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required him to get up for the Stage the Pilgrim's Progress, he would do it.” (p. 117.)
If Garrick would have given an audience whatever their depraved tastes might have wished for, he certainly was not fit for the station he held, and no friend to virtue. But I believe that it is most commonly the manager who corrupts the taste of the public, by offering foolish or vicious pieces, and not the public who require them of the manager. At least, should the taste of the public tend towards depravity, it is the duty of a manager to bear up against it, or to make it subservient to the one great cause, Should, for instance, the public taste tend towards splendid spectacles, why not mix splendour with good sense and morality, rather than with folly? Were the same expence bestowed upon a really good play, that there is upon a pantomime, I am persuaded that the public would approve it more. But I believe, that the real case was, that Garrick wished to bring out some pieces of his own, and he found it easier to write nonsense than pieces of sterling merit. At the time when the taste of the public inclined to sentimental Comedy, when Goldsmith's Comedy of She Stoops to Conquer was brought out, he wrote a Prologue to it, endeavouring to laugh them out of their taste. (See Davis's Life of Garrick, vol. ii. p. 158.)
Whitehead (W. Esq. formerly Poet-laureat, and a member of Clare-Hall,) concludes his Lines to Garrick with the following:
A nation's taste depends on you;
Nor e'er descend from reason's laws
Davis's Life of Garrick, vol. ii. Appendix, p. 426.
C. p. 73. I am informed, that the Manager of the Nottingham company of players will not have a person of bad character in his company; and that the same is the case with the Manager of the
I heard a good character of that mentioned before, (p. 151.) and I understand that the Norwich company bear an excellent character likewise. I trust that the same might be said of others, but these are more immediately in the neighbourhood, and within the knowledge of the Author. More will be said on this head in Notes I. K. and L.
D. p. 74. A few instances of the altered sentiments, and the repentance and horror of authors, on account of their bad writings, shall be here given. The first shall be
Ben Jonson. Woud, in his Athena Oxonienses, says of him, that in his last sickness, a Prelate, who often attended him, with other of his acquaintance," as often heard him repent of his profaning the Scripture in his plays, and that with horror.” p. 519. Ist Edition. p. 610. 2nd Edition. See also Collier's Defence of the Short View, &c.
The witty, the profligate, and the penitent EARL OF RochesTER, we are told in the Sermon preached at his funeral by Parsons, * expressed on his death bed" His hearty concern for the pious education of his children, wishing that his son might never be a Wit, that is, (as he himself explained it) one of those wretched creatures, who pride themselves in abusing God and religion, denying bis Being, or his Providence; but that he might become an honest and religious man, which could only be the support and blessing of his family,” complaining, “what a vicious and naughty world they were brought into," and that " no fortunes or honours were comparable to the love and favour of God to them; in whuse Name he blessed them, prayed for them, and committed them to his protection.”
* This Tract is amongst those printed by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and is likewise commonly annexed to Burnet's
" the Life of that nobleman, “ A book, which” Dr. Johnson says critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety." See Johnson's Life of Rochester.
“ He gave likewise a “strict charge to those persons, in whose custody his papers were, to burn all his profane and lewd writings, as being only fit to promote vice and immorality, by which he had so highly offended God, and shamed and blasphemed that holy religion, into which he had been baptized ; and all his obscene and filthy pictures, which were so notoriously scandalous.”
“Now (says Burnet) the hand of God touched him, and, as he told me, It was not only a general dark melancholy over his mind, such as he had formerly felt; but a most penetrating cutting sorrow, So that, though in his body he suffered extreme pain for some weeks, yet the agonies of his mind sometimes swallowed up the sense of what he felt in his body. He told me, and gave it me in charge, to tell it to one for whom he was much concerned, that though there were nothing to come after this life, yet all the pleasures he had ever known in sin, were not worth that torture he had felt in his mind: He considered he had not only neglected and dishonoured, but had openly defied his Maker, and drawn many others into the like impieties; so that he looked on himself as one that was in great danger of being damned. He then set himself wholly to turn to God unfeignedly, and to do all that was possible in that little remainder of his life which was before him, to redeem those great portions of it, that he had formerly so ill employed."
In concluding his character, he says, “ Here were parts so exalted by nature, and improved by study, and yet so corrupted and debased by irreligion and vice, that he, who was made to be one of the glories of his age, was become a proverb; and if his repentance had not interposed, would have been one of the greatest reproaches of it. He knew well the small strength of that weak cause, and at first despised, but afterwards abhorred it. He felt the mischiefs, and saw the madness of it; and, therefore, though he lived to the scandal of many, he died as much to the edification of all those who saw him; and because they were but a small number, he desired, that he might, even when dead, yet speak.
He was willing nothing should be concealed, that might cast reproach on himself, and on sin, and offer up glory to God and religion, So that, though he lived a heinous sinner, yet he died a most exemplary penitent."
Of GEORGE VILLIERS, Duke of BUCKINGHAM, the writer of his Life, in the Biographia Dramatica, says, “ As he lived a profligate, he died a beggar; and as he raised no friend in his life,
he found none to lament him in his death,” Mr. Dibdin, in his History of the Stage, says of him, “ He lived in miserable splendour, an object of torment and vexation to himself, and every body else, and died like Rochester, and indeed most unprincipled characters, afraid of conscience.” Vol. iv. p. 122.
FONTAINE," about the end of the year 1692, fell dangerously ill; and, as is customary on these occasions, in the Romish Church, he made a general confession of his whole life, to P. Poguet, an Oratorian; and before he received the Sacrament, he sent for the gentlemen of the French Academy, and in their presence declared his sincere compunction for having composed his Tales; a work he could not reflect upon without the greatest repentance and detestation; promising, that if it should please God to restore his health, he would employ his talents only in writing upon matters of morality or piety. He survived his illness two years, living in the most exemplary and edifying manner, and died the 13th of March 1695, being 74 years of age.” Encyclopedia Britannica.
DRYDEN. Sir R. Blackmore, in his Essays, vol. i. says, " Mr. Dryden has, up and down in his Prefatory Discourses and Dedications, freely acknowledged the looseness of our Dramatic Entertainments, which sometimes he charges upon the countenance given to it by the dissolute court of King Charles the Second, and sometimes upon
the vitiated taste of the people.”—“In a copy of verses, published in one of the volumes of the Miscellany Poems, the same celebrated author inveighs against the lewdness and pollutions of the Stage in the strongest expressions that can be conceived; and in his latter days, when his judgment was more mature, he condemns all his loose and profane writings to the flames, which he says, they justly deserve; which is not only a free and ingenuous confession of his faults, but a considerable mark of repentance, and worthy to be imitated by his successors, who have broken in upon the rules of virtue and modesty in the like manner.”
Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Dryden, speaking of his writings, says, “ Of the mind that can trade in corruption, and can deliberately pollute itself with ideal wickedness, for the sake of spreading the contagion in society, I wish not to conceal or excuse the depravity. Such degradation of the dignity of genius, such abuse of superlative abilities, cannot be contemplated but with grief and
indignation. What consolation can be had, Dryden has afforded, by living to repent, and to testify his repentance.”
CONGREVE. Lord Kains, in his Elements of Criticism, vol. ir. p. 479. says, “ How odious ought these writers to be, who thus spread infection through their native country, employing the talents, which they have received from their Maker, most traitorously against Himself, by endeavouring to corrupt and disfigure his creatures. If the comedies of Congreve did not rack him with remorse in his last moments, he must have been lost to all sense of virtue.” (quoted also in Blair's Lectures, vol. iii. p. 380. The whole passage in Blair is worth reading.)
We do not, however, as far as I am aware, hear that Congreve shewed any such signs of remorse in his latter days. His contemporary,
VANBRUGĦ, his fellow, likewise, in licentious writing, in the former part of his life, lived to see his error, and to endeavour to make reparation, in some measure, by writing the Comedy of A Journey to London, in a more moral strain ; but which he did not live to complete. Cibber, who finished it afterwards, under the title of The Provok'd Husbund, says of the original author, in the Prologue,
This play took birth from principles of truth,
The last instance I shall adduce on this head, shall be VOLTAIRE. Blair, in his Lectures, vol. jii. p. 347. says of him,
" What one might perhaps not expect, Voltaire is, in the strain of his sentiments, the most religious, and most moral, of all Tragic Poets." Yet, as Voltaire was so active and so determined an enemy to Christianity,