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cisely in the same situation as those persons who have been the objects of comment, I shall have no right to complain of their censure or public animadversion. I have however thought proper to observe, that I hope my disapprobation of any one's merits, is not conveyed in reflections injurious to .private character, or in scurrilous and ungentlemanly language.
As the period has now arrived when pulpit abuse, and public prejudice, have lost their force against the Stage, and the profession of a Player, we may venture to dwell on the political and moral use of Dramatic Exhibitions, without the danger of ecclesiastica) denunciation, or the hostility of any religious sectary. It therefore must be of infinite gratification to every lover of the Thespian Art, to see that the most elevated characters of Church and State countenance a science, and its professors, that were once treated with the most unqualified calumny and disrespect. We scarcely think there is now a clergyman of the Church of England, who would level the artillery of his acquirements against the Stage of the present day. From the elaborate writings of Bedford, Collier, Duncan
* Duncan gives, the following account of the awful hand of providence, on school-boys representing a Play, for their winter enterment, as an argument against the existence of the Stage. But he is modest enough to observe, he did not witness the gloomy Scene
“ Several young people met to exhibit the sick, or dying man, (I know not which) a few of them belonged to a boarding school, as did my informer. Some of their relations were present; one representing the man dangerously ill, was siezed instantly with what he represented,
and several others, who resuscitated from their peaceful slumbers all those arguments, (if they deserve to be called so) from the writings of the Fathers *, and other religious authors of the dark ages, who wrote against the existence of a science, it evidently ap
another representing him dying, was deprived of his senses : the last, was put into a coffin representing the man dead, was seized with most violent agonies and died instantly."
We confess Mr. Duncan must have had a monstrous swallow, to have gorged this improbable curse of providence ; to suppose that a Dramatic entertainment (doubtless of the most innocent texture, as it had the countenance and support of the school preceptor, and the relatives of the young Tyros,) should have called the mighty vengeance of the Omnipotent power, on the heads of children who were about to occupy their leisure hour, in the recital of some useful Play, that had, we have a right to believe, a moral example, is too farcical for common credulity. If this strange and extravagant picture of the dreadful wrath of heaven had come from any other person but a clergyman, we should have ventured to call it a falsehood. To give this tale a logical analysis, will illustrate its absurdity in a stronger point of view. It is unnecessary to panegyrise parental feeling; we all know that if the first youth in the Drama, had met with the physical affliction described, the whole company, from the relative to the master, would not have suffered the diversion to have gone on, much less, as this story-monger affirms, that the second boy representing his dying conipanion, became a victim to his mimic passion, and the third unhappy youth, carrying his enthusiasm for Stage effect to a greater degree of boldness, was put into the coffin to represent his second unfor. tunate companion. But in the zenith of his descriptive action, he was seized and died in the utmost agony.
This anecdote plainly shews the strength of superstitious bigotry; and however great a man may be in talent, aequirement, honour, and morality, yet he will too often embrace fiction, court the aid of the marvellous, and distort truth for the support of his favourite theme.
And that question which he would give his opinion of, and decide on, with honour and justice, where his bigotry was not concerned, would be entirely lost sight of, when the religious idol of his mind was the subject of enquiry.--So much for human imperfection.
* “ In all the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament, there is not a word to recommend such diversions : in all the ecclesiastical writers of the four first centuries, there is no tone of expression in favour of the Stage, and there are very few who do not set themsel.es directly against it. The Fathers constantly express their resentments without any limitation, and exclaim against it as a thing positively
pears they never philosophically enquired into, but anathematised it from ignorant prejudice. But as the mist of learned ignorance has gradually been dispelled by the warm rays of reason, the professors of christianity have relaxed their severity against the Stage; and from the more frequent intercourse which has taken place between this valuable body of men and the laity, we find that they have not only become the admirers of the Stage, but have given it support by dedicating their time to Dramatic composition.
It is not our intention to enter into a minute history of the progressive state of the Stage, in this or other countries, as that has already been done, by various and able writers, but merely to take a cursory view of the estimation it has been held in, by different nations, and at different times, as well, as to consider its moral, and political use to the country, which we have thought necessary to precede our analysis of the Dramatic talent of each Theatre.
If we cast our eye over the page of history we shall find that in Greece, persons of the first distinction performed on the Stage, and that Dramatic Exhibitions were considered of great use, to the safety of the national compact and public peace, and held in high estimation by many of the most rigid philosophers * of that country; and as soon as
evil in itself, as the very nest of iniquity, the synagogue of Satan, the bane of religion, the pomp and vanity of this wicked world, which a christian renounceth in his laptismal vow, and the in-let. to all vice and profaneness, and constantly plead for its total suppression."
BEDFORD. • Socrates, whose benevolence and wisdom appeared to have something of divinity, was the voluntary assistant of Euripides, in the composition of his Tragedies, and undoubtedly was of opinion, that he taught philo
the Romans had leisure from the fatigues of war to study the luxuries of life, they became enthusiastic imitators of Grecian customs: the Drama, therefore, carrying with it so many allurements, was no inconsiderable object of their attention, and like other Arts, gained its polish as the people became more refined. It, however, at different periods of its effulgent life, met with much opposition, and perhaps just reprobation, by public moralists and guardians of the laws, from the licentiousness of Players. But the immorality of the Scenic heroes, arose from the depravity of the people, who had set bad example and given encouragement to the worst of actions, on the public Theatre, it is to be observed that whenever Stage Exhibitions are anti-moral, the fault is not with the Actors, but with the Public, they being as Shakespear says, “ the brief Chronicle of the
“ Times," and following popular example.
The public always have the power to regulate the Stage; their voice constitutes precedents of either good or evil, as what they disapprove of, dare not be repeated *. The Roman Actors were placed precisely in the same situation, and governed by example. When the habits of the people became debauched by too great a profusion of eastern wealth, they forgot Catonian wisdom, and launched into all the vices, idleness and luxury could give birth to
sophy, to instruct the herd of mankind in the most effectual manner, when he introduced her to their notice in the buskin.
* The public cannot keep too tight a rein over Stage exhibitions, This may at first appear a severity, but as long as a Performer wishes to be considered important, and his profession no disgrace, such apparent severity will secure the Stage untainted, from loose and ridiculous buffoonery, therefore render the malice of religious enemies abortive, and add a lustre to the national school of polite learning.