**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


No. 361 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

But notwithstanding these various and learned Conjectures, I cannot forbear thinking that the Cat-call is originally a Piece of English Musick. Its Resemblance to the Voice of some of our British Songsters, as well as the Use of it, which is peculiar to our Nation, confirms me in this Opinion. It has at least received great Improvements among us, whether we consider the Instrument it self, or those several Quavers and Graces which are thrown into the playing of it. Every one might be sensible of this, who heard that remarkable overgrown Cat-call which was placed in the Center of the Pit, and presided over all the rest at [the [2]] celebrated Performance lately exhibited in Drury-Lane.

Having said thus much concerning the Original of the Cat-call, we are in the next place to consider the Use of it. The Cat-call exerts it self to most advantage in the British Theatre: It very much Improves the Sound of Nonsense, and often goes along with the Voice of the Actor who pronounces it, as the Violin or Harpsichord accompanies the Italian Recitativo.

It has often supplied the Place of the antient Chorus, in the Works of Mr.—-In short, a bad Poet has as great an Antipathy to a Cat-call, as many People have to a real Cat.

Mr. Collier, in his ingenious Essay upon Musick [3] has the following Passage:

I believe tis possible to invent an Instrument that shall have a quite contrary Effect to those Martial ones now in use: An Instrument that shall sink the Spirits, and shake the Nerves, and curdle the Blood, and inspire Despair, and Cowardice and Consternation, at a surprizing rate. Tis probable the Roaring of Lions, the Warbling of Cats and Scritch-Owls, together with a Mixture of the Howling of Dogs, judiciously imitated and compounded, might go a great way in this Invention. Whether such Anti-Musick as this might not be of Service in a Camp, I shall leave to the Military Men to consider.

What this learned Gentleman supposes in Speculation, I have known actually verified in Practice. The Cat-call has struck a Damp into Generals, and frighted Heroes off the Stage. At the first sound of it I have seen a Crowned Head tremble, and a Princess fall into Fits. The Humorous Lieutenant himself could not stand it; nay, I am told that even Almanzor looked like a Mouse, and trembled at the Voice of this terrifying Instrument.

As it is of a Dramatick Nature, and peculiarly appropriated to the Stage, I can by no means approve the Thought of that angry Lover, who, after an unsuccessful Pursuit of some Years, took leave of his Mistress in a Serenade of Cat-calls.

I must conclude this Paper with the Account I have lately received of an ingenious Artist, who has long studied this Instrument, and is very well versed in all the Rules of the Drama. He teaches to play on it by Book, and to express by it the whole Art of Criticism. He has his Base and his Treble Cat-call; the former for Tragedy, the latter for Comedy; only in Tragy-Comedies they may both play together in Consort. He has a particular Squeak to denote the Violation of each of the Unities, and has different Sounds to shew whether he aims at the Poet or the Player. In short he teaches the Smut-note, the Fustian-note, the Stupid-note, and has composed a kind of Air that may serve as an Act-tune to an incorrigible Play, and which takes in the whole Compass of the Cat-call.

[L. [4]]

[Footnote 1: By Beaumont and Fletcher.]

[Footnote 2: [that]]

[Footnote 3: Essays upon several Moral Subjects, by Jeremy Collier, Part II. p. 30 (ed. 1732). Jeremy Collier published the first volume of these Essays in 1697, after he was safe from the danger brought on himself by attending Sir John Friend and Sir William Perkins when they were executed for the assassination plot. The other two volumes appeared successively in 1705 and 1709. It was in 1698 that Collier published his famous Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage.]

[Footnote 4: [Not being yet determined with whose Name to fill up the Gap in this Dissertation which is marked with—-, I shall defer it till this Paper appears with others in a Volume. L.]]