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France to find a way to obtain so much credit, as to gain any one potentate of the allies, or conceive any hope for safety from other prospects.
From my own Apartment, April 13.
I find it of very great use, now I am setting up for a writer of news, that I am an adept in astrological speculations: by which means I avoid speaking of things which may offend great persons. But, at the same time, I must not prostitute the liberal sciences so far, as not to utter the truth in cases which do not immediately concern the good of my native country. I must therefore contradict what has been so assuredly reported by the news-writers of England, That France is in the most deplorable condition, and that their people die in great multitudes. I will therefore let the world know, that my correspondent, by the way of Brussels, informs me upon his honour, That the gentleman who writes the Gazette of Paris, and ought to know as well as any man, has told him, that ever since the King has been past his sixty-third year, or grand climacteric, there has not died one man of the French nation who was younger than his Majesty, except a very few, who were taken suddenly near the village of Hockstet in Germany; and some more, who were straitened for lodging at a place called Ramilies, and died on the road to Ghent and Bruges. There are also other things given out by the allies, which are shifts below a conquering nation to make use of. Among others it is said, There is a general murmuring among the people of France, though at the same time all my letters agree, that there is so good an understanding among them, that there is not one morsel carried out of any market in the kingdom, but what is delivered upon credit.
N° 3. SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
Whate'er men do, or say, or think, or dream,
Will's Coffee-house, April 14.
THIS evening the comedy called the Country Wife was acted in Drury-lane, for the benefit of Mrs. Bignell. The part which gives name to the play was performed by herself. Through the whole action she made a very pretty figure, and exactly entered into the nature of the part. Her husband in the drama, is represented to be one of those debauchees who run through the vices of the town, and believe when they think fit, they can marry and settle at their ease. His own knowledge of the iniquity of the age makes him choose a wife wholly ignorant of it, and place his security in her want of skill to abuse him. The poet, on many occasions, where the propriety of the character will admit of it, insinuates, that there is no defence against vice but the contempt of it; and has, in the natural ideas of an untainted innocent, shown the gradual steps to ruin and destruction which persons of condition run into, without the help of a good education to form their conduct. The torment of a jealous coxcomb, which arises from his own false maxims, and the aggravation of his pain by the very words in which he sees her innocence, makes a very pleasant and instructive satire. The character of Horner, and the design of it, is a good representation of the age in which that comedy was written; at which time love and wenching were the business of life, and the gallant manner of
pursuing women was the best recommendation at Court. To this only it is to be imputed, that a gentleman of Mr. Wycherley's character and sense condescends to represent the insults done to the honour of the bed, without just reproof: but to have drawn a man of probity with regard to such considerations had been a monster, and a poet had at that time discovered his want of knowing the manners of the Court he lived in, by a virtuous character in his fine gentleman, as he would show his ignorance, by drawing a vicious one to please the present audience. Mrs. Bignell did her part very happily, and had a certain grace in her rusticity, which gave us hopes of seeing her a very skilful player, and in some parts supply our loss of Mrs. Verbruggen. I cannot be of the same opinion with my friends and fellowlabourers, the Reformers of Manners, in their severity towards plays; but must allow, that a good play acted before a well-bred audience, must raise very proper incitements to good behaviour, and be the most quick and most prevailing method of giving young people a turn of sense and breeding. But as I have set up for a weekly historian, I resolve to be a faithful one; and therefore take this public occasion to admonish a young nobleman, who came flustered into the box last night, and let him know how much all his friends were out of countenance for him. The women sat in terror of hearing something that should shock their modesty, and all the gentlemen in as much pain out of compassion to the ladies, and perhaps resentment for the indignity which was offered in coming into their presence in so disrespectful a manner. Wine made him say nothing that was rude, therefore he is forgiven, upon condition he never will hazard, his offending more in this kind. As I just now hinted, I own myself of the "Society for Reformation of Manners." We have lower instruments than those of the family of Bickerstaff, for
do you think there is a girl in England, that would wear any thing but the "Taking of Lisle," or, "The Battle of Oudenarde?" They would certainly be all the fashion, until the heroes abroad had cut out some more patterns. I should fancy small skirmishes might do for under-petticoats, provided they had a siege for the upper. If our adviser were well imitated, many industrious people might be put to work. Little Mr. Dactile, now in the room, who formerly writ a song and a half, is a week gone in a very pretty work, upon this hint: he is writing an epigram to a young virgin who knits very well (it is a thousand pities he is a Jacobite): but his epigram is by way of advice to this damsel, to knit all the actions of the Pretender and the Duke of Burgundy's last campaign in the clock of a stocking. It were endless to enumerate the many hands and trades that may be employed by poets, of so useful a turn as this adviser. I shall think of it; and, in this time of taxes, shall consult a great critic employed in the custom-house, in order to propose what tax may be proper to be put upon knives, seals, rings, hangings, wrought beds, gowns, and petticoats, where any of these commodities bear mottoes, or are worked upon poetical grounds.
St. James's Coffee-house, April 15.
Letters from Turin of the third instant, N. S. inform us, that his Royal Highness employs all his address in alarming the enemy, and perplexing their speculations concerning his real designs the ensuing campaign. Contracts are entered into with the merchants of Milan, for a great number of mules to transport his provisions and ammunition. His Royal Highness has ordered the train of artillery to be conveyed to Susa before the twentieth of the next
* Prince Eugene.
month. In the mean time, all accounts agree, that the enemy are very backward in their preparations, and almost incapable of defending themselves against an invasion, by reason of the general murmurs of their own people; which they find, are no way to be quieted, but by giving them hopes of a speedy peace. When these letters were despatched, the Marshal de Thesse was arrived at Genoa, where he has taken much pains to keep the correspondents of the merchants of France in hopes, that measures will be found out to support the credit and commerce between that state and Lyons; but the late declaration of the agents of Monsieur Bernard, that they cannot discharge the demands made upon them, has quite dispirited all those who are engaged in the remittances of France.
From my own Apartment, April 15.
It is a very natural passion in all good members of the commonwealth, to take what care they can of their families; therefore I hope the reader will forgive me, that I desire he would go to the play called the Stratagem this evening, which is to be acted for the benefit of my near kinsman, Mr. John Bickerstaff.* I protest to you, the gentleman has not spoken to me to desire this favour; but I have a respect for him, as well in regard to consanguinity, as that he is an intimate friend of that famous and heroic actor, Mr. George Powel; who formerly played Alexander the Great in all places, though he is lately grown so reserved, as to act it only on the stage.
* A real player of that name.