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ridicule the whole, and make one as incredible as the other ?” (p. 188.) “ To droll upon the vengeance of Heaven, and the miseries of the damned, is a sad instance of Christianity! Those that bring devils upon the Stage, can hardly believe them any where else.” p. 189.
Mr. Foster, speaking of Virgil, says, “ Perhaps the chief counteraction of Christian sentiments, which I should apprehend to an opening susceptible mind, would be a depravation of its ideas concerning the other world, from the picturesque scenery which Virgil has opened to his hero in the regions of the dead, and the solemn and interesting images with which he has shaded the avenue to them.
Essay IV. vol. ii. Letter V. p. 259. 2nd Edition.
E. p. 29. It will merely be necessary here to mention the name of Mrs. Williams, the well-known fortune-teller, concerning whom, I think, it appeared, in a prosecution against her, that she was consulted by persons of considerable rank. The case of Powell, the conjurer, happened little more than a year ago, and excited much attention.
In the second part of the Address of The Society for the Suppression of Vice, published in 1803, it appeared, that thirty four Fortune Țellers and notorious Impostors, had been convicted by the Society in about a year.
I remember, some years ago, when a piece of plate was missing, the servant was for going to consult The Wise Woman in a neighbouring parish, to know where it was; but the Wise Woman was dead, and the plate was soon after found.
I resided once in a parish where witchcraft was believed in by many, and those by no means the most ignorant. I found on conversing with one of the persons who believed in it, that he had formerly seen the play of Macbeth, and I had reason to think that that had strengthened his belief. See before, Note D. p. 144.
As our plays are now managed, I do not think that uninformed minds distinguish readily, if at all, between that which is represented as being merely the history of former times, and that which is intended as present fact. The Christian Observer, very properly, states, “ It has been most justly asserted, that the real moral of a tale is the impression left on the reader's mind. It may be very true, that the tragedy of Macbeth illustrates the nature and fruit of ambition; but we believe, that a young person rises from the perusal of Macbeth”
(how much more then must an uninformed mind retire from the representation of it?) “ with an imagination crowded with daggers, weird sisters, and apparitions." Vol. vii. p. 329.
In the Cambridge Chronicle, for May 21, 1808, appeared an account of Anne Izzard of Great Paxton, in the County of Huntingdon, whose house was broken into, who was dragged out of bed, and forced into the yard by a man, where three women and several men assaulted her in the most barbarous manner, and repeated the same the following evening, on account of her being a reputed witch. The paragraph then states, that “ Anne Izzard is a very harmless, inoffensive woman, nearly sixty years of age, and is the mother of eight children.—A few weeks ago, some misguided people raised the cry of witchcraft against her; and oh! shame to relate it! at this moment, the poor in general of the parishes of Great and Little Paxton, and some of the farmers also, really believe that she is actually a witch-they firmly believe that she bewitched the women who assaulted her-they believe that she afficted them with grievous fits—they believe that she overturned a cart drawn by three horses, and loaded with corn-they believe that she carried five bushels of wheat upon her back from St. Neots, to Great Paxton, with as much ease as if they weighed only five pounds—they believe that she has the power of making herself invisible—they believe that she can convey herself from place to place through the air in an instant—they believe that she gives suck to several imps, which they say she employs in her diabolical arts of witchcraft-and, what is worst of all, they believe that this poor woman may be assaulted, either by ducking or otherwise, as they think proper, with impunity. The writer of this is shocked, that notions, so worthy of the very darkest ages of superstition and barbarism, so repugnant to common sense, and so disgraceful to humanity, should, at this enlightened period, vitiate the minds of any of the people of England.”
The very day I am writing this note, The Courier of yesterday, (Wednesday October the 26th) brings a most shocking account of imposture and credulity, which has happened in the neighbourhood of Leeds. Willium Perigo, of Bramley, applied to Mary Bateman, of Campfield, in August 1806, to cure his Wife of some complaint. Mary declined to undertake the cure herself; but said, that she had a friend at Scarbro', a Miss Blyth, who could “read the stars,” and collect the knowledge requisite to remove all corporeal and mental maladies, Mary Bateman was the pretended medium through
which all communications were to pass; and she obtained from them money, and various articles, at different times, amounting to a very considerable sum, till fearing their discontent, and her being discovered, under the pretence of giving them a powder, in a pudding, as a charm, she administered poison to them, of which the wife died, and Perigo's constitution was ruined, and he lost the use of his limbs. M. Bateman, who has a husband and several children, is committed to gaol to take her trial.
F. p. 30. The objections of Mrs. More and of Mr. Hill, appear to me, to apply only to what I conceive to be the abuse of prayers on the Stage : “ It is perhaps one of the most invincible objections to many Tragedies, otherwise not very exceptionable, that the awful and tremendous name of the infinitely glorious God is shamefully and almost incessantly introduced in various scenes, both in the way of asseveration, and of invocation.” Mrs. M.'s Preface, p. 26.
“ The next charge which equally rests against almost all theatrical exhibitions, is the horrid profanation of THE SACRED NAME of God. Whether our minds ought to be more disgusted at the light and frothy style in which the Comedian sports with THAT SACRED NAME,—or, whether the like profaneness adopted in the solemn grimace of Tragedy, may not be still more offensive than the former, might be difficult to determine. For can any thing be more shocking, than when the tragic actor, at times, can bend his knee in his mock devotions, as in the presence of the eternal God, in language apparently the most solemn, though on a subject, perhaps the most insulting to the purity and holiness of the divine existence." R. Hill's Warning, p. 16.
Mr. Styles, however, condemns them entirely: “What has a fictitious character on the Stage to do with Heaven?” p. 92. See also p. 95.
My reasons for admitting prayers, under certain restrictions, are given in the Sermon. In addition to what I have there said, I will observe, that
prayers and addresses to the Deity are introduced into our Oratorios, which, as I have before observed, (see p. 10 and 40) are dramatic representations; yet I never heard any one find fault with these. The objection then seems to be against the manner of introducing them, not against the thing itself, and I will therefore bring forward some instances of prayers, which I think are wrong, and some which I consider as right.
In the first place, then, I would not allow of prayers offered to false objects, or to the true object upon a wrong occasion.* Imogen, in Cymbeline, when she is in bed and about to go to sleep, says,
To your protection I commend me, Gods!
A. II. S. 3. Here the prayer is addressed to the wrong object, and admits the existence of Fairies,
Macduft, after hearing of the murder of his wife and children by Macbeth, says,
A. IV. S. 3. which implies a wish, that Heaven may not forgive him; which, notwithstanding the injuries Macduff had sustained, is certainly an unchristian wish.
I saw this play acted at Covent-Garden Theatre, in October 1807, after some years entire absence from all Theatres, during which time my ideas respecting plays had undergone / very great
* In the Poem of The Landscape, which contains many beauties and displays much taste, the Author says,
To heaven devoutly I've address’d my prayer.-
Again the moss-grown terraces to raise,
B. II. 1, 8.
Curse on the pedant jargon, that defines
Who dares not judge till he consults his rule. B. I. 1. 79.
Cursc on the shrubbery's insipid scenes ! &c. B. III. I. 219.
changes. When the performer went down upon one knee and spoke this, I felt very much shocked.
To shew how prone mankind are to abstract their thoughts from Christianity, when they get to the poets and the common occurrences of the world, I cannot forbear bringing forward a passage
from THE BISHOP OF LANDAFF's Speech, intended to have been spoken in the House of Lords, November 22, 1803, wherein he says, speaking of the Ruler of France, “ There is not an Admiral, an Officer, a Sailor, in the British Navy, who does not burn with impatience to have an opportunity of attacking the enemy; who is not ready to exclaim with Macduff,
Within my sword's length set him, if he 'scape
May Heav'n forgive him too." This is the more remarkable, as only three pages farther on, the venerable and pious prelate, speaking of the calamities which would. befall us, were we to become a prey to the invader, says, Sooner than all this should happen, I would say (did Christianity permit such a wish) may the fate of the Suguntines become the fate of Britons !”—p. 45.
In the Tragedy of The Regent, where Manuel, the supposed murderer of Dianora's husband, offers hér the choice of submitting to his will, or of having her child murdered, She says,
Yet a moment pause! (kneels)
A. 5. S. 3. To the first part of this prayer, I see no objection. In the latter she gives way to the sin of “ doing evil, that good may come.” (Romans iii. 8.)
In Hamlet, A. III. S. 3. there is a scene, where the King is represented as stung with remorse, on account of the discovery being made of his having murdered his brother, and his reflections thereon. Some of them are very good, but the passage is too long and too well known to be quoted. · At length he kneels, and continues for some time in that posture, praying, or rather endeavouring to pray