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ten days. As for that part of the action which is described in the three first books, as it does not pass within the regions of nature, I have before observed that it is not subject to any calculations of time.
I have now finished my observations on a work which does an honour to the English nation. I have taken a general view of it under these four heads—the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language, and made each of them the subject of a particular paper. I have in the next place spoke of the censures which our author may incur under each of these heads, which I have confined to two papers, though I might have enlarged the number if I had been disposed to dwell on so ungrateful a subject. I believe, however, that the severest reader will not find any little fault in heroic poetry, which this author has fallen into, that does not come under one of those heads among which I have distributed his several blemishes. After having thus treated at Jarge of Paradise Lost, I could not think it sufficient to have celebrated this poem in the whole without descending to particulars. I have therefore bestowed a paper upon each book, and endeavoured not only to prove that the poem is beautiful in general, but to point out its particular beauties; and, to determine wherein they consist, I have endeavoured to show how some passages are beautiful by being sublime, others by being soft, others by being natural; which of them are recommended by the passion, which by the moral, which by the sentiment, and which by the expression. I have likewise endeavoured to show how the genius of the poet shines by a happy invention, a distant allusion, or a judicious imitation; how he has copied or improved Homer or Virgil, and raises his own imaginations by the use which he has made of several poetical passages in scripture. I might have inserted also several passages in Tasso, which our author has imitated: but, as I do not look upon Tasso to be a sufficient voucher, I would not perplex my reader with such quotations as might do more honour to the Italian than to the English poet. In short, I have endeavoured to particularize those innumerable kinds of beauty which it would be tedi. ous to recapitulate, but which are essential to poetry, and which may be met with in the works of this great author. Had I thought, at my first engaging in this design, that it would have led me so great length, I believe I should never have entered upon it: but the kind reception which it has met with among those whose judgment I have a value for, as well as the uncommon demands which my bookseller tells me have been made for these particular discourses, give me no reason to repent of the pains I have been at in composing them.
No. 370. MONDAY, MAY 5, 1712.
Totus mundus agit histrionem.
- All the world's a stage,
Many of my fair readers, as well as very gay and well-received persons of the other sex, are extremely perplexed at the Latin sentences at the head of my speculations. I do not know whether I ought not to indulge them with translations of
each of them: however, I have to-day taken down from the top of the stage in Drury-lane a bit of Latin which often stands in their view, and signifies, that “The whole world acts the player,' It is certain that if we look all round us, and behold the different employments of mankind, you hardly see one who is not, as the player is, in an assumed character. The lawyer who is vehement and loud in the cause wherein he knows he has not the truth of the question on his side, is a player as to the personated part, but incomparably meaner than he as to the prostitution of himself for hire; because the pleader's falsehood introduces injustice; the player feigns for no other end but to divert or instruct you. The divine, whose passions transport him to say any thing with any view but promoting the interests of true piety and religion, is a player with a still greater imputation of guilt, in proportion to his depreciating a character more sacred. Consider all the different pursuits and employments of men, and you will find half their actions tend to nothing else but disguise and imposture; and all that is done which proceeds not from a man's very self, is the action of a player. For this reason it is that I make so frequent mention of the stage. It is with me a matter of the highest consideration, what parts are well or ill performed, what passions or sentiments are indulged or cultivated, and consequently what manners and customs are transfused from the stage to the world, which reciprocally imitate each other. As the writers of epic poems introduce shadowy persons, and represent vices and virtues under the character of men and women; so I, who am a Spectator in the world, may perhaps sometimes make use of the names of the actors of the stage, to represent or admonish those who transact affairs in the world. When I am commending Wilks for representing the tenderness of a husband and a father in Maco beth, the contrition of a reformed prodigal in Harry the Fourth, the winning emptiness of a young man of good-nature and wealth in the Trip to the Jubilee, the officiousness of an artful servant in the Fox; when thus I celebrate Wilks, I talk to all the world who are engaged in any of those circumstances. If I were to speak of me. rit neglected, misapplied, or misunderstood, might I not say Eastcourt has a great capacity? But it is not the interest of others who bear a figure on the stage, that his talents were understood; it is their business to impose upon him what cannot become him, or keep out of his hands any thing in which he would shine.
Were one to raise a suspicion of himself in a man who passes upon the world for a fine thing, in order to alarm him, one might say, If Lord Foppington was not on the stage (Cibber acts the false pretensions to a genteel behaviour so very justly), he would have in the generality of mankind more that would admire than deride him. When we come to characters directly comical, it is not to be imagined what effect a well-regulated stage would have upon men's manners. The craft of an usurer, the absurdity of a rich fool, the awkward roughness of a fellow of half courage, the ungracefulmirth of a creature of halfwit, might for ever be put out of countenance by proper parts for Dogget. Johnson, by acting Corbacchio the other night, must have given all who saw him a thorough detestation of aged avarice. The petulancy of a peevish old fellow, who loves and hates he knows not why, is very excellently performed by the ingenious Mr. William Penkethman in the Fop's Fortune; where in the character of Don Choleric Snap Shorto de Testy, he answers no questions but to those whom he likes, and wants no account of any thing from those he approves. Mr. Penkethman is also master of as many
faces in the dumb scene as can be expected from a man in the circumstances of being ready to perish out of fear and hunger. He wonders through the whole scene very masterly, without neglecting his victuals. If it be as I have heard it sometimes mentioned, a great qualification of the world to follow business and pleasure too, what is it in the ingenious Mr. Penkethman to represent a sense of pleasure and pain at the same time as you may see him do this evening?
As it is certain that a stage ought to be wholly suppressed, or judiciously encouraged, while there is one in the nation, men turned for regular pleasure cannot employ their thoughts more usefully, for the diversion of mankind, than by convincing them that it is in themselves to raise this entertainment to the greatest height. It would be a great improvement, as well as embellishment to the theatre, if dancing were more regarded, and taught to all the actors. One who has the advantage of such an agreeable girlish person as Mrs. Bicknell, joined with her capacity of imita tion, could in proper gesture and motion represent all the decent characters of female life. An amiable modesty in one aspect of a dancer, and assumed confidence in another, a sudden joy in another, a falling-off with an impatience of being beheld, a return towards the audience with an unsteady resolution to approach them, and well-acted solicitude to please, would revive in the company all the fine touches of mind raised in observing all the objects of affection and passion they had before be