« AnteriorContinuar »
are termed Managers, the Writers of Plays, the Licencer or Lord Chamberlain, the Performers, the Audience, and the Magistrates who sanction them; and, lastly, some notice may be taken of the Censors, who decide on their merits both literary and moral. To ascertain the nature and extent of duties is the first step toward having them performed: the text contains an awful reason for performing these duties, when they are ascertained : “ To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Our Saviour adds the sanction of happiness to the performance of duty, “ If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John xiii. 17.)
1. It is a misfortune, not peculiar to the profession of the Stage, that persons enter into it, not with a view of seeking some station in life, in which they may discharge the duties incumbent upon every member of Society, of working out his own salvation, and profiting his fellow-creatures, and, in doing this, endeavouring to acquire lawfully a competent and honest livelihood, but gain is made the principal, or only object, and the means are but little attended to. “ A faithful man shall abound with blessings, (saith Solomon) but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." (Prov. xxviii. 20.) " What is a man profited, (saith Christ) if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul !” (Matt. xvi. 26.) Let the persons, then, engaged in this profession consider, that although every man ,may look to acquire a competent maintenance by his profession, yet he hath a much more important object to attain. He is to weigh well the duty which he owes to God and to man; and, if he should, in any way, contribute to the dishonouring of God, or the corrupting of man, dreadful will be the account which he will have to give at the great consummation of all things, when “ the fashion of this world shall pass away,”* (1 Cor. xvii. 31.) and
“ heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat;" when " the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” (2 Pet. iii. 10.) Important is the question which the Apostle asks on this occasion, “Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought' ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness? - Beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of God in peace, without spot and blameless." (v. 11, 14.) If any one for the sake of a little paltry gain, shall attempt to make that, which, under proper regulation, might be made a place of innocent amusement and profitable instruction, a place of corruption to the mind, and of
* Note A.
attraction to the profligate, and if, instead of keeping out those persons, who contribute to make it a house of licentiousness, he shall rather endeavour to draw them thither, and make the place commodious to their corrupt designs, the guilt must fall upon his head. Should the taste of the age, or the place in which he is situated; tend to folly and licentiousness, he is to remember, that he hath a prior and superior duty to discharge, than to feed the depraved taste of tlie multitude. Instead of seeking to derive advantage from the reigning fashions and follies of the age, he should labour to correct them. The general dissipation, of which moralists complain, under proper direction, might be made to reform itself. Theatrical amusements, of whatever they may consist, are sure to be followed, and, where no exhibitions, but such as tend to enlarge the understanding, or amend the heart, are offered to the public, no others can be attended. He, therefore, who offers frivolous, or corrupt, or impious entertainments to the public, becomes the pander to dissipation, to profligacy, and profaneness. *
He is to consider, likewise, that it is his duty to employ those only to write for him, who will do it in subserviency to the great ends of innocent
* See the Biographia Dramatica, vol. ii) Article, Christmas Tale.
amusement, or profitable instruction ;-and that he is the head, or master, of a large family, or society, whose welfare is, in great measure, placed in his hands; and that it is his duty to encourage their virtues, and repress their vices; and that, if he shall suffer any of them to fall, while under his superintendance, either for want of due controul and advice, or to be corrupted by the false principles taught in the pieces, which ought to inculcate only pure morals, under religious sanctions, that all these sins will lie at his door. * Alas! for many, who have been in this situation, now gone to their account. Let those, who survive, be timely wise, repair the evil they may have done, as far as lies in their
power, and labour more abundantly for the future to promote the glory of God, and the good of mankind.
2, Much of what hath been said respecting the conductors of the Stage, on the subject of profession, and of the paramount object with them of making money, will equally apply to Writers. Emolument and fame are, too commonly, their only, or their chief pursuits, instruction being but a very subordinate, and, in too many cases, a neglected, or a rejected object. To shew the extent of their own genius, and to strike the spectator, or reader, with admiration
of it, is too frequently brought about at the expence of morals and religion, In morals we are often satisfied with saying, Such a fault “ was an error of the head, not of the heart;" in literature, alas! it is generally the reverse; there, if the head do not err (if the style be correct, and it shew genius) we care too little from what heart it proceed.
Thus the world and its favourites become the corrupters and the corsupted in their turns. In the hour of health and gaiety, applause may crown the Wit for his licentiousness; but the season of sickness and the hour of death - would they were displayed upon the Stage, as they have too often been in real life-- exhibit scenes of abhorrence, remorse, of doubt and of despair. *
It is a melancholy truth, that, in a country where the religion of the Gospel is professed, the productions of authors bear little or no marks of those ideas, which, were that religion a vital principle within them, could vot fail.of shewing themselves, even in the most minute particulars, since it is a characteristic of that religion to mingle with the thoughts and actions of its
professors, without limitation, and without restraint: “ whether he eat, or drink, or whatsoever he do," as still a Christian, his religion is a religion of motives, and he “ does all to the
* Note D.