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my frowning brows bound with a stocking stuffed into a turban, while on my captiv'd arms I brandished a jackchain. Nature seemed to have fitted me for the part: I was tall, and had a loud voice; my very entrance excited universal applause; I looked round on the audience with a smile, and made a most low and graceful bow; for that is the rule among us. As it was a very passionate part, I invigorated my spirits with three full glasses (the tankard is almost out) of brandy. By Alla! it is almost inconceivable how I went through it: Tamerlane was but a fool to me; though he was sometimes loud enough too, yet I was still louder than he: but then, besides, I had attitudes in abundance in general I kept my arms folded up thus, upon the pit of my stomach; it was the way at DruryLane, and has always a fine effect.
"The tankard would sink to the bottom before I could get through the whole of my merits: in short, I came off like a prodigy; and such was my success, that I could ravish the laurels even from a sirloin of beef. The principal gentlemen and ladies of the town came to me, after the play was over, to compliment me upon my success; one praised my voice, another my person; upon my word,' says the squire's lady, he will make one of the finest actors in England; I say it, and I think I am something of a judge.'—— Praise in the beginning is agreeable enough, and we receive it as a favour; but when it comes in great quantities we regard it as a debt, which nothing but our merit could extort instead of thanking them, I internally applauded myself. We were desired to give our piece a second time; we obeyed; and I was applauded even more than before.
"At last we left the town, in order to be at a horse-race at some distance from thence. I shall never think of Tenterden without tears of gratitude and respect. The ladies and gentlemen there, take my word for it, are very good
judges of plays and actors. Come, let us drink their healths, if you please, Sir. We quitted the town, I say; and there was a wide difference between my coming in and going out: I entered the town a candle-snuffer, and I quitted it a hero. Such is the world; little to-day, and great to-morrow. I could say a great deal more upon that subject, something truly sublime, upon the ups and downs of fortune; but it would give us both the spleen, and so I shall pass it over.
"The races were ended before we arrived at the next town, which was no small disappointment to our company; however, we were resolved to take all we could get. I played capital characters there too, and came off with my usually brilliancy. I sincerely believe I should have been the first actor of Europe, had my growing merit been properly cultivated; but there came an unkind frost which nipped me in the bud, and levelled me once more down to the common standard of humanity. I played Sir Harry Wildair; all the country ladies were charmed: if I drew out my snuff-box, the whole house was in a roar of rapture; when I exercised my cudgel, I thought they would have fallen into convulsions.
"There was here a lady who had received an education of nine months in London; and this gave her pretensions to taste, which rendered her the indisputable mistress of the ceremonies wherever she came. She was informed of my merits; every body praised me; yet she refused at first going to see me perform; she could not conceive, she said, any thing but stuff from a stroller; talked something in praise of Garrick, and amazed the ladies with her skill in enunciations, tones, and cadences; she was at last, however, prevailed upon to go; and it was privately intimated to me, what a judge was to be present at my next exhibition. However, no way intimidated, I came on in Sir Harry,
one hand stuck in my breeches, and the other in my bosom, as usual at Drury-lane; but instead of looking at me, I perceived the whole audience had their eyes turned upon the lady who had been nine months in London; from her they expected the decision which was to secure the general's truncheon in my hand, or sink me down into a theatrical letter-carrier. I opened my snuff-box, took snuff; the lady was solemn, and so were the rest; I broke my cudgel on alderman Smuggler's back: still gloomy, melancholy all, the lady groaned and shrugged her shoulders; I attempted, by laughing myself, to excite a smile; but the devil a cheek could I perceive wrinkle into sympathy: I found it would not do all my good-humour now became forced; my laughter was converted into hysteric grinning; and while I pretended spirits, my eye showed the agony of my heart in short, the lady came with an intention to be displeased, and displeased she was; my fame expired; I am here, and the tankard is no more!"
ON THE APPROACHING CORONATION.
That a time of war is a time of parsimony, is a maxim which patriots and senators have had often in their mouths, and which I do not remember ever to have been denied. I know not whether by the acute enquiries of the present age, this opinion has been discovered to be groundless, and is therefore thrown aside among obsolete follies; or whether it happened on this, as on other occasions, that conviction is on one side, and practice on the other; but so it is, that the war, whatever it has taken from the wealth, has added nothing to our frugality. Every place of splendid pleasure
is filled with assemblies, every sale of expensive superfluities is crowded with buyers; and war has no other effect, than that of enabling us to shew that we can be at once military and luxurious, and pay soldiers and fidlers at the same time.
Among other changes which time has effected, a new species of profusion has been produced. We are now, with an emulation never known before, outbidding one another for a sight of the Coronation; the annual rent of palaces is offered for a single room for a single day.(1)
I am far from desiring to repress curiosity, to which we owe so great a part of our intellectual pleasures; nor am I hardy enough to oppose the general practice of mankind, so much as to think all pomp or magnificence useless or ridiculous. But all passions have their limits, which they cannot exceed without putting our happiness in danger; and although a fine show be a fine thing, yet, like other fine things, it may be purchased too dear. All pleasures are valuable in proportion to their greatness and duration : that the pleasure of a show is not of any long continuance, all know, who are now striving for places; for if a show was long, it would not be rare. This is not the worst, the pleasure while it lasts will be less than is expected. No human performance can rise up to human ideas. Grandeur is less grand, and finery less fine than it is painted by the fancy; and such is the difference between hope and possession, that, to a great part of the spectators, the show will cease as soon as it appears.
Let me yet not deceive my readers to their disadvantage, or represent the little pleasures of life as less than they are.
(1) The coronation took place on the 22d. of Sep. 1761. The front seats in the galleries of Westminster Abbey were let at ten guineas each, and those in the houses along the procession at the same price. Some of them cleared upwards of a thousand pounds. See Ann. Reg. vol. iv. p. 218.]
Those who come to see come likewise to be seen, and will, for many hours before the procession, enjoy the eyes of innumerable gazers. Nor will this be the last or the longest gratification; those who have seen the coronation, will have whole years of triumph over those who saw it not. They will have an opportunity of amusing their humble friends and rustic acquaintances with narratives, often heard with envy, and often with wonder; and when they hear the youth of the next generation boasting the splendour of any future procession, they will talk with contemptuous superiority of the Coronation of George the Third.(1)
ON NATIONAL CONCORD. (2)
As you seem by your writings to have a just regard and filial affection for your country, and as your monthly lucubrations are widely diffused over all the dominions of Great Britain, I take the liberty to communicate to the public, through your channel, a few loose thoughts upon a subject, which, though often handled, has not yet, in my opinion, been fully discussed: I mean national concord, or unanimity, which, in this kingdom, has been generally considered as a bare possibility, that existed no where but
(1) ["I am going to let London cool, and will not venture into it again this fortnight. O! the buzz, the prattle, the crowds, the noise, the hurry! If I was to entitle ages, I would call this 'the century of crowds.' For the coronation, if a puppet-show could be worth a million, that is. The multitudes, balconies, guards, and processions, made Palace-yard the liveliest spectacle in the world: the hall was the most glorious. The blaze of lights, the richness and variety of habits, the ceremonial, the benches of peers and peeresses, frequent and full, was as awful as a pageant can be ; and yet, for the king's sake and my own, I never wish to see another.”— Horace Walpole, Sep. 24, 1761.]
(2) [Written in December 1760.]