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English. And thus the notion of honour is mis-stated, the maxims of Christianity despised, and the peace of the world disturbed. I grant this desperate custom is no original of the Stage. But then why was not the growth of it checked? I thought the poet's business had not been to back false reasoning and ill practice, and to fix us in frenzy and mistake. Yes, they have done their endeavour to cherish the malignity, and keep the disorder in countenance. They have made it both the mark, and the merit of a man of honour; and set it off with quality and commendation." (Collier p. 283.)
“ The prime animating spirit of many of our more decorous dramas seems to furnish a strong contrast to the improved and enlarged comment of our Saviour in the New Testament, on the divine prohibition against murder in the Old, in the woe denounced against anger, as containing in itself the seed and principle of murder: anger, and its too usual concomitant, revenge, being the main spring on which some of our best tragedies turn.
“ The eloquent apologies, and the elaborate vindication of the crimes resulting from the point of honour and the dread of shame, and with such apologies and vindications some of our most approved pieces abound, too temptingly invite the high unbroken spirit of a warm youth, from admiring such sentiments to adopt them : and he is liable to be stimulated first to the commission of the crime, and after he has committed it, to the hope of having his reputation cleared, by the perpetual eulogies these flattering scenes bestow on rash and intemperate bravery; on the dignity of that spirit which cannot brook an insult; and on that generous sense of wounded honour which is ever on the watch to revenge itself. And when he hears the bursts of applause with which these sallies of resentment, these vows of revenge, these determinations to destroy or be destroyed, this solemn obtesting the great Judge of hearts to witness the innocence of perhaps a very criminal action or intention ;-when, I say, a hot-headed young man witnesses the enthusiasm of admiration which such expressions excite in a transported audience, will it not operate as a kind of stimulus to him, to adopt a similar conduct, should he ever be placed in similar circumstances ? and will it not furnish him with a sort of criterion how such maxims would be received, and such conduct approved in real life? For the danger does not lie merely in his hearing such sentiments delivered from the Stage, but also in seeing how favourably they are received by the
audience ; received too by those persons, who, should he realize these sentiments, 'would probably be the arbiters of his conduct. These are to him a kind of anticipated jury. The scene is as it were the rehearsal of an acquittal at the bar of that world, whose tribunal is, perhaps, unhappily for him, considered as his last appeal; for it is not probably hazarding too much, to conclude, that by the sort of character we are considering, human opinion will be looked upon as the highest motive of action, human praise as the highest reward, and human censure as an evil to be deprecated, even by the loss of his soul.” (Mrs. More's Preface, p. 27-30.)
There is, however, a scene in The Conscious Lovers, which contains some excellent sentiments on this head. Myrtle has challenged Young Bevil: Young Bevil, says, “Sir, you know, I have often dared to disapprove the decisions that tyrant custom has introduced, to the breach of all laws, both divine and human." " I have often told you in confidence of heart, I abhorred the daring to offend the Author of life, and rushing into his presence-I say, by the very same act, lo commit the crime against him, and immediately to urge on to his tribunal.” A. IV. S. l.
Young Bevil, however, afterwards, on being farther provoked, agrees to accompany him. This is undoubtedly a bad example; and, I think, out of character; for he, who had that cool and determined abhorrence of duelling on religious principle, would not suffer himself to be provoked to it on any account. He, afterwards, recovers himself, and convinces Myrtle, that he is in an error.
The scene ends with this reflection from Myrtle :
How many have been sacrificed to that idol, the unreasonable opinion of men! Nay, they are so ridiculous in it, that they often use their swords against each other, with dissembled anger and real fear.'
Betray'd by honour, and compelld by shame,
In the Opera of The Lakers, one of the Pedestrians being asked to be Second in a duel, and the character saying to him, " You are not afraid, are you?” He replies,
“I am, Sir. I am afraid to break the laws of my country and my Maker.” A. III. S. I.
0. p. 35. Orton, in his Discourses, (p. 299,) Mr. Hill, in his Warning, (p. 14,) and Mrs. More, in her Preface, (p. 30,) all attribute the death of Mr. Eustace Budgell, by his own hand, to the sentiments imbibed from Addison's Cato. But the author of Obser. vations on the Effect, &c. says, “ I should scarcely think it possible, that the play of Cato could really lead Budgell to destroy himself, because Budgell certainly knew, that Addison neither did nor could approve of an action which Christianity condemns.” (p. 25.) I conceive this to be true only to a certain extent; for, though Budgell must have known that Christianity would not sanction it, nor could Addisơn approve it; yet, when we consider how ready the human heart is to deceive itself, and to allow itself to act upon principles, which it must know to be false, it is not perhaps impossible, but that Budgell might deceive himself into some sort of sanction for his act, by the example of Cato, and the writing of Addison.
In The Fair Penitent, there is a case of suicide exhibited in a very shocking and detestable form, by the daughter, at the instigation of the father. Calisia has been seduced by Lothario. She feels shame on account of the censure of the world, which she apprehends, but feels no penitence for her sin.
It is the solemn counsel of my soul,
And blesses her good stars that she is virtuous. A. II. S. 1. This sentiment is suffered by the poet to pass uncensured, though he had an excellent opportunity of counteracting the effects of it, by putting an answer and antidote to it into the mouth of her attendant. A sentiment like this, suggested to a female in similar circumstances, might have a similar consequence.
Lothario is at length killed, and, in the fifth Act, Calista is discovered in mourning, in a room hung with black, with Lothario's body on a bier, a book and a lamp, &c. She says,
Sure the book was left
Throwing away the book.
Here is no symptom of penitence. Her father, at length, comes in and asks her,
Hast thou e'er dar'd to meditate on death ?
'Tis nof the Stoic's lesson got by rote,
How thy accounts may stand, and what to answer ?
Where foul offence and shame have laid all waste;
And longs to find some better place of rest.
That dwelt in antient LATIAN breasts, when Rome
Here at my heart, and cannot find a way.
And write the meaning with your poniard here.
Holding up a dagger.
And know the rest untaught.
I could curse NATURE, and that tyrant HONOUR,
Thou art my daughter still.
Charm’d with my father's pity and forgiveness,
Sciolto leaves her, and she commits the act of suicide. I leave this, without farther comment, to the consideration of the reader.
In the Comedy of The Way to get Married, A. IV. S. 2. there is a scene, if any thing, more abhorrent to the feelings and sentiments of a Christian. It is between Captain Faulkner and his daughter Julia, in prison. Faulkner says,
“ In this world we can cherish no hope of happiness.
father? Fauk. Now, heartstrings, hold awhile! collect the exalted resolution of thy soul, and mark.-Out of the wreck of fortune, I have preserved something, my child, to free us from poverty, from dishonour, and to give us everlasting peace.
Julia. Blest tidings!
Faulk. Behold! [Taking from each pocket a pistol, and presenting one to Julia.)
Faulk. Ha! hast thou not by miracle escaped dishonour? and is not thus to live to meet perdition ?
Julia. Is not thus to die to meet perdition?
Faulk. Then live, base girl, and see thy father die. Live, till scorn shall point at thee, and, mocking, cry, “Behold the violated daughter of the villain Faulkner !”
Julia. There's madness in the thought-give me the deathful instrument. [Seizes the pistol.)
Faulk. Hold! oh, let me kiss thee: we're interrupted.” There is then a knocking at the door, and a letter is given which contains bank notes, &c. to rescue them from their distress. In this scene, it is to be observed, that the father, thinking himself a villain, yet hopes to attain heaven by an act of suicide in himself, at the time that he persuades his daughter to the same. properly, rejects the idea at first; and here was a fine opportunity for the writer, through the medium of the daughter, to have urged the highest motives against the sin of self-murder, and to have rescued