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perceive, that here their marked approbation of any passage, excited some degree of attention in the great people, who sat in the little pews above them: and although among these great people, some appeared to regard the Natac, as little as the sermon, talking and whispering, almost as much at the theatre, as they had done in church; yet the performance was here, in general, much better attended to by all who had the enjoyVnent of their fenses. You will think this a strange exception—but you must know, that a part of the royal theatre, is peculiarly appropriated to the reception of a species of lunatics, called Bucks, who are indeed, very noisy and troublesome; but who are treated with an amazing degree of lenity and forbearance, by the benevolent people, who bestow upon them the pity that is due to their unhappy situation.
Great part of the entertainment seemed, indeed, calculated for their amusement, as it is well known that the eye can be gratified by the display of gaudy colours, even where the mind is destitute of the gift of reason. This respect to folly, was, however, in my opinion, carried too far; and though I should have been well pleased to have seen the grown children amused, by the exhibition of a few showy pictures and other mummery, I could not approve of turning the infirmities of old age into ridicule, for their amusement. I had foolishly thought that all English plays were like the plays of Shakspeare; but, alas! I begin to apprehend, that they are not all quite so good! instead of those portraits of the passions, which Nature spontaneously acknowledges for her own, I only fee exaggerated representations of transient and incidental folly. Whether it be owing to the peculiar taste of the exalted Omrah, whose office it is to examine the merits of the Natacs that are performed by his Majesty's servants, or to the limited genius of modern Poets, I know not, but it appears evident, that all dramatic writers in this country, are now confined to one plot: A foolish old man devoted to avarice, has a daughter that is petulant and disobedient, or a son of the same character; perhaps, two or three of these old men, differing from each other in the size aud shape of the covering of the head, called Wigs, are brought into the fame piece, together with an old unmarried sister, who always believes herself to be young and handsome. Aster the young people have for some time exercised their ingenuity in deceiving the vigilance of the old ones, and have successfully exposed to public ridicule, the bodily infirmities and mental failings of their several parents, they are paired for marriage, and thus the piece concludes. This composition is called a Sentimental- Comedy,, and is succeeded by what is termed a. Farce. In the Farce, his Majesty's servants make faces, and perform many droll tricks for the diversion of the audience, who seem particularly pleased with their exertions in this way, which they applaud with repeated peals of laughter.—And surely, it must be highly gratifying to the imperial mind, to see the people pleased at so cheap a rate.
The first time I went to the theatre, was, as I have already informed you, in company with Miss Ardent, whowas much disappointed, that the illness of the royal servants should have prevented the representation of anew piece, written by an English officer in the service of the East India Company, which, in the opinion of this Lady, is a piece of much intrinsic merit. It is taken from the history of Zingis, and adorned with the terror-striking spirit of Zamouca, which blazes throughout the whole of the performance; to me, I must confess, the presentation of such a piece would have been more charming, thajp either the lesson of morality, given in the sentimental comedy, or the fooleries of the farce; but I was informed by Miss Ardent, that I must be cautious how I give utterance to such an opinion, as nothing is now deemed so barbarous as the energy of good fense.—" If your highness would have the people of this country," continued she, "entertain a good idea of your taste, you must give all your admiration to hollow, but highsounding sentiment. Sentiment, and singsong, are the fashion of the day. That is is so, we are much indebted to the care and talents of our modern Bards, who by such compositions as the present, spoil and contaminate the national taste:" "Pardon me," cried a gentlemen, who stood by, " but in my opinion, the stage does not so much form, as refieS the national taste. Poetry has always reached her maturity, while her votaries were in a semi-barbarous state: with the progress of civilization; flie has gradually declined; and if we take the rapidity of her decay in this country as the criterion of our refinement, we may proudly pronounce ourselves one of the most polished nations of the earth !"—Miss Ardent's carriage being announced, put an end to the conversation; but before she stept Jpto it, she invited me to dine with her on the following day. "What!" you will say, "a single, unprotected woman
invite you to her house ?—Shameful violation of decorum!"-—But consider, my friend—custom, that mighty_ legislator, who iisues the laws of propriety to the different nations of the earth, maketh that appear amiable and proper in the eyes of the people of one country, which in those of amther, is criminal and absurd: and so easily doth custom reconcile us to her capricious decrees, that I received the invitation, and went to the house of Miss Ardent, with as little perturbation as if she had been a gentleman in petticoats.
She received me in an apartment devoted to literature and contemplation, from which it takes the name of jludy; the walls of the room were lined with books, all shining in coats of glossy leather, richly ornamented with leaf of gold. That pains which in Asia is bestowed in decorating the illuminated page, being in England, all given to the outside covering, which, it must be confessed, gives to the study a very splendid appearance.
Two gentlemen had arrived before me, and were already engaged in conversation,—These, as Miss Ardent informed me in a whisper, were great critics. The word was new to me, and I did not choose to ask for an explanation, but^ seeing a huge book upon the table, which I