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The Story of Lovers' Vows is as follows:
Agatha Friburg was the daughter of a pour, but reputable farmer. The Baroness Wildenhaim requested Agatha's parents to let her live with her, and she would provide for her through life. At the age
of fourteen, she went to her patroness, who took pleasure in instructing her in all kinds of female literature and accomplishments. After three years, her only son, who was an officer in the Saxon service, came home, and he talked to her of love, and promised her marriage. The result was, as is too commonly the case; and when the time drew near, that she could no longer conceal her guilt and shame, her seducer prevailed on her not to expose him to the resentment of his mother, promising to marry her at his mother's death. Agatha's situation being known; and on her refusing to confess who was her seducer, she was turned out of the Castle. On presenting herself to her parents, they shut their door against her. She now sought protection from the old Clergyman of the parish, begged forgiveness for the scandal she had caused to his parishioners, and promised amendnient. He received her with compassion, and through his recommendation she went to town; and there, hid in humble lodge ings, procured the means of subsistence, by teaching the neighbouring children to read. The fruit of their sin was a son, whom she called Frederick. Agatha brought him up with care; and, at the age of fourteen, he went as a soldier. The health of Agatha declined; and being unable to continue her employment, she returned to her native place, the victim of sorrow, ill health and poverty. The son, after five years' absence, returns to see his mother, and finds her in this state, turned out of a public-house, because she had not wherewith to pay for her food, and ready to die of misery and hunger.
Baron Wildenhaim, after the seduction of Agatha, when his leave of absence expired, returned to his regiment; and going into battle in Alsace, was wounded. He was taken to the adjacent seat of a nobleman, whose only daughter, by anxious attention to his recovery, won his gratitude; and, influenced by the advice of his worldly friends, he married her. The Baroness proved proud and imperious, and they did not live happily together. He had a daughter by her, and after some years she died. The Baron, on her death, leaves Alsace; and, with his daughter, arrives at his native place, only a few weeks before the return of Agatha and Frederick. The Baron had, in the mean time, desired the Clergyman of the parish, a very excellent young man, (the old Clergyman before
mentioned being dead) to make inquiries after Agatha, which he had done, but without success.
Frederick, having got his mother into the care of two benevolent cottagers, goes out to beg for her, and meeting the Baron, asks his charity for a dying mother. The Baron gives a trifle, but Frederick requests more, mentioning a dollar, which the Baron refuses.
Frederick then draws his sword, thinking to intimidate him, and is taken by the Baron's servants and carried into confinement.
The Clergyman there visits him; and when Frederick finds it is his father, whom he has robbed, and against whom he has drawn his sword, he procures an interview with the Baron, makes himself known, upbraids him for his usage of his mother, and leaves him.
The Baron, at first, proposes to provide handsomely for Agatha, in a separate mansion. The Chaplain, however, urges the Baron's promise of marriage in the face of Heaven; and the Baron, after some hesitation, agrees to marry Agatha; she is introduced, they embrace, and the piece concludes.
I wish to refer the reader here, as in the former case, to Mrs. Inchbald's remarks prefixed to the play. And, as the question, in the case of The Stranger, was to determine how far it is right to restore an adulteress to her husband, and to society, on her repentance; so, here, the question seems to be, when a man has seduced a woman, is he obliged in conscience to marry her? I think he is, even though there should have been no promise of marriage made; and my reason is founded upon the Mosaic law, mentioned in Deuteronomy xxii. 28, 29. which, though it be not adopted as a part of the law of this nation, yet, as the same reason continues for observing it, it ought to be equally binding upon the conscience of every one.
The world has made a difference in the degree of infamy, attached to a want of chastity in men and in women : but the law of God appears to make none. In the law of Moses, in the case of adultery, the man and the woman were both to be put to death. Deut. xxii. 22-24. There appears, now, to be this difference only, that, as the world attaches a greater degree of infamy to unchastity in a woman, than in a man, a woman must have overcome that fear of shame before she consents, which seems to argue some sort of depravity, which the man has not; though to fear the reproach of the world, and not to fear sinning against God, can scarcely, even in human estimation, deserve any praise. To say, that this doctrine “ may be an inducement to the pretty house-maids
and smart abigails in the kingdom, to persevere in that style of dress and mode of behaviour, which is best calculated to convince the young heir of the family, that they may be prevailed upon to qualify for the title of My Lady,” (Mrs. West's Letters to a Young Lady, vol. ii. p. 230.) is not, I conceive, just. I certainly think, that “ the libertine's being compelled to marry the victim of his treachery, would be a means of checking the crime of seduction:" (Ditto p. 321.) and while it “made men more guarded through fear,” and I hope, principle, likewise, I do not think, that “it would render women profligate, from cunning and ambition : that the sex only of the offence would be changed, and the frequency of seduction increased.” (Ditto.) I conceive it to be owing to the extremely loose principles in which men are brought up with respect to women, which makes them so licentious, and which induces profligate, cunning, and ambitious women to put themselves in their way. But, were the proper principles on this subject to be duly taught by parents and guardians, there would be less profligacy, more frequent, and suitable, and happy marriages; and, if a young man was exposed to any temptation to seduce a young woman, if she were not calculated to make him a creditable and happy partner for life, the certainty of being obliged to marry her after, would operate as a powerful and salutary check, in the absence of higher motives. We may consider in this place, likewise, as before, (see p. 245.) the case of the Magdalens at the Magdalen Hospital.
Thus much upon the question in general. With respect to the case of Baron Wildenhaim and Agatha Friburg, she was a young woman of good character, reputable parents, and well educated. They loved each other sincerely, and pride was the only barrier to their honourable and happy union. The Baron justly suffered for his pride and incontinence, and mistaken ideas of duty; and Agatha for her's; and after twenty years' separation and remorse, if they marry, I conceive they do no more than was their duty;
nor do I see how it can be said, that Agatha is rewarded.
In representing such a character on the Stage, in these days, the German author, or rather the adapter of it to the English Stage, has shewn much address, and has made the subject, in my
estimaa tion, far less exceptionable than it is in Measure for Measure, where two females are introduced, both of whom have been seduced, and in the end marry their seducers. In The Provok'd Husbund, Myrtilla has been seduced by Count Basset, and at the conclusion of the Play is married to him. In The King and Miller of Mansfield, Peggy
marries, not her seducer, but her fomer lover. In The Chapter of Accidents, if my memory serve me, for I have not the play to refer to, a female is introduced, who continues to live with her betrayer, and at length is married to him.
The chief fault in Lovers' Vows, appears to me to be in the character of the son, in his interview with his father, where he upbraids him in the most imperious manner, without knowing the present state of his sentiments towards his mother, and that at the time when he stands before him as a criminal. It is not without an attentive perusal of the play twice over, and maturely weighing the subject, that I offer an opinion against the authorities who have censured this play; but I think the seducer could not see it, without having his conscience deeply probed.
I shall not enter into the particulars of the story of PIZARRO, but shall offer some remarks upon the characters of Elvira and Cora, so far as they are said to be of German growth, and the disgrace of the modern Stage.
Eloira is the mistress of Pizarro, to follow whom she left a convent and her parents. “As a professed religionist, she is perjured; as a daughter, disobedient; as a woman, indelicate; as a mistress, furious and vindictive. She follows a soldier of fortune in quest of adventures; her love, stung by neglect, changes to hatred : and she endeavours to instigate a man, whom her gallant had injured, to commit the murder which her heart dictated, though her arm wanted courage to perform.” (Mrs. West, p. 318.) A mistress, thus, or nearly thus circumstanced, is not new to the Stage. Such is Cleopatra, with the aggravation that the wife of her paramour is living. In Timon of Athens, Alcibiades is introduced with two mistresses. Zara, in The Mourning Bride, has given herself up to shame with Osmyn, and that during the life of her husband. Alicia and Calista are both females of lost reputation.
Cora, as we learn from The Virgin of the Sun (the former part of this play) had forfeited her vow of chastity, and contends that she has merely followed nature, and not been guilty of any sin, in her love for Alonzo, and having a child previous to marriage. But in this, likewise, I am sorry to say, she is not singular. The same circumstance is introduced in the Opera of Annette and Lubin, with the aggravation, that the characters are Christians, and the man is represented as not being conscious of having committed a sin as well as the
I have objected to some parts of Pizarro before; (see p. 135.)
“ Save thy
and the manner in which the idolatrous Peruvians are represented, appears to me to be liable to the objections mentioned by Mr. Jones against Turkish Stories.
See Notes on Discourse II. Note T. p. 175. There are several other exceptionable passages. LasCasas, a Spanish Ecclesiastic, says to Elvira, A. I. innocent fellow-creatures, if thou canst: then shall thy frailty be redeemed, and thou wilt share the mercy thou bestowest."
Elvira, afterwards, says of him, “ He appeared to me just now, something more than heavenly."
The play, however, is not totally devoid of merit. I have before alluded to the patriotic sentiments it contains, and the lesson to kings and subjects. (See p. 182.) The following speech, from the mouth of Elvira, is a good warning to men who form such connections:
“Oh, men! ye who, wearied by the fond fidelity of virtuous love, seek in the wanton's flattery a new delight, Oh, ye may insult and leave the hearts to which your faith was pledged, and, stilling self-reproach, may fear no peril; because such hearts, howe'er you injure and desert them, have yet the proud retreat of an unspotted fame-of unreproaching conscience. But beware the desperate libertine, who forsakes the creature whom his arts have first deprived of all natural protection--of all self-consolation! What has he left her - despair and vengeance !” A. I. End. Her address to her countrymen at the end is also good:
Spaniards, returning to your native home, assure your rulers they mistake the road to glory or to power. Tell them, that the pursuits of avarice, conquest, and ambition, never yet made a people happy, or a nation great.” A. V.
The Noble Lie, alluded to by Mr. Styles, I have never read; but, from the account I liave heard of it, suppose it is highly objectionable. I dare say we both agree, that no lie can be noble.
The Story of John Bull, so far as it relates to Mary Thornberry, is this: Mary Thornlerry, the only child of Job Thornberry, a brazier in Penzance, is seduced by Francis Rochdale, son of Sir Simon Rochdale, of a family sprung from an equally low origin. Sir Simon wishes his son to marry Lady Caroline Braymore, daughter of The Earl of Filz-Balaum. Francis consents, and writes to Mary, to inform her. On this, as her state must soon be known, she leaves her father from shame, but meets with a friend of his, who promises to reconcile him to her, which he does. The father takes his daughter to Sir Simon, who is a Justice of the Peace, where he