« ZurückWeiter »
ver to return.
precipice. Lord Randolph resolves to defended, imagines it is his own cause go directly to the battle, determined ne- that is espoused, and, with great com
posure and self satisfaction, continues
his practice: A conduct not less absurd, Some account and extracts of a pamphlet than if one who was expressly assured a
lately published, intitled, A serious in. certain dish of meat before him was poiquiry into the nature and effects of foned, should answer thus, All meat is the stage, &c.
not poisoned, and therefore I may eat He author of this tract against this with safety.
the stage hath candidly prefixed “ It is very plain, that were men but his name; and it were to be wished that seriously disposed, and without preju. future authors on the same or a like sub- dice defiring the knowledge of their duject of controversy would follow his ex- ty, it would not be necessary, in order ample. It would be a pledge to the to shew the unlawfulness of the stage as public for some decency in the manner it now is, to combat it in its imaginary of treating it; a hint which it is hoped reformed state. Such a reformation, we are warranted to give, by that im- were not men, by the prevalence of vimense quantity of profane drollery and tious and corrup: affections, in love with personal abuse which has been published it, even in its present condition, would for and against the stage in this city for have been long ago given up as a hopesome months paft. [77.]
less and visionary project, and the whole This piece is wholly serious; and trade or employment deteited, on acthough the author hints that he is sen- count of the abuses that had always fible it will have fewer readers in this adhered to it. But since all advocates age on that account, he chuses that way for the stage have, and do still defend it of writing, because ridicule is not a pro- in this manner, by forming an idea of it per mean of convi&tion, whatever it separate from its evil qualities; since they may be of correction. In this he seems to defend it so far with success, that many be of the same opinion with a late wri. who would otherwise abstain, do, upon ter, who says that the use of ridicule is this very account, allow themselves in " not to investigate unknown truth, but attending the theatre sometimes, to their to disgrace known falsehood.”
own hurt and that of others; and as I In entering on the sabject, he takes am convinced, upon the most mature notice of a difficulty in treating it deliberation, that the reason why there with propriety and success: “That who never was a well-regulated stage in fact, ever undertakes to write again& plays, is because it cannot be, the nature of the though the provocation is given by what thing not admitting of it; I will endeathey are, is yet always called upon to vour to fhew, that public theatrical reattack them, not as they are, but as presentations, either tragedy or comedy, they might be. A writer on this subject are, in their general nature, or in their is actually reduced to the necessity of best possible ftate, unlawful, and confighting with a shadow, of maintaining trary to the purity of our religion ; and a combat with an ideal or imaginary that writing, acting, or attending them, fort of drama, which never yet exifted, is inconsistent with the character of a but which the defenders of the cause Christian. If this be done with success, form by way of fuppofition, and which it will give great weight to the reflecshall appear in fact in that happy future tions which shall be added upon the agage, which shall see, what these gentle. gravation of the crime, considering the men are pleased to style, a well-regula. circumstances that at present attend the ted stage. However little support may practice." seem to be given by this to a vitious and How he states the argument may be corrupted stage, there is no attender of seen from what follows. “ In order plays, but, when he hears this chimera to make this inquiry as exact and accu* [Mr John Witherspoon, Minister of Beith.] Mate as poflible, and that the ftrength or
weakness of the arguments on either What hinders them from talking piously fide may be clearly perceived, it will and profitably, as well as wickedly or be proper to state diftin&tly, what we hurtfully? But, reje&ting this method of understand by the stage, or ftage-plays, reasoning, as unjuft and inconclusive, let when it is affirmed, that in their most it be observed, that those who plead for improved and best regulated state they the lawfulness of the stage, in any counare unlawful to Christians. This is the try, however well regulated, plead for more necessary, that there is a great in- what implies, not by accident, but esdiftinctness and ambiguity in the lan- sentially and of necessity, the following guage used by those who, in writing or things. 1. Such a number of plays as conversation, undertake to defend it. will furnish a habitual course of repreThey analyze and divide it into parts, fentations, with such changes as the and take sometimes one part, sometimes love of variety in human nature necessaanother, as will best suit their purpose. rily requires. 2. These plays of such a 'i hey ask, What there can be unlawful kind, as to procure an audience of vo. in the stage abstractly considered? Co- luntary spectators, who are able and medy is exposing the folly of vice, and willing to pay for being so entertained. pointing out the ridiculous part of every 3. A company of hired players, who character. And is not this commend. have this as their only business and ocable? Is not ridicule a noble mean of copation, that they may give themselves discountenancing vice? and is not the wholly to it, and be expert in the peruse of it warranted by the fatire and iro. formance.' 4. The representation must ny that is to be found in the holy fcrip. be so frequent as the profits may defray tures ? Tragedy, they say, is promo. the expence of the apparatus, and mainting the same end in a way more grave cain those who follow this business. and folemn. It is a moral lecture, or They must also be maintained in that a moral picture, in which virtue appears measure of luxury, or elegance, if you to great advantage. What is history it. please, which their way of life, and felf, but representing the characters of the thoughts to which they are accu. men as they a&ually were? and plays ftomed, must make them desire and rerepresent them as they may be. in quire. It is a thing impracticable to their perfection, plays are as like histo. maintain a player at the same expence ry and nature, as the poet's art and ac as you may maintain a peasant. tors skill can make them. Is it then the
“Now, all these things do, and must circumstance of their being written in enter into the idea of a well-regulated dialogue that renders them criminal? Atage: and if any defend it without fupWho will pretend that? Is it that they posing this, he hath no adversary that are publicly repeated or acted over? I know of. Without these there may Will any one pretend, that it is a crime be poets, or there may be plays; but to personate a character in any case, e. there cannot be a playhouse. It is in ven where no deceit is intended? Then vain then to go about to show, that there fareivel parables, figures of speech, and have been an instance or two, or may the whole oratorial art. Is it a fin to be, of treatises wrote in the form of look upon the representation? Then it plays that are unexceptionable. It were must be a fin to look upon the world, easy to thew very great faults in some of which is the original, of which plays those moft universally applauded; but are the copy.
this is unnecessary. I believe it is very " This is the way which those who poslible to write a treatise in the form of appear in defence of the itage ordinarily a dialogue, in which the general rules of take; and it is little better than if one the drama are observed, which shall be Thould say, What is a stage-play? It is as holy and serious, as any fermon that nothing else, abstractly considered, but ever was preached or printed. Neither a company
of men and women talking is there any apparent impossibility in together. Where is the harm in that? getting different persons to affume the
different characters, and rehearse it in Christian principles, there is not a place society. But it may be safely affirmed, in the world so large as to afford a daily that if all plays were of that kind, and audience. And from this he infers, human nature continue in its present that a public theatre “ is by its conftitu. ftate, the doors of the playhouse would tion a constant and powerful invitation shut of their own acc
ccord, because no to fin, and cannot be maintained but by body would demand access *; unless the commission of it.” there were an act of parliament to force He says, “ It is an unlawful recreaattendance; and even in that case, as tion to all without exception, because much pains would probably be taken to it consumes too much time: That if evade the law obliging to attend, as are recreations are only lawful because nenow taken to evade those that command cessary, they must cease to be lawful us to abftain. The fair and plain state when they are no longer necessary. of this question then is, Whether it is The length and duration of regular copoffible or practicable, in the present medy and tragedy is already fixed and ftate of human nature, to have the a- settled by rules of long standing; and bove system of things under so good a I suppose, whatever other circumstance regulation, as to make the erecting may be confessed, co need reformation, and countenancing the stage agreeable all men of taste will agree, that these to the will of God, and consistent with shall continue as they are. Now, I the purity of the Christian profeffion?" leave to all who know how much time
Having thus prepared the way, he the preparation for such a public appear. offers three general arguments against ance, and the necessary attendance, the stage. 1. That it is an improper must take up, to judge, whether it is amusement. 2.. That it is so far from not too much to be given to mere re. being a proper method of instruction, creation. This holds particularly in the that it is hurtful and pernicious. 3i case of recreation of mind, between That none can attend the stage, without which and bodily exercise there is a very partaking of the sins of others, and con- great difference. For bodily exercise, tributing to their pollution.
in some cases, for example, when the On the first of these he explains the health requires it, may be continued for nature and end of amusement or recrea. a long time, only for this reason, that tion ; says, “ That it is an intermiflion of it may have effects lasting in proportion duty, and only necessary because of our to the time spent in it. But giving the weakness; it must be some action in mind to pleasure by way of recreation different in its nature, which becomes must be short, or it is certainly hurti lawful and useful from its tendency to ful; is gives men a habit of idleness and refresh the mind, and invigorate it for trifling, and makes them averse from duties of more importance : --That the returning to any thing that requires se. need of amusement is much less than rious application.' people commonly apprehend; and where Further, “ That the stage is improper it is not necessary, it must be sinful: as a recreation, because it agitates the - That if no body were to attend the passions too violently, and interests too Itage but such as needed recreation on deeply, fo as, in some cases, to bring
* This furnishes an easy answer to what is re people into a real, while they behold an marked by some in favour of plays, that several imaginary distress.-- The excellence eminent Christians have endeavoured to supplant of recreations consists in their being not bad plays by writing good ones; as Gregory Na- only a pleasant, but an easy exercise of zianzen, a father of the church, and a person of
the intellectual powers.
Whatever is great piety, and our countryman Buchanan. But did ever these plays come into repute? Were difficult, and either requires or causes a they formerly, or are they now acted upon the strong application of mind, is contrary stage? The fate of their works proves that these to their intention. Now, it is plain, good men judged wrong in attempting to reform that dramatic representations fix the at: the stage, and that the great majority of Chri- tention so very deeply, and interest the Nians acted more wisely, who were for laying it wholly aside.
affections fo very strongly, that in a lit. is more properly expressed by the pomp tle time they fatigue the mind 'them- and varity of the world.” And by fevefelves; and however eagerly they are ral citations from the fathers he proves desired and followed, there are many that they applied this renunciation at serious and ofeful occupations, in which baptism to the public shows." The men will continue longer without ex- other branch of the Christian temper, haufting the spirits, than in attending between which and theatrical amuse the theatre."
ments there appears a very great oppo. “ This tendency of plays to interest fition, is spirituality; and heavenliness the affections," he says, " shows their of mind. All real Christians are, and impropriety as a recreation on another ac. account themselves pilgrims and strancount. It shows that they must be exceed- gers on the earth, set their affections on ing liable to abuse by excess, even suppo- things above, and have their conversafing them in a certain dégree to be indo- tion in heaven. Whatever tends to weacent. It is certain, there is no life more un- ken these dispositions, they will carefulworthy of a man, hardly any more crimi. ly avoid, as contrary to their duty and nal in a Chriftian, than a life of perpetual their interest
. Is not this the case with amusement, where no valuable purpose cheatrical amusements ? Are they not is pursued, but the intellectual faculties very delicious to a sensual and carnal wholly employed in purchasing and in- mind? Do they not excite, gratify, and dulging sensual gratifications. It is al- ftrengthen those affections which it is so certain, that all of us are by nature moft the business of a Christian to rea too much inclined thus to live to our strain ?" selves, and not to God. Therefore, On the second general argument, a. where recreations are necessary, a watche gainst those who plead for the usefulness ful Christian will particularly teware of of the stage in promoting the interests of those that are insnaring, and by being virtue or religion, he says, “When a too grateful and delicious, ready to lead public theatre is defended as a mean of to excefs."
instruction, I cannot help thinking it is He adds, “That when the stage ischo- of importance to observe, that it is a fen as a recreation, it is always in oppofi. method altogether uncommanded and tion to other methods of recreation which unauthorised in the word of God.are perfectly fit for the purpose, and Let it be remembered, that it is now not liable to any of these objections : pled for in a higher light, and on a more That when there are different kinds, to important account, than merely as an prefer those which are less, to those which amusement, viz. as proper to support are more fit, must needs be sinful.” the interest of religion; it should there.
He clofes the reflections on this part fore have a positive warrant before it be of the subject with observing, that there employed in this cause, left it should are two general characters of the di-, meet with the same reception that all fciples of Christ, which seem altogether other human devices thall meet with, inconfiftent with theatrical amusements. Who hath required these things at your “ The first is self-denial and mortifica. hands? The truth is, the stage can tion. -The gospel is the religion of never be defended on a more untenible finners who are saved from wrath by the footing, than when it is represented as sich mercy and free grace of God. The having a moral or virtuous, that is to life of such, then, must be a life of pe. say, a pious and religious tendency. nitence, humility, and mortification. What Christian can hear such a plea In their baptismal covenant they re- with patience? Is the law of the Lord nounce the world ; by which is not meant perfect, converting the foul ? Is it able to such gross crimes as are a violation of make the man of God perfe&t, thoroughly natural light, as well as a transgression furnished to every good work? What then of the law of God, but that exceflive at. are its defects that must be supplied by tachment to present indulgence, which the theatre ? Have the saints of God,
- That as
for fo many age's, been carried safely to the commanding principle of all their through all the dark and difficult fteps actions; that therefore they must have of their earthly pilgrimage, with his opposite interests and views : law as a light to their feet and a lamp to Christ himself was despised and rejected of their path, and yet is it now necessary men, so his disciples are not of the world, that they should have additional illu- and the world hateth them. He then asks, mination from a well-regulated stage ? " Whether those who have a strong and Have there been for so long a time rooted averfion at true holiness, which pastors employed bearing a divine com- is the character of the fincere Christian, miffion? ordinances administered accor- will voluntarily croud to the theatre, to ding to divine institution ? have these hear and see fuch performances as been hitherto effectual for perfecting the breathe nothing but what is agreeable Saints, for the work of the ministry, and for to the pure, uncorrupted word of God? edifying the body of Christ; and shall we Will those who revile, injure, and not count them among the scoffers that perfecute the faints themselves, delight were to come in the last days, who pre- in the stage, if honour is there put upon tend to open up a new commission for true religion, and be pleased with that the players to affift?"
character in the representation which But the argument on which he seems they hate in the original ?" to lay the greatest ftress, in sewing the He observes, that though it were posbad influence of a public theatre upon fible that, in a single instance or two, the morals of men, is, That all or the nothing should be represented but what far greatest number of pieces there re- is agreeable to true religion, and this presented, will always have, upon the dressed to the highest advantage by the whole, a pernicious tendency, because poet's genius and actors sill, yet little they must be to the taste and relish of the would be gained. For these human arts bulk of those who attend it. “ The dif- only would be the object of their admi. ficulty," he says, “ of getting good au. ration, and they would always prefer, thors for the theatre, I shall not infifton; and speedily procure a display of the but whatever the authors are able, or same arts on a subject more agreeable to willing to do, it is certain, that their their taste. productions, in fact, can rise no higher, To give this argument its proper force, in point of purity, than the audience he oblerves, that there must always be fhall be willing to receive. Their at- a very great majority of persons under tendance is not constrained, but volun- the dominion of vice and wickedness a. tary; nay, they pay dearly for their en. mong those who attend the theatre. For tertainment; and therefore they must, as the far greatest number of the world and will have it to their taste. This is in general are ungodly, so none can ata part
of the subject that merits the par. tend the stage, but those in more affluent ticular attention of all who are inclined circumstances than the bulk of mankind, to judge impartially, and it proves, in and there is still a greater proportion of the strongest manner, the absurdity of them (by reason of their being exposed forming chimerical suppositions, of a to much greater and Aronger temptastage so regulated, as, instead of being tions) who are enemies to pure and hurtful, to promote the interests of pie- defiled religion. ty and virtue.”
He obviates an objection, That there This argument he illustrates at great seems to be some ground, even from length, and obviates some objections a- fcripture, to suppose that true goodness gainst it. The reasoning seems to be is the object of general approbation, built on the following principles, which by faying, that the form of religion, or he founds both on fcripture and expe- the matter of many good actions, esperience. That there is not only a real dif- cially the duties of social life, hach the tinction of character, but a perfect op- approbation of the world in general; position, between good men and bad, as but the spirit and temper from which e.