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CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
BY ISAAC BICKERSTAFFE, ESQ.
We now enter on those parts of Mr. Addison's prose works, which have done him the greatest honour, and have placed him at the head of those whom we call our polite writers. I know that many readers prefer Dr. Swift's prose to his :-but, whatever other merit the Dean's writings may have, (and they have, certainly, a great deal,) I affirm it with confidence, (because I have examined them both with care,) that they are not comparable to Mr. Addison's, in the correctness, propriety, and elegance of expression.
Mr. Addison possessed two talents, both of them very uncommon, which singularly qualified him to excel in the following essays: I mean an exquisite knowledge of the English tongue, in all its purity and delicacy; and a vein of humour, which flowed naturally and abundantly from him on every subject; and which experience hath shown to be inimitable. But it is in the former respect only that I shall criticise these papers; and I shall do it with severity, lest time, and the authority of his name, (which, of course, must become sacred,) should give a sanction even to his defects. If any man of genius should be so happy, as to equal all the excellencies of his prose, and to avoid the few blemishes which may, haply, be found in it, he would be a perfect model of style, in this way of writing : but of such an one, it is enough to say at present, (and I shall, surely, offend no good writer in saying it, )
“_hunc nequeo monstrare, et sentio tantùm."
No. 20. THURSDAY, MAY 26, 1709.
-Though the theatre is now breaking, it is allowed still to sell animals there; therefore, if any lady or gentleman have occasion for a tame elephant, let them inquire of Mr. Pinkethman, who has one to dispose of at a reasonable rate. The downfal of May Fair has quite sunk the price of this noble creature, as well as many other curiosities of nature. A tiger will sell almost as cheap as an ox; and I am credibly
informed, a man may purchase a cat with three legs, for very near the value of one with four. I hear likewise,
that there is a great desolation among the gentlemen and ladies who were the ornaments of the town, and used to shine in plumes and diadems; the heroes being most of them pressed, and the queens beating hemp. Mrs. Sarabrand, so famous for her ingenious puppet-show, has set up a shop in the Exchange, where she sells her little troop under the term of Jointed Babies. I could not but be solicitous to know of her, how she had disposed of that rake-hell Punch, whose lewd life and conversation had given so much scandal, and did not a little contribute to the ruin of the fair. She told me with a sigh, that despairing of ever reclaiming him, she would not offer to place him in a civil family, but got him in a post upon a stall in Wapping, where he may be seen from sun-rising to sun-setting, with a glass in one hand, and a pipe in the other, as sentry to a brandy-shop. The great revolutions of this nature bring to my mind the distresses of the unfortunate Camilla, who has had the ill luck to break before her voice, and to disappear at a time when her beauty was in the height of its bloom. This lady entered so thoroughly into the great characters she acted, that when she had finished her part, she could not think of retrenching her equipage, but would appear in her own lodgings with the same magnificence that she did upon the stage. This greatness of soul has reduced that unhappy princess to an involuntary retirement, where she now passes her time among the woods and forests, thinking on the crowns and sceptres she has lost, and often humming over in her solitude,
I was born of royal race,
Yet must wander in disgrace, &c. But for fear of being overheard, and her quality known,' she usually sings it in Italian;
Nacqui al regno, nacqui al trono,
Sventurata pastorellaSince I have touched upon this subject, I shall communicate to my reader part of a letter I have received from a friend at Amsterdam, where there is a very noble theatre; though the manner of furnishing it with actors is something pecu
* Easily expressed, but not exactly. Better :-"But for fear of being overheard, and lest her quality should be known.”