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for the diversion of mankind, than by convincing them that it is in themselves to raise this entertainment to the greatest height. It would be a great improvement, as well as embellishment to the theatre, if dancing were more regarded, and taught to all the actors. One who has the advantage of such an agreeable girlish person as Mrs. Bicknell, joined with her capacity of imitation, could in proper gesture and motion represent all the decent characters of female life. An amiable modesty in one aspect of a dancer, and assumed confidence in another, a sudden joy in another, a falling-off with an impatience of being beheld, a return towards the audience with an unsteady resolution to approach them, and well-acted solicitude to please, would revive in the company all the fine touches of mind raised in observing all the objects of affection and passion they had before beheld. Such elegant entertainments as these would polish the town into judgment in their gratifications; and delicacy in pleasure is the first step people of condition take in reformation from vice. Mrs. Bicknell has the only capacity for this sort of dancing of any on the stage; and I dare say all who see her performance tomorrow night, when sure the romp will do her best for her own benefit, will be of my mind.
No 371. TUESDAY, MAY 6, 1712.
Jamne igitur laudas quod de sapientibus unus
Juv. Sat, x. 28.
And shall the sage* your approbation win,
I SHALL Communicate to my readers the following letter for the entertainment of this day.
'You know very well that our nation is more famous for that sort of men who are called "whims" and "humourists," than any other country in the world: for which reason it is observed, that our English comedy excels that of all other nations in the novelty and variety of its characters.
Among those innumerable sets of whims which our country produces, there are none whom I have regarded with more curiosity than those who have invented any particular kind of diversion for the entertainment of themselves and their friends. My letter shall single out those who take delight in sorting a company that has something of burlesque and ridicule in its appearance. I shall make myself understood by the following example. One of the wits of the last age, who was a man of a good estate, thought he never laid out his money better than in a jest. As he was one year at the Bath,
+ Villars, the last Duke of Buckingham, and father of the late Lady Mary Wortley Montague.
observing that, in the great confluence of fine people, there were several among them with long chins, a part of the visage by which he himself was very much distinguished, he invited to dinner half a score of these remarkable persons who had their mouths in the middle of their faces. They had no sooner placed themselves about the table but they began to stare upon one another, not being able to imagine what had brought them together. Our English proverb says,
'Tis merry in the hall, When beards wag all.'
It proved so in the assembly I am now speaking of, who seeing so many peaks of faces agitated with eating, drinking, and discourse, and observing all the chins that were present meeting together very often over the centre of the table, every one grew sensible of the jest, and gave into it with so much good humour, that they lived in strict friendship and alliance from that day forward.
The same gentleman some time after packed together a set of oglers, as he called them, consisting of such as had an unlucky cast in their eyes. His diversion on this occasion was to see the cross bows, mistaken signs, and wrong connivances, that passed amidst so many broken and refracted rays of sight.
The third feast which this merry gentleman exhibited was to the stammerers, whom he got together in a sufficient body to fill his table. He had ordered one of his servants, who was placed behind a screen, to write down their table-talk, which was very easy to be done without the help of short hand. It appears by the notes which were taken, that though their conversation never
fell, there were not above twenty words spoken during the first course; that upon serving up the second, one of the company was a quarter of an hour in telling them that the ducklings and asparagus were very good; and that another took up the same time in declaring himself of the same opinion. This jest did not, however, go off so well as the former; for one of the guests being a brave man, and fuller of resentment than he knew how to express, went out of the room, and sent the facetious inviter a challenge in writing, which, though it was afterwards dropped by the interposition of friends, put a stop to these ludicrous entertainments.
Now, Sir, I dare say you will agree with me, that as there is no moral in these jests they ought to be discouraged, and looked upon rather as pieces of unluckiness than wit. However, as it is natural for one man to refine upon the thought of another; and impossible for any single person, how great soever his parts may be, to invent an art, and bring it to its utmost perfection; I shall here give you an account of an honest gentleman of my acquaintance, who, upon hearing the character of the wit above mentioned, has himself assumed it, and endeavoured to convert it to the benefit of mankind. He invited half a dozen of his frends one day to dinner, who were each of them famous for inserting several redundant phrases in their discourse, D'ye hear me?"-D'ye see?-That is,—And so, Sir." Each of his guests making use of his particular elegance, appeared so ridiculous to his neighbour, that he could not but reflect upon himself as appearing equally ridiculous to the rest of the company. By this means, before they had sat long together, every one, talking with the greatest circumspection, and carefully avoiding his favourite
expletive, the conversation was cleared of its redundancies, and had a greater quantity of sense, though less of sound in it.
The same well-meaning gentleman took occasion, at another time, to bring together such of his friends as were addicted to a foolish habitual custom of swearing. In order to shew them the absurdity of the practice, he had recourse to the invention above mentioned, having placed an amanuensis in a private part of the room. After the second bottle, when men open their minds without reserve, my honest friend began to take notice of the many sonorous but unnecessary words that had passed in his house since their sitting down at table, and how much good conversation they had lost by giving way to such superfluous phrases. "What a tax," says he, "would they have raised for the poor, had we put the laws in execution upon one another!" Every one of them took this gentle reproof in good part; upon which he told them, that, knowing their conversation would have no secrets in it, he had ordered it to be taken down in writing, and, for the humour-sake, would read it to them, if they pleased. There were ten sheets of it, which might have been reduced to two, had there not been those abominable interpolations I have before mentioned. Upon the reading of it in cold blood, it looked rather like a conference of fiends than of men. In short, every one trembled at himself upon hearing calmly what he had pronounced amidst the heat and inadvertency of discourse.
I shall only mention another occasion wherein he made use of the same invention to cure a different kind of men, who are the pests of all polite conversation, and murder time as much as either of the two former, though they do it more innocently-I mean, that dull generation of story-tellers. My