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pray,' says he, ‘you that are a critic, is this play according to your dramatic rules, as you call them ? Should your people in tragedy always talk to be understood? Why, there is not a single sentence in this play that I do not know the meaning of.'
The fourth act very unluckily began before I had time to give the old gentleman an answer: 'Well,' says the knight, sitting down with great satisfaction, 'I suppose we are now to see Hector's ghost.' He then renewed his attention, and, from time
to time, fell a-praising the widow. He made, indeed, a little 10 mistake as to one of her pages, whom at his first entering he
took for Astyanax: but he quickly set himself right in that particular, though, at the same time, he owned he should have been very glad to have seen the little boy, "Who said he, “must needs be a very fine child by the account that is given of him.' Upon Hermione's going off with a menace to Pyrrhus, the audience gave a loud clap; to which Sir Roger added, “On my word, a notable young baggage !'
As there was a very remarkable silence and stillness in the audience during the whole action, it was natural for them to take 20 the opportunity of these intervals between the acts, to express
their opinion of the players and of their respective parts. Sir Roger hearing a cluster of them praise Orestes, struck in with them, and told them that he thought his friend Pylades was a very sensible man; as they were afterwards applauding Pyrrhus, Sir Roger put in a second time, 'And let me tell you,' says he, 'though he speaks but little, I like the old fellow in whiskers as well as any of them.' Captain Sentry seeing two or three wags who sat near us, lean with an attentive ear towards Sir
Roger, and fearing lest they should smoke n the knight, plucked 30 him by the elbow, and whispered something in his ear, that lasted
till the opening of the fifth act. The knight was wonderfully attentive to the account which Orestes gives of Pyrrhus his death, and at the conclusion of it told me, it was such a bloody piece of work, that he was glad it was not done upon the stage. Seeing afterwards Orestes in his raving fit, he grew more than ordinary serious, and took occasion to moralize (in his way) upon an evil conscience, adding, that Orestes, in his madness, looked as if he saw something.
As we were the first that came into the house, so we were the 40 last that went out of it; being resolved to have a clear passage for our old friend, whom we did not care to venture among the justling of the crowd. Sir Roger went out fully satisfied with his entertainment, and we guarded him to his lodgings in the same manner that we brought him to the play-house; being highly pleased, for my own part, not only with the performance of the excellent piece which had been presented, but with the satisfaction which it had given to the good old man.-L.
No. 383. Sir Roger and the Spectator go by water to Vauxhall
Juv. Sat. i. 75. As I was sitting in my chamber, and thinking on a subject for my next Spectator, I heard two or three irregular bounces at my 10 landlady's door, and upon the opening of it, a loud cheerful voice
inquiring whether the philosopher was at home. The child who went to the door answered very innocently, that he did not lodge there. I immediately recollected that it was my good friend Sir Roger's voice; and that I had promised to go with him on the water to Spring-garden, in case it proved a good evening. The knight put me in mind of my promise from the bottom of the stair-case, but told me, that if I was speculating, he would stay below till I had done. Upon my coming down, I
found all the children of the family got about my old friend, 20 and my landlady herself, who is a notable, prating gossip, en
gaged in a conference with him: being mightily pleased with his stroking her little boy upon the head, and bidding him be a good child, and mind his book.
We were no sooner come to the Temple-stairs, but we were surrounded with a crowd of water-men, offering us their respective services. Sir Roger, after having looked about him very attentively, spied one with a wooden leg, and immediately gave him orders to get his boat ready. As we were walking
towards it, “You must know,' says Sir Roger, 'I never make 30 use of anybody to row me, that has not either lost a leg or
I would rather bate him a few strokes of his oar than not employ an honest man that has been wounded in the Queen's service.
If I was
a lord or a bishop, and kept a
barge, I would not put a fellow in my livery that had not a wooden leg.'
My old friend, after having seated himself and trimmed the boat with his coachman, who, being a very sober man, always serves for ballast on these occasions, we made the best of our way for Vaux-hall. Sir Roger obliged the waterman to give us the history of his right leg, and hearing that he had left it at La Hogue », with many particulars which passed in that glorious
action, the knight, in the triumph of his heart, made several 10 reflexions on the greatness of the British nation; as, that
one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen; that we could never be in danger of popery so long as we took care of our fleet; that the Thames was the noblest river in Europe ; that London bridge was a greater piece of work than
any of the seven wonders of the world; with many other honest prejudices which naturally cleave to the heart of a true Englishman.
After some short pause, the old knight, turning about his head twice or thrice, to take a survey of this great metro20 polis, bid me observe how thick the city was set with churches,
and that there was scarce a single steeple on this side Templebar. “A most heathenish sight!' says Sir Roger : “ There is no religion at this end of the town. The fifty new churches n will very much mend the prospect: but church-work is slow, churchwork is slow.'
I do not remember I have anywhere mentioned, in Sir Roger's character, his custom of saluting everybody that passes by him with a good-morrow or a good-night. This the old man does
out of the overflowings of his humanity, though at the same 30 time it renders him so popular among all his country neigh
bours, that it is thought to have gone a good way in making him once or twice knight of the shire n. He cannot forbear this exercise of benevolence even in town, when he meets with any one in his morning or evening walk. It broke from him to several boats that passed by upon the water; but to the knight's great surprise, as he gave the good-night to two or three young fellows a little before our landing, one of them, instead of returning the civility, asked us, what queer old put we had in the boat, and whether he was not ashamed to go a
wenching 40 at his years ? with a great deal of the like Thames ribaldry.
Sir Roger seemed a little shocked at first, but at length assuming a face of magistracy, told us, That if he were a Middlesex justice, he would make such vagrants know that her Majesty's subjects were no more to be abused by water than by land.
We were now arrived at Spring-garden, which is exquisitely pleasant at this time of the year. When I considered the fragrancy of the walks and bowers, with the choirs of birds
that sung upon the trees, and the loose tribe of people that 10 walked under the shades, I could not but look upon the place
as a kind of Mahometan paradise. Sir Roger told me it put him in mind of a little coppice by his house in the country, which his chaplain used to call an aviary of nightingales. You must understand,' says the knight, there is nothing in the world that pleases a man in love so much as your nightingale. Ah, Mr. Spectator ! the many moon-light nights that I have walked by myself, and thought on the widow by the music of the nightingale !' He here fetched a deep sigh, and was falling
into a fit of musing, when a mask, who came behind him, gave 20 him a gentle tap upon the shoulder, and asked him if he would
drink a bottle of mead with her ? But the knight, being startled at so unexpected a familiarity, and displeased to be interrupted in his thoughts of the widow, told her, She was a wanton baggage, and bid her go about her business.
We concluded our walk with a glass of Burton ale, and a slice of hung beef. When we had done eating ourselves, the knight called a waiter to him, and bid him
the mainder to the waterman that had but one leg. I perceived
the fellow stared upon him at the oddness of the message, and 30 was going to be saucy; upon which I ratified the knight's commands with a peremptory look.
As we were going out of the garden, my old friend thinking himself obliged, as a member of the quorum, to animadvert upon the morals of the place, told the mistress of the house, who sat at the bar, that he should be a better customer to her garden, if there were more nightingales, and fewer improper persons.-L.
[As year followed year, Addison seems to have felt the maintenance of the Spectator, unexampled
had been its success, an increasing 40 burden, and to have cast about for the means of handsomely bringing it
to a close.
One obvious expedient was to kill off, or otherwise dispose of, the members of the Club. We find mention made accordingly, in No. 513, of the Clergyman as lying on his death-bed, and four numbers later the incomparable Sir Roger himself is made to succumb to fate. On the whole, Addison's management of the character had been little interfered with by the other contributors. In a paper (No. 174), probably written by Steele, the knight holds an entertaining argument with Sir Andrew Freeport on the merits of trade; and in one by Budgell
(No. 359), he is made to discourse on beards in a style neither edifying 10 nor witty. A slight mention of him occurs in No. 359. But about a
month after the appearance of Addison's paper, just printed, describing Sir Roger's visit to Vauxhall, Steele introduced him (No. 410) as the hero of a questionable and unseemly adventure, in which the reader is presented with the disagreeable alternative of considering the poor old knight either as a knave or a fool. He is described as falling in with a girl called Sukey in the Temple cloisters, with whose appearance and manners he is so much taken that he gives her a dinner at a tavern, invites her to come to his lodgings, and promises that if she comes down
into the country she shall be encouraged. This made Addison very angry; 20 he is said to have had a sharp altercation with Steele*, and he resolved
to send the darling of his imagination to the land where the “wicked cease from troubling,” and no rude hand could mar the sweet image of simplicity and goodness which he desired should be the final result, in the minds of thousands of readers, of the contemplation of Sir Roger's character. We are thus brought to the following paper.]
No. 517. Death of Sir Roger de Coverley: Letter from his butler
Virg. Æn. vi. 878.
We last night received a piece of ill news at our club, which very sensibly afflicted every one of us. I question not but my readers themselves will be troubled at the hearing of it.
To keep them no longer in suspense, Sir Roger de Coverley 30 is dead. He departed this life at his house in the country, after
a few weeks' sickness. Sir Andrew Freeport has a letter from one of his correspondents in those parts, that informs him the old man caught a cold at the county sessions, as he was very
* Life by Dr. Johnson.