Friday, March 16, 1711. Steele.
… Teque his, Infelix, exue monstris.
I was reflecting this Morning upon the Spirit and Humour of the publick Diversions Five and twenty Years ago, and those of the present Time; and lamented to my self, that though in those Days they neglected their Morality, they kept up their Good Sense; but that the beau Monde, at present, is only grown more childish, not more innocent, than the former. While I was in this Train of Thought, an odd Fellow, whose Face I have often seen at the Play-house, gave me the following Letter with these words, Sir, The Lyon presents his humble Service to you, and desired me to give this into your own Hands.
From my Den in the Hay-market, March 15.
‘I have read all your Papers, and have stifled my Resentment against your Reflections upon Operas, till that of this Day, wherein you plainly insinuate, that Signior Grimaldi and my self have a Correspondence more friendly than is consistent with the Valour of his Character, or the Fierceness of mine. I desire you would, for your own Sake, forbear such Intimations for the future; and must say it is a great Piece of Ill-nature in you, to show so great an Esteem for a Foreigner, and to discourage a Lyon that is your own Country-man.
I take notice of your Fable of the Lyon and Man, but am so equally concerned in that Matter, that I shall not be offended to which soever of the Animals the Superiority is given. You have misrepresented me, in saying that I am a Country-Gentleman, who act only for my Diversion; whereas, had I still the same Woods to range in which I once had when I was a Fox-hunter, I should not resign my Manhood for a Maintenance; and assure you, as low as my Circumstances are at present, I am so much a Man of Honour, that I would scorn to be any Beast for Bread but a Lyon.
I had no sooner ended this, than one of my Land-lady’s Children brought me in several others, with some of which I shall make up my present Paper, they all having a Tendency to the same Subject, viz. the Elegance of our present Diversions.
Covent Garden, March 13.
‘I Have been for twenty Years Under-Sexton of this Parish of St. Paul’s, Covent-Garden, and have not missed tolling in to Prayers six times in all those Years; which Office I have performed to my great Satisfaction, till this Fortnight last past, during which Time I find my Congregation take the Warning of my Bell, Morning and Evening, to go to a Puppett-show set forth by one Powell, under the Piazzas. By this Means, I have not only lost my two Customers, whom I used to place for six Pence a Piece over against Mrs Rachel Eyebright, but Mrs Rachel herself is gone thither also. There now appear among us none but a few ordinary People, who come to Church only to say their Prayers, so that I have no Work worth speaking of but on Sundays. I have placed my Son at the Piazzas, to acquaint the Ladies that the Bell rings for Church, and that it stands on the other side of the Garden; but they only laugh at the Child.
I desire you would lay this before all the World, that I may not be made such a Tool for the Future, and that Punchinello may chuse Hours less canonical. As things are now, Mr Powell has a full Congregation, while we have a very thin House; which if you can Remedy, you will very much oblige,
Sir, Yours, etc.’
The following Epistle I find is from the Undertaker of the Masquerade.