Imagens das páginas
PDF

from one another: the one consisted of abject, low-minded people, that always hunting after immediate enjoyment, were wholly incapable of self-denial, and without regard to the good of others, had no higher aim than their private advantage: such as being enslaved by voluptuousness, yielded without resistance to every gross desire, and make no use of their rational faculties but to heighten their sensual pleasure. These vile grovelling wretches, they said, were the dross of their kind, and having only the shape of men, differed from brutes in nothing but their outward figure. But the other class was mado up of lofty high-spirited creatures, that free from sordid selfishness, esteemed the improvements of the mind to be their fairest possessions; and setting a true valuo upon themselves, took no delight but in embellishing that part in which their excellency consisted; such as despising whatever they had in common with irrational creatures, opposed by the help of reason their most violent inclinations; and making a continual war with themselves to promote the peace of others, aimed at no less than the public welfare and the conquest of their own passion.

Fortior est qui sc quam qui fortissimo, vincit
Mania1

These they called the true representatives of their sublime species, exceeding in worth the first class by more degrees, than that itself was superior to tho beasts of the field.

As in all animals that are not too imperfect to discover pride, we find, that the finest and such as arc the most beautiful and valuable of their kind, have generally the greatest share of it; so in man, the most perfect of animals, it is so inseparable from his very essenco (how cunningly soever some may learn to hide or disguise it) that without it the compound he is made of would want one of the chicfest ingredients: which, if wo consider, it is hardly to be doubted but lessons and remonstrances, so skilfully adapted to the good opinion man has of himself, as thoso I have mentioned, must, if scattered amongst a multitude not only gain the assent of most of them, as to the speculative part, but likewise induce several, especially the fiercest, most resolute, and best among them, to endure a thousand inconveniences, and undergo as many hardships, that they may have the pleasure of counting themselves men of the second class, and consequently appropriating to themselves all tho excellences they have hoard of it.

From what has been said, we ought to expect in the first place that tho heroes who took such extraordinary pains to master some of their natural appetites, and preferred the good of others to any visible interest of thoir own, would not recede an inch from the fine notions they had receivod concerning the dignity of rational creatures; and having ever the authority of tho government on their side, with all imaginable vigour assert tho esteem that was duo to those of the second class, as well as their superiority over the rest of their kind. In the second, that those who wanted a sufficient stock of cither pride or resolution to buoy them up in mortifying of what was dearest to them, followed the Bensual dictutes of nature, would yet be ashamed of confessing themselves to be those despicable wretches that belonged to the inferior class, and were generally reckoned to be so little removed from brutes; and that therefore in their own defence they would say, as others did, and hiding their own imperfections as well as they could, cry up self-denial and public-spiritedness as much as any: for it is highly probable, that some of them, convinced by the real proofs of fortitude and self-conquest they had seen, would admire in others what

1 More strength hog he who self nan overthrow
Thnn he who hiyd the strongest towers lov.

they found wanting in themselves; others be afraid of the resolution and prowess of those of the second class, and that all of them were kept in awe by the power of their rulers: wherefore it is reasonable to think, that none of them (whatever they thought in themselves) would dare openly contradict, what by every body else was thought criminal to doubt of.

This was (or at least might havo been) the manner after which savage man was broke; from whence it is evident, that tho first rudiments of morality, broached by skilful politicians, to render men useful to each other as well as tractable, were chiefly contrived that the ambitious might reap tho more benefit from, and govern vast numbers of them with the greater ease and security. This foundation of politics being once laid, it is impossible that man should long remain uncivilised: for even those who only strove to gratify their appetites, being continually crossed by others of tho same stamp, could not but observe, that whenever they checked their inclinations or but followed them with more circumspection, thoy avoided a world of troubles, and often escaped many of the calamities that generally attended the too eager pursuit after pleasure.

First, they received, as well as others, tho benefit of those actions that were done for the good of the whole society, and consequently could not forbear wishing well to those of the superior class that performed them. Secondly, the more intent they were in seeking their own advantage, without regard to others, the moro they were hourly convinced, that none stood so much in their way as those that were most like themselves.

It being the interest then of the very worst of them, more than any, to preach up public-spiritedness, that they might reap the fruits of tho labour and self-denial of others, and ut the same time indulge their own appetites with less disturbance, they agreed with the rest, to call everything, which, without regard to the public, man should commit to gratify any of his appetites, vice; if in that action there could bo observed the least prospect, that it might either be injurious to any of the society, or over rendered himself less serviceable to others: and to give the name of virtue to every performance, by which man, contrary to the impulse of naturo, should endeavour the benefit of others, or the conquest of his own passions out of a rational ambition of being good.

It shall be objected, that no society was ever any ways civilised before the major part had agreed upon some worship or othor of an over-ruling power, and consequently that the notions of good and evil, and the distl.-.ction between virtue and vice, were never the contrivance of politicians, but tho pure effect of religion. Before I answer this objection, I must repeat what I have said already, that in this enquiry into the origin of moral virtue, I speak neither of Jetcs or Christians, but man in his state of nature and ignorance of the true deity; and then I affirm, that the idolatrous superstitions of all other nations, and tho pitiful notions they had of the supreme being, were incapable of exciting man to virtue, and good for nothing but to awe and amuse a rude and unthinking multitude. It is evident from history, that in all considerable societies, how stupid or ridiculous soever people's received notions have been, as to the deities they worshipped, human nature has ever exerted itself in all its branches, and that there is no earthly wisdom or moral virtue, but at one time or other men have excelled in it in all monarchies and commonwealths, that for riches and power havo been any ways remarkable.

The Egyptians, not satisfied with having deified all tho ugly monsters they could think on, were so silly as to adore the onions of their own Bowing; yet at the same time their country was the most famous nursery of arts and sciences in the world, and themselTes more eminently skilled in the deepest mysteries of nature than any nation has been since.

No states or kingdoms under heaven hare yielded more or greater patterns in all sorts of moral virtues than the Greek and Roman empires, more especially the latter; and yet how loose, absurd and ridiculous were their sentiments as to sacred matters? For without reflecting on the extravagant number of their-deities, if we only consider the infamous stories they fathered upon them, it is not to be denied but that their religion, far from teaching men the conquest of their passions, and the way to virtue, seemed rather contrived to justify their appetites, and encourage their vices. But if we would know what made them excel in fortitude, courage and magnanimity, we must cast our eyes on the pomp of their triumphs, the magnificence of their monuments and arches; their trophies, Btatues, and inscriptions; the variety of their military crowns, their honours decreed to the dead, public encomiums on the living, and other imaginary rewards they bestowed on men of merit; and we shall find, that what carried so many of them to the utmost pitch of self-denial, was nothing but their policy in making use of the most effectual means that human pride could bo flattered with.

It is risible then that it was not any heathen religion or other idolatrous superstition, that first put man upon crossing his appetites and subduing his dearest inclinations, but the skilful management of wary politicians; and the nearer we search into human nature, the more we shall he convinced, that the moral virtues are the political offspring which flattery begot upon pride.

There is no man of what capacity or penetration soever, that is wholly proof against the witchcraft of flattery, if artfully performed, and suited to his abilites. Children and fools will swallow personal praise, but thoso that are more cunning, must be managed with greater circumspection ; and the more general tho flattery is, the less it is suspected by those it is levelled at. What you say in commendation of a whole town is received with pleasure by all the inhabitants: Speak in commendation of letters in general, and every man of learning will think himself in particular obliged to you. You may safely praise the employment a man is of, or tho country he was born in; because" you give him an opportunity of screening the joy he feels upon his own account, under the esteem which he pretends to have for others.

It is common among cunning men, that understand the power which flattery has upon pride, when they are afraid they shall be imposed upon, to enlarge, though much againBt their conscience, upon the honour, fair dealing and integrity of the family, country, or sometimes the profession of him they suspect; because they know that men often will change their resolution, and act against their inclination, that they may have the pleasure of continuing to appear in the opinion of some, what they are conscious not to be in reality. Thus sagacious moralists draw men like angels, in hopes that the pride at least of some will put them upon copying after the beautiful originals which they are represented to be.

When the incomparable Sir Richard Steele, in the usual elegance of his easy style, dwells on the praises of his sublime species, and with all the embellishments of rhetoric sets forth the excellency of human nature, it is impossible not to be charmed with his happy turns of thought, and the politeness of his expressions. But though I have been often moved by the force of his eloquence, and ready to swallow the ingenious sophistry with pleasure, yet I could never be so serious, but reflecting on his artful encomiums I thought on thp tricks made use of by the women that would teach

children to be mannerly. When an awkward girl, before she can either speak or go, begins after many entreaties to make the first rude essays of curtsying, the nurse falls in an ecstacy of praise. There's a delicate curtsy! 0 fine miss.' therea pretty lady .' Mamma! miss can make a better curtsy than her sister Molly! The same is echoed over by the maids, whilst mamma almost hugs the child to pieces; only Miss Molly, who being four years older, knows how to mako a very handsome curtsy, wonders at the pcrverseness of their judgment, and swelling with indignation, is ready to cry at the injustice that is done her, till, being whispered in the ear that it is only to please tho baby, and that she is a woman, she grows proud at being let into the secret, and rejoicing at the superiority of her understanding, repeats what has been said with large additions, and insults over the weakness of her sister, whom all this while she fancies to be the only bubble among them. These extravagant praises would by any one, above the capacity of an infant, be called fulsomo flatteries, and, if you will, abominable lies; yet experience teaches us, that by the help of such gross encomiums, young misses will be brought to make pretty curtsies, and behave themselves womanly much sooner, and with less trouble, than they would without them. 'Tis the same with boys, whom they'll strive to persuade, that all fine gentlemen do as they are bid, and that none but beggar boys are rude, or dirty their clothes; nay, as soon as the wild brat with his untaught fist begins to fumble for his hat, the mother, to make him pull it off, tells him before he is two years old, that he is a man; if he repeats that action when she desires him, he's presently a captain, a lord mayor, a king, or something higher if she can think of it, till egg'd on by the force of praise, the little urchin endeavours to imitate man as well as he can, and strains all his faculties to appear what his shallow noddle imagines he is believed to be.

The meanest wretch puts an inestimable value upon himself, and the highest wish of the ambitious man is to have all the world, as to that particular, of his opinion: so that tho most insatiable thirst after fame that ever hero was inspired with, was never more than an ungovernable greediness to engross the esteem and admiration of others in future ages as well as his own; and (what mortification soever this truth might be to the second thoughts of an Alexander or a Ca?sar) the great recompense in view, for which the most exalted minds have with so much alacrity sacrificed their quiet health, sensual pleasures, and every inch of themselves, has never been anything else but the breath of man, the aerial coin of praise. Who can forbear laughing when ho thinks on all the great men that have been so serious on the subject of that Macedonian madman, his capacious soul, that mighty heart, in one corner of which, according to Lorenzo Gratian, the world was so commodiously lodged, that in the whole there was room for six more? Who can forbear laughing, I say, when he compares the fine things that have been said of Alexander, with the end he proposed to himself from his vast exploits, to be proved from his own mouth: when the vast pains he took to pass the Hydaspcs forced him to cry out: Oh ye Athenians, could yon believe what dangers I expose myself to, to be praised by you! To define then the reward of glory in the amplest manner, the most that can be said of it, is, that it consists in a superlative felicity which a man, who is conscious of having performed a noble action, enjoys in self-love, whilst he is thinking on the applause he expects of others.

But here I shall be told, that besides the noisy toils of war and public bustle of the ambitious, there are noble and generous actions that are performed in silence; that virtue being its own reward, those who are really good have a satisfaction in their consciousness of being so, which is all tho recompense they expect from the most worthy performances; that among tho heathens there have been men, who, when they did good to others, were so far from coveting thanks and applause, that they took all imaginable caro to bo for over concealed from those on whom they bestowed their benefits, and consequently that pride has no hand in spurring man on to the highest pitch of self-denial.

In answer to this I say, that it is impossible to judge of a man's performance, unless we are thoroughly acquainted with tho principle and motivo from which he acts. Pity, though it is the most gentle and tho least mischievous of all our passions, is yet as much a frailty of our nature, as anger, pride, or fear. Tho weakest minds havo generally the greatest share of it, for which reason none are more compassionate than women and children. It must bo owned, that of all our weaknesses it is the most amiable, and bears the greatest resemblanco to virtue; nay, without a considerable mixture of it the society could hardly subsist: but as it is an impulso of nature, that consults neither tho public interest nor our own reason, it may produce evil as well as good. It has helped to destroy tho honour of virgins, and corrupted the integrity of judges; and whoever acts from it as a principle, what good soever he may bring to the society, has nothing to boast of but that he has indulged a passion that has happened to bo beneficial to the public. There is no merit in saving an innocent babe ready to drop into the fire: the action is neither good nor bad, and what benefit soever tho infant received, we only obliged ourselves; for to have seen it fall, and not strove to hinder it, would have caused a pain, which self-preservation compelled us to prevent: Nor has a rich prodigal, that happens to be of a commiserating temper, and loves to gratify his passions, greater virtue to boast of when he relieves an object of compassion with what to himself is a trifle.

But Buch men, as without complying with any weakness of thoir own, can part from what they value themselves, and, from no other motive but their love to goodness, perform a worthy action in silence: Such men, I confess, have acquired more refined notions of virtue than those I have hitherto spoke of; yet even in these (with which the world has yet never swarmed) we may discover no small symptoms of pride, and the humblest man alive must confess, that the reward of a virtuous action, which is the satisfaction that ensues upon it, consists in a certain pleasure he procures to himself by contemplating on his own worth: Which pleasure, together with the occasion of it, are as certain signs of pride, as looking pale and trembling at any imminent danger, are the symptoms of fear.

If the too scrupulous reader should at first view condemn these notions concerning the origin of moral virtue, and think them perhaps offensive to Christianity, I hope he'll forbear his censures, when he shall consider that nothing can render the unsearchable depth of the divine wisdom more conspicuous, than that man, whom providence had designed for society, should not only by his own frailties and imperfections be led into the road to temporal happiness, hut likewise receive, from a seeming necessity of natural causes, a tincture of that knowledge, in which he was afterwards to he made perfect by the true religion, to his eternal welfare.

In his attacks upon Sir Robert Walpole. Bolingbroke was unsparing in his suggestions of corruption. His "Dissertations upon Parties." republished from Tkf Craftsman, had a frontispiece •which represented Walpole as the all-powerful Minister setting man

[merged small][graphic]

Olympian Walpole.
Fronli.«i>i«« to fioiin^brofca'j "Dissertations Mjxm ParTKt."

Robert Walpole was not a dishonest man. But the tide ran strongly in favour of that form of attack, and there was much in public life that justified it.

The Craftsman was a paper established by William Pulteney, who had been a zealous Whig and a colleague of Wali>ole's. On the accession of George I. he was made Privy Councillor and Secretary at War. When Walj>ole returned to office in 1721, Pulteney, dissatisfied with the arrangements that concerned himself, went into Opposition. As Walpole's personal ascendancy increased, Pulteney. aided quietly by Bolingbroke, became leader of the Opposition. Bolingbroke, ill-used by the Pretender, whom he had desired to serve, could, in his forced retirement from political life, put the lost cause aside, and aid a new cry led by a disaffected Whig against the Minister whom he accused of governing by a corrupt use of money, and whom he hoped in good time to supplant. Bolingbroke led the attacks on the Minister in the name of public virtue, won young Whigs to share his philosophical aspiration towards patriotic purity, and was indeed, as far as he knew, honestly swimming with the stream, while hoping to profit in good time by the reaction in which he took a foremost place. There was power in his pen, and when Pulteney began, under the name of Caleb D'Anvers, of Gray's Inn, Esquire, his series of periodical papers called T/ie Craftsman, chiefly levelled against Walpole, Bolingbroke became the writer of its most vigorous essays. The first number of The Craftsman was published on the 5th of December, 1726, and it appeared every Monday and Friday until the 17th of April, 1736. From among its essays I take one that looks at the political side of the "Beggar's Opera," which was first produced on the 29th of January, 1728, and of which Gay himself said, when publishing its sequel, "Polly," that he meant to express through it his sense of the corruption of society.1 A year or two earlier the same note had been struck more forcibly, with a wit that had so much in it of kindly playfulness as to make it to this day dear to a child, by Swift in his "Gulliver's Travels." For the state of innocence Swift did not go back even to the state of nature, man in a state of nature was a Yahoo; for innocence and honest life one must go farther back yet. They might be found among brute beasts, but not in man.

No. 85. Saturday, February 17, 1727-8.

Tot u-s mundus agit Histrionem.

Anqlici.
The stage turns all the world to ridicule.

Sm ^° <-!aleb D'anveks, Esq.

I sent you, some months ago, an account of the declining state of the Royal British Academy, occasioned hy the disputes between the two famous rival queens and their contending factions, whether the first part in the opera belonged to Cuzzoni or Faustina;2 which have been since carried to

'See in this Library " English Plays," pages 416, 417.

» Cuzzoni or Faustina. From 1714 to 1724, when the Earl of Peterborough married her and took her from the stage, the prima donna in Handel's operas was Anostosia Robinson. Handel had begun his career in London with " Rinaldo " in 1711, in the days of Steele and Addison's Spectator. In 1723, Francesca Cuzzoni, of Parma, made her first appearance in London, in Handel's opera "Ottone." Her success was so great on the first night that she was engaged for the season at a salary of two thousand guineas, and on her second appearance the price of each ticket was raised to four guineas. The lady's voice was exquisite, but she was ill-looking, freakish, and impertinent. Handel wrote some of his best airs to display her voice, but suffered so much worry from the airs she gave herself that it was a satisfaction to him when a Venetian singer of high repute abroad, Faustina Bardoni, made her first appearance in his "Alexander " in May, 1726. Faustina had beauty, prudence, and good temper in her favour. As a singer she excelled in brilliant articulate execution; while Cuzzoni's voice had a tone so soft and sympathetic that she could in a touching passage move her audience to tears. But her character was not soft. She looked on the new-comer as a rival, and hated her. Each singer had a party following, the Countess of Pembroke leading the one, and the Countess of Burlington the other. The house of the premier was divided against itself, for as Sir Robert Walpole favoured Faustina, his lady patronised Cuzzoni. On the 20th of June, 1727, the two prime dmtne were to be upon the stage together. When they appeared, the partisans of each gave loose to their spirit of faction, and there was a riot in the house. Not long afterwards Cuzzoni assaulted her rival, and the ladies tried their nails upon each other's faces. The after lives of the ladies were

such an height, that, like most other animosities, they have almost brought that mighty state itself into contempt. We have seen it dwindle by degrees for a year or two past, till it is, at length, in a manner deserted even by its greatest quondam admirers, subscribers, and directors. 0 .' tempora .' 0.' mores.' that ever the theatre in the Haymarkct should be obliged to yield to that in Lincoln's Inn Fields! that the coarse ribaldry and vulgar catches of a Newgate hero should prevail over the melodious enchantments of Scnesino! whilst the once celebrated Cuzzoni and Faustina lay aside their former emulation, and, with united resentment, behold the palm of precedence given to pretty Miss Polly Peachum— withaP!'

I hope the beaumonde will give me leave to observe, which nothing but the present melancholy occasion could extort from me, that this is an undeniable mark of a vitiated taste and a degenerate licentious age, which delights in seeing things of the greatest importance turned to ridicule. Who can help being surprised to find two of his Majesty's theatres prostituted in this manner, and made the popular engines for conveying not only scandal and scurrility, but even sedition and treason through the kingdom? Have we not lately seen the awful solemnity of a coronation openly burlesqued at both theatres? Have not the nobles, the prelates, the judges and magistrates of the land been personated by Miller, Johnson, and Harper at one bouse, and by Harlequin and his associates at the other f4 Have not some persons in a certain honourable assembly been traduced for almost thirty nights together in the character of a wrong-headed country knight, of mean intellects and a broken fortune? And lastly, is not the opera state itself become the subject of mirth and derision to crowded and clapping audiences':

Though I am a constant spectator of the "Beggar's Opera," which affords me a nightly entertainment, and

have always had a great respect for Mr. E ch, yet I am

surprised at the late unprecedented insolence and audaciousness of that gentleman, and have often wondered that such entertainments are suffered to be exhibited night after night to the whole town with impunity. How could it enter into his head to turn the fine songs of the opera into such high ridicule? He knows very well who goes to and takes delight in those diversions. It was impossible to think that all the disappointments in the world could have transported him to this degree; but as the best actions are liable to malicious and invidious turns, this innocent amusement of the k—g

must not escape the ridicule of righteous Mr. R ch. Did

he mean to insinuate by this that nothing but sing-song, empty sound and gesticulation, please and recommend at an opera? Or did ho hope that other harsh inferences would be made by the disaffected, which I detest, and he dares not name?

It will, I know, be said by these libertine stage-players that tho satire is general, and that it discovers a consciousness of guilt for any particular man to apply it to himself.

of their own making. Cuzzoni married a harp ;ichord maker, whom she was afterwards said to have poisoned, and she died miserably in a hospital in 1770; and Faustina married a harpsichord player, to whom she was first drawn by his music, and lived a long and happy life with hex husband, dying in the same year with him when one was 83, the other 84 years old.

5 Peachum with a P, for the more aristocratic Beauchamp with a B. The original Polly was Lavinia Fenton, who achieved a conquest of the Duke of Bolton, and became his second Duchess, twenty-three years after he had eloped with her.

* The Coronation procession of George II. in 1727 was produced at Drury Lane as an incident to Banks's play of "Anna Bullen," and added as a show when other plays were acted. Rich, at Lincoln's Inn Fields, then set up " Harlequin Anna Bullen."

But they seem to forget that there are such things as innucndos, a never-failing method of explaining libels, and that when all the town sees through their design, it is unreasonable to suppose those persons only incapable of understanding it to whom it belongs to punish Buch enormities. Nay, the very title of this piece and the principal character, which is that of an highwayman, sufficiently discover the mischievous design of it, since by this character everybody will understand one who makes it his business arbitrarily to levy and collect money on the people for his own use, of which he always dreads to give any account. Ib not this squinting with a vengeance, and wounding persons in authority through the sides of a common malefactor?

But I shall go still deeper into this affair, and undertake to prove, beyond all dispute, that the "Beggar's Opera" is the most venomous allegorical libel against the Government that hath appeared for many years past.

There are some persons who esteem Lockit, the keeper or prime minister of Newgate, to be the hero of the piece ;' to justify which opinion, they take notice that he is set forth on the stage in the person of Mr. Hall as a very corpulent bulky man, and that he hath a brother named Peachum,2 who, as represented by Mr. Hippesly, appears to be a little, awkward, slovenly fellow. They observe farther, that these two brothers have a numerous gong of thieves and pickpockets under their direction, with whom they divide the plunder, and whom they either screen or tuck up, as their own interest and the present occasion requires. But I am obliged to reject this interpretation as erroneous, however plausible it may be, and to embrace another, which is moro generally received, viz., that Captain Macheath, who hath also a goodly presence, and hath a tolerable bronzo upon his face, is dosigned for the principal character, and drawn to asperse somebody in authority. He is represented at the head of a gang of robbers, who promise to stand by him against all the enquiries and coercive force of the law. He is often called a great man, particularly in the two following passages, viz., "It grieves one's heart to take off a great man." "What a moving thing it is to see a great man in distress;" which, by-the-bye, seems to be an innuendo that some great man will speedily fall into distress.

Soon after his first appearance on the stage he is taken up and confined for a certain slippery prank on the road, but hath the good fortuno to escape that time by the help of a trusty friend. Ho is afterwards retaken in much hotter plight and apparel than before, and ordered for execution, which is prevented for no other reason that I can see, than that the poet is afraid of offending the critics, by making an opera end with a tragical catastrophe, for he plainly tells us that this observance of dramatic rules in one point hath made him violate poetical justice in another, and spoil a very good moral, viz., that the lower people have their vices in a degree as well as the rich, and are punished for them— innuendo, that rich people never are.

But herein, I confess, the author seems to bo somewhat inconsistent, by ranking his hero Macheath, whom he had

1 Lockit's sons, "When yon Censure the Age," was encored vociferously on the first night as a hit at the premier, Sir Sobert Walpole. Walpole, who was present, followed its repetition with a loud "encore" of his own, and had a round of applause for his good humour. The Craftsman here amuses its readers by identifying Walpole with Macheath.

* Lord Townshend, Walpole's brother-in-law, was joined with him in the administration until 1730, when they quarrelled, Townshend resigned, and Walpole became sole master. The dates, of course, contradict those who have found a reference to the quarrel between Walpole and Townshend in Gay's quarrel scene between Lockit and Peachum.

before called a great man, amongst the lower people. Bat this, perhaps, might be done for a blind; and then, no doubt, the reprieve was brought in to inculcate the same moral is a stronger manner, viz., by an example of a great man and a notorious offender, who escapes with impunity.

His satirical strokes upon ministers, courtiers, and great men in general abound in every part of this most insolent performance. In one place, whore Polly Peachum acknowledges her match with Captain Macheath, her father breaks out in a passion with these words: What, marry an highwayman! why he'll make as bad a husband as a lord— innuendo, that all lords make bad husbands. Soon after, when Miss Polly questions her spouse's constancy, he tella her that you might sooner tear a pension out of the hands of a courtier than tear him from her—innuendo, that ail courtiers have pensions. In the very first song the employment of a statesman is, by innuendo, made as bad or worse than that of Jonathan Wild, represented under the character of Peachum, which ho introduces by a general libel on men of all professions, even the most sacred, in order to make that of a statesman more black and vile:—

Through all the employments of life,

Each neighbour abuses his brother,
Whore and rogue they call husband and wife;

All professions be-rogue one another.
The priest calls the lawyer a cheat,

The lawyer be-knaves the divine;
And the statesman, because he's so great,

Thinks his trade as honest as mine.

The second act begins with a scene of highwaymen drinking together, who solemnly promise never to betray one another for interest or any other motive, upon which one of them gets up and says, Shew me a gang of courtiers who can say as much—innuendo, that courtiers have less honesty than highwaymen. In another place it is said that our gang can't trust one another any more than other people —innuendo—

In a scene between Peachum and his brother Lockit, Peachum takes upon him to say that he does not like these long arrears of the Government—innuendo, that the Government is in arrear. Again, says he, Can it be expected that wo should hang our acquaintance for nothing, when our betters will hardly save theirs without being paid for it— innuendo, that somo persons have been well paid for saving or screening their former acquaintance. He says farther, that unless the people in employment pay better (innuendo, that they pay very badly), ho shall let other rogues b've besides theirs—innuendo, that there are other rogues.

He goes on with observing that, in one respect, their employment may be reckoned dishonest, because, like great statesmen, they encourage those who betray their friends, w^iich contains, by innuendo, a confirmation of that ridiculous as well as scandalous vulgar error, that great statesmen frequently betray their friends.

Upon this Lockit advises him to be more guarded, and sings the following air: —

When you censure the age

Be cautious and sage,
Lest the courtiers offended should be.

If you mention vice or bribe,

"Tie so pat to all the tribe,
Each cries—That was levell'd at me.

I submit it, whether this is not a plain innuendo that overy courtier is corrupted either with vice or a bribe, or with both? The same infamous design is carried on in the two following songs, the first of which is sung by Lockit, und the second by Macheath.

« AnteriorContinuar »