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The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 2,859 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

If the Italians have a Genius for Musick above the English, the English have a Genius for other Performances of a much higher Nature, and capable of giving the Mind a much nobler Entertainment.  Would one think it was possible (at a Time when an Author lived that was able to write the ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Hippolitus’) [9] for a People to be so stupidly fond of the Italian Opera, as scarce to give a Third Days Hearing to that admirable Tragedy?  Musick is certainly a very agreeable Entertainment, but if it would take the entire Possession of our Ears, if it would make us incapable of hearing Sense, if it would exclude Arts that have a much greater Tendency to the Refinement of humane Nature:  I must confess I would allow it no better Quarter than ‘Plato’ has done, who banishes it out of his Common-wealth.

At present, our Notions of Musick are so very uncertain, that we do not know what it is we like, only, in general, we are transported with any thing that is not English:  so if it be of a foreign Growth, let it be Italian, French, or High-Dutch, it is the same thing.  In short, our English Musick is quite rooted out, and nothing yet planted in its stead.

When a Royal Palace is burnt to the Ground, every Man is at Liberty to present his Plan for a new one; and tho’ it be but indifferently put together, it may furnish several Hints that may be of Use to a good Architect.  I shall take the same Liberty in a following Paper, of giving my Opinion upon the Subject of Musick, which I shall lay down only in a problematical Manner to be considered by those who are Masters in the Art.

C.

[Footnote 1:  ‘Arsinoe’ was produced at Drury Lane in 1705, with Mrs. Tofts in the chief character, and her Italian rival, Margarita de l’Epine, singing Italian songs before and after the Opera.  The drama was an Italian opera translated into English, and set to new music by Thomas Clayton, formerly band master to William III.  No. 20 of the Spectator and other numbers from time to time advertised ’The Passion of Sappho, and Feast of Alexander:  Set to Musick by Mr. Thomas Clayton, as it is performed at his house in ‘York Buildings.’  It was the same Clayton who set to music Addison’s unsuccessful opera of ‘Rosamond’, written as an experiment in substituting homegrown literature for the fashionable nonsense illustrated by Italian music.  Thomas Clayton’s music to ‘Rosamond’ was described as ‘a jargon of sounds.’  ‘Camilla’, composed by Marco Antonio Buononcini, and said to contain beautiful music, was produced at Sir John Vanbrugh’s Haymarket opera in 1705, and sung half in English, half in Italian; Mrs. Tofts singing the part of the Amazonian heroine in English, and Valentini that of the hero in Italian.]

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[Footnote 7:  It was fifty years after this that Churchill wrote of Mossop in the ‘Rosciad,’

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