from The Spectator

The original Addison and Steele version of The Spectator from 1711, that is, which I downloaded from Project Gutenberg to read on my phone. I thought this was amusing: 

As I was walking [in] the Streets about a Fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary Fellow carrying a Cage full of little Birds upon his Shoulder; and as I was wondering with my self what Use he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an Acquaintance, who had the same Curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his Shoulder, he told him, that he had been buying Sparrows for the Opera. Sparrows for the Opera, says his Friend, licking his lips, what are they to be roasted? No, no, says the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first Act, and to fly about the Stage.

[ long passage snipped ]

But to return to the Sparrows; there have been so many Flights of them let loose in this Opera, that it is feared the House will never get rid of them; and that in other Plays, they may make their Entrance in very wrong and improper Scenes, so as to be seen flying in a Lady’s Bed-Chamber, or perching upon a King’s Throne; besides the Inconveniences which the Heads of the Audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a Design of casting into an Opera the Story of Whittington and his Cat, and that in order to it, there had been got together a great Quantity of Mice; but Mr. Rich, the Proprietor of the Play-House, very prudently considered that it would be impossible for the Cat to kill them all, and that consequently the Princes of his Stage might be as much infested with Mice, as the Prince of the Island was before the Cat’s arrival upon it; for which Reason he would not permit it to be Acted in his House.

One passing observation: I knew they used capital letters a lot more in the C18th, but I don’t think I realised that they capitalised every single noun, however important or trivial. As German still does, I think.

3 Comments

  1. Channing
    10 February 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    oh this is GOLD

  2. 11 February 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve always wondered about those capital letter punctuation rules. Why doesn’t he capitalize the nouns “Self” and “Lips” in the first para? And why does he capitalize the verb “Acted” in the last para?

  3. Harry
    11 February 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Ooh, good catch. I don’t know. My inclination is still to say that they are capitalising all nouns and so, I suppose, that those inconsistencies must be errors. Either by the printer of the original newspaper, the printer of the C19th collected edition, or the people who did the proofreading for Project Gutenberg.

    But I’m certainly open to the possibility that I’m wrong.

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  1. […] Project Gutenberg’s The Spectator via and redacted by Heraclitean Fire: As I was walking [in] the Streets about a Fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary Fellow carrying a Cage […]

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