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mere mortal sinful beings, whether their offence is not the same in kind, though perhaps less in degree, with that of Ilerod and the people mentioned in Acts xii. 21-23. and for which he was so signally punished?
Mrs. More, whose sentiments on all occasions demand respect, and more especially so when they relate to the female character, seems to object entirely to the introduction of love
upon “A virtuous young woman, it will be said, who has been correctly educated, will turn with abhorrence from the unchaste scenes of a loose play. It is indeed so to be hoped ; and yet many plays which really deserve that character, escape that denomination. But I concede this point, and proceed to the more immediate object of niy animadversions. The remark may be thought preposterous, should I observe that to a chaste and delicate young mind, there is in good plays one danger, which I will venture to assert is almost more formidable than that which is often attached to pieces more obviously censurable. The more refined and delicate the passion of love is made to appear, the more insinuating, and of course more dangerous, will the requisite and reiterated representation of that passion be found. Now love being the grand business of plays, those young ladies who are frequently attending them, will be liable to nourish a feeling, which is often strong enough of itself, without this constant supply of foreign fuel, namely that love is the grand business of life
Preface, p. 35. The whole passage to p. 39. is worth referring to; but I must confess, were the passion properly pourtrayed, I feel more inclined to agree in opinion with the author of « Observations on the effect, &c." whose remarks are in reply to this very passage:
“ To me it appears, that in the present state of society, there is too little, not too much, of that tender and delicate attachment, which should unite hearts as well as hands in marriage;, and that if women as well as men, were taught to seek for happiness in such an attachment, instead of an union formed entirely on ideas of interest or convenience, it would, next to religious principle, be the best possible preservative against those frequent violations of the marriage vow, which are the disgrace of an enlightened age, and a Christian nation. The days of romantic love have long been over; and there is, I think, little danger that any young woman who lives in the world, will expect to meet with adventurous knights or dying swains. They are pretty well convinced, that in these degenerate days at least,“ men have died from time to time, and
the worms have eaten them, but not for love."
But with many romantic extravagancies, have we not lost the finest feelings of the heart, and the best guard to virtue? Do not the men too often marry either to increase their fortune, or to place an elegant figure at the head of their table, or at best to gratify a transient inclination, which a month afterwards will probably be fixed upon some other object? Are not women in general educated with no other idea, but that of obtaining a proper establishment by marriage? Do they not dress, and dance, and sing, and play, not to please the man they love, and whom it is their laudable wish to make happy through life; but to attract the notice of fifty men, who are equally indifferent to them, with the intention of marrying any one of the fifty, who may happen to ask them, if his fortune and rank in life are sufficient to gratify ambition, and purchase pleasure? If, in an age of thoughtless levity and unfeeling prosperity, we can for a few hours fix the attention of the young and gay on more refined pleasures—if we can lead them to feel pity for distress, and admiration for virtue-if we can teach their imaginations to dwell on the happiness of a tender and virtuous attachment, on the interesting feelings of the wife and of the mother, we shall awaken sorrows by which the heart will be made better.” *
(p. 9–11.) Mr. R. Hill, I find, however, objecting to any thing like lovescenes, and going even farther than Mrs. More. In a note to his Warning, (p. 9) he quotes J. J. Rousseau, and a passage cited by him from the Roman History, “ which (as he says) he admirably improves.”
“ The Patrician Manlius was expelled the senate of Rome for having saluted his wife in the presence of his daughters ; but to consider the action simply, and of itself, what was there reprehensible in it? Indubitably nothing. It denoted even a commendable passion;
* The author of this excellent Tract, in a former page (6) mentions the opinion of a friend in favour of the Stage, which appears to me, to, carry weight with it: “ I beg leave to add the remark of a lady, for whose opinion I feel great respect, who observes, that the theatre is the only place of public amusement which leads the young votary of pleasure from constant attention to self. Vanity and afectation, dress and appearance, thé rival and the beau, are there almost forgotten, and the selfish passions are suspended by the superior interest which is awakened for the persons represented in the Drama."
but the chaste affection of the father might, nevertheless, excite uncha ste ideas in the daughters: it was, therefore, setting a corrupt example by a virtuous action. Such are the effects of the most lawful amours exhibited on the Stage. But it may be asked, if in one instance in a thousand, any the most distant exemplification of the like delicacy is now exhibited on the Stage? And what a strange contrast does this produce between the delicacy of the ancient heathens, and the looseness of the modern Christians of the day.”
I must confess, so far from seeing how “the chaste affection of the father might excite unchaste ideas in the daughters,” that I consider such examples as likely to teach them the most valuable lessons of chaste love. To persons at all virtuously and religiously disposed there appears
to me no harm in the father saluting the daughter, the mother ber son, and a brother his sister : “ Salute one another with an holy kiss,” (Rom. xvi. 16.) and “ Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity,” (1 Pet. v. 14.) are the commands of Apostles.
We have several instances upon the Stage of embraces, which I conceive to be perfectly proper. In the last scene of Cymbeline, where Posthumus had spurned Imogen away, not knowing her; when she has made herself known, she says,
you your wedded lady from you?
Posthumus. Hang there like fruit, my soul,
In The Gamester, where Beverley and Mrs. B. meet, Act II. Scene II. Mrs. B. says,
My life !" Beverley. My love! how fares it? I have been a truant husband.
Mrs. B. But we meet now, and that heals all-Doubts and alarms I've had; but in this dear embrace I bury and forget 'em.”
Those who have seen Mr. Kemble, and Mrs. Siddons play these characters, I think cannot object to this.
Again, in The Provok'd Husband, A, V. S. 2. after the reconciliation between Lord and Lady Townly, Lord T. says,
Long parted friends, that pass through easy voyages of life, receive but common gladness in their meeting : but from a shipwreck saved, we mingle tears with our embraces ! (Embracing Lady Tornly.)
Lady T. What words ! what love! what duty can repay such obligations ?
And, afterwards, Lord T. says to Manly, after his sister, Lady Grace, has consented to become his wife,
Oh, Manly, how the name of friend endears the brother! (Embracing him.)
Munly. Your words, my Lord, will warm me to deserve them.
Of love scenes represented on the Stage, I confess that I do not at this time recollect many which I greatly approve: the best that occur to my mind, are those between Lewson and Charlotte in The Gamester ; Manly and Lady Grace, in The Provok'd Ilusband; and Young Bevil, and Indiana, in The Conscious Lovers. To these I will add Belville and Rosina, in the Opera of Rosina, which is professedly taken from the beautiful story of Palemon and Lavinia, in Thomson's Autumn, and that from Buaz and Ruth, in the Bible, Thonison is very pure upon the subject of love; his Celadon and Amelia, in Summer, is another very beautiful picture of chaste love.
K. p. 32. Some few instances I call to mind of parents represented in an amiable light. Mr. Rivers, in False Delicacy, is, upon the whole, an amiable character ; the scene with his daughter, when she is in the act of running away from him, is very interesting. Sir John Flowerdale, in the Opera of Lionel and Clarissa, or The School for Fathers, is certainly a good lesson to parents. So is Captain Dudley in The West Indian, and Sir William Dorillon, in Wives as they were
32. Such sentiments as the following should never be suffered to come from the mouth of even a libertine, without being immediately commented upon and refuted.
Lothario in The Fair Penitent, giving an account of his acquaintance with Calista, and of some interviews between them, says, she
talk'd of a priest, and marriage; Of flying with me from her father's power;
saint and blessed angel down, To witness for her, that she was my wife.
Unmov'd I begg'd her spare th' ungrateful subject,
Might flourish long inviolate betwixt us,
He seldom errs Who thinks the worst he can of woman kind. End of A. III. The beginning of The Provok'd Wife, which is quoted again in the Farce of The Divorce, is coarse and disgusting.
Loremore, in The Way to Keep Him, says of himself, “I was bad
company myself, when I was one of the pining herd” (meaning a lover :) " but a dose of matrimony has cooled me pretty handsomely.” A. I. S. 1. Again he says, “ If Lord Etheridge is come to England to marry, do you go to France not to marry, and
you will have the best of the bargain.” And, again, speaking of Sir Bashful Constant, “ Another instance to deter you from all thoughts of matrimony." A. I. S. 1.
M. p. 33. The Plays of Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar, and the writers of their time, all constructed their plays upon this plan; and their principles have been followed by some in later days. Charles Surfuce, Belcour, Lord Gayville, and many others, might be mentioned. Young Bevil in The Conscious Lovers is one of the most finished pictures of a gentleman, with which I am acquainted; but from his character there are certainly some deductions, as his duplicity towards his father, his joining in the plot with Myrtle, and his accepting, for a moment, his challenge.
N. p. 34. There is a passage by Collier, and another by Mrs. More, on this subject, too good to be omitted : “ What is more common than duels and quarrelling in their characters of figure ? Those practices which are infamous in reason, capital in law, and damnable in religion, are the credit of the Stage. Thus rage
and resentment, blood and barbarity, are almost deified: pride goes
for greatness, and friends and heroes are made of the same metal. To give instances were needless, nothing is more frequent. And, in this respect, the French dramatists have been to blame, no less than the