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the Trunk-maker, as he is commonly called, is a large black man, whom nobody knows. He generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant, with great attention to every thing that passes upon the stage. He is never seen to smile; but upon hearing anything that pleases him, he takes up his staff with both hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands in his way with exceeding vehemence: after which he composes himself in his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again at work. It has been observed, his blow is so well timed, that the most judicious critic could never except against it. As soon as any shining thought is expressed in the poet, or any uncommon grace appears in the actor, he smites the bench or wainscot. If the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time; and if the audience is not yet awaked, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which never fails to produce the clap. He sometimes lets the audience begin the clap of themselves, and at the conclusion of their applause ratifies it with a single thwack. He is of so great use to the play-house, that it is said a former director of it, upon his not being able to pay his attendance by reason of sickness, kept one in pay to officiate for him 'till such time as he recovered; but the person so employed, though he laid about him with incredible violence, did it in such wrong places, that the audience soon found out that it was not their old friend the Trunk-maker. It has been remarked, that he has not yet exerted himself with vigour this season. He sometimes plies at the opera; and upon Nicolini's first appearance, was said to have demolished three benches in the fury of his applause. He has broken half a dozen oaken plants upon Dogget; and seldom goes away from a tragedy of Shakespear, without leaving the wainscot extremely shattered. The players do not only connive at this his obstreperous approbation, but very cheerfully repair at their own cost whatever damage he makes. They had once a thought of erecting a kind of wooden anvil for his use, that should be made of a very sounding plank, in order to render his strokes more deep and mellow ; but as this might not have been distinguished from the music of a kettle-drum, the project was laid aside. In the mean while I cannot but take notice of the great use it is to an audience, that a person should thus preside over their heads, like the director of a concert, in order to awaken their attention, and beat time to their applauses; or, to raise my simile, I have sometimes fancied the Trunk-maker in the upper gallery to be like Virgil's ruler of the wind, seated upon the top of a mountain, who, when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, roused an hurricane, and set the whole cavern in an uproar. It is certain the Trunk-maker has saved many a good play, and brought many a graceful actor into reputation, who would not otherwise have been taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audience is not a little abashed, if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it; so the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but regard it as a meer brutum fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the sound of the oaken plant in it. I know it has been given out by those who are enemies to the Trunk-maker, that he has sometimes been bribed to be in the interest of a bad poet, or a vicious player; but this is a surmise which has no foundation; his strokes are always just, and his admonitions seasonable; he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. That inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on, sufficiently shews the evidence and strength of his conviction. His zeal for a good author is indeed outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, every board and plank, that stands within the expression of his ap plause. As I do not care for terminating my thoughts in barren speculations, or in reports of pure matter of fact, without drawing something from them for the advantage of my countrymen, I shall take the liberty to make an humble proposal, that whenever the Trunk-maker shall depart this life, or whenever he shall have lost the spring of his arm by sickness, old age, infirmity, or the like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to this post, and have a competent salary settled on him for life, to be furnished with bamboos for operas, crabtreecudgels for comedies, and oaken plants for tragedy, at the public expence. And to the end that this place should be always disposed, of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it, who has not given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment and a strong arm, and who could not, upon occasion, either knock down an ox, or write a comment upon Horace's art of poetry. In short, I would have him a due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for this important , office, that the Trunkmaker may not be missed by our posterity.
No. 237. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1.
Visu carentem magna pars veri latet.
It is very reasonable to believe, that part of the pleasure which happy minds shall enjoy in a future state, will arise from an enlarged contemplation of the divine wisdom in the government of the world, and a discovery of the secret and amazing steps of Providence, from the beginning to the end of time. Nothing seems to be an entertainment more adapted to the nature of man, if we consider that curiosity is one of the strongest and most lasting appetites implanted in us, and that admiration is one of our most pleasing passions; and what a perpetual succession of enjoyments will be afforded to both these, in a scene so large and various as shall then be laid open to our view in the society of superior spirits,
who perhaps will join with us in so delightful a prosect
p It is not impossible, on the contrary, that part of the punishment of such as are excluded from bliss, may consist not only in their being denied this privilege, but in having their appetites at the same time vastly increased, without any satisfaction afforded to them. In these, the vain pursuit of knowledge shall, perhaps, add to their infelicity, and bewilder them in labyrinths of error, darkness, distraction, and uncertainty of every thing but their own evil state. Milton has thus represented the fallen angels reasoning together in a kind of respite from their torments, and creating to themselves a new disquiet amidst their very amusements: he could not properly have described the sports of condemned spirits, without that cast of horror and melancholy he has sojudiciously mingled with them.
Others apart sat on a hill retir’d,
In our present condition, which is a middle state, our minds are, as it were, chequered with truth and falsehood; and as our faculties are narrow, and our views imperfect, it is impossible but our curiosity must meet with many repulses. The business of mankind in this life being rather to act than to know, their portion of knowledge is dealt to them accordingly.
From hence it is, that the reason of the inquisitive has so long been exercised with difficulties, in accounting for the promiscuous distribution of good and evil to the virtuous and the wicked in this world. From hence come all those pathetical complaints of so many tragical events, which happen to the wise and the good; and of such surprising prosperity, which is often the reward of the guilty and the foolish; that reason is sometimes puzzled, and at a loss what to pronounce upon so mysterious a dispensation.
Plato expresses his abhorrence of some fables of the poets, which seem to reflect on the gods as the authors of injustice; and lays it down as a principle, that whatever is permitted to befal a just man, whether poverty, sickness, or any of those things which seem to be evils, shall either in life or death conduce to his good. My reader will observe how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a discourse purposely on this subject, in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoics, to shew that adversity is not in itself an evil; and mentions a notable saying of Demetrius, ‘That nothing would be more unhappy than a man who had never known affliction.” He compares prosperity to the indulgence of a fond mother to a child, which often proves his ruin; but the affection of the Divine Being to that of a wise father, who would have his sons exercised with labour, disappointment, and pain, that they may gather strength, and improve their fortitude. On this occasion the philosopher rises into that celebrated sentiment, ‘That there is not on earth a spectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works, than a brave man superior to his sufferings;’ to which he adds, “That it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from heaven, and see Cato amidst the ruins of his country preserving his integrity.’
This thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider human life as a state of probation, and adversity as the post of honour in it, assigned often to the best and most select spirits.
But what I would chiefly insist upon here, is, that we are not at present in a proper situation to judge of the counsels by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or, according to the elegant figure in o writ, “We see but in part, and as in a glass darkly.' It is to be considered that Providence, in its occonomy, regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful connexions between incidents which lie widely separated in time, and ,