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that the poet had devised the character of an old clownish father, who being plunged in debt by the extravagancies of a flaunting wife and a spendthrift son, who wasted his fortune upon race-horses, was for ever puzzling his brains to strike upon some expedient for cheating his creditors. With this view he goes to the house of Socrates to take counsel of that philosopher, who gives him a great many ridiculous instructions, seemingly not at all to the purpose, and amongst other extravagancies assures him that Jupiter has no concern in the government of the world, but that all the functions of Providence are performed by The Clouds, which upon his invocation appear and perform the part of a chorus throughout the play : the philosopher is continually foiled by the rustic wit of the old father, who, after being put in Socrates's truckle-bed and miserably stung with vermin, has a meeting with his creditors, and endeavours to parry their demands with a parcel of pedantic quibbles, which he has learnt of the philosopher, and which give occasion to scenes of admirable comic humour: my conductor informed me this incident was pointed at Eschines, a favorite disciple of Socrates; a man, says he, plunged in debts and a most notorious defrauder of his creditors. In the end the father brings his son to be instructed by Socrates; the son, after a short lecture, comes forth perfect Atheist, and gives his father a severe cudgelling on the stage, which irreverend act he undertakes to defend upon the principles of the new philosophy he had been learning. This was the substance of the play, in the course of which there were many gross allusions to the unnatural vice of which Socrates was accused, and many personal strokes against Clisthenes, Pericles, Euripides, and others, which told strongly, and were much applauded by the theatre.

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• It is not to be supposed, that all this passeu without some occasional disgust on the part of the spectators, but it was evident there was a party in the theatre, which carried it through, notwithstanding the presence of Socrates and the respectable junto that attended him: for my part I scarce ever took my eyes from him during the representation, and I observed two or three little actions, which seemed to give me some insight into the temper of his mind, during the severest libel that was ever exhibited against any man's person and principles.

• Before Socrates appears on the stage, the old man raps violently at his door, and is reproved by one of his disciples, who comes out and complains of the disturbance; upon his being questioned what the philosopher may he then employed upon, he answers that he is engaged in measuring the leap of a flea, to decide how many of its own lengths it springs at one hop; the disciple also informs him with greatsolemnity, that Socrates has discovered that the hum of a gnat is not made by the mouth of the animal, but from behind : this raised a laugh at the expence of the naturalists and minute philosophers, and

observed that Socrates himself smiled at the conceit.

• When the school was opened to the stage, and all his scholars were discovered with their heads upon the floor and their posteriors mounted in the air, and turned towards the audience, though the poet pretends to account for it, as if they were searching for natural curiosities on the surface of the ground, the action was evidently intended to convey the grossest allusion, and was so received by the audience: when this scene was produced, I remarked that Socrates shook his head, and turned his eyes

off the stage; whilst Euripides, with some indignation, threw the sleeve of his mantle over his face; this was

observed by the spectators, and produced a considerable tumult, in which the theatre seemed pretty fairly divided, so that the actors stood upright, and quitted the posture they were discovered in.

· When Socrates was first produced standing on a basket mounted into the clouds, the person of the actor and the mask he wore, as well as the garment he was dressed in, was the most direct counterpart of the philosopher himself that could be devised. But when the actor, speaking in his character, in direct terms proceeded to deny the divinity of Jupiter, Socrates laid his hand upon his heart, and cast his eyes up with astonishinent; in the same moment Alcibiades started from his seat, and in a loud voice cried out— Athenians! is this fitting?' Upon this a great tumult arose, and very many of the spectators called upon Socrates to speak for himself, and answer to the charge; when the play could not proceed for the noise and clamour of the people, all demanding Socrates to speak for himself, the philosopher unwillingly stept forward and said You require of me, O Athenians, to answer to the charge; there is no charge; neither is this a place to discourse in about the gods: let the actor proceed !'--Silence immediately took place, and Socrates's invocation to The Clouds soon ensued; the passage was so beautiful, the machinery of the clouds so finely introduced, and the chorus of voices in the air so exquisitely conceived, that the whole theatre was in raptures, and the poet from that moment had entire possession of their minds, so that the piece was car. ried triumphantly to its period. In the heat of the applause my Athenian friend whispered me in the car and said Depend upon it, Socrates will hear of this in another place; he is a lost man; and remember I tell you, that if all our philosophers and

sophists were driven out of Attica, it would be happy for Athens.'--At these words I started and awaked from my dream.

NUMBER CII.

Natio comæda est. If the present taste for private plays spreads as fast as most fashions do in this country, we may expect the rising generation will be, like the Greeks in my motto, one entire nation of actors and actresses. A father of a family may shortly reckon it amongst the blessings of a numerous progeny, that he is provided with a sufficient

company for his domestic stage, and may cast a play to his own liking without going abroad for his theatrical amusements. Such a steady troop cannot fail of being under better regulation than a set of strollers, ' or than any set whatever, who make acting a vocation: where a manager has to deal with none but players of his own begetting, every play bids fair to have a strong cast, and in the phrase of the stage to be well got up. Happy author, who shall see his characters thus grouped into a family-piece, firm as the Theban band of friends, where all is zeal and concord; no bickerings nor jealousies about stage-precedency; no ladies to fall sick of the spleen, and toss up their parts in a huff; no heart-burnings about flounced petticoats and silver trimmings, where the mother of the whole company stands wardrobe-keeper and property-woman, whilst the father takes post at the side scene in the capacity of prompter, with plenipotentiary controul over PS's and OP's,

I will no longer speak of the difficulty of writing a comedy or tragedy, because that is now done by somany people without any difficulty at all, that if there ever was any mystery in it, that mystery is thoroughly bottomed and laid open; but the art of acting was till very lately thought so rare and wonderful an excellence, that people began to look upon a perfect actor as a phenomenon in the world, which they were not to expect above once in a century; but now that the trade is laid open, this prodigy is to be met at the turn of every street; the nobility and gentry, to their immortal honour, have broken up the monopoly, and new-made players are now as plentiful as new-made peers.

Nec tamen Antiochus, nec erit mirabilis illic Aut Stratocles aut cum molli Demetrius Hæmo. Garrick and Powell would be now no wonder, Nor Barry's silver note, nor Quin's heroic thunder. Though the public professors of the art are so completely put down by the private practitioners of it, it is but justice to observe in mitigation of their defeat, that they meet the comparison under some disadvantages, which their rivals have not to contend with.

One of these is diffidence, which volunteers cannot be supposed to feel in the degree they do who are pressed into the service: I never yet saw puba lic actor come upon the stage on the first night of a new play, who did not seem to be nearly, if not quite, in as great a shaking fit as his author; but as there can be no luxury in a great fright, I cannot believe that people of fashion, who act for their amusement only, would subject themselves to it; they must certainly have a proper confidence in their own abilities, or they would never step out of a drawingroom, where they are sure to figure, upon-a stage

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