« AnteriorContinuar »
had Mrs. More, instead of writing against the Stage in general, attempted to reform it, by furnishing dramas of a better kind, she would have rendered a greater service to the world. With her talents, her knowledge of the manners and modes of thinking of the lower orders, and her refined wit and humour, she might have given a very different turn to the Stage. Her Cheap Repository Tracts have circulated, by thousands, and tens of thousands, into all parts of the kingdom, and among all ranks; and, should any of them be ever dramatized, or dramas upon similar stories be ever written, great things, I think, might be expected from them. In the mean time, I would reconımend them to the attentive perusal of our present Dramatists; and then, whether in the theatre, in the houses of our farmers, in the north, or on the Stage, in the open air, among our peasants in Wales, or wherever else they might be performed, I think it would be seen, that the Stage was not contrary to the pulpit. The very circumstance of these Tracts having been so widely circulated, being so well known, and so highly approved, will, in great measure, have prepared the way for dramas on similar principles.
z. p. 41. Of the pieces, which I think have tended to interest the public in behalf of the Negroes, and to open their eyes against the sin of the Slave-trade, the following occur to my mind : Oroonoko, The Padlock, Love in the City, afterwards curtailed into The Romp, Inkle and Yarico, The Irishman in London, The Benevolent Planters, The Prize, The Castle Spectre, The Widow of Bath, and The Egyptian Festival.
That the most sublime doctrines of religion may be introduced on the Stage, if done with seriousness and address, the following instances, I think, will shew. In Measure for Measure, in the scene where Isabella is pleading with Angelo for her brother's life, he says,
Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
you but waste your words. Isabella. Alas! Alas!
Why, all the souls that were, were forfeit once ;
I do not think that any comedy will attract like King Lear and his three daughters, JANE SNORE, or The Penitential Fair, and George Barnwell, or The London 'Prentice, sc, as they are commonly advertised in Country Play-bills.
And He that might the 'vantage best have took,
then will breathe within your lips,
A. II. S. 2.
Bishop llorne, in his Sermon on The Duty of taking up the Cross, vol. iii. Discourse VIII. p. 167, speaking of the chastisements of
" Does the father hate his child whom he chastises? No, it is the best proof he can shew of his love. So saith our Heavenly Father of his children. 6. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” And, then, in a Note, he adds, “ How finely is this touched by the hand of our great poet.”—
Consideration, like an angel came,
T'envelop and contain celestial spirits. Henry V. A. I. S. 1.
In the last scene of Richard the Third, there is mention made of the Sacrament. “ After the battle, Richmond says,
Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled
We will unite the white rose with the red. This is good; but it strikes me, that it would have been still better, had more been said upon the sacred nature of that solemn rite.
In The Merchant of Venice, A. IV, S. 1. at the conclusion of the speech upon mercy,
mercy; And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy.
What Lady Jane Gray says of The Bible, A. V. S. 2. giving one to one of her attendants, is excellent :
When all help else forsook me. So, likewise, in The Vicar of Wakefield, chap. III. where the Vicar parts with his eldest son, how beautiful is the picture, how valuable the lesson! “My son, after taking leave of his mother and the rest, who mingled their tears with kisses, came to ask a blessing from me. This I gave him from my heart, and which, added to five guineas, was all the patrimony I had now to bestow.
“ You are going, my boy,” cried I, " to London, on foot, in the manner Hooker, your great ancestor, travelled there before you. Take from me the same horse that was given him by the good bishop Jewel, this staff, and this book too, it will be your comfort on the way; these two lines in it, are worth a million, “I have been young, and now am old; and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.” (Psalm xxxvii. 25.) Let this be your consolation as you
The excellence of the Christian Religion is set forth in the follow. ing passages.
In Tamerlane, A. III. S. 2. after the Dervise has failed in his attempt to stab Tamerlane, he says,
Now learn the difference 'twixt thy faith and mine:
'Tis punishment enough to be a villain. There is, however, at the end of this speech, an arraigning of Heaven, which seems presumptuous.
There is a similar passage in Voltaire's Alzire, with the additional circumstance of the assassin having succeeded in his attempt upon the life of Carlos; he says,
And you, Zamore, think on your faith and mine,
In the play of Such Things Are, written by Mrs. Inchbald, there is a scene between The Sultan and Mr. Haswell, which I consider as, excellent. The passage is long, but it is too good to be withheld : The scene is laid in the Island of Sumatra :
Sultan. Sir, you are summond to receive thanks, for the troops restored to health, by your kind prescriptions.-Ask a reward adequate to your services.
Haswell. Sultan~the reward I ask, is to preserve more of your people still.
Sultan. How more? my subjects are in health-no contagion reigns amongst them.
Haswell. The prisoner is your subject-there misery-more contagious than disease-preys on the lives of hundreds-sentenced but to confinement, their doom is death. Immured in damp and dreary vaults, they daily perish---and who can tell but that amongst the many hapless sufferers, there may be hearts, bent down with penitence to Heaven and you, for every slight offence—there may
* Quoted in “Observations for the Effect, &c." p. 21, see also Aaron Hill's alteration of this Play for the English Stage, in the different British Theatres.
In this play, and in another of A. Hill's translations from Voltaire, Zara, there is much good sentiment respecting the Christian Religión, but neither of these plays appear to me to he entirely free froin the faults fouod with Pizarro, Note C, of this Discourse, p. 135.
Blair, in his Lectures, vol. iii, Lect. XLVI. p. 354, says, deserves remark, that three of the greatest master-pieces of the French tragic Theatre, turn wholly upon religious subjects ; the Athalie of Racine, the Polyeucle of Corneille, and the Zayre of Vollaire, The first is founded upon a historical passage of the Old Testament; and in the other two, the distress arises from the zeal and attachment of the principal personages to the Christian th; and all the three, the authors have, with much propriely, availed themselves of the Majesty which may be derived from religious ideas."
some amongst the wretched multitude, even innocent victims. Let me seek them out let me save them, you.
Sultan. Amazement! retract your application-curb this weak pity; and receive our thanks.
Haswell. Curb my pity--and what can I receive in recompence for that soft bond, which links me to the wretched?-and, while it soothes their sortow-repays me more than all the gifts or homage of an empire.-But if repugnant to your plan of government -not in the name of pity—but of justice.
Huswell. The justice which forbids all but the worst of criminals, to be denied that wholesome air the very brute creation freely takes ; at least allow them that.
Sultan. Consider, Sir, for whom you plead-for men, (if not base culprits) yet so misled, so depraved, they are offensive to our state, and deserve not of its blessings.
Haswell. If not upon the urideserving, if not upon the hapless wanderer from the paths of rectitude, --where shall the sun diffuse his light, or the clouds distil their dew? Where shall spring breathe fragrance, or autumn pour its plenty?
Sultun. Sir, your sentiments, but much more your character, excite my curiosity. They tell me in our camps, you visited each sick man's bed,-administered yourself the healing draught, encouraged our savages with the hope of life, or pointed out their better hope in death.-The widow speaks your charities—the orphan lisps your bounties--and the rough Indian melts in tears to bless you. I wish to ask why you have done all this? What is it prompts you thus to befriend the wretched and forlorn?
Haswell. In vain for me to explain the time it would take to tell you why Iact thus
Sultan. Send it in writing then.
Haswell. Nay, if you will read, I'll send a book, in which it is already written why I act thus.
Sultan. What book What is it called?
Haswell. “ The Christian Doctrine." (Haswell bows here with the utmost reverence.) There you will find all I have done was but my duty:
In the Comedy of The English Merchant, Freeport, the merchant, says,
“ It is a rule with me (as it ought to be with every good Christian) to give a tenth part of my fortune in charity.” A. II. S. 2.