The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

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[Footnote 1:  of each]

[Footnote 2:  Pliny, Jun, Epist.  Bk.  II.  Ep. 2.  Thus far the paper is by John Hughes.]

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No. 231.  Saturday, November 24, 1711.  Addison.

  O Pudor!  O Pietas!


Looking over the Letters which I have lately received from from my Correspondents, I met with the following one, which is written with such a Spirit of Politeness, that I could not but be very much pleased with it my self, and question not but it will be as acceptable to the Reader.

  Mr. Spectator, [1]

You, who are no Stranger to Publick Assemblies, cannot but have observed the Awe they often strike on such as are obliged to exert any Talent before them.  This is a sort of elegant Distress, to which ingenuous Minds are the most liable, and may therefore deserve some remarks in your Paper.  Many a brave Fellow, who has put his Enemy to Flight in the Field, has been in the utmost Disorder upon making a Speech before a Body of his Friends at home:  One would think there was some kind of Fascination in the Eyes of a large Circle of People, when darting altogether upon one Person.  I have seen a new Actor in a Tragedy so bound up by it as to be scarce able to speak or move, and have expected he would have died above three Acts before the Dagger or Cup of Poison were brought in.  It would not be amiss, if such an one were at first introduced as a Ghost or a Statue, till he recovered his Spirits, and grew fit for some living Part.
As this sudden Desertion of ones self shews a Diffidence, which is not displeasing, it implies at the same time the greatest Respect to an Audience that can be.  It is a sort of mute Eloquence, which pleads for their Favour much better than Words could do; and we find their Generosity naturally moved to support those who are in so much Perplexity to entertain them.  I was extremely pleased with a late Instance of this Kind at the Opera of Almahide, in the Encouragement given to a young Singer, [2] whose more than ordinary Concern on her first Appearance, recommended her no less than her agreeable Voice, and just Performance.  Meer Bashfulness without Merit is awkward; and Merit without Modesty, insolent.  But modest Merit has a double Claim to Acceptance, and generally meets with as many Patrons as Beholders. I am, &c.

It is impossible that a Person should exert himself to Advantage in an Assembly, whether it be his Part either to sing or speak, who lies under too great Oppressions of Modesty.  I remember, upon talking with a Friend of mine concerning the Force of Pronunciation, our Discourse led us into the Enumeration of the several Organs of Speech which an Orator ought to have in Perfection, as the Tongue, the Teeth [the Lips,] the Nose, the Palate, and the Wind-pipe.  Upon which, says my Friend, you have omitted the most material Organ of them all, and that is the Forehead.

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