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her father, and brought him to a better way of thinking. Her assent is shocking in every point of view. Faulkner, after this, falls on his knee, and says,
Omnipotent Providence! humbled with the dust, behold, a repentant wretch ! but thou art slow to punish, and thy mercies are infinite. Here, too, let me ask pardon, my child!"
Had this happened after the daughter's arguments had prevailed, it seems to me that it had been rightly managed. At present I cannot acquiesce even in the last speech, in attributing such an interference to Providence. The caution given to writers respecting what acts they attribute to Providence (see note F. on Discourse IV.) appears to me to apply here.
The next instance I shall adduce is from The Tragedy of Percy, and I the rather fix upon that, as it affords another instance of the great propensity of even religious poets to forget themselves, at times, when writing for the world, and following established modes, rather than considering themselves as Christians only, and writing accordingly. Elwina is represented as possessing much more than the common-place notions of Christianity; she considers it as “ a religion of motives," * and as influencing every action of man, When her father, Earl Raby, says of the Crusade, that
It is religion's cause, the cause of heav'n!
When policy assumes religion's name,
* See Mrs. More's Thoughts on the Manners of the Great, p. 10. Works, vol. vi.
He, who erects his altar in the heart,
A. II. In the fifth Act, when Elwina is waiting in suspense, during the combat between Douglas and Percy, Birtha comes in and tells her,
When all was ready for the fatal combat,
To reconcile thy vengeance with my peace.
My cup of bliss, my passport to the skies.
Douglas is fallin,
Bring me the poison. And, afterwards, in her delirium, she drinks it; but, as she had spoken of it before in such terms of commendation, we must consider her as voluntarily assenting to an act of suicide.
In the Poem of Home, which contains many beauties and many
valuable passages, a mother is introduced, who has lost her husband and her children by the sword ; the poet then tells us,
She grasps the steel, that pierc'd her husband's side,
And heav'n receiv'd her to its sainted rest. Part III. p. 118. In the song of Louisa, she is represented as loving a sailor who is at sea; she frequents the sea shore, expecting him for three years, when she hears of his death, and then
The lovely maid absorb’d in grief,
While madness ran thro' ev'ry vein,
And frantic plung'd into the main :
The debt the fair one paid to love,
To bear Louisa's soul above.
P. p. 35. On this subject, see Foster's Essays, Essay IV. Letter VIII. vol. ii. p. 309, &c. 2nd Edition.
The usual method of representing deaths upon the Stage, either by a combat with swords, or one of the characters stabbing another with a dagger, or by one stabbing himself, and then, perhaps, dying with curses in his mouth, appears to me too sanguinary, too disgusting, and seldom instructive. Some instances of deaths upon the Stage appear to me not to be improper, as useful lessons. Such, I think, is the death of Cardinal Beaufort, in the second part of King Henry the Sixth, A. III. S. 3.
The death of Henry the Fourth, Part II. A. IV. S. 4. might, I think, easily be made so. So might the death of Queen Catharine, in Henry the Eighth, A. IV. S. 2. Her resentment against the messenger
** This passage evidently has its origin from Uncle Toby's Oath, in the beautiful story of Le Fevre by Sterne, and the accusing Spirit and recording Angel there mentioned; and thus, by a pretty turn of expression and imagery, are swearing and suicide palliated.
for coming in abruptly, looks ill, especially in one just at the point of death, who ought to despise such trifles, and to bear charity in her heart towards every one, not excepting the meanest, and even to her enemies.
The death of Beverley, in The Gamester, is a forcible lesson, and, as Dr. Young said of it, “ gaming wanted such a caustic as the concluding scene of the play presented."* I think, however, that it would be better, if the poison were not drunk in the sight of the audience; and the effect would be heightened by concealing the deed, till after the entrance of his wife and friends, and the acquainting him with his uncle's death, and his accession of property by it.
The death of George Barnwell, as now acted, not exhibiting the gallows, is another useful lesson to a different class of offenders.
There are some instances of deaths introduced in a light and in a very pernicious manner. Of the former kind is that of Twineall, in Such Things Are, where he is led to execution, with a book in his hand, and saying, by way of prolonging the time,
“ One more verse, gentlemen, if you please.
One more, gentlemen, if you please."
The other is that of Macheath, in The Beggar's Opera, where he is preparing himself for death, by drinking, and singing:
Of all the friends in time of grief,
When threat'ning death looks grimmer,
As his best friend, a brimmer.
Since I must swing--I scorn to wince or whine.
But now again my spirits sink,
But valour the stronger grows,
The stronger liquor we're drinking,
When we've lost the trouble of thinking ?
* Davis's Life of Garrick, vol. i. ch. xv.
So I drink off this bumper--and now I can stand the test,
comrades shall see that I die as brave as the best. This example, it is said on good authority, has contributed to form some of those instances of hardened malefactors, of which we too frequently hear.
In the life of Gay, in the Biographia Britannica, it is said, that " The robberies committed daily in the streets, during the representation of The Beggar's Opera, were beyond the example of former times. And several thieves and robbers afterwards confessed in Newgate, that they raised their courage in the playhouse by the songs
of their hero Macheath, before they sallied forth on their desperate nocturnal exploits."-"So notorious were the evil consequences of its frequent representation become, that in the year 1773, the Middlesex Justices united with Sir John Fielding, in requesting Mr. Garrick to desist from performing it; as they were of opinion that it was never represented on the Stage, without creating an additional number of real thieves.” See also Gisborne's Duties of Women, ch. ix. p. 176.
Q. p. 36. The Relapse still subsists, under the title of A Trip to Scarborough; and The Country Wife, under the title of The Country Girl; also Love for Love, The Beaux Stratagem, The Recruiting Officer, The Inconstant, and Rule a Wife and have a Wife, and many others, which have been acted within a few
R. Mrs. More in her Preface, p. 19, says, “ A learned and witty friend, who thought differently on this subject, once asked me, if I went so far as to think it necessary to try the merits of a song or a play by the Ten Commandments. To this may we not venture to answer, that neither a song nor a play should at least contain any thing hostile to the Ten Commandments.” The Author of Obseroations on the Effect, &c. says, “ I would go even farther than Mrs. M. does in answer to the question of her friend, for I certainly think the merit of every thing, however trilling, should be tried by the commandments of God; but allow me to ask if the Fifth commandment is not illustrated in Lear, the Sixth in Mucbeth, and the Seventh, in Jane Shore, in a manner more likely to produce & powerful effect on the multitude, than many discourses on these subjects! Will the best preachers plead more successfully against gaming than Mrs. Siddons ? Will all the horrid annals of Newgate