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France to find a way to obtain so much credit, as to gain any one potentate of the allies, or conceive any hope for safety from other prospects.
From my own Apartment, April 13. I find it of very great use, now I am setting up for a writer of news, that I am an adept in astrological speculations: by which means I avoid speaking of things which may offend great persons. But, at the same time, I must not prostitute the liberal sciences so far, as not to utter the truth in cases which do not immediately concern the good of my native country. I must therefore contradict what has been so assuredly reported by the news-writers of England, That France is in the most deplorable condition, and that their people die in great multitudes. I will therefore let the world know, that my correspondent, by the way of Brussels, informs me upon his honour, That the gentleman who writes the Gazette of Paris, and ought to know as well as any man, has told him, that ever since the King has been past his sixty-third year, or grand climacteric, there has not died one man of the French nation who was younger than his Majesty, except a very few, who were taken suddenly near the village of Hockstet in Germany; and some more, who were straitened for lodging at a place called Ramilies, and died on the road to Ghent and Bruges. There are also other things given out by the allies, which are shifts below a conquering nation to make use of. Among others it is said, There is a general murmuring among the people of France, though at the same time all my letters agree, that there is so good an understanding among them, that there is not one morsel carried out of any market in the kingdom, but what is delivered upon credit.
N° 3. SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
Juv. Sat. i. 85, 86.
P. Will's Coffee-house, April 14, This evening the comedy called the Country Wife was acted in Drury-lane, for the benefit of Mrs. Bignell. The part which gives name to the play was performed by herself. Through the whole action she made a very pretty figure, and exactly entered into the nature of the part
. Her husband in the drama, is represented to be one of those debauchees who run through the vices of the town, and believe when they think fit, they can marry and settle at their ease. His own knowledge of the iniquity of the age makes him choose a wife wholly ignorant of it, and place his security in her want of skill to abuse him. The poet, on many occasions, where the propriety of the character will admit of it, insinuates, that there is no defence against vice but the contempt of it; and has, in the natural ideas of an untainted innocent, shown the gradual steps to ruin and destruction which persons of condition run into, without the help of a good education to form their conduct. The torment of a jealous coxcomb, which arises from his own false maxims, and the aggravation of his pain by the very words in which he sees her innocence, makes a very pleasant and instructive satire. The character of Horner, and the design of it, is a good representation of the age in which that comedy was written; at which time love and wenching were the business of life, and the gallant manner of
pursuing women was the best recommendation at Court. To this only it is to be imputed, that a gentleman of Mr. Wycherley's character and sense condescends to represent the insults done to the honour of the bed, without just reproof: but to have drawn a man of probity with regard to such considerations had been a monster, and a poet had at that time discovered his want of knowing the manners of the Court he lived in, by a virtuous character in his fine gentleman, as he would show his ignorance, by drawing a vicious one to please the present audience. Mrs. Bignell did her part very happily, and had a certain grace in her rusticity, which gave us hopes of seeing her a very skilful player, and in some parts supply our loss of Mrs. Verbruggen. I cannot be of the same opinion with my friends and fellowlabourers, the Reformers of Manners, in their severity towards plays; but must allow, that a good play acted before a well-bred audience, must raise very proper incitements to good behaviour, and be the most quick and most prevailing method of giving young people a turn of sense and breeding.
But as I have set up for a weekly historian, I resolve to be a faithful one; and therefore take this public occasion to admonish a young nobleman, who came flustered into the box last night, and let him know how much all his friends were out of countenance for him. The women sat in terror of hearing something that should shock their modesty, and all the gentlemen in as much pain out of compassion to the ladies, and perhaps resentment for the indignity which was offered in coming into their presence in so disrespectful a man
Wine made him say nothing that was rude, therefore he is forgiven, upon condition he never will hazard his offending more in this kind. As I just now hinted, I own myself of the “ Society for Reformation of Manners.” We have lower instruments than those of the family of Bickerstaff, for
punishing great crimes, and exposing the abandoned. Therefore, as I design to have notices from all public assemblies, I shall take upon me only indecorums, improprieties, and negligences, in such as should give us better examples. After this declaration, if a fine lady thinks fit to gigle at church, or a great beau come in drunk to a play, either shall be sure to hear of it in my ensuing paper. For, merely as a well-bred man, I cannot bear these enormities.
After the play we naturally stroll to this coffeehouse, in hopes of meeting some new poem, or other entertainment, among the men of wit and pleasure, where there is a dearth at present. But it is wonderful there should be so few writers, when the art is become merely mechanic, and men may make themselves great that way, by as certain and infallible rules as you may be a joiner or a mason. There happens a good instance of this in what the hawker has just now offered to sale, to wit, “ Instructions to Vanderbank; a Sequel to the Advice to the Poets; a Poem, occasioned by the glorious success of her Majesty's arms, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, the last year in Flanders.”* Here you are to understand, that the author, finding the poets would not take his advice, troubles himself no more about them; but has met with one Vanderbank, who works in arras, and makes very good tapestry hangings : therefore, in order to celebrate the hero of the age, he claps together all that can be said of a man that makes hangings :
Then, artist, who does Nature's face express
* By Sir Richard Blackmore.
Well, what shall this workman do? why? to show how great an hero the poet intends, he provides him a very good horse:
Champing his foam, and bounding on the plain, Arch his high neck, and graceful spread his mane. Now as to the intrepidity, the calm courage, the constant application of the hero, it is not necessary to take that upon yourself; you may, in the lump, bid him you employ, raise him as high as he can; and if he does it not, let him answer for disobeying orders.
Let fame and victory in inferior sky
Above his head, &c. A whole poem of this kind may be ready against an ensuing campaign, as well as a space left in the canvas of a piece of tapestry for the principal figure, while the under-parts are working ; so that, in effect, the adviser copies after the man he pretends to direct. This method should, methinks, encourage young beginners : for the invention is so fitted to all capacities, that by the help of it a man may make a receipt for a poem. A young man may observe that the jig of the thing is, as I said, finding out all that can be said in his way whom you employ to set forth your worthy. Waller and Denham had worn out the expedience of “ Advice to a Painter :" this author has transferred the work, and sent his Advice to the Poets; that is to say, to the Turners of Verse, as he calls them. Well; that thought is worn out also; therefore he directs his genius to the loom, and will have a new set of hangings in honour of the last year in Flanders. I must own to you, I approve extremely this invention, and it might be improved for the benefit of manufactory; as, suppose an ingenious gentleman should write a poem of advice to a Callico-printer;