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THERE is nothing which lies more within the province of a Spectator than public shows and diversions; and as among these there are none which can pretend to vie with those elegant entertainments that are exhibited in our theatres, I think it particularly incumbent on me to take notice of everything that is remarkable in such numerous and refined assemblies. It is observed, 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 wainscot, which may be heard over the whole theatre. The person is commonly known by the name of the “Trunk-maker in the upper gallery.” Whether it be that the blow he gives on these occasions resembles that which is often heard in the shops of such artisans, or that he was supposed to have been a real trunk-maker, who, after the finishing of his day’s work, used to unbend his mind at these public diversions 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 sees 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 matter of this moment, I find that the trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large black man, whom nobody knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant with great attention to every thing that passes upon the stage. He never is seen to smile, but upon hearing any thing that pleases Thim, 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 in his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again at work. It has been observed, his blow is so well
timed that the most judicious critic could never except against it. As soon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or any uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or the wainscot. If the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time: and if the audience is not yet awakened, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which never fails to produce the cla He sometimes lets the audience begin the clap of themselves, and at the conclusion of their applause ratifies it with a single thwack. He is of so great use to the play-house, that it is said, a former director of it, upon his not being able to pay his attendance reason of sickness, kept one in pay to ciate for him until such time as he recovered; but the person so employed, though he laid about him with incredible violence, did it in such wrong places, that the audience soon found out that it was not their old friend the trunk-maker. It has been remarked, that he has not yet exerted himself with vigour this season. He sometimes plies at the opera; and upon Nicolini's first appearance was said to have demolished three benches in the fury of his applause. He has broken half a dozen oaken plants upon Dogget,” and seldom goes away from a tragedy of Shakspeare, without leaving the wainscot extremely shattered. The players do not only connive at his obstreperous approbation, but very cheerfully repair at their own cost whatever damages he makes. They once had a thought of erecting a kind of wooden anvil for his use, that should be made of a very sounding plank, in order to render his strokes more deep and mellow; but as this might not have been distinguished from the music of a kettle-drum, the project was laid aside. In the meanwhile, I cannot but take notice of the great use it is to an audience, that a person should thus preside over their heads like the director of a concert, in or— der to awaken their attention, and beat time to their applauses; or, to raise my simile, I have sometimes fancied the trunk-maker in the upper gallery to be like Virgil’s ruler of the winds, seated upon the top of a mountain, who when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, roused a hurricane, and set the whole cavern in an uproar.f 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 been taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audience is not a little abashed, if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it; so the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but regard it as a mere brutum fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the sound of the oaken plant in it. I know it has been given out by those 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 surmise which has no foundation: his strokes are always just, and his admonitions seasonable; he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. The inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on sufficiently shows the evidence and strength of his conviction. His zeal for a §. authorisindeed outrageous, and breaks own every fence and partition, every board and plank, that stands within the expression of his applause. As I do not care for terminating my thoughts in barren speculations, or in rerts of pure matter of fact, without drawing something from them for the advantage of my countrymen, I shall take the liberty to make an humble proposal, that whenever the trunk-maker shall depart this life, or whenever he shall have lost the spring of his arm by sickness, old age, infirmity, or the like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to this post, and have a comtent salary settled on him for life, to be rnished with bamboos for operas, crabtree cudgels for comedies, and oaken plants for tragedy, at the public expense. And to the end that this place should be always disposed of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it, who has not given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment, and a strong arm, and who could not, upon occasion, either knock down an ox, or write a comment upon Horace’s Art of Poetry. In short, I would have him a due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for this important office, that the trunk-maker may not be missed by our posterity. C.
* Thomas Dogget, a celebrated comic actor, many years joint manager of Drury-lane Theatre. He died in 1721, leaving a legacy to provide a coat and badge to be rowed for, from London Bridge to Chelsea, by six watermen yearly, on the first of August, the day of the accession of George I. There is a particular account of him in Cibber's Apology.
t Æneid, i. 85.
No. 236.] Friday, Movember 30, 1711.
—Dare jurra maritis.-Hor. Ars Poet. v. 398. With laws connubial tyrants to restrain.
“MR.SPECTAtoR,-You have not spoken in so direct a manner upon the subject of marriage, as that important case deserves. It would not be improper to observe upon the peculiarity in the youth of Great Britain of railing and laughing at that institution; and when they fall into it, from a profligate habit of mind, being insensible of the satisfaction in that way of life, and treating their wives with the most barbarous disrespect.
* Particular circumstances, and cast of temper, must teach a man the probability of mighty uneasiness in that state; (for unquestionably some there are whose very
dispositions are strangely averse to conjugal friendship) but no o, believe, is ; ; own natural complexion prompted to tease and torment another for no reason but being nearly allied to him. And can there be any thing more base, or serve to sink a man so much below his own distinguishing characteristic, (I mean reason,) than returning evil for good in so open a manner, as that of treating a helpless creature with unkindness, who has had so an opinion of him as to believe what he said relating to one of the greatest concerns of life, by delivering her happiness in this world to his care and protection? Must not that man be abandoned even to all manner of humanity, who can deceive a woman with appearances of affection and kindness, for no other end but to torment her with more ease and authority? Is anything more unfike a gentleman than when his honour is engaged for the performing his promises, because nothing but that can oblige him to it, to become afterwards false to his word, and be alone the occasion of misery to one whose happiness he but lately pool Was dearer to him than his own Ought such a one to be trusted in his common affairs? or treated but as one whose honesty consisted only in his incapacity of being otherwise? “There is one cause of this usage no less absurd than common, which takes place among the more unthinking men; and that is, the desire to appear to their friends free and at liberty, and without those trammels they have so much ridiculed. To avoid this they fly into the other extreme, and grow tyrants that they may seem masters. Because an uncontrollable command of their own actions is a certain sign of entire dominion, they will not so much as recede from the government even in one muscle of their faces. A kind look they believe would be fawning, and a civil answer yielding the superiority. To this we must attribute an austerity they betray in every action. What but this can put a man out of humour in his wife’s company, though he is so dintinguishingly pleasant every where else? The bitterness of his replies, and the severity of his frowns to the tenderest of wives, clearly demonstrate that an ill-grounded fear of being thought too submissive, is at the bottom of this, as I am willing to call it, affected moroseness; but if it be such, only put on to convince his acquaintance of his entire dominion, let him take care of the conseuence, which will be certain and worse than the present evil; his seeming indifference will by degrees grow into real contempt, and if it doth not wholly alienate the affections of his wife for ever from him, make both him and her more miserable than if it really did so. ‘However inconsistent it may appear, to be thought a well-bred person has no small share in this clownish behaviour. A discourse therefore relating to ; :"...# towards a loving and a tender wife, woul
be of great use to this sort of gentlemen. Could }. but once convince them, that to be civil at least is not beneath the character of a gentleman, nor even tender affection towards one who would make it reciprocal, betrays any softness or effeminacy that the most masculine disposition need be ashamed of; could you satisfy them of the generosity of voluntary civility, and the greatness of soul that is conspicuous in benevolence without immediate obligations; could you recommend to people's practice the saying of the gentleman quoted in one of your speculations, “That he thought it incumbent upon him to make the inclinations of a wo: man of merit go along with her duty;” could you, I say, persuade these men of the beauty and reasonableness of this sort of behaviour, I have so much charity, for some of them at least, to believe you would convince them of a thing they are only ashamed to allow. Besides, you would re
commend that state in its truest, and con
sequently its most agreeable colours: and the gentlemen, who have for any time been such professed enemies to it, when occasion should serve, would return you their thanks for . their interest in prevailing over their prejudices. Marriage in general would by this means be a more easy and comfortso condition; the husband would be no where so well satisfied as in his own parlour, nor the wife so pleasant as in the company of her husband. A desire of being agreeable in the lover would be increased in the husband, and the mistress be more amiable by becoming the wife. Besides all which, I am apt to believe we should find the race of men grow wiser as their progenitors grew kinder, and the affection of their parents would be conspicuous in the wisdom of their children; in short, men would in general be much better humoured than they are, did they not so frequently exercise the worst turns of their temper where they ought to exert the best.”
“Mr. SPECTA Tor, I am a woman who left the admiration of the whole town to throw myself (or love of wealth) into the arms of a fool. When I married him, I could have had any one of several men of sense who languished for me; but my case is just. I believed my superior understanding would form him into a tractable creature. But, alas! my spouse has cunning and suspicion, the inseparable companions of little minds; and every attempt I make to divert, by putting on an agreeable air, a sudden cheerfulness, or kind behaviour, he looks upon as the first act towards an insurrection against his undeserved dominion over me. Let every one who is still to choose, and hopes to govern a fool, remember TRISTISS.A.”
“St. Martin's, Nov. 25. “MR. SPECTAtoR,-This is to complain of an evil practice which I think very well deserves a redress, though you have not as
yet taken any notice of it; if you mention it in your paper, it .# perhaps have a very good effect. What I mean is, the disturbance some people give to others at church, by their repetition of the prayers after the minister; and that not only in the prayers, but also in the absolution; and the commandments fare no better, which are in a P. manner the priest’s office. This have known done in so audible a manner, that sometimes their voices have been as loud as his. As little as you would think it, this is frequently done by j. seemingly devout. his irreligious inadvertency is a thing extremely offensive: But I do not recommend it as a thing I give you liberty to ridicule, but hope it may be amended by the bare mention. Sir, your very humble servant, *T. S.”
No. 237.] Saturday, December 1, 1711.
Visu carentem magna pars verit latet.
It is very reasonable to believe, that part of the pleasure which happy minds shall . in a future state, will arise from an enlarged contemplation of the Divine Wisdom in the government of the world, and a discovering of the secret and amazing steps of Providence, from the beginning to the end of time. Nothing seems to be an entertainment more adapted to the nature of man, if we consider that curiosity is one of the strongest and most lasting appetitesim: planted in us, and that admiration is one of our most pleasing passions; and what a per
tual succession of enjoyments will be aforded to both these, in a scene so large and various as shall there be laid open to our view in the society of superior spirits, who perhaps will join with us in so delightful a prospect!
It is not impossible, on the contrary, that part of the punishment of such as are excluded from bliss, may consist not only in their being denied this privilege, but in having their appetites at the same time vastly increased without any satisfaction afforded to them. In these, the vain pursuit of knowledge shall, perhaps, add to their infelicity, and bewilder them into labyrinths of error, darkness, distraction, and uncertainty of every thing but their own evil state. Milton has thus represented the fallen angels reasoning together in a kind of respite from their torments, and creating to themselves a new disquiet amidst their very amusements; he could not properly have described the sport of condemned spirits, without that cast of horror and melancholy he has so judiciously mingled with them:
Fixt fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute,
In our present condition, which is a middle state, our minds are as it were checkered with truth and falsehood: and as our faculties are narrow, and our views imperfect, it is impossible but our curiosity must meet with many repulses. The business of mankind in this life being rather to act than to know, their portion of knowledge is dealt to them accordingly.
From hence it is, that the reason of the . has so long been exercised with difficulties, in accounting for the promiscuous distribution of good and evil to the vir
tuous and the wicked in this world. From
hence come all those pathetic complaints of so many tragical events which happen to the wise and the good; and of such surprising prosperity, which is often the lott of the guilty and the foolish; that reason is sometimes puzzled, and at a loss what to pronounce upon so mysterious a dispensation.
Plato expresses his abhorrence of some fables of the poets, which seem to reflect son the gods as the authors of injustice; and lays it down as a principle, that whatever is permitted to befal a just man, whether poverty, sickness, or any of those things which seem to be evils, shall either in life or death conduce to his good. My reader will observe how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a discourse purposely on this subject;t in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoics, to show that adversity is not in itself an evil; and mentions a noble saying of Demetrius, that “nothing would be more unhappy than a man who had never known affliction.” He compares prosperity to the indulgence of a fond .. to a child, which often proves his ruin; but the affection of the Divine Being to that of a wise father, who would have his sons exercised with labour, disappointments, and pain, that they may gather strength and improve their fortitude. On this occasion, the philosopher rises into that celebrated sentiment, “That there is not on earth a spectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works than a brave man superior to his sufferings;’ to which he adds, “that it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from heaven, and see Cato amidst the ruins of his country preserving his integrity.”
This thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider human life as a state of probation, and adversity as the post of honour in it, assigned often to the best and most select spirits.
* Paradise Lost, b. ii. v. 557.
f Spect. in folio; for reward. &c.
1 Pid. Senec. De constantia sapientis, sive quod in sapientern non cadit injuria.
would chiefly insist on here |p
is, that we are not at present in a pro situation to judge of the councils by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or according to the elegant figure in holy writ, ‘we see, but in part, and as in a glass darkly '' It is to be considered, that Providence in its economy regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful connection between incidents which lie widely separate in time, and by losing so many links of the chain, our reasonings become broken and imperfect. Thus those parts of the moral world which have not an absolute, may yet have a relative beauty, in respect of some other parts concealed from us, but open to his eye before whom “past,” “present,’ and ‘to come,” are set together in one point of view: and those events, the permission of which seems now to accuse his goodness, may in the consummation of things both magnify his goodness, and exalt his wisdom. And this is enough to check our presumption, since it is in vain to apply our measures of regularity to matters of which we know neither the antecedents nor the consequents, the beginning nor the end. I shall relieve my readers from this abstracted thought, by relating here a Jewish tradition concerning Moses, which seems to be a kind of parable, illustrating what I have last mentioned. That great prophet, it is said, was called up by a voice from heaven to the top of a mountain; where in a conference with the Supreme Being, he was admitted to propose to him some questions concerning his administration of the universe. In the midst of this divine colloquy he was commanded to look down on the plain below. At the foot of the mountain there issued out a clear spring of water, at which a soldier alighted from his horse to drink. He was no sooner gone than a little boy came to the same place, and finding a purse of gold which the soldier had dropped, took it up and went away with it: Immediately after this came an infirm old man, weary with age and travelling, and having quenched his thirst, sat down to rest himself by the side of the spring. The soldier missing his purse returns to search for it, and demands it of the old man, who affirms he had not seen it, and appeals to heaven in witness of his innocence. The soldier not believing his protestations, kills him. Moses fell on his face with horror and amazement, when the divine voice thus prevented his expostulation: ‘Be not surprised, Moses, nor ask why the Judge of the whole earth has suffered this thing to ass. The child is the occasion that the blood of the old man is spilt; but know that the old man whom thou sawest was the murderer of that child's father.’ C.
§ 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
No. 238.] Monday, December 3, 1711.
Nequicquain populo bibulas donaveris aures; Respue quod nones Persius, Sat. iv. 50.
No more to flattering crowds thine ear incline, Eager to drink the praise which is not thine. o Brewster. AMong all the diseases of the mind, there is not one more epidemical or more pernicious than the love of flattery. For as where the juices of the body are prepared to receive a malignant influence, there the disease rages with most violence; so in this Jistemper of the mind, where there is ever a propensity and inclination to suck in the poison, it cannot be but that the whole order of reasonable action must be overturned, for, like music, it So softens and disarms the mind, That not one arrow can resistance find. First we flatter ourselves, and then the flattery of others is sure of success. It awakens our self-love within, a party which is ever ready to revolt from ourbetter judgment, and join the enemy without. Hence it is, that the profusion of favours we so often see poured upon the parasite, are reresented to us by our self-love, as justice one to the man who so agreeably reconciled us to ourselves. When we are overcome by such soft insinuations and ensnaring compliances, we gladly recompense the ar: tifices that are made use of to blind our reason, and which triumph over the weaknesses of our temper and inclinations. But were every man persuaded from how mean and low a principle this passion is derived, there can be no doubt but the person who should attempt to gratify it, would then be as contemptible as he is now successful. It is the desire of some quality we are not possessed of, or inclination to be something we are not, which are the causes of our giving ourselves up to that man who bestows upon us the characters and qualities of others, which perhaps suit us as ill, and were as little designed for our wearing, as their clothes. Instead of going out of our own complexional nature into that of others, it were a better and more laudable industry to improve our own, and instead of a miserable copy become a good original; for there is no temper, no disposition so rude and untractable, but may in its own peculiar cast and turn be brought to some agreeable use in conversation, or in the affairs of life. . A person of a rougher deportment, and less tied up to the usual ceremonies of behaviour, will, like Manly in the play,” please by the grace which nature gives to every action wherein she is complied with; the brisk and lively will not want their admirers, and even a more reserved and melancholy temper may at sometimes be agreeable. When there is not vanity enough awake in a man to undo him, the flatterer stirs up that dormant weakness, and inspires him
with merit enough to be a coxcomb. But if flattery be the most sordid act that can be complied with, the art of praising justly is as commendable; for it is laudable to praise well; as poets at one and the same time give immortality, and receive it themselves for a reward. Both are pleased; the one whilst he receives the recompence of merit, the other whilst he shows he knows how to discern it; but above all, that man is happy in this art, who, like a skilful painter, retains the features and complexion, but still softens the picture into the most agreeable likeness. There can hardly, I believe, be imagined a more desirable pleasure than that of praise unmixed with any possibility of flattery. Such was that which Germanicus enjoyed, when, the night before a battle, desirous of some sincere mark of the esteem of his legions for him, he is described by Tacitus listening in a disguise to the discourse of a soldier, and wrapt up in the fruition of his glory, whilst with an undesigned sincerity they praised his noble and majestic mien, his affability, his valour, conduct, and success in war. How must a man have his heart full-blown with joy in such an article of glory as this? What a spur and encouragement still to proceed in those steps which had already brought him to so pure a taste of the greatest of mortal “o. t sometimes happens that even enemies and envious persons bestow the sincerest marks of esteem when they least design it. Such afford a greater pleasure, as extorted by merit, and freed from all suspicion of favour or flattery. Thus it is with Malvolio; he has wit, learning, and discernment, but tempered with an allay of envy, self-love, and detraction. Malvolio turns pale at the mirth and good-humour of the company, if it centre not in his person; he grows jealous and displeased when he ceases to be the only person admired, and looks upon the commendations paid to another as a detraction from his merit, and an attempt to lessen the superiority he affects; but by this very method, he bestows such H. as can never be suspected of flattery. is uneasiness, and distastes are so many sure and certain signs of another's title to that glory he desires, and has the mortification to find himself not possessed of. A good name is fitly compared to a precious ointment,f and when we are praised with skill and decency, it is indeed the most agreeable perfume; but if too strongly admitted into a brain of a less vigorous an happy texture, it will, like too strong an odour, overcome the senses, and prove pernicious to those nerves it was intended to refresh. A generous mind is of all others the most sensible of praise and dispraise; and a noble spirit is as much invigorated with its due proportion of honour and ap
* Wycherley's comedy of the Plain Dealer.
t Eccles. vii. 1.