to a tune. The famous blunder in an old play of « Enter a king and two fidlers folus,' was now no longer an absurdity; when it was impossible for a hero in a defert, or a princess in her closet, to speak any thing unaccompanied with musical instrumentr.
But however this Italian method of acting in Recitarivo might appear at first hearing, I cannot but think it much more just than that which prevailed in our Eng. lish opera before this innovation, the traniition fruin an air to recitative music being more natural, than the passing from a fong to plain and ordinary speaking, which was the common method in Purcell's operas.
The only fault I find in our present practice is the making use of the Italian Recitativo with Engliin words.
To go to the bottom of this matter, I must observe, that the tone, or, as the French call it, the accent of every nation in their ordinary speech is altogether differcot from that of every other people; as we may see even in the Welsh and Scotch, who border so near upon
By the tone or accent, I do not mean the pronunciation of each particular word, kut the found of the whole sentence. Thus it is very common for an English gentleman, when he hears a French tragedy, to complain
that the actors of all of them speak in a tone; and therefore he very wisely prefers his own countrymen, not considering rhat a foreigner complains of the fame tone in an Englith actor.
For this reason, the recitative music, in every language should be as different as the tone or accént of each language; for otherwise, what may properly express a passion in one language, will not do it in another. Every one who has been long in Italy knows very well, that the cadences in the Recitativo bear a remote affinity to the tone of their voices in ordinary conversation, or, to speak more properly, are only the accents of their language made more musical and tuneful.
Thus the notes of interrogation, or admiration, in the Italian music, if one may so call them, which resemble their accents in discourse on such occasions, are not unlike the ordinary tones of an English voice when we are angry; infomuch that I have often seen our audiences extremely mistaken as to what has been doing upon the stage, and expecting to see the hero knock down his mefsenger, when he has been asking him a question; or fancying that he quarrels with his friend, when he only bids him good-morrow.
For this reason the Italian artists cannot agree with our English musicians, in admiring Purcell's compositions, and thinking his tunes so wonderfully adapted to his words; becaule both nations do not always express the same paflions by the same founds.
I am therefore humbly of opinion, that an English composer should not follow the Italian recitative too fervilely, but make use of many gentle deviations from it, in compliance with his own native language. He may copy out of it all the lulling softness and Dying Falls, as Shakespear calls them, but should still remember that he ought to accommodate himself to an English audience; and by humouring the tone of our voices in ordinary conversation, have the same regard to the accent of his own language, as thofe person had to theirs whom he professes to imitate. It is observed that
several of the finging birds of our own country learn to sweeten their voices, and mellow the harshness of their natural notes, by practising under those that come from warmer climates. In the fame manner I would allow the Italian opera to lend our English music as much as may grace and foften it, but never intirely to annihilate and destroy it. Let the infusion be as strong as you please, but still let the subject-matter of it be English
A composer should fit his music to the genius of the people, and consider that the delicacy of hearing, and taste of harmony, has been formed upon those founds which every country abounds with; in Thort, that music is of a relative nature, and what is harmony to one ear, may be dissonance to another.
The same observations which I have made upon the recitative part of music, may be applied to all our songs and airs in general.
Signior Baptift Lully acted like a man of sense in this particular. He found the French music extremely defective and very often barbarous : however, knowing the genius of the people, the humour of their language, and the prejudiced ears he had to deal with, he did not pretend to extirpate the French music and plant the Italian in it's stead; but only to cultivate and civilize it with innumerable graces and modulations which he borrowed from the Italian. By this means, the French music is now perfect in it's kind; and when you say it is not so good as the Italian, you only mean that it is does not please you so well; for there is scarce a Frenchman who would not wonder to hear you give the Italian such a preference. The music of the French is indeed very properly adapted to their pronunciation and accent, as their whole opera wonderfully favours the genius of such a gay airy people. The chorus in which that opera abounds gives the parterre frequent opportunities of joining in concert with the stage. This inclination of the audience to sing along with the actors, so prevails with thein, that I have fumetimes known the performer on the stage do no
more in a celebrated song, than the clerk of a perishchurch, who serves only to raise the psalm, and is afterwards drowned in the music of the congregation. Every actor that comes on the stage is a beau. The queens and heroines are so painted, that they appear as ruddy and cherry-check'd as milk-maids. The Shepherds are all embroider'd, and acquit themselves in a ball better than our English dancing-masters. I have seen a couple of rivers appear in red stockings; and Alpheus, instead of having his head covered with Tedge and bull-rushes, making love in a fair full-bottomed perriwig, and a plume of feathers; but with a voice so full of ihakes and quavers, that I should have thought the murmurs of a country brook the much more agreeable music.
I remember the last opera I saw in that merry nation, was the rape of Proferpine, where Pluto, to make the more tempting figure, put himself in a French equipage, and brings Ascalaphus along with him as his Valet de Chambre. This is what we call folly and impertinence; but what the French look upon as gay and polite.
I shall add no more to what I have here offered, than that music, architecture, and painting, as well as poetry and oratory, are to deduce their laws and rules from the general sense and taste of mankind, and not from the principles of those arts themselves; or in other words, the taste is not to conform to the art, but the art to the taste. Music is not designed to please only chromatic ears, but all that are capable of distinguishing harsh from disagreeable notes. A man of an ordinary ear is a judge whether a passion is expressed in proper founds, and whether the melody of those sounds be more or less pleasing