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No. 013 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 13
Thursday, March 15, 1711. Addison.

‘Dic mi hi si fueris tu leo qualis eris?’


There is nothing that of late Years has afforded Matter of greater Amusement to the Town than Signior Nicolini’s Combat with a Lion in the Hay-Market [1] which has been very often exhibited to the general Satisfaction of most of the Nobility and Gentry in the Kingdom of Great Britain. Upon the first Rumour of this intended Combat, it was confidently affirmed, and is still believed by many in both Galleries, that there would be a tame Lion sent from the Tower every Opera Night, in order to be killed by Hydaspes; this Report, tho’ altogether groundless, so universally prevailed in the upper Regions of the Play-House, that some of the most refined Politicians in those Parts of the Audience, gave it out in Whisper, that the Lion was a Cousin-German of the Tyger who made his Appearance in King William’s days, and that the Stage would be supplied with Lions at the public Expence, during the whole Session. Many likewise were the Conjectures of the Treatment which this Lion was to meet with from the hands of Signior Nicolini; some supposed that he was to Subdue him in Recitativo, as Orpheus used to serve the wild Beasts in his time, and afterwards to knock him on the head; some fancied that the Lion would not pretend to lay his Paws upon the Hero, by Reason of the received Opinion, that a Lion will not hurt a Virgin. Several, who pretended to have seen the Opera in Italy, had informed their Friends, that the Lion was to act a part in High Dutch, and roar twice or thrice to a thorough Base, before he fell at the Feet of Hydaspes. To clear up a Matter that was so variously reported, I have made it my Business to examine whether this pretended Lion is really the Savage he appears to be, or only a Counterfeit.

But before I communicate my Discoveries, I must acquaint the Reader, that upon my walking behind the Scenes last Winter, as I was thinking on something else, I accidentally jostled against a monstrous Animal that extreamly startled me, and, upon my nearer Survey of it, appeared to be a Lion-Rampant. The Lion, seeing me very much surprized, told me, in a gentle Voice, that I might come by him if I pleased: ‘For’ (says he) ‘I do not intend to hurt anybody’. I thanked him very kindly, and passed by him. And in a little time after saw him leap upon the Stage, and act his Part with very great Applause. It has been observed by several, that the Lion has changed his manner of Acting twice or thrice since his first Appearance; which will not seem strange, when I acquaint my Reader that the Lion has been changed upon the Audience three several times. The first Lion was a Candle-snuffer, who being a Fellow of a testy, cholerick Temper over-did his Part, and would not suffer himself to be killed so easily as he ought to have done; besides, it was observ’d of him, that he grew more surly every time he came out of the Lion; and having dropt some Words in ordinary Conversation, as if he had not fought his best, and that he suffered himself to be thrown upon his Back in the Scuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr ‘Nicolini’ for what he pleased, out of his Lion’s Skin, it was thought proper to discard him: And it is verily believed to this Day, that had he been brought upon the Stage another time, he would certainly have done Mischief. Besides, it was objected against the first Lion, that he reared himself so high upon his hinder Paws, and walked in so erect a Posture, that he looked more like an old Man than a Lion. The second Lion was a Taylor by Trade, who belonged to the Play-House, and had the Character of a mild and peaceable Man in his Profession. If the former was too furious, this was too sheepish, for his Part; insomuch that after a short modest Walk upon the Stage, he would fall at the first Touch of ‘Hydaspes’, without grappling with him, and giving him an Opportunity of showing his Variety of ‘Italian’ Tripps: It is said, indeed, that he once gave him a Ripp in his flesh-colour Doublet, but this was only to make work for himself, in his private Character of a Taylor. I must not omit that it was this second Lion [who [2]] treated me with so much Humanity behind the Scenes. The Acting Lion at present is, as I am informed, a Country Gentleman, who does it for his Diversion, but desires his Name may be concealed. He says very handsomely in his own Excuse, that he does not Act for Gain, that he indulges an innocent Pleasure in it, and that it is better to pass away an Evening in this manner, than in Gaming and Drinking: But at the same time says, with a very agreeable Raillery upon himself, that if his name should be known, the ill-natured World might call him, The Ass in the Lion’s skin. This Gentleman’s Temper is made out of such a happy Mixture of the Mild and the Cholerick, that he out-does both his predecessors, and has drawn together greater Audiences than have been known in the Memory of Man.