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The truth is, a serious person can scarce have a stronger evidence of the immorality of the stage, than the perusal of these little pieces of fatire, which have been published, in so great a variety, against the presbytery of Endinburgh, within these few weeks, because of their public admonition against it. They offer no other defence, but deriding the preaching of the gospel, blasphemously comparing the pulpit with the stage, and recrimination upon some who are supposed to live inconsistently with their character. It is not worth while to spend three words in determining whether drunkenness, deceit and hypocrisy are worse than the stage or not; but if that is the strongest argument that can be offered in its support, wo to all those who attend it. The new reformed trage. dy has indeed been very unlucky in its advocates. There is an old saying, that a man is known by his company. If this be true also of a play, which one would think it should, as it must be chiefly to the taste of congenial minds, by those who have appeared in defence of Douglass, it is a work of very little merit.
It may be expected, that, having brought this perfor. mance on the field, I should add some further reflections, upon the aggravated fin of Ministers writing plays, or attending the stage. But though it is a very plain point, and indeed because it is so it would draw ont this treatise to an immoderate length. If any man makes a question of this, he must be wholly ignorant of the nature and importance of the ministerial character and office. These therefore it would be necessary to open distinctly, and to confider the folemn charge given to ministers in Scripture, to watch over the souls of their people, as those “who must
give an account unto God;" to give themselves wholly to their duty, fince some of those committed to them are from day to day, entering on an unchangeable state, whose blood, when they die unconverted, shall be required at the hand of the unfaithful pastor. None can entertain the least doubt upon this subject, who believe the testimony of Mofes and the prophets, of Christ and his apostles, and, if they believe not their writings, neither will they believe
Instead therefore of endeavoring to prove, I will make bold to affirm, that writing plays is an employment wholly foreign to the office, and attending theatrical represen. tations an entertainment unbecoming the character of a minister of Christ: And must not both, or either of them, be a facrilegious abstraction of that time and pains, which ought to have been laid out for the benefit of his people ? Is it not also flying in the face of a clear and late act of parliament, agreeably to which the lords of council and feffion not long ago found the stage contrary to law in this country? And though the law is eluded, and the penalty evaded, by advertising a concert, after which will be performed, gratis, a tragedy, &c. Yet surely, the world in judging of characters, or a church court in judging of the conduct of its members, will pay no regard to the poor and shameful evasion. Can we then think of this audacious attempt at the present juncture, without applying to ourselves the words of Isaiah, “And in that “ day did the Lord God of holts call to weeping, and to “ mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with fack« cloth, and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and “ killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine ; let us eat " and drink, for to-morrow we die. And it was revealed “ in mine eats by the Lord of hosts, surely this iniquity “ shall not be purged from you till you die, faith the Lord " of hosts,” Isa. xxii. 12, 13, 14.
HERE appeared in the national Gazette of the
- of March last, a passage said to be taken from a French publication, which no doubt the editor of the Gazette thought worthy of the public eye. It was to the following purpose: It must appear very surprising that even down to the expiration of the French Monarchy, there was a character of disgrace affixed to the profession of a player, especially when compared to the kindred professions of preacher or pleader. Although the talents necessary to these occupations are as much inferior to those of a good comedian, as the talents of a drug-pounding apothecary to those of a regular bred physician, and that it is hoped that the recovery of the character due to theatrical merit, will contribute not a little to the improvement of future manners.
I have long expected to fee fome remarks published on this fingular sentiment, but, either nobody has thought it worthy of their attention, or the strictures have not fallen in my way; therefore as this subject is not one of those that lose their importance or propriety by a short lapse of time; and as, on the contrary, the present controversy in Philadelphia, on the application to the legislature against the stage, seems to render it peculiarly seasonable, I beg the favor of you to publish the following observations:
The author of the paragraph published by Mr. Freneau, though a warm advocate for the theatre, vouches for me as to the fact that there has been a character of disgrace for many ages, impreffed upon the theatrical profeffion. Though he had not affirmed it, the fact is undoubtedly certain, that the theatrical profeflion has had a disgrace affixed to it from the earlieit times, and in all the coun. tries where theatres have been in use.
Public actors on the fiage were counted infamous by the Roman law, they were excommunicated by the church from the time of the introduction of christianity into the Roman einpire, even to the time mentioned by the author of the above paragraph, the expiration of the French monarchy.
If this had been only occasional, local and temporary, It might have been considered as owing to some of those accidental, but transient causes, which sometimes produce remarkable effects for a little time, and then wholly ceafe. But so uniform and so general an effect must have some adequate and permanent cause or causes to produce it which is to be the subject of the present inquiry.
I have only to add as to the fact, that even the present living, warmeft and most zealous advocates for the itage have not been able to efface this impression from their own minds. There does not exist in Philadelphia, or any where else, any person of rank or character, who would be pleased with an alliance with the stage, either by their fon's marriage with an actress, or by their daughters being married to actors.
Before entering into the principal part of the fubject, it will be necessary that the reader should give particular attention to the following remark. The infanıy which has attended the profeslion of players belongs wholly to the profession itself, and not to the persons, or rather circumitances by which they may be distinguished. Players when they are seen on the stage, are dressed in the finelt habits, assume the manners, and speak the language of kings and queens, princes and princesses, heroes and he.' voines, which is a very different situation from those who belong to what are sometimes called the lower classes of
life. Those who follow the mechanic arts are sometimes considered as in a state of disgrace, but it is wholly owing not to their profeffion, but to the poverty and want of education of a great majority of them. The profeffion is lawful, laudable, useful and necessary. Let me suppose a blacksmith, a weaver, a shoemaker, a carpenter, or any other of the mechanic professions, and suppose that, by activity and industry he becomes wealthy, and instead of a work-shop, fets up a factory ; if he becomes rich early enough in life, to give his children a good edacation and a handsome fortune, tell me who is the person, who would refuse his alliance or be ashamed of his connexion? Is it not quite otherwise as to players, with whom though eminent in their profession, as Moliere and Madamoiselle Clairon in France, Garrick, Mrs. Siddons and Mrs. Bellamy in England, I believe there is hardly any example of any person of decent station, or of middling fortune who would be ambitious of a family connexion. Therefore, I repeat it, and desire it may be kept in view in the whole of this reasoning, that the disgrace impressed upon the character of players belongs to the profession, and not to the person. Nay, though according to the old say. ing exceptio firmat regulam, there should be an instance or two picked up in distant ages, in which superlative me. rit, overcame the general prepossession, such as Roscius in Rome, Moliere in France, and Shakespeare in Eng. land, this would not hinder the certainty or importance of the remark in general, of the opprobium that follows the profesion. I now proceed to the reasons on which the fact is founded. (First, all powers and talents whatever, though excellent in themselves, when they are applied to the fingle purpose of answering the idle, vain, or vicious part of society, become contemptible.
There is not upon record among the fayings of bold men, one more remarkable than that of Sobrius, the tri. bune, to Nero the Roman emperor, when asked by the emperor, why he who was one of his personal guards, had conspired against him ? He answered, I loved you as much as any man, as long as you deserved to be loved, but I began to hate you when after the murder of your VOL. III.