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(Eccles. v. 9.) and our King and nobles do not disdain to be Farmers,
When Corneille brought out his Play of Polyeucte, Mr. Dibdin (in his History, vol. i. p. 284) informs us, that, " in the fourth act, there is a scene, where Severus, struck with the unity of God, discovers to Fabian his doubts concerning the Pagan religion, which admits of many deities at once. Bellerose, who performed Severus, in conveying these sentiments, adopted a tone of such moderation and good sense, that the public, who had before seen nothing but extravagance and bombast, were greatly struck with this new manner, so much more like nature ; and, as the subject was very awful on which Bellerose exerted himself, it was not only prodigiously admired, but begat a respect and consideration for actors, which had not been before attached to their characters.”_
“ Polyeucte began to open the eyes of the public, to the respectability of dramatic entertainments considered in a moral light.—This circumstance, joined to another altogether as extraordinary, no less than that the actors, from the moment they were considered as more respectable, actually became so, procured on the sixteenth of April, 1641, the following favourable Arret';
“ In case the said Comedians regulate the action of their performances so as to be entirely exempt from impurity, we will that their exhibitions—as by this means they will innocently amuse the public-be considered as void of blame and reproach, and also tliat their occupation shall not be pleaded as an impediment to the exercise of any business or connection in public commerce."
This was no more than had been done before in Rome, for the Actors in the Fabulæ Attellanæ, (as we are informed by Valerius Marimus aud Liry,) who were not expelled their tribe, nor refused to serve in the field, “ because this diversion was clean and inoffensive, and made agreeable to the sobriety of the Roman discipline.” See Collier's Answer to the Ancient and Modern Stages Surveyed,
What the author of Zeal without Innovation has said respecting another set of men, may, with equal propriety, be said of those in question : “ These virtues are not brought up at the close of their faults, for the purpose of extenuating those faults. The latter were detailed, that a deep impression of their evil nature and injurious
tendency might be made. The purpose intended to be answered by producing the virtues, was merely to put the reader in possession of the whole cause; leaving it with him to consider, whether even the enumerated faults found among mien, in whom these virtues were exhibited, be of such a nature as to exclude all hope of amelioration in such persons, were pains to be taken with them for that purpose.”
“ This, indeed, would be a perfectly new experiment. From their first appearance to the present day, they have been abandoned, as a set of men so incorrigibly bad, as not to be worth the pains of any attempt to render them of service to their country. It is to their being thus left to themselves, probably, that much of what is faulty among them must be ascribed. If they can learn to amend one another, they may. From other quarters, though vexatious proceeding against them be foreborne, comes no fatherly counsel, no friendly expostulations, nor any thing else, that indicates an earnest intention to cherish what is right in them, and to correct what is wrong.” p. 164,
1. i. p. 91. line 2. In A World without Souls, Chap. xii. there is a passage respecting theatres, and the characters exhibited there, which is much in point. The Theatre is represented as an Hospital (entitled sometimes The School of Virtue) which is employed to ward off the infection of the madness of O. or religion : "I ought to tell you,” said M. “ that, relying on that influence of names which I have mentioned, they (the Governors) call their different movements and operations in the eyes of the patients, holding the mirror up to nature.' And, indeed, this is in some degree true. But then they take care to select some of nature's worst specimens for this exhibition. They rake society to the very dregs, to produce objects for the entertainment of eyes perhaps hitherto unsullied by scenes of vul. garity and vice ;--they shew nature naked, in short, to many who would otherwise have seen her only clad in the decent dresses of civilized life. I need not tell you, that a familiarity with vicious scenes and characters is seldom profitable. Man does not want to be taught how bad he may be. He who generally finds himself above par, will think himself privileged to grow worse ;-and he who continually looks into the mirror reflecting nothing but bad faces, will think himself handsome while he has a single feature better than the rest."
As instances of bad characters and vices, &c. introduced with their antidotes, I will mention Macbeth and his Lady. The compunctious visitings" of Macbeth, during the time he is meditating the murder, his reflections afterwards, and the remorse of his guilty conscience, are fine and instructive. So are the following reflections of Lady Macbeth, even at the first entrance upon their wickedlyacquired state:
Nought's had, all's spent,
Than, by destruction, dwell in doubtful joy. A. III. S, 2. And the scene where she is represented walking in her sleep, and disclosing the secrets of her guilty soul, is another valuable lesson. So likewise are the reflections of Macbeth, A. V. S. 3.
I have liv'd long enough: my way of life
The disgracing of Sir John Falstaff, at the end of the second Párt of Henry the Fourth, is good. It is only to be wished that less of his profligacy had been expressed, and exhibited, in the course of the two plays. When Falstaff presents himself to his old companion, the Prince, then just crowned Henry the Fifth, the King says to him,
I know thee not, old man: Fall to thy prayers;
For thee thrice wider than for other men :-&c. A. V. S. 5. “ The moral to be drawn from this representation (says Johnson) is, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to
think themselves safe with such a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff.” Note, at the end of the Play.
In The Proook'd Husband, the reformation of Lady Townly is the antidote to her dissipation, as is the elegant and cheerful sobriety of temper in Lady Grace; and the troubles in which the Wronghead family are involved, in consequence of their vainly aspiring after greatness and riches, to which they have no pretensions, are the antidote to their folly.
Of exceptionable passages I have mentioned one before, in Richard the Second, A. III. S. 2. where the King curses Bushy, &c. and Scroop makes a reply. See Notes on Discourse II. Note H.
There is a passage of this kind in Douglas, A. I. where Lady Randolph is complaining of the sufferings she has undergone,
Had some good angel op'd to me the book
Of ills, which, one by one, I have endur'd. The reply of Anna is a good lesson to those, who would pry into the secrets of Providence, and know what is to befall them in future : see p. 145. Note E.
That Power, whose ministers good angels are,
Hath shut the book in mercy to mankind. In the noted passage in The School for Scandal, where Charles desires Rowley to “ carry an hundred pounds to poor Stanley, or we shall have somebody call that has a better right to it." Rowley says, Ah, Sir, I wish you would remember the proverb
Charles. Be just before you are generous.-Why, so I would, if I could; but Justice is an old, lame, hobling beldam, and I can't get her to keep pace with Generosity for the soul of me.
Rowley. Do, dear Sir, reflect.
Charles. That's very true, as you say-but, while I have, [by Heavens] I'll give-uso [d-n your morality, and) away to Old Stanley with the money."
To have made this a proper lesson, Rowley should have urged to Charles his injustice and inhumanity to his creditors; have prevailed upon him to attend to justice, and devised some other means of assisting Old
Stanley. But, as the author has now left it, the sentiment appears to me to be not only that of the character, but likewise of the author. Here is vice without its antidote.
I much mistake, however, if this very passage, which has been so much and so justly censured, has not given rise to two others, which should always be mentioned in opposition to it. The one is in Mr. Morton's Comedy of The School of Reform, quoted before, p. 153. The other is in Mrs. Inchbald's Comedy of Wives as they Were, A. IV. S. 3. where Miss Dorillon, pursued by a Bailiff, flies to Sir William (known only as Mr. Mandred) for protection. He gives her up with these words: “ What! do you droop? Do you tremble? You, who at the ball to-night would have danced lightly, though your poor creditor had been perishing with want! You, who never asked yourself if your extravagance might not send an industrious father of a family to prison, can you feel on the prospect of going there yourself?"
K. p. 91. Whatever some Performers may have said, respecting their entering so far into a character, as to believe themselves the very persons they were representing ; and spectators, that they fancied themselves witnesses of real transactions; I cannot conceive that such cases have very often happened. It is the full assurance in a person's own mind, that it is merely acting, which reconciles the one set to sustaining many characters, and the other to attending to them. Were the senses of the audience once to be imposed upon, they would rush upon the stage, and stay the hand of the murderer. Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, relates a conversation, which passed between Dr. J. and Mr. Kemble on this subject :
"Johnson, indeed, had thought more upon the subject of acting than might be generally supposed. Talking of it one day to Mr. Kemble, he said, “ Are you, Sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very character you represent?" Upon Mr. Kemble's answering-that he had never felt so strong a pera suasion himself; “ To be sure, not, Sir, (said Johnson ;) the thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster, Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it.” Vol. iv. p. 258. 4th Edition.
Dunlop, in his Sermon before referred to (see Note A. of this Discourse, p. 207.) says: " I must here make a melancholy reflection, that human life is not only justly compared to the idle amuse.