An Essay upon Dancing in a Letter to William Machrie, Professor of Both-Swords, in the City of Edinburgh.

By William Mclain, Professor of Capering, and Master of the Revells, at Edinburgh, in North-Britain.

Nunc Pede libero Pulsanda Tellus. Hor.

Printed in the Year, MDCCXI.

Most Worthy Doctor.

I have read your Essay upon Duelling, with a great deal of satisfaction: The Honour that you have gained by it, hath encouraged me to put Pen to Paper upon the Noble Art of Dancing: Beside we are sure now to live in the Mouth of Fame, since our Worthy Friend Doctor George Mackenzie Records with Honour Scots Authors and their Writings.

How Noble will it be to see shining in that worthy Author's Books, the Names of Mr James Webster, Mr. William Machrie, Mr. Robert Hepburn, and the Immortal Mr. William Mclain.

Yet sure I am, I shall be preferred to you, because I am more of the Philosopher, and you more of the Warrier. Doctor Mackenzie is of Cicero's Mind, Cedent mina Togæ. What is a Soldier? nay a General? but a Porter and a Butcher. It requires no Head to cheat Defeat an Enemy; but a great deal, to Compendize Aristotle's Philosophy, and to give an Abstract of all the Antient Heresies ever was brotched in the World, when the Doctor shall rank me with Aristotle. But now to come to my Essay.

Dancing or Capering is nothing but using the Feet gentilely to the Time of Musick, and answering exactly the Fidles, it Reioices the Spirit, brings good Company together, rubs off all Harshness from Mens Humours and gives a great deal of Activity to their Bodies and Souls. By Græcian Writers the Pedigree of it is derived from Heaven, the Stars in their Motion seem to keep a Harmonical Order, and to Imitate a kind of Dancing Motion, which they began so soon as the World was Created: By the help of this, Bacchus is said to have Civilized the Indians and Lydians, who afterwards made Use of it, in their Religious Rites. The Goddess Rhea, commanded the Corribants in Phrygia, and the Curetes in Crete, to Exercise this Noble Art. In Delos there was no Sacred Ceremony perform'd without Dancing. The Braghmans also among the Indians, Morning and Evening, worshiped the Beams of the Sun, dancing all the time. And likewise the Æthiopians, Thracians, and Scythians, perform their Religious Ceremonies dancing, which Order was instituted by Orpheus and Museus. Among the Romans, the Salian Priests Danc'd in Honour of Mars. The Lacedomians, the Bravest People of Greece, learned the Custom of Dancing in all their Feasts and publick Ceremonies, from Castor and Pollux. And in Thessaly, Dancing was had in such Veneration, that the Princes of the Country were Honoured with the Title of Foremost Dancers. Socrates also, who by the Oracle it self was Judged the wisest Man, then Living in the World, Learn'd to Dance, when he was far stricken in Years, and highly Extolled that Noble Art, reckoning it among the most Serious parts of Education, Deserving the Esteem of both Men and Gods. Garbineus and Marcus Celius, Men in Consular Dignity at Rome, are Commended in History for fine Dancers. As also Lucius Morena. And that worthy Lady Sempronia; nay the Great Emperor Augustus, likewise Nero, were fond of Capering. And we find in Sacred History that King David danced before the LORD, and his Ark. And Moderns have sfo far approved of the Ancients Opinion of Dancing, that now there is no Gentleman but Learns it: and no wonder, for to it, all Arts and Sciences owe their beginning. Dancing Introduced Musick, which the Grecians Valued so much, that Aristoxenus, whose Writings Boetius hath translated into Latine, calls it the Soul of Man.

Plato says in his first Book of Law, that none can understand Musick, without the Knowledge of all the other Sciences: So useful is it, that History observes certain Tunes had so great Charms, that they incited the Lacedemonians and Cretans to War. Timotheus by Musick incited Alexander to Arms, and Boethius relates that a Tune upon an Instrument, mov'd Taurominitianus to Burn a House, where a certain Curtezan lay conceal'd. Musick can keep People Chast, Agamemnon when he was to go to the Trojan War, left a Musician behind him to preserve the Chastity his wife Clitemnestra, by his grave Spondaick Songs; and untill he was kill'd, it was impossible for Egysthus to obtain his Desires of her. By Musick, Diseases may be Cur'd, for Diseases being in the Blood, a Fine Sound can so move, that it can change the very Motion and Circulation of them Homer relates, that Alciones and Ulysses were mighty fond of the Harp. And Virgil says the fame of Jopus, Dido and Æneas and Argus with his hundred Eyes, was charm'd asleep by the Sound of one Single Pipe: And GOD Himself, to move the Affections, ordained Musick in the Jewish Church; and St. Ambrose delighted so much in it, that he instituted the use of Singing and Playing in Christian Churches: And the Saints in Glory, what do they in Heaven but Sing and Praise? Poetry is but a sort of Musick. Tragedies and Comedies, what are they but Stage-dancing, whereby it is designed, that Things conceived in the Mind, shou'd be demonstrated by the Gestures of the Body; and the Manners and Affections so clearly represented, that By-standers may understand the Player by the Motion of his Body, tho' he say not a word.

By Different Gestures of the Body, we Display our several Passions, by a Merry Caper, a Passionate Stamp, an Desperate Screwing of the Body, and a Languishing Folding of the Arms, and what is every one of these Motions but as many Species's of Dancing? Nay Dancing has come to such Perfection that it been Expressive, if I may say so, for I'll prove it of a long Story, and the Person that was Master of it, cou'd himself alone, Act a Farce most Lively tho' there were Fourty Persons to be Represented in the Drama.

Mimes and Pantomines did all by Gesture, and the Action of Hands, Legs and Feet, without making use of the Tongue in any Sentiments or Sounds, which made Demetrius the Cynick Philosopher Cry out to one of them in the Middle of his Performance, “I hear my Friend, what you act, nor do I only see them, but methinks you speak with your hands.” This same Pantomine, who liv'd in the time of Nero, was seen by a Barbarian Prince, who came from Pontus to Rome, and Personated so lively, that the Prince tho' he knew nothing of what was Sung, being half a Græcian, understood all; being afterwards to return to his Country, and promis'd by Nero any thing he ask, he desired the Dancer: Nero thinking him a Useless Compliment, ask'd the Reason of his Demand, the Prince answered, “That his Neighbour Barbarians were of different Languages, and that it was not easie to find Interpreters for them; and that this Fellow, as often as he had need, would expound to him by his Gestures,”

Dancing was so much esteem'd in Greece, that Socrates being reflected upon, for frequenting too much the Ægyptian Performances of that kind, Reply'd, “That Dancing contained all Musical Exercises.”

To Stage-Dancers Cicero owed his Oratory, especially Roscius, who was a great Comerad of Sylla the Dictator, and since what is Represented on the Stage is but the Picture of Humane Actions, the Composers must understand all sort of Learning and the Manners of the Age; So that the best Philosopher, Lawyer, Divine, Historian, or Warrier, must all yield to a Compleat Dancing Master. And for you, most Noble Doctor, you must cast your Cap to me; not only as Master of the Revells, who is still your Superior Officer, but because all your Art owes its beginning to Dancing.

We never hear of any Persons of Note in all Antiquity, that were ever Fencing Masters or Fencers, and the beginning of Fencing was among the Gladiators, who were a pack of Slaves, Mantained by the Publick, for the People's Diversion to Kill one another in a Gladiatory Dance; However you have other things than your Imployment of Fencing to Recommend you for, you have improven the Noble Art of Cock Fighting, to a vast degree; and you are Noted all over Britain for your Skill in Riding the Great Horse, so very usefull in War: Beside your Knowledge in Mathematicks, and all Polite Learning, makes you acceptable to all Learn'd Men. But since my creeping Pen is noways fit, to record your Praises. I shall leave it to the foresaid Scots Historian, who I hope will do both of us Justice. In the mean time, I beg Leave to Sign my self what in al Reallity I am, Sir, Your most Humble and Obedient Servant, William Mclaine.


Since the writing of this, I have seen an Advertisement, that you have inserted in the Courant, where you very laboriously display that excellent Christian Virtue, call'd Self-denyal; in disclaiming the Worthiest Piece you ever wrote, viz. The Essay upon Duelling, mentione'd in my Letter: tho' some Malicious People wou'd insinuate, that its design'd to make it sell the better: the rather, because you borrowed a Minister's Name to one of their[your] Writings, against a Brother of the Trade in Aberdeen. But the Learn'd, (however it be) are very sensible, that you are sufficiently capacitate for such a Performance: and such as are acquainted with your Circumstances, know, that you want not Money. I therefore, as your Comerade, think my self obliged to Contradict you, so far, as to tell your self and the World, that you are unquestionably the Author of that Eloborate Piece.

** Nota, In the thirteen Page, P.S. Line 12. for their Writings, read your.