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Sport, that wrinkled care derides,
No. 251. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18.
-Linguæ centum sunt, oraque centum,
VIRG. THERE is nothing which more astonishes a foreigner and frights à country squire, than the Cries of London. My good friend Sir Roger often declares, that he cannot get them out of his head, or go to sleep for them, the first week that he is in town. On the contrary, Will. Honeycomb calls them the Ramage de la Ville, and prefers them to the sounds of larks and nightingales, with all the music of the fields and woods. I have lately received a letter from some very odd fellow upon this subject, which I shall leave with my reader, without saying anything further of it.
I am a man out of all business, and would willingly turn my head to anything for an honest livelihood. I have invented several projects for raising many millions of money without burthening the subject, but I cannot get the parliament to listen to me, who look upon me, forsooth, as a crack and a projector; so that despairing to enrich either myself or my country by this public-spiritedness, I would make some proposals to you relating to a design which I have very much at heart, and which may procure me an handsome subsistence, if you will be pleased to recommend it to the cities of London and Westminster.
“The post I would aim at is to be Comptroller-general of the London Cries, which are at present under no manner of rules or discipline. I think I am pretty well qualified for this place, as being a man of very strong lungs, of great in
sight into all the branches of our British trades and manufactures, and of a competent skill in music.
“ The cries of London may be divided into vocal and instrumental. As for the latter, they are at present under a very great disorder. A freeman of London has the privilege of disturbing a whole street, for an hour together, with the twanking of a brass-kettle or a frying-pan. The watchman's
a thump at midnight startles us in our beds as much as the breaking in of a thief. The sow-gelder's horn has indeed something musical in it, but this is seldom heard within the liberties. I would therefore propose, that no instrument of this nature should be made use of, which I have not tuned and licensed, after having carefully examined in what manner it may affect the ears of her Majesty's liege subjects.
“ Vocal cries are of a much larger extent, and, indeed, so full of incongruities and barbarisms, that we appear a distracted city to foreigners, who do not comprehend the meaning of such enormous outcries. Milk is generally sold in a note above ela, and it sounds so exceeding shrill
, that it often sets our teeth on edge. The chimney-sweeper is confined to no certain pitch; he sometimes utters himself in the deepest bass, and sometimes in the sharpest treble; sometimes in the highest, and sometimes in the lowest note of the gamut. The same observation might be made on the retailers of small coal, not to mention broken glasses or brick-dust. In these, therefore, and the like cases, it should be my care to sweeten and mellow the voices of these itinerant tradesmen, before they make their appearance in our streets, as also to accommodate their cries to their respective wares; and to take care in particular that those may not make the most noise who have the least to sell, which is very observable in the venders of card-matches, to whom I cannot but apply that old proverb of Much cry, but little wool.'
“Some of these last-mentioned musicians are so very loud in the sale of these trifling manufactures, that an honest splenetic gentleman of my acquaintance bargained with one of them never to come into the street where he lived: but what was the effect of this contract ? why, the whole tribe of card-match-makers which frequent the quarter, passed by his door the very next day, in hopes of being bought off after the same manner.
“It is another great imperfection in our London cries,
that there is no just time nor measure observed in them. Our news should, indeed, be published in a very quick time, because it is a commodity that will not keep cold. It should not, however, be cried with the same precipitation as fire :' yet this is generally the case. A bloody battle alarms the town from one end to another in an instant. Every motion of the French is published in so great a hurry, that one would think the enemy were at our gates.
This likewise I would take upon me to regulate in such a manner, that there should be some distinction made between the spreading of a victory, a march, or an encampment, a Dutch, a Portugal, or a Spanish mail. Nor must I omit under this head, those excessive alarms with which several boisterous rustics infest our streets in turnip season; and which are more inexcusable, because these are wares which are in no danger of cool. ing upon their hands.
“ There are others who affect a very slow time, and are, in my opinion, much more tunable than the former; the cooper, 'in particular, swells his last note in an hollow voice, that is not without its harmony: nor can I forbear being inspired with a most agreeable melancholy, when I hear that sad and solemn air with which the public is very often asked, if they have
chairs to mend? Your own memory may suggest to you many other lamentable ditties of the same nature, in which the music is wonderfully languishing and melodious.
“I am always pleased with that particular time of the year which is proper for the pickling of dill and cucumbers ; but, alas, this cry, like the song of the nightingale, is not heard above two months. It would, therefore, be worth while to consider whether the same air might not in some cases be adapted to other words.
“ It might likewise deserve our most serious consideration, how far, in a well-regulated city, those humourists are to be tolerated, who, not contented with the traditional cries of their forefathers, have invented particular songs and tunes of their own: such as was, not many years since, the pastryman, commonly known by the name of the colly-molly-puff; and such as is at this day the vender of powder and washballs, who, if I am rightly informed, goes under the name of Powder Watt.
“I must not here omit one particular absurdity which runs through this whole vociferous generation, and which renders
their cries very often not only incommodious, but altogether useless to the public; I mean that idle accomplishment which they all of them aim at, of crying so as not to be understood. Whether or no they have learned this from several of our affected singers, I will not take upon me to say ; but most certain it is, that people know the wares they deal in rather by their tunes than by their words ; insomuch, that I have sometimes seen a country boy run out to buy apples of a bellows-mender, and ginger-bread from a grinder of knives and scissars. Nay, so strangely infatuated are some very eminent artists of this particular grace in a cry, that none but their acquaintance are able to guess at their profession; for who else can know that, “ Work if I had it," should be the signification of a corn-cutter.
* Forasmuch, therefore, as persons of this rank are seldom men of genius or capacity, I think it would be very proper, that some man of good sense, and sound judgment, should preside over these public cries, who should permit none to lift up their voices in our streets, that have not tuneable throats, and are not only able to overcome the noise of the crowd, and the rattling of coaches, but also to vend their respective merchandises in apt phrases, and in the most distinct and agreeable sounds. I do therefore humbly recommend myself as a person rightly qualified for this post: and if I meet with fitting encouragement, shall communicate some other projects which I have by me, that may no less conduce to the emolument of the public.
I am, sir, &c.
No. 253. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20.
Indignor quicquam reprehendi, non quia crasse
Compositum, illepideve putetur, sed quia nuper. HoR. THERE is nothing which more denotes a great mind, than the abhorrence of envy and detraction. This passion reigns more among bad poets, than among any other set of men.
As there are none more ambitious of fame, than those who are conversant in poetry, it is very natural for such as have not succeeded in it, to depreciate the works of those who have. For since they cannot raise themselves to the reput
ation of their fellow-writers, they must endeavour to sink it to their own pitch, if they would still keep themselves upon a level with them.
The greatest wits that ever were produced in one age, lived together in so good an understanding, and celebrated one another with so much generosity, that each of them receives an additional lustre from his contemporaries, and is more famous for having lived with men of so extraordinary a genius, than if he had himself been the sole wonder of his age. I need not tell my reader, that I here point at the reign of Augustus, and I believe he will be of my opinion, that neither Virgil nor Horace would have gained so great a reputation in the world, had they not been the friends and admirers of each other. Indeed all the great writers of that age, for whom singly we have so great an esteem, stand up together as vouchers for one another's reputation. But at the same time that Virgil was celebrated by Gallus, Propertius, Horace, Varius, Tucca, and Ovid, we know that Bavius and Mævius were his declared foes and calumniators.
In our own country a man seldom sets up for a poet, without attacking the reputation of all his brothers in the art. The ignorance of the moderns, the scribblers of the age, the decay of poetry, are the topics of detraction, with which he makes his entrance into the world: but how much more noble is the fame that is built on candour and ingenuity, according to those beautiful lines of Sir John Denham, in his poem on Fletcher's works!
But whither am I strayed ? I need not raise
Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain. I am sorry to find that an author, who is very justly esteemed
among the best judges, has admitted some strokes of this nature into a very fine poem, I mean “ The Art of
Some strokes of this nature.] If, by strokes of this nature, he meant strokes of personal detraction, it is certain that we now perceive no such strokes in the Art of Criticism. But I suppose that some general reflections in that poem were understood, at the time of its publication, to be particular and personal ; or, the candour and gentleness of Mr. Addison's temper might take offence at general satire, when expressed with a certain force.