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finishing of his day's work, used to unbend his mind at these public diversions with his hammer in his hand, I cannot certainly tell. There are some, I know, who have been foolish enough to imagine it is a spirit which haunts the upper gallery, and from time to time makes those strange noises; and the rather, because he is observed to be louder than ordinary every time the ghost of Hamlet appears. Others have reported that it is a dumb man, who has chosen this way of uttering himself when he is transported with any thing he sees or hears. Others will have it to be the playhouse thunderer, that exerts himself after this manner in the upper gallery; when he has nothing to do upon the roof.
But having made it my business to get the best information I could in a matter of this moment, I find that the trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large, black man, whom nobody knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant with great attention to every thing that passes upon the stage. He is never seen to smile; but upon hearing any thing that pleases him, he takes up his staff with both hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands in his way with exceeding vehemence: after which, he composes himself in his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again at work.
It has been observed, his blow is so well timed, that the most judicious critic could never except against it. As soon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or any uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or wainscot. If the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time; and if the audience is not yet awakened, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which
never fails to produce the clap. He sometimes lets the audience begin the clap of themselves, and at the conclusion of their applause ratifies it with a single thwack.
He is of so great use to the playhouse, that it is said a former director of it, upon his not being able to pay his attendance by reason of sickness, kept one in pay to officiate for him until such time as he recovered; but the person so employed, though he laid about him with incredible violence, did it in such wrong places, that the audience soon found out that it was not their old friend the trunk-maker.
It has been remarked, that he has not yet exerted himself with vigour this season.
He sometimes plies at the opera;
Nicolini's first appearance was said to have demolished three benches in the fury of his applause. He has broken half a dozen oaken plants upon Dogget,* and seldom goes away from a tragedy of Shakspeare, without leaving the wainscot extremely shattered.
The players do not only connive at his obstreperous approbation, but very cheerfully repair at their own cost whatever damages he makes. They once had a thought of erecting a kind of wooden anvil for his use, that should be made of a very sounding plank, in order to render his strokes more deep and mellow; but as this might not have been distinguished from the music of a kettle-drum, the project was laid aside.
In the meanwhile, I cannot but take notice of the great use it is to an audience, that a person
* Thomas Dogget, an excellent comic actor, who was for many years joint-manager of the playhouse with Wilkes and Colley Cibber, of whom the reader may find a particular account in Cibber's Apology for his own Life.
should thus preside over their heads like the director of a concert, in order to awaken their attention, and beat time to their applauses; or, to raise my simile, I have sometimes fancied the trunk-maker in the upper-gallery to be like Virgil's ruler of the winds, seated upon the top of mountain, who when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, roused a hurricane, and set the cavern in an uproar. *
It is certain the trunk-maker has saved many a good play, and brought many a graceful actor into reputation, who would not otherwise have been taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audi. ence is not a little abashed, if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it; so the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but
regard it as a mere brutum fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the sound of the oaken plant in it. I know it has been given out by those who are enemies to the trunk-maker, that he has sometimes been bribed to be in the interest of a bad poet, or a vicious player; but this is a surmise which has no foundation : his strokes are always just, and his admonitions seasonable: he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. The inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on sufficiently shews the evidence and strength of his conviction. His zeal for a good author is indeed outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, every board and plank, that stands within the expression of his applause.
As I do not care for terminating my thoughts in barren speculations, or in reports
of ter of fact, without drawing something from them for the advantage of my countrymen, I shall take
* Æneid i. 85.
the liberty to make an humble proposal, that whenever the trunk-maker shall depart this life, or whenever he shall have lost the spring of his arm by sickness, old age, infirmity, or the like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to this post, and have a competent salary settled on him for life, to be furnished with bamboos for operas, crab-tree cudgels for comedies, and oaken planks for tragedy, at the public expense. And to the end that this place should be always disposed of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it, who has not given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment and a strong arm, and who could not, upon occasion, either knock down an ox, or write a comment upon Horace's Art of Poetry. In short, I would have him a due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for this important office, that the trunkmaker
may not be missed by our posterity. C.
No. 236. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 1711.
Dare jura maritis.
Hor. Ars Poet. v. 398.
• You have not spoken in so direct a manner upon the subject of marriage, as that important case deserves. It would not be improper to observe upon the peculiarity in the youth in Great Britain of railing and laughing at that institution; and when they fall into it, from a profligate habit of mind, being insensible of the satisfaction in
that way of life, and treating their wives with the most barbarous disrespect.
Particular circumstances, and cast of temper, must teach a man the probability of mighty uneasiness in that state; (for unquestionably some there are whose very dispositions are strangely averse to conjugal friendship) but no one, I believe, is by his own natural complexion prompted to tease and torment another for no reason but being nearly allied to him. And can there be any thing more base, or serve to sink a man so much below his own distinguishing characteristic, (I mean reason) than returning evil for good in so open a manner, as that of treating an helpless creature with unkindness, who has had so good an opinion of him as to believe what he said relating to one of the greatest concerns of life, by delivering her happiness in this world to his care and protection ? Must not that man be abandoned even to all manner of humanity, who can deceive a woman with appearances of affection and kindness, for no other end but to torment her with more ease and authority? Is any thing more unlike a gentleman, than when his honour is engaged for the performing his promises, because nothing but that can oblige him to it, to become afterwards false to his word, and be alone the occasion of misery to one whose happiness he but lately pretended was dearer to him than his own ? Ought such a one to be trusted in his common affairs? or treated but as one whose honesty consisted only in his incapacity of being otherwise ?
“There is one cause of this usage no less absurd than common, which takes place among the more unthinking men; and that is, the desire to appear to their friends free and at liberty, and without those trammels they have so much ridiculed.