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No. 067 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 67
Thursday, May 17, 1711. Budgell [1]

‘Saltare elegantius quam necesse est probae.’


Lucian, in one of his Dialogues, introduces a Philosopher chiding his Friend for his being a Lover of Dancing, and a Frequenter of Balls. [2] The other undertakes the Defence of his Favourite Diversion, which, he says, was at first invented by the Goddess Rhea, and preserved the Life of Jupiter himself, from the Cruelty of his Father Saturn. He proceeds to shew, that it had been Approved by the greatest Men in all Ages; that Homer calls Merion a Fine Dancer; and says, That the graceful Mien and great Agility which he had acquired by that Exercise, distinguished him above the rest in the Armies, both of Greeks and Trojans.

He adds, that Pyrrhus gained more Reputation by Inventing the Dance which is called after his Name, than by all his other Actions: That the Lacedaemonians, who were the bravest People in Greece, gave great Encouragement to this Diversion, and made their Hormus (a Dance much resembling the French Brawl) famous over all Asia: That there were still extant some Thessalian Statues erected to the Honour of their best Dancers: And that he wondered how his Brother Philosopher could declare himself against the Opinions of those two Persons, whom he professed so much to admire, Homer and Hesiod; the latter of which compares Valour and Dancing together; and says, That the Gods have bestowed Fortitude on some Men, and on others a Disposition for Dancing.

Lastly, he puts him in mind that Socrates, (who, in the Judgment of Apollo, was the wisest of Men) was not only a professed Admirer of this Exercise in others, but learned it himself when he was an old Man.

The Morose Philosopher is so much affected by these, and some other Authorities, that he becomes a Convert to his Friend, and desires he would take him with him when he went to his next Ball.

I love to shelter my self under the Examples of Great Men; and, I think, I have sufficiently shewed that it is not below the Dignity of these my Speculations to take notice of the following Letter, which, I suppose, is sent me by some substantial Tradesman about Change.


‘I am a Man in Years, and by an honest Industry in the World have acquired enough to give my Children a liberal Education, tho’ I was an utter Stranger to it my self. My eldest Daughter, a Girl of Sixteen, has for some time been under the Tuition of Monsieur Rigadoon, a Dancing-Master in the City; and I was prevailed upon by her and her Mother to go last Night to one of his Balls. I must own to you, Sir, that having never been at any such Place before, I was very much pleased and surprized with that Part of his Entertainment which he called French Dancing. There were several young Men and Women, whose Limbs seemed to have no other Motion, but purely what the Musick gave them. After this Part was over, they began a Diversion which they call Country Dancing, and wherein there were also some things not disagreeable, and divers Emblematical Figures, Compos’d, as I guess, by Wise Men, for the Instruction of Youth.

Among the rest, I observed one, which, I think, they call Hunt the Squirrel, in which while the Woman flies the Man pursues her; but as soon as she turns, he runs away, and she is obliged to follow.

The Moral of this Dance does, I think, very aptly recommend Modesty and Discretion to the Female Sex.

But as the best Institutions are liable to Corruptions, so, Sir, I must acquaint you, that very great Abuses are crept into this Entertainment. I was amazed to see my Girl handed by, and handing young Fellows with so much Familiarity; and I could not have thought it had been in the Child. They very often made use of a most impudent and lascivious Step called Setting, which I know not how to describe to you, but by telling you that it is the very reverse of Back to Back. At last an impudent young Dog bid the Fidlers play a Dance called Mol Patley,[1] and after having made two or three Capers, ran to his Partner, locked his Arms in hers, and whisked her round cleverly above Ground in such manner, that I, who sat upon one of the lowest Benches, saw further above her Shoe than I can think fit to acquaint you with. I could no longer endure these Enormities; wherefore just as my Girl was going to be made a Whirligig, I ran in, seized on the Child, and carried her home.