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And perplexity is different from all these; grave, but not bemoaning, with an earnest uniform sound of voice; as in that celebrated speech of Hamlet.
To be, or not to be! -that is the question.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
And makes us rather choose those ills we have
As all these varieties of voice are to be directed by the sense, so the action is to be directed by the voice, and with a beautiful propriety, as it were, to enforce it. The arm, which by a strong figure Tully calls the orator's weapon, is to be sometimes raised and extended; and the hand, by its motion, sometimes to lead, and sometimes to follow, the words as they are uttered. The stamping of the foot too has its proper expression in contention, anger, or absolute command. But the face is the epitome of
the whole man, and the eyes are as it were the epitome of the face; for which reason, he says, the best judges among the Romans were not extremely pleased even with Roscius himself in his mask. No part of the body, besides the face, is capable of as many changes as there are different emotions in the mind, and of expressing them all by those changes. Nor is this to be done without the freedom of the eyes; therefore Theophrastus called one, who barely rehearsed his speech with his eyes fixed, an 'absent actor.'
As the countenance admits of so great variety, it requires also great judgment to govern it. Not that the form of the face is to be shifted on every occasion, lest it turn to farce and buffoonery; but it is certain that the eyes have a wonderful power of marking the emotions of the mind; sometimes by a stedfast look, sometimes by a careless one-now by a sudden regard, then by a joyful sparkling, as the sense of the word is diversified: for action is, as it were, the speech of the features and limbs, and must therefore conform itself always to the sentiments of the soul. And it may be observed, that in all which relates to the gesture there is a wonderful force implanted by nature; since the vulgar, the unskilful, and even the most barbarous, are chiefly affected by this. None are moved by the sound of words but those who understand the language; and the sense of many things is lost upon men of a dull apprehension: but action is a kind of universal tongue: all men are subject to the same passions, and consequently know the same marks of them in others, by which they themselves express them.
Perhaps some of my readers may be of opinion that the hints I have here made use of out of Cicero are somewhat too refined for the players on our theatre; in answer to which, I venture to lay it down
as a maxim, that without good sense no one can be a good player, and that he is very unfit to personate the dignity of a Roman hero who cannot enter into the rules for pronunciation and gesture delivered by a Roman orator.
There is another thing which my author does not think too minute to insist on, though it is purely mechanical; and that is the right pitching of the voice. On this occasion he tells the story of Gracchus, who employed a servant with a little ivory pipe to stand behind him, and give him the right pitch, as often as he wandered too far from the proper modulation. Every voice,' says Tully,' has its particular medium and compass, and the sweetness of speech consists in leading it through all the variety of tones naturally, and without touching any extreme. Therefore,' says he, leave the pipe at home, but carry the sense of custom with you.'
N° 542. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1712.
Et sibi præferri se gaudet
OVID. Met. ii. 430
Well pleas'd, himself before himself preferr'd.
WHEN I have been present in assemblies where my paper has been talked of, I have been very well pleased to hear those who would detract from the author of it observe, that the letters which are sent to the Spectator are as good, if not better, than any of his works. Upon this occasion many letters of mirth are usually mentioned, which some think the
Spectator writ to himself, and which others commend because they fancy he received them from his correspondents. Such are those from the valetudinarian; the inspector of the sign-posts; the master of the fan-exercise; with that of the hooped petticoat; that of Nicholas Hart the annual sleeper; that from Sir John Envil; that upon the London Cries; with multitudes of the same nature. As I love nothing more than to mortify the ill-natured, that I may do it effectually, I must acquaint them they have very often praised me when they did not design it, and that they have approved my writings when they thought they had derogated from them. I have heard several of these unhappy gentlemen proving, by undeniable arguments, that I was not able to pen a letter which I had written the day before. Nay, I have heard some of them throwing out ambiguous expressions, and giving the company reason to suspect that they themselves did me the honour to send me such and such a particular epistle, which happened to be talked of with the esteem or approbation of those who were present. These rigid critics are so afraid of allowing me any thing which does not belong to me, that they will not be positive whether the lion, the wild boar, and the flower-pots in the play-house, did not actually write those letters which came to me in their names. I must therefore inform these gentlemen, that I often choose this way of casting my thoughts into a letter, for the following reasons. First, out of the policy of those who try their jest upon another, before they own it themselves. Secondly, because I would extort a little praise from such who will never applaud any thing whose author is known and certain. Thirdly, because it gave me an opportunity of introducing a great variety of characters into my work, which could not have been done had I always written in
the person of the Spectator. Fourthly, because the dignity spectatorial would have suffered had I published as from myself those severe ludicrous compositions which I have ascribed to fictitious names and characters. And lastly, because they often serve to bring in more naturally such additional reflexions as have been placed at the end of them.
There are others who have likewise done me a very particular honour, though undesignedly. These are such who will needs have it that I have translated or borrowed many of my thoughts out of books which are written in other languages. I have heard of a person, who is more famous for his library than his learning, that has asserted this more than once in his private conversation*. Were it true,
I am sure he could not speak it from his own knowledge; but, had he read the books which he has collected, he would find this accusation to be wholly groundless. Those who are truly learned will acquit me in this point, in which I have been so far from offending, that I have been scrupulous, perhaps to a fault, in quoting the authors of several passages which I might have made my own. But, as this assertion is in reality an encomium on what I have published, I ought rather to glory in it than endeavour to confute it.
Some are so very willing to alienate from me that small reputation which might accrue to me from any of these my speculations, that they attribute some of the best of them to those imaginary manuscripts with which I have introduced them. There are others, I must confess, whose objections have given me a greater concern, as they seem to reflect, under this
The person here alluded to was most probably Mr. Thomas Rawlinson, ridiculed by Addison under the name of Tom Folio in the Tatler, No. 158.