Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

as open a manner as the press can do it, and lay down this paper for ever.

There is something very terrible in unjustly attacking men in a way that may prejudice their honour or fortune ; but when men of top modest a sense of themselves will think they are touched, it is impossible to prevent ill-consequences from the most 'innocent and general discourses. This I have known happen in circumstances the most foreign to theirs who' have taken offence at them. An advertisement lately published, relating 'to Omicron", alarmed a gentleman of good sense, integrity, honour, and industry, who is, in every particular, different from the trifling pretenders pointed at in that advertisement. When the modesty of some is as excessive as the vanity of others, what defence is there against misinterpretation? However, giving disturbance, though not intended, to men of virtuous characters, has so sincerely troubled "me, that I will break from this satirical vein; and to show I very little value myself upon it, shall , for this month ensuing, leave the

h See Tatler, No. 62. ad finem.

i In the Female Tatler, No. 38. Sept. 30, 1709, there is the following paragraph in a letter: “ The Male Tatler has graciously published a cessation of arms with fops, madmen, and sharpers, for a certain time; and it would be an act of generosity in you while he is preparing his . Tables of Fame,' and diverting the town and country with very useful discourses on agreeable subjects, such as oratory, love, and gallantry, pretty applications and lively expressions from history and poetry, to entertain your readers after the same manner, and give us 'illustrious instances of men famous in their generations, such as deserve to be handed down to posterity, whether living or dead. - In No. 53. there is the following advertisement: 'A table of fame for the ladies will be published as soon as materials can be collected, to which ends the public are desired to contribute, and it will be gratefully acknow"ledged.

In a note on Tatler, No. 55. some mention was made of the Female Tatler. The author "of it was a Mr. Thomas Baker, who was some time at the university of Oxford. ' In the early part of his life he was very effeminate, and the original, it is said, of the character represented under sharper, the fop, the pedant, the proud man, the insolent; in a word, all the train of knaves and fools, to their own devices, and touch on nothing but panegyric. This way is suitable to the true genius of the Staffs, who are much more inclined to reward than punish. If, therefore, the author of the abovementioned letter does not command my silence wholly, as he shall if I do not give him satisfaction, I shall for the above-mentioned space turn my thoughts to raising merit from its obscurity, celebrating virtue in its distress, and attacking vice by no other method but setting innocence in a proper light.

WILL'S COFFEE-HOUSE, SEPTEMBER 20. I find here for me the following letter :

SQUIRE BICKERSTAFF,

• FINDING your advice and censure to have a good effect, I desire your admonition to our vicar and schoolmaster, who, in his preaching to his auditors, stretches his jaws so wide, that, instead of instructing youth, it rather frightens them : likewise in reading prayers, he has such a careless loll, that people are justly offended at his irreverent posture; besides the extraordinary charge they are put to in sending their children to dance, to bring them off of those ill gestures. Another evil faculty he has in making the bowling-green his daily residence, instead of his church, where his curate reads prayers every day. If the weather is fair, his time is spent in visiting; if cold or wet, in bed, or at least at home, though within one hundred yards of the church. These the name of Maiden, by himself in his comedy, called “ Tunbridge Walks,” 1703, 4to. Quarrelling with his father, an eminent attorney in London, but not very liberal to this son, Thomas Baker retired into Worcestershire, where he is said to have died, as Sylla the Roman dictator did, of that loathsome distemper, the morbus pediculosus. Biographia Dramatica, art. Baker,

out of many such irregular practices, I write for his reclamation : but two or three things more before I conclude ; to wit, that generally when his curate preaches in the afternoon, he sleeps sotting in the desk on a hassock. With all this he is so extremely proud, that he will go but once to the sick, except they return his visit.'

I was going on in reading my letter when I was interrupted by Mr. Greenhat, who has been this evening at the play of Hamlet. Mr. Bickerstaff,' said he, had you been to-night at the play-house, you had seen the force of action in perfection : your admired Mr. Bettertonk behaved himself so well, that,

k«C'étoit un des meilleurs acteurs du royaume; comme qui diroit le baron de Londres. Le N. P.

Thomas Betterton was born in Westminster, in 1638, where he received the first rudiments of a genteel education, and showed such a propensity to literature, that it was for some time the intention of his family to have brought him up to one of the liberal professions. But this design the confusion and violence of the ensuring times diverted them from, or probably put it out of their power to accomplish. His fondness for reading, however, induced him to request of his parents that they would bind him apprentice to a bookseller, which was readily complied with. His master, Mr. Rhodes, who had been wardrobe-keeper to the theatre in Black-friars before the troubles, obtained a licence in 1659 from the powers then in being, to set up a company of players in the Cock-pit in Drury-lane, in which company Mr. Betterton entered himself; and, though not much above twenty years of age, immediately gave proof of the most capital genius and merit, and continued to deserve, and to receive, the highest applause, both as an actor and a manager, till, at an advanced period of life, he retired from the stage. The public, however, who retained a grateful sense of the pleasure they had frequently received from this theatrical veteran, and sensible of the narrowness of his circumstances, resolved to continue the marks of their esteem to him, by giving him a benefit; and on the 7th of April 1709, the comedy of Love for Love' was performed for that purpose, in which this gentleman himself, though then upwards of seventy years of age, acted the youthful part of Valentine; as in the September following he did that of Hamlet, his performance of which Steele has taken particular notice of in this paper. On the former occasion, those very eminent performers, Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Bracegirdle, who had quitted the stage some years before in gratitude to one to whom they had so many obligations, acted the parts of Angelica and Mrs. Frail; and Mr. Rowe wrote an epilogue for that night, which was spoken by Mrs.

VOL. II.

though now about seventy, he acted youth ; and by the prevalent power of proper manner, gesture, and voice, appeared through the whole drama a young man of great expectation, vivacity, and enterprize. The soliloquy, where he began the celebrated sentence of “ To be, or not to be !" the ex. postulation, where he explains with his mother in her closet; the 'noble ardour after seeing his father's ghost; and his generous distress for the death of Ophelia, are each of them circumstances which dwell strongly upon the initsds of the audience, and would certainly affect their behaviour on any parallel occasions in their own lives. Pray, Mr. Bickerstaff, let us have virtue thus represented on the stage with its proper ornaments, or let these ornaments be added to her in places more sacred. As for my part,' said he, I carried my cousin Jerry, this little boy, with me; and shall always love the child for his partiality in all that concerned the fortune of Hamlet. This is

Barry, who, with Mrs. Bracegirdle, supported between them this once powerful prop of the English stage. The profits of the night are said to have amounted to upwards of 5001, the prices having been raised to the same that the operas and oratorios are at present, and when the curtain drew up almost as large an andience appearing behind as before it.

On the 25th of April 1710, another play was given out for his benefit, viz, · The Maid's Tragedy of Beaumont and Fletcher, in which he himself performed his celebrated part of Melantius. This, however, was the last time he was to appear on the stage : for, having been suddenly seized with the gout, and being impatient at the thoughts of disappointing his friends, he made use of outward applications to reduce the swelling of his feet, which enabled him to walk on the stage, though obliged to have his foot in a slipper. But although he acted that day with unusual spirit and briskness, and met with universal applause, yet he paid very dear for this tribute he had given to the public; for the fomentations he had made use of occasioning a revulsion of the gouty humour to the nobler parts, threw the distemper up into his head, and terminated his life on the 28th of that month. On the 2d of May, his body was interred with much ceremony in the cloister of Westminster, and great honour paid to his memory by his friend Steele, who has related in a very pathetic, and at the same time the most dignified manuer, the process of the ceremonial. See Tatler, No. 167. and Biog. Dram. art. Betterton.

entering youth into the affections and passions of manhood beforehand, and, as it were, antedating the effects we hope from a long and liberal education.'

I cannot, in the midst of many other things which press, hide the comfort that this letter from my ingenious kinsman gives me.

• To my honoured Kinsman, Isaac BICKERSTAFF,

Esquire !
DEAR COUSIN,

“I am sorry, though not surprised, to find that you have rallied the men of dress in vain ; that the amber-headed cane still maintains its unstable post; that pockets are but a few inches shortened ; and a beau is still a beau, from the crown of his night-cap to the heels of his shoes. For your comfort, I can assure you, that your endeavours succeed better in this famous seat of learning. By them, the manners of our young gentlemen are in a fair way of amendment, and their very language is mightily refined. To them it is owing, that not a servitor will sing a catch, nor a senior fellow make a pun, nor a determining bachelor drink a bumper; and I believe a gentleman-commoner would as soon have the heels of his shoes red, as his stockings. When a witling stands at a coffee-house door, and sneers at those who pass by, to the great improvement of his hopeful audience, he is no longer surnamed “ a slicer,' but'a man of fire' is the word. A beauty, whose health is drank from Heddington to Hinkseyn; who has been the theme of the Muses, her cheeks painted with

1 See Tatler, No. 45. a letter with the same signature; and Tatler, No. 72. a letter dated Heddington, Sept. 19, and signed The Trencher Caps.

m Villages in the neighbourhood of Oxford. • Joan of Heddington is the heroine of a slight tragi-comedy by Dr. King...

« ZurückWeiter »