Vestris used to say there were but three great men in Europe: Voltaire, the king of Prussia, and himself. It is a a proof of greatness in this Dieu de la Dance as he called himself, that he admitted the co-equality of the two former, allowed the head to be worthy of reputation as well as the heels, and thought the evolutions of a battle might be performed in as masterly a manner as those of a dance. How must he have admired those courts where there was a 71royal professor of dancing! Philip IV. of Spain conferred this dignity upon Antonio Almenda, his own preceptor in the gentle art; for surely if shoemaking be called in honourable distinction from all other trades the gentle craft, dancing is in like manner entitled to be distinguished from all other arts. Almenda, like the druids and philosophers, communicated his mysteries only by oral precept; they were reduced to writing by his disciple Juan de Esquivel Navarro, of Seville. His work is entitled, Discurso sobre el arte del Danzado y sus excellencias y primer origen, reprobando las acciones deshonestas. Sevilla, 1642. I know not whether there be any earlier treatise upon the art.
Whether Philip profited by the lessons of his royal professor it would be in vain to inquire. He made many false steps in politics, whatever he may have done in the saloon; and however Almenda may have instructed him to carry himself, 72Olivares prevented him from walking uprightly through the world.
Some celebrity a prince may acquire by dancing. Oh mine Gott! an old German used to say, who remembered the last Duke of York upon his travels, Oh mine Gott! de Duke of York vas-de mose accompleesh gentleman dat ever I did see at dance-a de minnuett! He never went into a ball room withing regretting the Duke of York, and sighing for the inferiority of all who attempted to dance a de minnuett after him. The Duke’s fame has probably died with this old German. There is something melancholy in calling to mind the barren accomplishments of the dead, even more so than in remembering beauty which is faded. In all the operations of nature there is a view to the future; it should be so with the actions of man, and those pursuits which have no other aim beyond mere present gratification, are unworthy of him. I subscribe therefore, to the prohibition of the Quakers against 73music and dancing, were it only upon the ground that they cannot “leave a joy for memory.” This is somewhat too serious a strain to be introduced by Vestris, the royal professor, and the Duke of York; but they who understand the process of the associations of thought may see how I have slipt into this moralizing mood, by writing slowly, idiy, and letting thought ramble on. If further exemplification be needful, go and read Montaigne.