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• access) knew little more than that the gentleman
came from London to travel and fee fashions, and was, as he heard fay, a free-thinker: What re
ligion that might be, he could not tell ; and for • his own part, if they had not told him the man
was a free-thinker, he should have guefled by his way of talking he was little better than a heathen; ' excepting only that he had been a good gentleman to him, and made him drunk twice in one day, over and above what they had bargained
• I do not look upon the fimplicity of this, and • several odd inquiries with which I shall not trou« ble
you to be wondered at, much less can I think " that our youths of fine wit, and enlarged under
standings, have any reason to laugh. There is
no neceflity that every Squire in Great Britain “ should know what the word Free-thinker stands ' for ; but it were much to be wished, that they “ who value themselves upon that conceited title
were a little better instructed in what it ought to • stand for; and that they would not persuade • themselves a man is really and truly a free-thinker • in any tolerable sense, merely by virtue of his
being an atheist, or an infidel of any other dis• tinction. It may be doubted with good reason, ** whether there ever was in nature a more abject, 'flavilh, and bigotted generation than the tribe of • Beau Esprits, at present fo prevailing in this island, · Their pretenfion to be free-thinkers, is no other • than rakes have to be free-livers, and favages to
be free-men; that is, they can think whatever
they have a mind to, and give themselves up to • whatever conceit the extravagancy of their incli
nation, or their fancy thall fuggeft; they can think as wildly as they talk and act, and will not
endure that their wit should be controlled by • such formal things as decency and common sense: " Deduction, coherence, conlistency, and all the
• rules of reason they accordingly disdain, as too
precise and mechanical for men of a liberal edu• cation.
s This, as far as I could ever learn from their writings, or my own observation, is a true account • of the Britisó free-thinker. Our visitant here, • who gave occasion to this paper, has brought • with him a new system of common sense, the par« ticulars of which I am not yet acquainted with,
but will lose no opportunity of informing myself
whether it contain any thing worth Mr. SPEC• TATOR'ś notice. In the mean time, Sir, I can• not but think it would be for the good of man• kind, if you would take this subject into your • confideration, and convince the hopeful youth • of our nation, that licentiousness is not freedom;
or', if such a paradox will not be understood,
that a prejudice towards atheisin is not impartia·lity. • I am, Sir, • Your moft humble fervant,
NO 235. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29.
province of a spectator than publick thows and diversons; and as among these there are none which can pretend to vie with those elegant entertainments that are exhibited in our theatres, I think at particularly incumbent on me to take notice of
every thing that is remarkable in such numerous and refined affeinblies.
It is obferved, that of late years there has been a certain person in the upper gallery of the playhouse, who, when he is pleased with any thing that is acted upon the stage, expresses his approbation by a loud knock upon the benches or the wainscoi,
heard over the whole theatre. The perfon is commonly known by the name of the Trunk-maker in the upper gallery. Whether it be that the blow that he gives on these occasions resembles that which is often heard in the shops of such artisans, or that he was suppofed to have been a real trunk-maker, who after the finishing of his day's work used to unbend his mind at these publick diverfions with his hammer in his hand, I cannot certainly tell. There are some I know who have been foolish enough to imagine it is a spirit which haunts the upper gallery, and from time to time makes those strange noises; and the rather, because he is observed to be louder than ordinary every time the ghost of Hamlet appears. Others have reported, that it is a dumb man, who has chosen this way of uttering himself when he is transported with any thing he fees or hears. Others will have it to be the playhouse-thunderer, that exerts himself after this manner in the upper gallery when he has nothing to do upon the roof.
But having made it my business to get the best information I could in a inatter of this monient, I find that the trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large black man, whom no body knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant, with great attention to every thing that pafles upon the stage. He is never seen to smile ; but upon hearing any thing that pleates him, he takes up his staff with both hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands in his way with exceeding vehemence: After which, he composes himself YOL. III. B. b
in his former posture, until such time as something new lets him again at work.
It has been obferved, his blow is so well timed, that the most judicious critick could not except against it. As foon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or an uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or wainscot. If the audience does not concur with him, he fmites a second time, and if the audience is not yet awak. ed, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third tiine, which never farils to produce the clap. He sometimes lets the audience begin the clap of themselves, and at the conclusion of their applaufe ratifies it with a single thwack.
He is of so great ufe to the playhouse, that it is faid a former director of it, upon his not being able to pay his attendance by reason of fickness, kept one in pay to officiate for him until such tiine as he recovered; but the person so employed, though he laid about him with incredible violence, did it in Tuch wrong places, that the audience soon found out that it was not their old friend the trunkmaker.
It has been remarked, that he bas not yet exert«d himself with vigour this featon. He sometimes plies at the opera; and upon Nicolini's first appear . ance, was said to have demolished threc benches in o the fury of his applause. He has broken half a
dozen oaken plants upon Dogget, and feldom goes away from a tragedy of Shakespear, without leaving the waintcut extre:nely shattered. i;
The players do not only connive at his obstrepel'ous approbation, but very cheerfully repair at their own coit whatever damages he makes. They had once a thought of erecting a kind of wooden anril for his use, that flould be made of a very found. ing plank, in order to render his strokes more deep ad inillow; but as this might not bave been dif.
tinguished from the musick of a kettle drum, the project was laid afide.
In the sean while, I cannot but take notice of the great ule it is to an audience, that a perfon should this preside over their heads like the director of a contort, in order to awaken their attention, and beat time to their applaufes ; or, to raise my fimile, I have sometimes fancied the trunk-maker in the upper gallery to be like Vir. gil's ruler of the winds, feated upon the top of a mountain, who, when he struck his scepire upon the side of it, roused an hurricane, and fet the whole cavern in an uproar.
It is certain, the trunk-maker has saved many a good play, and brought many a graceful actor into reputation, who would not otherwise have beci taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audience is not a little abalhed, if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it ; to the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but regard it as a mere brutun fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the found of the oaken plane in it. I know it has been given out by thofe who are enemies to the trunk-maker, that he has sometimes been bribed to be in the interest of a bad poet, or a vicious player ; but this is a furmise which has no foundation : His strokes are always just, and his adnionitions feafonable; he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. The inexpresible force wherewith he lays them on, sufficiently thews the evidence and strength of his colie viction. His zeal for a good author is indeed outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, cvery board and plank, that itards within the ex. presion of his applaute.
As I do not care for terminating my thoughts in barren fpeculations, or in reporis of pure inarter of fact, without drawing fomething from them for the Bb