Слике страница

her own.

she to me,

for my amusement. For my entertainment the beauty had all that morning been improving her charms, the beau had put on lace, and the young doctor a big wig, merely to please me. But quite different were the sentiments of cousin Hannah ; she regarded every well-dressed woman as a victorious rival, hated every face that seemed dressed in good humour, or wore the appearance of greater happiness than

I perceived her uneasiness, and attempted to lessen it, by observing, that there was no company in the park today. To this she readily assented; “and yet,' says she, “it is full enough of scrubs of one kind or ano ther." My smiling at this observation gave her spirits to pursue the bent of her inclination, and now she began to exhibit her skill in secret history, as she found me disposed to listen. “ Observe,” says

" that old woman in tawdry silk, and dressed out even beyond the fashion. That is Miss Biddy Evergreen. Miss Biddy, it seems, has money, and as she considers that money was never so scarce as it is now, she seems resolved to keep what she has to herself. She is ugly enough you see; yet, I assure you, she has refused several offers to my own knowledge, within this twelvemonth. Let me see, three gentlemen from Ireland who study the law, two waiting captains, her doctor, and a Scotch preacher, who had like to have carried her off. All her time is passed between sickness and finery. Thus she spends the whole week in a close chamber, with no other company but her monkey, her apothecary, and cat, and comes dressed out to the park every Sunday, to show her airs, to get new lovers, to catch a new cold, and to make new work for the doctor.

“ There goes Mrs. Roundabout, I mean the fat lady in the lutestring trollopee. Between you and I, she is but a cutler's wife. See how she's dressed, as fine as hands and pins can make her, while her two marriageable daughters,

[ocr errors]

like bunters, in stuff gowns, are now taking six pennyworth of tea at the White-conduit-house.(1) Odious puss! how she waddles along, with her train two yards behind her. She puts me in mind of my Lord Bantam's Indian sheep, which are obliged to have their monstrous tales trundled along in a go-cart. For all her airs, it goes to her husband's heart to see four yards of good lutestring wearing against the ground, like one of his knives on a grindstone. To speak my mind, cousin Jeffery, I never liked tails; for suppose a young fellow should be rude, and the lady should offer to step back in a fright, instead of retiring she treads upon her train, and falls fairly on her back; and then you know, cousin,--her clothes may be spoiled.

“ Ah! Miss Mazzard ! I knew we should not miss her in the park; she in the monstrous Prussian bonnet. Miss, though so very fine, was bred a milliner, and might have had some custom if she had minded her business; but the girl was fond of finery, and instead of dressing her customers, laid out all her goods in adorning herself. Every new gown she put on impaired her credit; she still, however, went on improving her appearance and lessening her little fortune, and is now, you see, become a belle and a bankrupt."

My cousin was proceeding in her remarks, which were interrupted by the approach of the very lady she had been so freely describing Miss had perceived her at a distance, and approached to salute her. I found, by the warmth of the two ladies' protestations, that they had been long inti

(1) [" White Conduit House, Islington, from the extreme pleasantness of its situation, was, for many years, a very attractive place of resort to the London populace in their recreative excursions. Yet, "such is the mutability of human affairs," as Scott's Baillie Mucklethrift would express it, that ere long we may rationally expect it to be numbered with the places that were : its pleasantness, of late years, having been much deteriorated by the new streets that have arisen in all the neighbouring fields."-Brayley's Londiniana, vol. ii. p. 196.]


Mademoiselle Clairon, (1) a celebrated actress at Paris, seems to me the most perfect female figure I have ever seen upon any stage. Not, perhaps, that Nature has been more liberal of personal beauty to her, than some to be seen upon our theatres at home. There are actresses here who have as much of what connoisseurs call statuary grace, by which is meant elegance unconnected with motion, as she ; but they all fall infinitely short of her, when the soul comes to give expression to the limbs, and animates every feature.

Her first appearance is excessively engaging ; she never comes in staring round upon the company, as if she intended to count the benefits of the house, or at least to see, as well as be seen. Her eyes are always, at first, intently fixed upon the persons of the drama, and she lifts them by degrees, with enchanting diffidence, upon the spectators. Her first speech, or at least the first part of it, is delivered with scarcely any motion of the arm; her hands and her tongue never set out together ; but the one prepares us for the other. She sometimes begins with a mute, eloquent attitude; but never goes forward all at once with hands, eyes, head, and voice. This observation, though it may appear of no importance, should certainly be adverted to; nor do I see any one performer among us--Garrick only excepted —that is not, in this particular, apt to offend. By this simple beginning she gives herself a power of rising in the passion of the scene. As she proceeds, every gesture, every look acquires new violence, till at last transported, she fills the whole vehemence of the part, and all the idea of the poet.

(1) [Mademoiselle Clairon was born in 1723, retired from the stage in 1765, and died in 1803, in her eightieth year. Garrick, when he visited Paris in 1752, became acquainted with her, and always afterwards expressed the highest admiration of her talents.]

Her hands are not alternately stretched out, and then drawn in again, as with the singing women at Sadler's-wells ; they are employed with graceful variety, and every moment please with new and unexpected eloquence. Add to this, that their motion is generally from the shoulder ; she never flourishes her hands while the upper part of her arm is motionless, nor has she the ridiculous appearance, as if her elbows were pinned to her hips.

But, of all the cautions to be given to our rising actresses, I would particularly recommend it to them never to take notice of the audience, upon any occasion whatsoever ; let the spectators applaud never so loudly, their praises should pass, except at the end of the epilogue, with seeming inattention. I can never pardon a lady on the stage who, when she draws the admiration of the whole audience, turns about to make them a low courtesy for their applause. Such a figure no longer continues Belvidera, but at once drops into Mrs. Cibber. (1) Suppose a sober tradesman, who once a year takes his shilling's worth at Drury-lane, in order to be delighted with the figure of a queen, the queen of Sheba for instance, or any


this honest man has no other idea of the great but from their superior pride and impertinence: suppose such a man placed among the spectators, the first figure that appears on the stage is the

the queen herself, courtesying and cringing to all the company; how can he fancy her the haughty favourite of king Solomon the wise, who appears actually more submissive than the wife of his bosom. We are all tradesmen of a nicer relish in this respect, and such conduct must disgust every spectator who loves to have the illusion of nature strong upon him.

Yet, while I recommend to our actresses a skilful attention to gesture, I would not have them study it in the look

(1) [The wife of Theophilus Cibber. She died in 1766, leaving a professional reputation, "greater,” says Dr. Johnson, “than she deserved; as she had a vast sameness, though her expression was very fine.”

ing-glass. This, without some precaution, will render their action formal ; by too great an intimacy with this, they become stiff and affected. People seldom improve, when they have no other model but themselves to copy after. I remember to have known a notable performer of the other sex, who made great use of this flattering monitor, and yet was one of the stiffest figures I ever saw. I am told his apartment was hung round with looking-glass, that he might see his person twenty times reflected upon entering the room ; and I will make bold to say, he saw twenty very ugly fellows whenever he did




ON THE USE OF LANGUAGE. The manner in which most writers begin their treatises on the Use of Language is generally thus: “ Language has been granted to man, in order to discover his wants and necessities, so as to have them relieved by society. Whatever we desire, whatever we wish, it is but to clothe those desires or wishes in words, in order to fruition; the principal use of language, therefore, say they, is to express our wants, so as to receive a speedy redress.”

Such an account as this may serve to satisfy grammarians and rhetoricians well enough, but men who know the world maintain very contrary maxims; they hold, and I think with some shew of reason, that he who best knows how to conceal his necessities and desires, is the most likely person to find redress, and that the true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.

(1) [This was related of Mr. Thomas Sheridan, son of the friend of Swift, and father of Richard Brinsley Sheridan; and Goldsmith appears to have often told the story in conversation.]

« ПретходнаНастави »