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

I must not conclude my Narrative, without taking Notice of a groundless Report that has been raised, to a Gentleman’s Disadvantage, of whom I must declare my self an Admirer; namely, that Signior Nicolini and the Lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another, and smoking a Pipe together, behind the Scenes; by which their common Enemies would insinuate, it is but a sham Combat which they represent upon the Stage: But upon Enquiry I find, that if any such Correspondence has passed between them, it was not till the Combat was over, when the Lion was to be looked upon as dead, according to the received Rules of the Drama. Besides, this is what is practised every day in Westminster-Hall, where nothing is more usual than to see a Couple of Lawyers, who have been rearing each other to pieces in the Court, embracing one another as soon as they are out of it.

I would not be thought, in any part of this Relation, to reflect upon Signior Nicolini, who, in Acting this Part only complies with the wretched Taste of his Audience; he knows very well, that the Lion has many more Admirers than himself; as they say of the famous Equestrian Statue on the Pont-Neuf at Paris, that more People go to see the Horse, than the King who sits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just Indignation, to see a Person whose Action gives new Majesty to Kings, Resolution to Heroes, and Softness to Lovers, thus sinking from the Greatness of his Behaviour, and degraded into the Character of the London Prentice. I have often wished that our Tragoedians would copy after this great Master in Action. Could they make the same use of their Arms and Legs, and inform their Faces with as significant Looks and Passions, how glorious would an English Tragedy appear with that Action which is capable of giving a Dignity to the forced Thoughts, cold Conceits, and unnatural Expressions of an Italian Opera. In the mean time, I have related this Combat of the Lion, to show what are at present the reigning Entertainments of the Politer Part of Great Britain.

Audiences have often been reproached by Writers for the Coarseness of their Taste, but our present Grievance does not seem to be the Want of a good Taste, but of Common Sense.


[Footnote 1: The famous Neapolitan actor and singer, Cavalier Nicolino Grimaldi, commonly called Nicolini, had made his first appearance in an opera called ‘Pyrrhus and Demetrius,’ which was the last attempt to combine English with Italian. His voice was a soprano, but afterwards descended into a fine contralto, and he seems to have been the finest actor of his day. Prices of seats at the opera were raised on his coming from 7s. 6d. to 10s. for pit and boxes, and from 10s. 6d. to 15s. for boxes on the stage. When this paper was written he had appeared also in a new opera on ‘Almahide,’ and proceeded to those encounters with the lion in the opera of Hydaspes, by a Roman composer, Francesco Mancini, first produced May 23, 1710, which the Spectator has made memorable. It had been performed 21 times in 1710, and was now reproduced and repeated four times. Nicolini, as Hydaspes in this opera, thrown naked into an amphitheatre to be devoured by a lion, is so inspired with courage by the presence of his mistress among the spectators that (says Mr Sutherland Edwards in his ‘History of the Opera’)

‘after appealing to the monster in a minor key, and telling him that he may tear his bosom, but cannot touch his heart, he attacks him in the relative major, and strangles him.’]

[Footnote 2: that]