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contract with the devil implies that they are en.! If we inquire what are the common marks and gaged, by covenant and inclination, to do all the symptoms by which witches are discovered to be mischief they possibly can.
such, we shall see how reasonably and mercifully I have heard many stories of witches, and read those poor creatures were burnt and hanged who many accusations against them; but I do not re- unhappily fell under that name. member any that would have induced me to have In the first place, the old woman must be proconsigned over to the halter or the flame any of digiously ugly; her eyes hollow and red. ber face those deplorable wretches, who, as they share our shriveled; she goes double, and her voice tremlikeness and nature, ought to share our compas- bles. It frequently happens, that this rueful figure sion, as persons cruelly accused of impossibilities. frightens a child into the palpitation of the heart:
But we love to delude ourselves, and often fancy home he rans, and tells his mamma, that Goody or forge an effect, and then set ourselves as gravely Such-a-one looked at him, and he is very ill. The as ridiculously to find out the cause. Thus, for good woman cries out, her dear baby is bewitched, example, when a dream or the hyp has given us and sends for the parson and the constable. false terrors, or imaginary pains, we immediately It is moreover necessary that she be very poor. conclude that the infernal tyrant owes us a spite, It is true, her master Satan has mines and hidden and inflicts his wrath and stripes upon us by the treasures in his gift; but no matter, she is for all hands of some of his sworn servants among us. that very poor, and lives on alms. She goes to For this end an old woman is promoted to a seat Sisly the cook-maid for a dish of broth, or the heel in Satan's privy-council, and appointed his execu- of a loaf, and Sisly denies them to her. The old tioner-in-chief within her district. So ready and woman goes away muttering, and perhaps in less civil are we to allow the devil the dominion over tham a month's time, Sisly hears the voice of a us, and even to provide him with butchers and cat, and strains her ancles, which are certain signs hangmen of our own make and nature.
that she is bewitched. I have often wondered why we did not, in choos- A farmer sees his cattle die of the murrain, and ing our proper officers for Beelzebub, lay the lot his sheep of the rot, and poor Goodly is forced to rather upon men than women, the former being be the cause of their death, because she was seen more bold and robust, and more equal to that talking to herself the evening before such an ewe bloody service; but upon inquiry, I find it has departed, and had been gathering sticks at the side been so ordered for two reasons: first, the men of the od where such a cow tun mad. having the whole direction of this affair, are wise The old woman has always for her companion enough to slip their own necks out of the collar; an old gray cat, which is a disguised devil too, and and secondly, an old woman is grown by custom confederate with Goody in works of darkness, the most avoided and most unpitied creature under They frequently go journeys into Egypt upon a the sun, the very name carrying contempt and sa- broom-staff in half an hour's time, and now and tire in it. And so far indeed we pay but an un- then Goody and her cat change shapes. Tho courtly sort of respect to Satan, in sacrificing to neighbours often overhear them in deep and solemn him nothing but dry sticks of human nature. discourse together, plotting some dreadful mischief
We have a wondering quality within us, which you may be sure. finds huge gratification when we see strange feats There is a famous way of trying witches redone, and can not at the same time see the doer or commended by King James I. The old woman the cause. Such actions are sure to be attributed is tied hand and foot, and thrown into the river, to some witch or demon; for if we come to find and if she swims she is guilty, and taken out and they are slily performed by artists of our own spe burnt; but if she is innocent, she sinks, and is cies, and by causes purely natural, our delight dies only drowned. with our amazement.
The witches are said to meet their master freIt is, therefore, one of the most unthankful offi- quently in churches and church-yards. I wonces in the world, to go about to expose the mis- der at the boldness of Satan and his congregation, taken notions of witchcraft and spirits ; it is robbing in revelling and playing mountebank farces on conmankind of a valuable imagination, and of the secrated ground; and I have so often wondered at privilege of being deceived. Those who at any the oversight and ill policy of some people in alime undertook the task, have always met with lowing it possible. rough treatment and ill language for their pains, It would have been both dangerous and impious and seldom escaped the imputation of atheism, be- to have treated this subject at one certain time in cause they would not allow the devil to be too pow. this ludicrous manner. It used to be managed erful for the Almighty. For my part, I am so much with all possible gravity, and even terror: and ina heretic as to believe, that God Almighty, and not deed it was made a tragedy in all its parts, and The devil, governs the world.
thousands were sacrificed, or rather murdered, bu
much evidence and colours, as, God be thanked !|to pleasure, and language was by them cultivated we are this day ashamed of. An old woman may only as a mode of elegance. Hence it becanic be miserable now, and not be hanged for it. more enervaled, and was dashed with quainti esses,
which gave the public writings of those times a
very illiberal air. AN ACCOUNT OF THE AUGUSTAN
L'Estrange, who was by no means so bad a AGE OF ENGLAND.
writer as some have represented hiin, was sunk in
party faction ; and having generally the worst side The history of the rise of language and learn- of the argument, often had recourse to scolding, ing is calculated to gratify curiosity rather than to pertness, and consequently a vulgarity that dissatisfy the understanding. An account of that covers itself even in his more liberal compositious. period only when language and learning arrived He was the first writer who regularly enlisted at its highest perfection, is the most conducive to himself under the banners of a party for pay, and real improvement, since it at once raises emulation fought for it through right and wrong for upwards and directs to the proper objects. The age of Leo of forty literary campaigns. This intrepidity X. in Italy is confessed to be the Augustan age gained him the esteem of Cromwell himself, and with them. The French writers seem agreed to the papers he wrote even just before the revolution, give the same appellation to that of Louis XIV.; almost with the rope about his neck, have his usual but the English are yet undetermined with respect characters of impudenice and perseverance. That to themselves.
he was a standard writer can not be disowned, beSome have looked upon the writers in the times cause a great many very eminent authors formed of Queen Elizabeth as the true standard for future their style by his. But his standard was far from imitation; others have descended to the reign of being a just one ; though, when party consideraJames I. and others still lower, to that of Charles II. tions are set aside, he certainly was possessed of Were I to be permitted to offer an opinion upon this elegance, ease, and perspicuity. subject, I should readily give my vote for the reign Dryden, though a great and undisputed genius, of Queen Anne, or some years before that period. had the same cast as L'Estrange. Even his plays It was then that taste was united to genius; and discover him to be a party man, and the same prinas before our writers charmed with their strength ciple infects his style in subjects of the lightest of thinking, so then they pleased with strength nature; but the English tongue, as it stands at and grace united. In that period of British glory, present, is greatly his debtor. He first gave it rethough no writer attracts our attention singly, gular harmony, and discovered its latent powers. yet, like stars lost in each other's brightness, they It was his pen that formed the Congreves, the bave cast such a lustre upon the age in which they Priors, and the Addisons, who succeeded him; lived, that their minutest transactions will be at- and had it not been for Dryden, we never should tended to by posterity with a greater eagerness than have known a Pope, at least in the meridian lustre the most important occurrences of even empires he now displays. But Dryden's excellencies as a which have been transacted in greater obscurity. writer were not confined to poetry alone. There
At that period there seemed to be a just balance is, in his prose writings, an ease and elegance that between patronage and the press. Before it, men have never yet been so well united in works of were little esteemed whose only merit was genius; taste or criticism. and since, men who can prudently be content to The English language owes very little to Otway, catch the public, are certain of living without de though, next to Shakspeare, the greatest genius pendence. But the writers of the period of which England ever produced in tragedy. His excellenI am speaking were sufficiently esteemed by the cies lay in painting directly from nature, in catch great, and not rewarded enough by booksellers to ing every emotion just as it rises from the soul, and set thein abovė independence. Fame, conse- in all the powers of the moving and pathetic. He quently, then was the truest road to happiness; a appears to have had no learning, no critical knowbedulous attention to the mechanical business of ledge, and to have lived in great distress. When the day makes the present never failing resource. he died (which he did in an obscure house near
The age of Charles II., which our countrymen the Minories), he had about him the copy of a wrm the age of wit and immorality, produced tragedy, which, it seeme, he had sold for a trifle to some writers that at once served to improve our Bentley the bookseller. I have seen an advertiselanguage and corrupt our hearts. The king him- ment at the end of one of D'Estrange's political self had a large share of knowledge, and some wit; papers, offering a reward to any one who should and his courtiers were generally men who had bring it to his shop. What an invaluable treasure been brought up in the sehool of affliction and ex- was there irretrievably lost, by the ignorance and perience. For this reason, when the sunshine of neglect of the age ke lived in! wheir fortune returned, they gave loo great a loose Lee had a great command of language, and vast force of expression, both which the best of our his friends, which always happens when a man succeeding dramatic poets thought proper to take distinguishes himself in party; but there is in it no for their models. Rowe, in particular, seems to thing extraordinary. Even the speech which he have caught that manner, though in all other re-made for biinself at the bar of the House of Lords, spects inferior. The other poets of that reign con before he was sent into exile, is void of eloquence, tributed but little towards improving the English/though it has been cried up by his friends to such tongue, and it is not certain whether they did not a degree that his enemies have suffered it to pass injure rather than improve it. Immorality has its uncensured. cant as well as party, and many shocking expres- The philosophical manner of Lord Shaftesbury's sions now crept into the language, and became the writing is nearer to that of Cicero than any Eng. transient fashion of the day. The upper galleries, lish author has yet arrived at; but perhaps had by the prevalence of party-spirit, were courted with Cicero written in English, his composition would great assiduity, and a horse-laugh following ribaldry have greatly exceeded that of our countryman. was the highest instance of applause, the chastity The diction of the latter is beautiful, but such as well as energy of diction being overlooked or beauty as, upon nearer inspection, carries with it neglected.
evident symptoms of affectation. This has been Virtuous sentiment was recovered, but energy attended with very disagreeable consequences. No of style never was. This, though disregarded in thing is so easy to copy as affectation, and his lordplays and party writings, still prevailed amongst ship’s rank and fame bave procured bim more imimen of character and business. The dispatches of tators in Britain than any other writer I know; all Sir Richard Fanshaw, Sir William Godolphin, faithfully preserving his blemishes, but unhappily Lord Arlington, and many other ministers of state, not one of his beauties. are all of them, with respect to diction, manly, bold, Mr. Trenchard and Mr. Davenant were politiaud nervous. Sir William Temple, though a man cal writers of great abilities in diction, and their of no learning, had great knowledge and experience. pamphlets are now standards in that way of writing He wrote always like a man of sense and a gentle. They were followed by Dean Swist, who, though man; and his style is the model by which the best in other respects far their superior, never could rise prose writers in the reign of Queen Anne formed to that manliness and clearness of diction in polititheirs. The beauties of Mr. Locke's style, though cal writing for which they were so justly famous. not so much celebrated, are as striking as that of They were all of them exceeded by the late Lorå his understanding. He never says more nor less Bolingbroke, whose strength lay in that province ; than he ought, and never makes use of a word that for as a philosopher and a critic he was ill qualifiche he could have changed for a better. The same ob- being destitute of virtue for the one, and of learnservation holds good of Dr. Samuel Clarke. ing for the other. His writings against Sir Robert
Mr. Locke was a philosopher; his antagonist, Walpole are incomparably the best part of his Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester, was a man of works. The personal and perpetual antipathy be learning; and therefore the contest between them had for that family, to whose places he thought his was unequal. The clearness of Mr. Locke's head own abilities had a right, gave a glow to his style, renders his language perspicuous, the learning of and an edge to his manner, that never yet have Stillingfleet's clouds his. This is an instance of the been equalled in political writing. His misfortunes superiority of good sense over learning towards the and disappointments gave his mind a turn which his improvement of every language.
friends mistook for philosophy, and at one time of There is nothing peculiar to the language of his life he had the art to impose the same belief up Archbishop Tillotson, but his manner of writing on some of his enemies. His idea of a Patriot is inimitable ; for one who reads him, wonders why King, which I reckon (as indeed it was) amongst he himself did not think and speak in that very his writings against Sir Robert Walpole, is a manner. The turn of his periods is agreeable, masterpiece of dietion. Even in his other works though artless, and every thing he says seems to his style is excellent ; but where a man either does flow spontaneously from inward conviction. Bar- not, or will not understand the subject he writes row, though greatly his superior in learning, falls on, there must always be a deficiency. In politics short of him in other respects.
he was generally master of what he underlook, in The time seems to be at hand when justice will morals never. be done to Mr. Cowley's prose, as well as poetical, Mr. Addison, for a happy and natural style, writings; and though his friend Dr. Sprat, bishop will be always an honour to British literature. His of Rochester, in his diction falls far short of the diction indeed wants strength, but it is equal to all abilities for which he has been celebrated, yet there the subjects he undertakes to handle, as he never is sometimes a happy flow in his periods, something (at least in his finished works) attempts any thing that looks like eloquence. The style of his suc- either in the argumentative or demonstrative way. Pesour, Atterbury, has been much commended by Though Sir Richard Steele's reputation as
public writer was owing to his connexions with herst, were possessed of great abilities, yet they Mr. Addison, yet after their intimacy was formed, were suffered to feel all the miseries that usually Steele sunk in his merit as an author. This was attend the ingenious and the imprudent, that atnot owing so much to the evident superiority on tend men of strong passions, and no phleginatic rethe part of Addison, as to the unnatural efforts serve in their command, which Steele made to equal or eclipse him. This At present, were a nian to attempt to improve emulation destroyed that genuine flow of diction his fortune, or increase his friendship, by poetry, which is discoverable in all his fornier composi- he would soon feel the anxiety of disappointment. tions.
The press lies open, and is a benefactor to every Whilst their writings engaged attention and the sort of literature but that alone. favour of the public, reiterated but unsuccessful en- I am at a loss whether to ascribe this falling off deavours were nrude towards forining a grammar of the public to a vicious taste in the poet, or in of the English language. The authors of those them. Perhaps buth are to be reprehended. The efforts went upon wrong principles. Instead of poet, either drily didactive, gives us rules which endeavouring to retrench the absurdities of our lan-might appear abstruse even in a system of ethics, guage, and bringing it to a certain criterion, their or triflingly volatile, writes upon the most unworthy grammars were no other than a collection of rules subjects; content, if he can give music instead of attempting to naturalize those absurdities, and sense; content, if he can paint to the imagination bring them under a regular system.
without any desires or endeavours to affect : the Somewhat effectual, however, might have been public, therefore, with justice, discard such empty done towards fixing the standard of the English sound, which has nothing but a jingle, or, what is language, had it not been for the spirit of party. worse, the unmusical flow of blank verse to recomFor both whigs and tories being ambitious to stand mend it. The late method, also, into which our at the head of so great a design, the Queen's death newspapers have fallen, of giving an epitome of happened before any plan of an academy could be every new publication, must greatly damp the resolved on.
writer's genius. He finds himself, in this case, at Meanwhile the necessity of such an institution the mercy of men who have neither abilities nor became every day more apparent. The periodical learning to distinguish his merit. He finds his and political writers, who then swarmed, adopted own composition mixed with the sordid trash of the very worst manner of L'Estrange, till not only every daily scribbler. There is a suficient speciall decency, but all propriety of language, was lost men given of his work to abate curiosity, and yet in the nation. Leslie, a pert writer, with some wit so mutilated as to render him contemptible. His and learning, insulted the government every week first, and perhaps his second work, by these means with the grossest abuse. His style and manner, sink, among the crudities of the age, into oblivion, both of which were illiberal, were imitated by Rid- Fame he finds begins to turn her back: he therepath, De Foe, Dunton, and others of the opposite fore flies to profit which invites him, and he en. party, and Toland pleaded the cause of atheism rols himself in the lists of Julness and of avarice and immorality in much the same strain; his sub- for life. ject seemed to debase his diction, and he ever Yet there are still among us men of the greatest failed most in one when he grew most licentious in abilities, and who in some parts of learning have the other.
surpassed their predecessors : justice and friendship Towards the end of Queen Anne's reign, some might here impel me to speak of names which will of the greatest men in England devoted their time shine out to all posterity, but prudence restrains to party, and then a much better manner obtained me from what I should otherwise eagerly embrace. in political writing. Mr. Walpole, Mr. Addison, Envy might rise against every honoured name I Mr. Mainwaring, Mr. Stoele, and many members should mention, since scarcely one of them has not of both houses of parliament, drew their pens for those who are his enemies, or those who despisu the whigs; but they seem to have leen overmatch- him, etc. ed, though not in argument yet in writing, by Bolingbroke, Prior, Swift, Arbuthnot, and the other friends of the opposite party. They who oppose a OF THE OPERA IN ENGLAND. ministry have always a better field for ridicule and reproof than they who defend it.
The rise and fall of our amusements pretty Since that period, our writers have either been much resemble that of empire. They this day encouraged above their merits or below them, flourish without any visible cause for such vigour; Some who were possessed of the meanest abilities the next, they decay without any reason that can acquired the highest preferments, while others who be assigned for their downfal. Some years ago the seemed born to reflect a lustre upon the age, perish- Italian opera was the only fashionable amusement ed by went and neglect. More, Savage, and Am. among our nobility. The managers of the play
houses dreaded it as a mortal enemy, anů our veryther Corelli nor Pergolesi ever permitted them, aird poets listed themselves in the opposition: at present they even begin to be discontinued in Italy, where the house seems deserted, the castrati sing to empty they first had their rise. benches, even Prince Vologese himself, a youth of And now I am upon the subject: our composers great expectations, sings himself out of breath, and also should affect greater simplicity; let their bass rattles his chain to no purpose.
cliff have all the variety they can give it; let the To say the truth, the opera as it is conducted body of the music (if I may so express it) be as va. among us, is but a very humdrum amusement : in rious as they please; but let them avoid ornamentother countries, the decorations are entirely magnifi- ing a barren ground-work; let them not attempt cent, the singers all excellent, and the burlettas or by flourishing to cheat us of solid harmony. interludes quite entertaining; the best poets com- The works of Mr. Rameau are never heard pose the words, and the best masters the music, but without a surprising effect. I can attribute it only with us it is otherwise ; the decorations are but tri- to the simplicity he every where observes, insomuch Aling and cheap; the singers, Matei only excepted, that some of his finest harmonies are only octave but indifferent. Instead of interlude, we have those and unison. This simple manner has greater sorts of skipping dances, which are calculated for powers than is generally imagined ; and were not the galleries of the theatre. Every performer sings such a demonstration misplaced, I think, from the his favourite song, and the music is only a medley of principles of music it might be proved to be most old Italian airs, or some meagre modern Capriccio. agreeable.
When such is the case, it is not much to be But to leave general reflection. With the present wondered if the opera is pretty much neglected; set of performers, the operas, if the conductor thinks the lower orders of people have neither taste nor proper, may be carried on with some success, since fortune to relish such an entertainment; they they have all some merit, if not as actors, at least as would find more satisfaction in the Roast Beef singers. Signora Matei is at once both a perfect of Old England than in the finest closes of a eu- actress and a very fine singer. She is possessed nuch; they sleep amidst all the agony of recita- of a fine sensibility in her manner, and seldom intive; on the other hand, people of fortuno or taste dulges those extravagant and unmusical flights of can hardly be pleased, where there is a visible voice complained of before. Cornacini, on the other poverty in the decorations, and an entire want of hand, is a very indifferent actor, has a most untaste in the composition.
meaning face, seems not to feel his part, is infected Would it not surprise one, that when Metasta- with a passion of showing his compass; but to resio is so well known in England, and so universal- compense all these defects, his voice is melodious, ly admired, the manager or the composer should he has vast compass and great volubility, his swell have recourse to any other operas than those writ- and shake are perfectly fine, unless that he conten by him? I might venture to say, that written tinues the latter too long. In short, whatever the by Metastasio, put up in the bills of the day, would defects of his action may be, they are amply recomalone be sufficient to fill a house, since thus the pensed by his excellency as a singer; nor can I admirers of sense as well as sound might find enter- avoid fancying that he might make a much greattainment.
er figure in an oratorio than upon the stage. The performers also should be entreated to sing However, upon the whole, I know not whether only their parts without clapping in any of their ever operas can be kept up in England; they seem own favourite airs. I must own, that such songs to be entirely exotic, and require the nicest manageare generally to me the most disagreeable in the ment and care. Instead of this, the care of them is world. Every singer generally chooses a favourite assigned to men unacquainted with the genius and air, not from the excellency of the music, but from disposition of the people they would amuse, and difficulty; such songs are generally chosen as sur- whose only motives are immediate gain. Whether prise rather than please, where the performer may a discontinuance of such entertainments would be show his compass, his breath, and his volubility. more to the loss or advantage of the nation, I will
Hence proceed those unnatural startings, those not take upon me to determine, since it is as much unmusical closings, and shakes lengthened out to our interest to induce foreigners of taste among us a painful continuance; such indeed may show a on the one hand, as it is to discourage those trifling voice, but it must give a truly delicate ear the ut- members of society who generally compose the ruost uneasiness Such tricks are not music; nei-loperatical dramatis persone on the other.