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was impossible for him to reap any honour. The Dutch, whom we are apt to despise for want of genius, show an infinitely greater taste of antiquity and politeness in their buildings and works of this nature, than what we meet with in those of our own country. The monuments of their admirals, which have been erected at the public expense, represent them like themselves; and are adorned with rostral crowns and naval ornaments, with beautiful festoons of seaweed, shells, and coral.
But to return to our subject. I have left the repository of our English kings for the contemplation of another day, when I shall find my mind disposed for so serious an amusement. I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can therefore take a view of nature in her deep and solemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means I can improve myself with those objects which others consider with terror. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tomb-stone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow: when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of1 some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.
1 When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some, &c.] Better thus, "When, in reading the several dates of the tombs, I find that some," &c.
I SHALL here present my reader with a letter from a projector, concerning a new office which he thinks may very much contribute to the embellishment of the city, and to the driving barbarity out of our streets. I consider it as a satire upon projectors in general, and a lively picture of the whole art of modern criticism.
Observing that you have thoughts of creating certain officers under you, for the inspection of several petty enormities which you yourself cannot attend to; and finding daily absurdities hung upon the sign-posts of this city, to the great scandal of foreigners, as well as those of our own country, who are curious spectators of the same: I do humbly propose, that you would be pleased to make me your Superintendent of all such figures and devices as are or shall be made use of on this occasion; with full powers to rectify or expunge whatever I shall find irregular or defective. For want of such an officer, there is nothing like sound literature and good sense to be met with in those objects, that are everywhere thrusting themselves out to the eye, and endeavouring to become visible. Our streets are filled with blue boars, black swans, and red lions; not to mention flying pigs, and hogs in armour, with many other creatures more extraordinary than any in the deserts of Afric. Strange! that one who has all the birds and beasts in nature to choose out of, should live at the sign of an Ens Rationis!
'My first task therefore should be, like that of Hercules, to clear the city from monsters. In the second place I would forbid, that creatures of jarring and incongruous natures should be joined together in the same sign; such as the bell and the neat's-tongue, the dog and grid-iron. The fox and goose may be supposed to have met; but what has the fox and the seven stars to do together? And when did the lamb and dolphin ever meet, except upon a sign-post? As for the cat and fiddle, there is a conceit in it; and therefore I do not intend that anything I have here said should affect it. I
must however observe to you upon this subject, that it is usual for a young tradesman, at his first setting up, to add to his sign that of the master whom he served; as the husband, after marriage, gives a place to his mistress's arms in his own coat. This I take to have given rise to many of those absurdities which are committed over our heads; and, as I am informed, first occasioned the three nuns and a hare, which we see so frequently joined together. I would therefore establish certain rules, for the determining how far one tradesman may give the sign of another, and in what cases he may be allowed to quarter it with his own.
"In the third place, I would enjoin every shop to make use of a sign which bears some affinity to the wares in which it deals. What can be more inconsistent than to see a bawd at the sign of the angel, or a tailor at the lion? A cook should not live at the boot, nor a shoemaker at the roasted pig; and yet, for want of this regulation, I have seen a goat set up before the door of a perfumer, and the French king's head at a sword-cutler's.
"An ingenious foreigner observes, that several of those gentlemen who value themselves upon their families, and overlook such as are bred to trade, bear the tools of their forefathers in their coats of arms. I will not examine how true this is in fact: but though it may not be necessary for posterity thus to set up the sign of their forefathers, I think it highly proper for those who actually profess the trade, to show some such marks of it before their doors.
"When the name gives an occasion for an ingenious signpost, I would likewise advise the owner to take that opportunity of letting the world know who he is. It would have been ridiculous for the ingenious Mrs. Salmon to have lived at the sign of the trout; for which reason she has erected before her house the figure of the fish that is her namesake. Mr. Bell has likewise distinguished himself by a device of the same nature: and here, sir, I must beg leave to observe to you, that this particular figure of a bell has given occasion to several pieces of wit in this kind. A man of your reading must know that Able Drugger gained great applause by it in the time of Ben Johnson. Our apocryphal heathen god is also represented by this figure; which, in conjunction with the dragon, makes a very handsome picture in several of our streets. As for the Bell Savage, which is the sign of a
savage man standing by a bell, I was formerly very much puzzled upon the conceit of it, till I accidentally fell into the reading of an old romance translated out of the French; which gives an account of a very beautiful woman who was found in a wilderness, and is called in the French La Belle Sauvage; and is everywhere translated by our countrymen the Bell Savage. This piece of philology will, I hope, convince you that I have made sign-posts my study, and consequently qualified myself for the employment which I solicit at your hands. But before I conclude my letter, I must communicate to you another remark which I have made upon the subject with which I am now entertaining you, namely, that I can give a shrewd guess at the humour of the inhabitant by the sign that hangs before his door. A surly, choleric fellow generally makes choice of a bear; as men of milder dispositions frequently live at the lamb. Seeing a punch-bowl painted upon a sign near Charing-Cross, and very curiously garnished, with a couple of angels hovering over it, and squeezing a lemon into it, I had the curiosity to ask after the master of the house, and found upon inquiry, as I had guessed by the little agrémens upon his sign, that he was a Frenchman. I know, sir, it is not requisite for me to enlarge upon these hints to a gentleman of your great abilities; so, humbly recommending myself to your favour and patronage,
"I remain," &c.
I shall add to the foregoing letter another, which came to me by the same penny-post.
"From my own Apartment near Charing-Cross. "HONOURED SIR,
Having heard that this nation is a great encourager of ingenuity, I have brought with me a rope-dancer that was caught in one of the woods belonging to the Great Mogul. He is by birth a monkey; but swings upon a rope, takes a pipe of tobacco, and drinks a glass of ale, like any reasonable creature. He gives great satisfaction to the quality; and if they will make a subscription for him, I will send for a brother of his out of Holland that is a very good tumbler; and also for another of the same family, whom I design for my merry-andrew, as being an excellent mimic, and the greatest droll in the country where he now is. I hope to have this
entertainment in a readiness for the next winter; and doubt not but it will please more than the opera or puppet-show. I will not say that a monkey is a better man than some of the opera heroes; but certainly he is a better representative of a man than the most artificial composition of wood and wire. If you will be pleased to give me a good word in your paper, you shall be every night a spectator at my show for nothing.
"I am," &c.
No. 29. TUESDAY, APRIL 3.
-Sermo linguâ concinnus utraque
Suavior: ut Chio nota si commista Falerni est. HOR.
THERE is nothing than has more startled our English audience, than the Italian recitativo at its first entrance upon the stage. People were wonderfully surprised to hear generals singing the word of command, and ladies delivering messages in music. Our countrymen could not forbear laughing when they heard a lover chanting out a billet-doux, and even the superscription of a letter set to a tune. The famous blunder in an old play of "Enter a king and two fiddlers solus," was now no longer an absurdity; when it was impossible for a hero in a desert, or a princess in her closet, to speak anything unaccompanied with musical instruments. But however this Italian method of acting in recitativo might appear1 at first hearing, I cannot but think it much more just than that which prevailed in our English opera before this innovation: the transition from an air to recitative music being more natural, than the passing from a song to plain and ordinary speaking, which was the common method in Purcell's operas.
The only fault I find in our present practice, is the making use of Italian recitativo with English words.
To go to the bottom of this matter, I must observe, that the tone or (as the French call it) the accent of every nation in their ordinary speech, is altogether different from that of every other people; as we may see even in the Welsh and Scotch, who border so near upon us. By the tone or accent, 1 Might appear.] I should rather have said, "might affect us at first hearing."