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a trifle o' that same goin' on in the place, an' they.war for swearin' me; but I never liked their night-walkin', from a boy up; an', 'case they might be angry, I left them all, an' came to where there's pace an’ plenty, God bless your reverance, an' a fine harvest only for cuttin' it ; so, there's the blessed truth, since your Honor put me on sayin' it out.”
Every word of which, question and answer, you have angrily drawn your pen over. In the awful discharge of official duty, this, too, spoken in such a vein, by such persons, is disloyalty. Tell me quietly, George, is it to such a bungling and most absurd “comprehension" of "flat perjury” and “ flat burglary,” that literary gentlemen, and the enlightened many whom they write to amuse, are to knuckle down? Do you think it can long be tolerated, that, in such a view of right and wrong, of fit and unfit, of jest and earnest, you shall enjoy the unquestioned and unquestionable privilege of depriving honest people of the results of their talent or industry? Or do you think, while you run on at such a rate, there is one of those, for whose honour and glory you imagine yourself acting-1 put out of the question your immediate master, the Lord Chamberlain, because his note to Mr. She had bad grammar in it, and ai once decides his qualifications as a judge ;- but do you suppose there is one grammarian among all the other lords and gentlemen you die to fascinate, who (although “the angels” may “weep") does not laugh heartily and contemptuously at your “tricks before high heaven?" But more of this before I conclude :—now to pass from your loyalty to your morality.
Your Licenser's Act, you say, empowers you to strike from every new play that comes before you, the most holy name. This is no place to transcribe a long-winded Act of Parliament, but I join issue with you on the following point ; I assert (disprove it if you can) that the spirit and aim of the bill only go to control the irreverent and wanton use of that name; to hinder it from being invoked lightly, or in passion; from being sworn by, or rashly imprecated. And so far the bill is right, and you are right, and all sensible men think you are right. But all sensible men also think, that, in some instances, the name may be properly and beautifully uttered on the stage; and in others, harmlessly. You know I could cite, from Shakspeare alone, a score illustrations of the first case ; one, however, will fully explain my meaning.
“ The quality of mercy is not strain’d,"—&c.
“ It is an attribute of God Himself !” Here, -recollecting the situation, with which all are familiar, and the sermon-like form in which the whole of the fine speech is delivered, here, surely, the occurrence of the name is not impious: the effect always produced by it, is deeply impressive, deeply religious; and unless you have so entirely embraced the raving bigotry of your new religious friends as to deny to the stage all power of conveying to the heart good, nay, pious feelings, most certainly, George, you could not, if the speech came before you, in a new play, destroy altogether its climax and effect, by erasing the name. Yet, look at an erasure of it, under your hand, in one of poor H.'s unpretending dramas. A simple country girl, come up with her sister to London, after suffering ill-treatment from certain persons, meets' others who offer her assistance; her necessities urge her to accept, her dread of renewed injury to decline
the offer, and in this struggle of feeling she exclaims—"Give my little sister shelter, and you will be rewarded-our family-God will reward you!”—and here you zealously strike out the word, thereby effectually blunting, in delivery, the point and force of the passage, and so far injuring the author; and for what reason? Is the name here used irreverently, or lightly? Is it an imprecation or a wantonness? George, is this twaddle, or is it not ?
Again; the name may be harmlessly used; as, for example, in Shakspeare, too; during the pathetic description of Richard the Second's entry into York, it is said
“ None cried, God bless him !" This union of the word to other words, merely for the purpose of preserving the simple yet forcible phrase, is assuredly innocent; yet, in the same drama by H., where the persecuted Irishman, before spoken of, comes up to two strangers, in the street, with his “ God sare yez, kindly"-out goes the word again. Why, man, after this, "God save-the King," is either an immorality or a treason, or both.
But if your Licenser's bill gives you power (denied) to blot that name "wherever" you find it, whence do you derive your warrant for striking out words and phrases, absolutely substituted to avoid the too frequent occurrence of the very name? You dash your pen over “Power omnipotent!" &c. in H.'s pieces; and where find you an act of parliament for that? And do you remember expressions you have since allowed to take place of those? Do you remember them ?-One is" oh heaven!"--and in another place, where a man in a passion swears "by Him that is to judge between us !" you reject Him," and afterwards permit" by heaven!" Pray, Georgy, if the first was immorality, is the second moral ? What do you mean, or what do you flatter yourself you mean, by this-consistency?
But, abandoning many other illustrations of this particular feature of your morality, let me follow you into more open ground, where (a fico for the act!) you are moral by wholesale Listen. A silly, superstitious valet, conceiving that his master is a wizard, or some such thing, says of him, in soliloquy—“He shall repeat a prayer with me, tonight, which no devil dares, or I'll meet my death for not knowing my catechism.” And this blasphemous sentence you dash out. A few scenes on, the servant is found on his knees by his master, who remarks—"I did not think you so godly,"—to which is answered—“A sinner, but I believe and fear;"--and all this, blasphemy again, you again dash out: and in the progress of the play, where the same servant, carrying into effect his first determination with the same master, says to him“ I did not say my prayers last night, master;"—the master replying—"What then, idiot?"-and the other rejoining — "I would say them now, therefore; aloud ; and if you love me, join;"_every word of the shocking impiety here quoted, you also, in a fine, religious frenzy, exterminate. To continue a little. A ruffianly soldier who has inflicted wrong upon two defenceless girls, feels å twitch of conscience, and says, in the idiom of character and of nature—“ 'Tis a damned unhandsome trick I have played those girls ;" and away goes, as a piece of horrid profligacy_"damned:"_-his comrade says, in a different scene--"damn coachee," and away with the word here, too. But
of all creatures that have come under your pen, the poor Irishman is, over and over, a branded disloyalist and profligate. While urging a suit to a superior, he exclaims, according to the patois of his country“Do, my lard; an' may you have a long life, a happy death, an' a favourable judgement ;"--and the manifest wickedness of the last member of the sentence, feels your chastening hand. Afterwards, while expressing his abhorrence of any one who could commit a certain act of treachery, he says—“Musha, my curse, an' the curse o' Saint Patrick, an' their own mother's curse on their heads !"--and how, George, do you manage this sentence ? how, in the glorious name of nonsense ? You allow “the curse o' Saint Patrick" to stand; but the cursc of the living Paddy himself, and of his venerable mother, you seriously and decidedly object to--out they go. Distinguish for us, will you ? Explain; deliver ; be particular, “Oh thou particular fellow !”
But if any thing be wanted to fill up the huge and yet overflowing measure of your inscrutable absurdity, it is two illustrations more, which I have gathered from other authors (not H.'s) who have also been lately before you.
" I'm like a goblin damned !" says a merry fellow, in a light piece, quoting from the well-known passage in Hamlet; yet you-put-the--expression--out! and in another case where a man exclaims “Oh, holy virgin !"--out with it too! I can only repeat, in spite of you,--Oh, holy virgin!
And all this is morality. George! George!-it cannot be your doing. I'll never believe it. You submitted the MSS. at a love-feast of old women, male and female, and the erasures are theirs, not yours. Nothing else saves you from my direct laughter and scorn, or can save you from that of the world, if, unfortunately for you, these snuffling efforts to keep your place and save your soul, ever meet the world's eye. An inordinate fear of the devil, working on a mind reduced to the last gasp of imbecility, could alone originate such a ludicrous, yet injurious abuse of paltry power; if, indeed, the still meaner vanity of feeling one's self unexpectedly in a situation to do harm, has not, still working on the same kind of mind, assisted the process.
Again and again, I cry out, what do you mean? With the sentiments I know you have, and with those you ought to have, answer me! I do not want to build on your past literary life any thing against your present niceties (though, if worth the while, what a silencing battery might on that ground be raised !); it is reasonable for you to argue that we must not hinder from at last making all others moral, the man who, even till " his hair was silvered,” did his little best the other way; I shall not open your plays, and array against you endless instances of the very freedoms—if freedoms they be—which, before you grew an Examiner, you took with the stage, and now, open-mouthed, prohibit ; much less am I inclined to quote from your other literary works, passages that would soil my paper, and that no gentleman could read to sister, wife, or daughter; I always admired your being anointed licenser; indeed, under favour of the old proverb "Set a thief to catch a thief," have we not both fattened on our laugh at the conceit?-so, let all that pass :--but I wonder, and in my wonder will I die, how, with your candid opinions of your own past courses, you cannot afford to be a little more charitable to those who sin not within a thousand degrees of your sin, if, as I before premised, they sin at all; and next I am astounded that, by calling back the days when the results, of which you now so bravely and preposterously deprive others, were to your proper flesh and blood desirable,—when you stood in the place of H. an aspirant for dramatic name, and nothing else I am astounded, I say, that a chance-recollection of this kind does not help to make you more merciful.
Zounds, man! before you set up your little mud-coloured chaise (which, by the way, unless you take my last advice as to new-painting, &c. you had better chip up for winter-fuel), drawn by the two black animals that mutely proclaim their skill in trailing over the paté, corpses, rather than living men, as if they had been purchased of an undertaker; ere this--and ere, along with your regular official salary, you had two hard guineas from the poor managers for every piece you damned ; before all this happened, how would you like to have found in your present situation, and in the insane or inexplicable abuse of an unconstitutional power, some drivelling old fellow, ready to suppress or hash-up your immortal pieces, just as you now suppress or bash up the pieces of a new generation? Does this natural question never occur to you?
I have called your place an unconstitutional one, and, in appeal to the whole and entire frame of the constitution, I hold fast by my word. There is no second to it throughout all the places and offices of the state; there is nothing to balance it, or agree with it. I say, George, in more distinct words, there is no other office or officer, that, without trial by jury, or some such resource, presumes to sit in individual judgment upon the political or moral sentiments of any man, no matter how expressed, and by a single, private word, to censure him, hold him up as a person to be avoided by those who are disposed to serve him, take character from his claims, and the very money out of his pocket. In England in the public criminal tribunals men have their fair trials before God and their country; but Shee and H. were tried, sentenced, executed, and cut up by your tremendous self, alone.
Your place, then, and the act which creates it, are a solitary excrescence on the otherwise healthy and beautiful frame of the constitution; as richly deserving to be lopped off, as, in all conscience, the edict for burning old women, which was repealed only so late as 1822. And should not this view of the matter,' in which I know you agree, exact, even from your policy (if you are not altogether infatuated), an additional reason for pursuing a more quiet course? In the name of the loaves and fishes, why should you wantonly compel to a close and philosophical analysis of the nature of your office, the eyes of a great and enlightened country and administration, whose ancestors have toiled hard, and bled profusely, to give them a charter undisfigured with any such blemish ? Depend upon it, George, the time is not far off when that blemish will be removed. I sincerely hope you and I may not live to see it; it will gladden my heart to behold your rubicund countenance and little globular person hask, to the hour of your death, in the sunny light of office and pay ; but the people, the senate, the cabinet, and the monarch who live in, legislate for, and govern a free state, cannot much longer consent to an enslaved drama; free representation in Parliament, take my word for it, George, is friendly to free representation on the stage ; and those who have allowed to poor debtors the benefit of their one act, will not refuse to poor authors the benefit of their five acts, also,
THE BENDED BOW.
It is supposed that War was anciently proclaimed in Britain, by sending messengers in different directions through the land, each bearing a bent bow, and that Peace was in like manner announced by a bow unstrung, and therefore straight.
See Cambrian Antiquities.
“ Heard ye not the battle-horn?
-Reaper ! leave thy golden corn!
Arm! ere Britain's turf grow red !"
“ Hunter! leave the inountain-chase,
Take the falchion from its place!
Arm thee! Britain's foes are nigh!"
“ Chieftain ! quit the joyous feast !
Stay not till the song hath ceased.
Arm thee! Britain's foes must fall.”
“ Prince! thy father's deeds are told,
In the bower and in the hold !
Give our bards a tale of thee!”
“ Mother! stay thou not thy boy!
He must learn the battle's joy.
Britain calls the strong in heart !”