Page images

go away from them. You must know,” continued the knight, with a smile, “I fancied they had a mind to hunt me; for I remember an honest gentleman in my neighborhood who was served such a trick in King Charles II's time, for which reason he has not ventured himself in town ever since. I might have shown them very good sport, had this been their design; for as I am an old fox-hunter, I should have turned and dodged, and have played them a thousand tricks they had never seen in their lives before."

Sir Roger added that they did not succeed very well in it; “for I threw them out,” says he, “at the end of Norfolk Street, where I doubled the corner, and got shelter in my lodgings before they could imagine what was become of me. However, says the knight, “if Captain Sentry will make one with us to-morrow night, and if you will both of you call upon me about four o'clock, that we may be at the house before it is full, I will have my coach in readiness to attend you; for John tells me he has got the fore-wheels mended.”

The captain, who did not fail to meet me there at the appointed hour, bid Sir Roger fear nothing, for that he had put on the same sword which he made use of at the battle of Steenkirk. Sir Roger's servants, and among the rest my old friend the butler, had, I found, provided themselves with good oaken plants to attend their master upon this occasion. When we had placed him in his coach, with myself at his left hand, the captain before him, and his butler at the head of his footmen in the rear, we convoyed him in safety to the playhouse, where, after having marched up the entry in good order, the captain and I went in with him, and seated him betwixt us in the pit.

5. (1692) In Belgium. English defeated by the French. 6. Staff or stick.

As soon as the house was full, and the candles lighted, my old friend stood up and looked about him with that pleasure which a mind seasoned with humanity naturally feels in itself at the sight of a multitude of people who seem pleased with one another, and partake of the same common entertainment. I could not but fancy to myself, as the old man stood up in the middle of the pit, that he made a very proper center to a tragic audience. Upon the entering of Pyrrhus, the knight told me that he did not believe the king of France himself had a better strut. I was, indeed, very attentive to my old friend's remarks, because I looked upon them as a piece of natural criticism, and was well pleased to hear him, at the conclusion of almost every scene, telling me that he could not imagine how the play would end. One while he appeared much concerned for Andromache, and a little while after as much for Hermione, and was extremely puzzled to think what would become of Pyrrhus.

When Sir Roger saw Andromache's obstinate refusal to her lover's importunities, he whispered me in the ear, that he was sure she would never have him; to which he added, with a more than ordinary vehemence: “You can't imagine, sir, what it is to have to do with a widow." Upon Pyrrhus his threatening afterward to leave her, the knight shook his head, and muttered to himself, “Ay, do if you can.” This part dwelt so much upon my friend's imagination, that, at the close of the third act, as I was thinking of something else, he whispered me in my ear: “These widows, sir, are the most perverse creatures in the world. But pray, says he, “you that are a critic, is the play according to your dramatic rules, as you call them? Should your people in tragedy always talk to be understood? Why, there is not a single sentence in this play that I do not know the meaning of.'

7. The characters of this play may all be found in Grecian mythology and are connected directly or indirectly with the Trojan war. Pyrrhus was a famous general, who after the death of Hector and the fall of Troy secured Andromache as his prize. Later, after giving her to Helenus, he sought to marry Hermione but was slain by Orestes.

8. She was privately betrothed to Orestes, but her father ignorantly gave her to Pyrrhus. After his murder she was married to Orestes.

The fourth act very luckily began before I had time to give the old gentleman an answer. “Well,” says the knight, sitting down with great satisfaction, “I suppose we are now to see Hector's ghost.” He then renewed his attention, and from time to time fell a-praising the widow. He made, indeed, a little mistake as to one of her pages, whom, at his first entering, he took for Astyanax;' but quickly set himself right in that particular, although he admitted that he should have been very glad to have seen the little boy;"who,” says he, “must needs be a very fine child, by the account that is given of him.” Upon Hermione's going off with a menace to Pyrrhus, the audience gave a loud clap, to which Sir Roger added: "On my word, a notable young baggage!"

9. The little son of Hector and Andromache. When Troy fell he was thrown from a tower by Pyrrhus and killed in the presence of his mother.

As there was a very remarkable silence and stillness in the audience during the whole action, it was natural for them to take the opportunity of the intervals between the acts to express their opinion of the players, and of their respective parts. Sir Roger, hearing a cluster of them praise Orestes, 10 struck in with them, and told them that he thought his friend Pylades was a very sensible man. As they were afterward applauding Pyrrhus, Sir Roger put in a second time: “And let me tell you,” says he, “though he speaks but little, I like the old fellow in whiskers as well as any of them.” Captain Sentry, seeing two or three wags, who sat near us, lean with an attentive ear toward Sir Roger, and fearing lest they should smoke'l the knight, plucked him by the elbow, and whispered something in his ear, that lasted till the opening of the fifth act. The knight was wonderfully attentive to the account which Orestes gives of Pyrrhus his death; and at the conclusion of it, told me it was such a bloody piece of work, that he was glad it was not done upon the stage. Seeing afterward Orestes in his raving fit, he grew more than ordinarily serious, and took occasion to moralize (in his way) upon an evil conscience, adding, that Orestes in his madness looked as if he saw something.

10. Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, was saved by his sister from death at the hands of Clytemnestra, who had murdered her husband, the father of Orestes. He made Pylades his inseparable friend, and their names are as familiar to scholars as David and Jonathan or Damon and Pythias. He revenged himself by killing Clytemnestra and her lover, but because he took the punishment into his own hands, he was tormented into madness by the Furies. By a long and perilous quest, in which he found his long-lost sister, he was restored to reason.

11. Ridicule.

As we were the first that came into the house, so we were the last that went out of it, being resolved to have a clear passage for our old friend, whom we did not care to venture among the jostling of the crowd. Sir Roger went out fully satisfied with his entertainment, and we guarded him to his lodgings in the same manner that we brought him to the playhouse; being highly pleased, for my own part, not only with the performance of the excellent piece which had been presented, but with the satisfaction it had given to the old man.


S I was sitting in my chamber, and

thinking on a subject for my next
Spectator, I heard two or three irregu-
lar bounces at my landlady's door; and
upon the opening of it, a loud cheerful
voice inquiring whether the philoso-

pher was at home. The child who went to the door answered very innocently that he did not lodge there. I immediately recollected that it was my good friend Sir Roger's voice, and that I had promised to go with him on the water to Spring Garden, in case it proved a good evening. The knight put me in mind of my promise from the staircase; but told me that if I was speculating, he would stay below till I had done. Upon my coming down, I found all the children of the family got about my old friend, and my landlady herself, who was a notable prating gossip, engaged in a conference with him; being mightily pleased with his stroking her little boy on the head, and bidding him be a good child, and mind his book.

« PreviousContinue »