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the body of her dearest lord. It was however very soon perceived, that in this she had undertaken a task more laborious than she was aware of. The exercise of the flesh-brush was found so fatiguing that on the third morning, in pure compassion to her, I proposed to make trial of one of our new footmen. This rascal, who seemed endowed with the strength of Hercules, began as if he had been currying a centaur, and actually dislocated my shoulder at the first experiment.
During a painful confinement to my chair, which was the consequence of this unlucky accident, it was not unnatural to have expected that my wife, who was so remarkable for the tender feelings, would have exercised her utmost assiduity in administering consolation under a disaster, of which it was plain she had been the cause. But what, sir, was the method she took to comfort me? Why, by endeavouring to persuade me that there was nothing the matter with
She had the cruelty to tell me, that I had no other disease than vapours, and undertook, with equal folly and presumption, that she would completely cure me in the space of a 'month. A pragmatical coxcomb of a physician, who now supplied the place of my late worthy friend, declared my wife's notion of my disorder to be altogether just, and concurred with her in opinion as to the method of cure.
Moderate exercise was ordered for bracing my nerves, and company and amusements were prescribed for keeping up my spirits.
For these purposes the chariot was ordered to attend every morning immediately after breakfast; and, for the benefit of air and exercise, I was rattled for four hours upon the stones, through a tour of twenty visits, and the complete circuit of all the mercers and milliners shops in town. My dearest contrived to have a select company of a few friends to dine with
us every day, and a small whist-party in the evening, except on Monday, which was our private concert, and every second Thursday, when she had a rout of six tables. Once a week I was conveyed to the play, and had the pleasure of seeing the Siddons, at the repeated hazard of suffocation: but here, I own, it alleviated my feelings to observe the greatest part of the audience undergoing, without compulsion, apparently the same agonies with myself.
I always delighted, sir, in tranquillity. Judge, therefore, of my mortification, in now finding that my life was destined to be one continued scene of tumult and turmoil. We are informed, that in the days of witchcraft, when it was the misfortune of any old woman to incur that imputation, it was customary with her accusers to prevent her intercourse with the devil, which was supposed to be chiefly during sleep, by keeping her continually awake. My wife, sir, seems to hold some opinions very analogous to that now mentioned. Apprehending a state of quiet to be of the worst consequences to my
disorder, it is her constant study to guard against and prevent it by every possible means. As, with all her industry to find employment for the day, there must be some few moments unoccupied, she has provided several domestic companions of such of the animal tribe as are most averse to rest and silence. We have three dogs, who wage eternal warfare with as
A parrot is suspended in the staircase, a magpie in the ante-chamber, and six Canary birds in the parlour. A monkey, I am informed, has been commissioned, and is actually upon the road; but this additional curse I believe I shall effectually prevent, having taken measures to have him waylaid and assassinated.
But these are the least of my grievances. I must now inform you of somewhat more serious. I have
of late but too good reason to believe, that my loving spouse has actually formed a plot against my life. Exercise, sir, and change of air, have been the pretence for frequent expeditions to the country, with one or two friends, which she calls parties of pleasure, but which I have generally found to end in some cursed disaster, which has gone near to be my death. I have been twice caught in a thunder-storm on horse-back, thrice in a hurricane upon the water four times broke down in a carriage, and the last time compelled to ride ten miles in the night air upon a hard trotting coach-horse. I understand it is now resolved, by the advice of the family-physician abovementioned, to set out in a few days hence upon a tour through the north of England, and in our way to make trial of the mineral waters of Buxton, Matlock, or Harrowgate. What may be the issue of this expedition is hid in the womb of fate. The design of it, however, is sufficiently apparent; and I cannot help regarding it as intended for my coup de grace. If I survive it, you may once again hear from me; if not, you may perhaps bestow a tear on the memory of the ill-fated
No. 25. SATURDAY, JULY 23, 1785.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LOUNGER.
SIR, THough I presume, from
your account of yourself, that you occasionally visit the theatre, and go there Jike your
friend Colonel Caustic, to see the plays as
well as the
have yet favoured us with any remarks on the entertainments of the stage. This I regard in a manner as part of your duty. Whatever has so powerful an effect in forming the manners as the theatre, falls properly within the department of one who wishes to mark their progress. Even as a mere amusement, that which occupies so great a space in the time of the idle should attract the notice of the Lourger. The field, you know, sir, is wide; for even in the best of our English pieces there is great room for improvement, and much to be found fault with. The Fair Penitent, for example, which stands high in the list, is in many respects imperfect, if not reprehensible; which censure that I may justify (as also to take a share in the labour which I exhort you to), let me attempt to show wherein it is that the piece is chiefly defective.
For this purpose, we must first direct our atten. tion to the characters; which are by no means such as to support or promote the interest of the situation. The heroine herself is very far from being an amiable or unexceptionable lady. Her slight pretensions to the title of Penitent have often been remarked; and indeed the whole style of her character, exclusive of the objections that lie against it in a moral view, is of that fierce, unbending, and unfeminine sort, which we cannot easily pity in misfortune or forgive in error. For the weakness and the guilt of her love, she has not that apology which some unfortunate females derive from the bewitching qualities of their seducers. The object of her passion is a vain, a profligate, and undisguised libertine, whose treatment of her had been so utterly base and unmanly, as even to make her dread that the secret of her favours might not be safely lodged with him. The fineness of his form' is the only attractive qua
lity we perceive about him; a motive to love which sinks the lady equally in our estimation of her virtue, and in our opinion of her understanding.
If such is the impression that Calista makes on her first appearance, her conduct in the course of the piece by no means removes it. Her behaviour to Horatio, when he intimates his suspicions of her guilty correspondence, and holds up to her her own letter in support of the charge, is the very height of effrontery; as indeed the attempt which follows, to turn the sword of her injured husband against the bosom of his best friend, because he had detected her falsehood, is a stroke of wickedness (for it deserves no gentler name), which deprives her of all title to sympathy. We remain accordingly, till the beginning of the fifth act, almost indifferent about her fate; or perhaps we rather enjoy her difficulties and embarrassments. Then, indeed, after her shame has been divulged; when the object of her guilty Aame is now no more; when she is set before us, forsaken of every friend, and without prospect of peace but in the grave; when now the stormy passions that had transported her, having subsided, are followed by settled sorrow; and her haughty soul, bowed down by misfortunes, at length submits to own that she had done amiss, to intreat forgiveness, and to be grateful for a little tenderness :-in these circumstances our tears begin to take her part, as they would that of any object, however undeserving, reduced to so wretched a situation, and throwing herself entirely on our pity. The scene between her and Altamont, where she makes confession of her own demerit, and prays for a companion to him more deserving of his virtues, is interesting: and still more so that which precedes it between her and Sciolto; which is indeed by far the best in the play. We should mistake, however, in attributing its effect to