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No. 022 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 22
Monday, March 26, 1711. Steele.

‘Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic incredulus odi.’


The word Spectator being most usually understood as one of the Audience at Publick Representations in our Theatres, I seldom fail of many Letters relating to Plays and Operas. But, indeed, there are such monstrous things done in both, that if one had not been an Eye-witness of them, one could not believe that such Matters had really been exhibited. There is very little which concerns human Life, or is a Picture of Nature, that is regarded by the greater Part of the Company. The Understanding is dismissed from our Entertainments. Our Mirth is the Laughter of Fools, and our Admiration the Wonder of Idiots; else such improbable, monstrous, and incoherent Dreams could not go off as they do, not only without the utmost Scorn and Contempt, but even with the loudest Applause and Approbation. But the Letters of my Correspondents will represent this Affair in a more lively Manner than any Discourse of my own; I [shall therefore [1] ] give them to my Reader with only this Preparation, that they all come from Players, [and that the business of Playing is now so managed that you are not to be surprised when I say] one or two of [them [2]] are rational, others sensitive and vegetative Actors, and others wholly inanimate. I shall not place these as I have named them, but as they have Precedence in the Opinion of their Audiences.


Your having been so humble as to take Notice of the Epistles of other Animals, emboldens me, who am the wild Boar that was killed by Mrs. Tofts, [3] to represent to you, That I think I was hardly used in not having the Part of the Lion in ‘Hydaspes’ given to me. It would have been but a natural Step for me to have personated that noble Creature, after having behaved my self to Satisfaction in the Part above-mention’d: But that of a Lion, is too great a Character for one that never trod the Stage before but upon two Legs. As for the little Resistance which I made, I hope it may be excused, when it is considered that the Dart was thrown at me by so fair an Hand. I must confess I had but just put on my Brutality; and Camilla’s charms were such, that b-holding her erect Mien, hearing her charming Voice, and astonished with her graceful Motion, I could not keep up to my assumed Fierceness, but died like a Man.

I am Sir,

Your most humble Servan.,

Thomas Prone.”


This is to let you understand, that the Play-House is a Representation of the World in nothing so much as in this Particular, That no one rises in it according to his Merit. I have acted several Parts of Household-stuff with great Applause for many Years: I am one of the Men in the Hangings in the Emperour of the Moon; [4] I have twice performed the third Chair in an English Opera; and have rehearsed the Pump in the Fortune-Hunters. [5] I am now grown old, and hope you will recommend me so effectually, as that I may say something before I go off the Stage: In which you will do a great Act of Charity to

Your most humble servant,

William Serene.”


Understanding that Mr. Serene has writ to you, and desired to be raised from dumb and still Parts; I desire, if you give him Motion or Speech, that you would advance me in my Way, and let me keep on in what I humbly presume I am a Master, to wit, in representing human and still Life together. I have several times acted one of the finest Flower-pots in the same Opera wherein Mr. Serene is a Chair; therefore, upon his promotion, request that I may succeed him in the Hangings, with my Hand in the Orange-Trees.