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ESSA Y XVII.

ON THE OPERA.

ESSAY XVII.

THE OPERA.

The Opera is a fine thing: the only question is whether it is not too fine. It is the most fascinating, and at the same time the most tantalising of all places. It is not the too little, but the too much, that offends us. Every object is there collected, and displayed in ostentatious profusion, that can strike the senses or dazzle the imagination ; music, dancing, painting, poetry, architecture, the blaze of beauty, “the glass of fashion, and the mould of form ;” and yet one is not satisfied--for the multitude and variety of objects distract the attention, and by flattering us with a vain show of the highest gratification of every faculty and wish, leave us at last in a state of listlessness, disappointment, and ennui. The powers of the mind are exhausted, without being invigorated ; our expectations are excited, not satisfied; and we are at some loss to distinguish an excess of

VOL. II.

Y

irritation from the height of enjoyment. To sit at the Opera for a whole evening, is like undergoing the process of animal magnetism for the same length of time. It is an illusion and a mockery, where the mind is made “the fool of the senses,” and cheated of itself; where pleasure after pleasure courts us, as in a fairy palace; where the Graces and the Muses, waving in a gay,

fantastic round with one another, still turn from our pursuit ; where art, like an enchantress with a thousand faces, still allures our giddy admiration, shifts her mask, and again disappoints us. The Opera, in short, proceeds upon a false estimate of taste and morals; it supposes that the capacity for enjoyment may be multiplied with the objects calculated to afford it. It is a species of intellectual prostitution ; for we can no more receive pleasure from all our faculties at once than we can be in love with a number of mistresses at the same time. Though we have different senses, we have but one heart; and if we attempt to force it into the service of them all at once, it must grow restive or torpid, hardened or enervated. The spectator may say to the sister-arts of Painting, Poetry, and Music, as they advance to him in a pas-de-trois at the Opera, “How happy could I be with either, were t'other dear charmers

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