« AnteriorContinuar »
No. 50. THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
— nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
Whate'er men do, or say, or think, or dream,
WHITE'S CHOCOLATE-HOUSE, AUGUST 2.
THE HISTORY OF ORLANDO THE FAIR.
WHATEVER malicious men may say of our lucubrations, we have no design but to produce unknown merit, or place in a proper light the actions of our contemporaries who labour to distinguish themselves, whether it be by vice or virtue. For we shall never give accounts to the world of any thing, but what the lives and endeavours of the persons of whom we treat, make the basis of their fame and reputation. For this reason, it is to be hoped that our appearance is reputed a public benefit; and though certain persons may turn what we mean for panegyric into scandal, let it be answered once for all, that if our praises are really designed as raillery, such malevolent persons owe their safety from it, only to their being too inconsiderable for history. It is not every man who deals in ratsbane, or is unseasonably amorous, that can adorn story, like Æsculapius;* nor every stock-jobber of
* Dr. Radcliffe.
the India company can assume the port, and personate the figure of Aurengezebe. My noble ancestor, Mr. Shakspeare, who was of the race of the Staffs, was not more fond of the memorable Sir John Falstaff than I am of those worthies; but the Latins have an admirable admonition expressed in two words, to wit, Nequid nimis, which forbids my indulging myself on those delightful subjects, and calls me to do justice to others, who make no less figures in our generation : of such, the first and most renowned is, that eminent hero, and lover Orlando,* the handsome, whose disappointments in love, in gallantry, and in war, have banished him from public view, and made him voluntarily enter into a confinement to which the ungrateful age would otherwise have forced him. Ten lustra and more are wholly passed since Orlando first appeared in the metropolis of this island: his descent noble, his wit humorous, his person charming. But to none of these recommendatory advantages was his title so undoubted, as that of his beauty. His complexion was fair, but his countenance manly ; his stature of the tallest, his shape the most exact; and though in all his limbs he had a proportion as delicate as we see in the works of the most skilful statuaries, his body had a strength and firmness little inferior to the marble of which such images are formed. This made Orlando the universal flame of all the fair sex; innocent virgins sighed for him, as Adonis; experienced widows, as Hercules. Thus did this figure walk alone the pattern and ornament of our species, but of course the envy of all who had the same passions without his superior merit,
* Robert Fielding, Esq., commonly known then by the name of Beau Fielding, a handsome and very comely gentleman, much distinguished in the . Annals of Gallantry' at that time.
and pretences to the favour of that enchanting creature, woman. However, the generous Orlando believed himself formed for the world, and not to be engrossed by any particular affection. He sighed not for Delia, for Chloris, for Chloe, for Betty, nor my lady, nor for the ready chambermaid, nor distant baroness : woman was his mistress, and the whole sex his seraglio. His form was always irresistible; and if we consider, that not one of five hundred can bear the least favour from a lady without being exalted above himself; if also we must allow, that a smile from a side-box, has made Jack Spruce half mad; we cannot think it wonderful that Orlando's repeated conquests touched his brain: so it certainly did, and Orlando became an enthusiast in love; and in all his address, contracted something out of the ordinary course of breeding and civility. However, powerful as he was, he would still add to the advantages of his person that of a profession which the ladies always favour, and immediately commenced soldier. Thus equipped for love and honour, our hero seeks distant climes and adventures, and leaves the despairing nymphs of Great Britain, to the courtships of beaux and witlings till his return. His exploits in foreign nations and courts have not been regularly enough communicated unto us, to report them with that veracity, which we profess in our narrations ; but after many feats of arms, which those who were witnesses to them have suppressed out of envy, but which we have had faithfully related from his own mouth in our public streets, Orlando returns home full, but not loaded, with years. Beaux born in his absence made it their business to decry his furniture, his dress, his manner; but all such rivalry he suppressed, as the philosopher did the sceptic, who
argued there was no such thing as motion, by only moving. The beauteous Villaria,* who only was formed for his paramour, became the object of his affection. His first speech to her was as follows:
"MADAM, 'It is not only that nature has made us two the most accomplished of each sex, and pointed to us to obey her dictates in becoming one; but that there is also an ambition in following the mighty persons you have favored.
Where kings and heroes, as great as Alexander, or such as could personate Alexander, have bowed, permit your general to lay his laurels.
According to Milton;
The Fair with conscious majesty approv'd
Fortune having now supplied Orlando with necessaries for his high taste of gallantry and pleasure, his equipage and economy had something in them more sumptuous and gallant than could be received in our degenerate age; therefore his figure, though highly graceful, appeared so exotic, that it assembled all the Britons under the age of sixteen, who saw his grandeur, to follow his chariot with shouts and acclamations ; which he regarded with the contempt which great minds affect in the midst of applauses. I remember, I had the honour to see him one day stop, and call the youths about him, to whom he spake as follows:
“Good bastards-Go to school, and do not lose your time in following my wheels: I am loath to hurt
* Barbara, daughter and heiress to William Villiers lord vis count Grandison of the kingdom of Ireland.
you, because I know not but you are all my own offspring: hark ye, you sirrah with the white hair, I am sure you are mine: there is half a crown. Tell your mother, this, with the half crown I
her when I got you, comes to five shillings. Thou hast cost me all that, and yet thou art good for nothing. Why, you young dogs, did you never see a man before ? •Never such a one as you, noble general, replied a truant from Westminster. Sirrah, I believe thee; there is a crown for thee. Drive on, coachman.'
This vehicle, though sacred to love, was not adorned with doves; such an hieroglyphic denoted too languishing a passion. Orlando therefore gave the eagle, as being of a constitution which inclined him rather to seize his prey with talons, than pine for it with murmurs.
FROM MY OWN APARTMENT, AUGUST 2. I have received the following letter from Mr. Powel, of the Bath, who, I think, runs from the point between us ; which I leave the whole world to judge.
6 TO ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, ESQUIRE.
BATH, JULY 28.
“ Having a great deal of more advantageous business at present on my hands, I thought to have deferred answering your Tatler of the twenty-first instant till the company was gone, and season over; but having resolved not to regard any impertinences of your paper, except what relate particularly to me,
I am the more easily induced to answer you, as I shall find time to do it. First, partly lest you