« AnteriorContinuar »
But to leave general reflection. With the present set of performers, the operas, if the conductor thinks proper, may be carried on with some success, since they have all some merit; if not as actors, at least as singers. Signora Mattei is at once both a perfect actress and a very fine singer: she is possessed of a fine sensibility in her manner, and seldom indulges those extravagant and unmusical flights of voice complained of before. Cornacini, on the other hand, is a very indifferent actor, has a most unmeaning face, seems not to feel his part, is infected with a passion of showing his compass; but to recompense all these defects, his voice is melodious,” he has vast compass and great volubility, his swell and shake are perfectly fine, unless that he continues the latter too long. In short, whatever the defects of his action may be, they are amply recompensed by his excellency as a singer; nor can I avoid fancying that he might make a much greater figure in an oratorio than upon the stage.
However, upon the whole, I know not whether ever operas can be kept up in England; they seem to be entirely exotic, and require the nicest management and care. Instead of this, the care of them is assigned to men unacquainted with the genius and disposition of the people they would amuse, and whose only motives are immediate gain. Whether a discontinuance of such entertainments would be more to the loss or the advantage of the nation, I will not take upon me to determine; since it is as much our interest to induce foreigners of taste among us on the one hand, as it is to discourage those trifling members of society, who
generally compose the operatical dramatis personae, on the other.
(1) l'' Cornacini's voice was not good, and his style of singing by no means grand or captivating.”—Hist, of Music, vol. iv.]
[In 1765, Goldsmith, willing to avail himself of the current of approbation which, since the appearance of the ‘Traveller,' was running in his favour, was induced to make a selection of the papers which had appeared anonymously in several of the periodicals of the day, and published them in a duodecimo volume. It was printed for Newberry and Griffin, and appeared on the 3d of June, under the title of ‘Essays by MR. Goldsmith, and with the motto, Collecta revirescunt. The Essays not admitted by the Poet into this volume, are now, for the first time, introduced into his collected works. Of their authenticity no doubt can be ascertained. Several were pointed out by Mr. Thomas Wright, who originally printed some of them from the manuscript of the author; others were known to the industrious and accurate Isaac Reed; others again, to Bishop Percy and Mr. Malone, particularly those on the study of the Belles-Lettres, printed in 1761–3; and which were included by the former in the edition of the works published in 1801. The collection of 1765 had the following Preface.]
The following Essays have already appeared at different times, and in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the bookseller's aims or extending the writer's reputation. The public were too strenuously employed with their own follies, to be assiduous in estimating mine; so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the transient topic of the times; the Ghost in Cock Lane, or the siege of Ticonderago.
But though they have past pretty silently into the world, I can by no means complain of their circulation. The magazines and papers of the day have indeed been liberal enough in this respect. Most of these essays have been regularly reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to the public through the kennel of some engaging compilation. If there be a pride in multiplied editions, I have seen some of my labours sixteen times reprinted, and claimed by different parents as their own. I have seen them flourished at the beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the names of Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos. These gentlemen have kindly stood sponsors to my productions, and to flatter me more, have always passed them as their own. ()
It is time, however, at last to vindicate my claims; and as these entertainers of the public, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for some years, let me now try if I cannot live a little upon myself. I would desire in this case, to imitate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard of in a shipwreck, who, when the sailors pressed by famine were taking slices from his posteriors, to satisfy their hunger, insisted with great justice on having the first cut for himself.
Yet after all, I cannot be angry with any who have taken it into their heads, to think that whatever I write is worth reprinting; particularly when I consider how great a majority will think it scarcely worth reading. Trifling and superficial are terms of reproach that are easily objected, and
(1) [Goldsmith has put nearly the same words into the mouth of the Vicar of Wakefield's son—“The public were more importantly employed, than to observe the easy simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion. My essays were buried among the essays upon liberty, eastern tales, and cures for the bite of a mad dog; while Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos all wrote better, because they wrote faster than I.”—Ch. xx. See also Life, ch. ix.]