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make as strong an impression as George Barnwell? I do not mean to say, that the plays I have mentioned are faultless: many defects may be pointed out in the best plays; but if we admit no mixture of imperfection, what books shall we read, what society shall we frequent? I should wish to try every amusement by one general rule, and candidly to examine the impression which remains on the mind when it is over. Is that impression, on the whole, favourable to religion and virtue? If it is, I think the time has been well spent, though I may have heard or seen some things which I do not approve. Even those sentiments of disapprobation, even the honest indignation which is awakened by a base or a vicious character, may be a useful guard to virtue ; and when the character is fictitious, those sentiments may be safely indulged, which, in real life, must be carefully watched, in order to prevent any uncharitable dislike to the criminal, from mixing with our just detestation of the crime.” (p. 6.)
For references to some authors on this subject, see Note B. of this Discourse, p. 122.
There is much truth, likewise, in many of the remarks made by Law, (p. 394,) on the Entertainment of Apollo and Daphne, acted the season in which he published his first Edition of his Tract on the Stage, I suppose 1734.* See the Biogr. Dram. p. 18.
T. p. 38. In Jones's Letters from a Tutor to his Pupils, Letter V. there is a passage greatly in point on this head, “ There is a practice common with our fabulists, moralists, and romance writers, which is contrary to fact and nature, and therefore is absurd in itself, while it is disrespectful and injurious to true religion, though it wonderfully captivates the fancy of some people, who admire what is exotic, without considering whether it is reasonable. Our writers have a favourite practice of recommending wisdom and morality, and many admirable virtues, to Christian readers, in a Turkish dress ; but is it not dishonest to give to the Koran the honour of those sentiments, and that illumination, which the author himself derived from a higher source? It ought to raise our indignation to
* A friend, who has got the Second Edition of Law on the Stage, informs me, the date of that is 1726. And from the Biog. Dram. I find that Theobald's Pantomime so named, came out in that year.
see the imagery, eloquence, and purity of the Scripture, giving dignity to the antichristian spirit of Mahometan infidels. This is an offence of the same kind with what some learned critics have supposed to have been prohibited under the terms of the third commandment, " thou shalt not apply the name of God to a vanity, that is, to an heathen idol.” For it seems not much less injurious, to take the
pure and exalted doctrines of the Christian philosophy, and put them into the mouths of narrow-minded, barbarous, bigotted, malicious, illiterate Mussulmen, by supposing them to talk and moralize in the superior strain of a well-informed Christian; and to invigorate their speech with the powers of learning, like classical scholars who have studied oratory and elegance all their lives; though the Turk is a professed enemy to literature. This plan exposes us to another inconvenience; that if we speak in character, we must speak with veneration of the religion of Mahomet, and call it our most holy faith ; and the impostor who invented it, must be our holy prophet; which though it is but fiction, yet such is the weakness of the human mind, and the force of custom, that we may tell lies, or hear them told, till we believe them; and speak respectfully of Mahomet, till we think but meanly of the Gospel. The Addenturer has great merit as a work of moral instruction and entertainment, and may be read with great advantage by young persons, who would be aware of the ways of the world, and the snares that are laid to ruin innocence : in many respects the Adventurer is superior to the Spectator, and the Author seems to have written with an excellent intention : but he has too frequently indulged that idle humour of laying his scenes upon Turkish ground, and conveying his precepts in Turkish attire."
Mr. Foster is, as usual, excellent upon that subject. See Essay IV. Letter VIII. p. 304, &c. Letter IX. p. 366, &c.
I understand that Miss Hamilton, in her Memoirs of The Life of Agrippina, has taken a Roman story, and, in the course of it, shews how the subject of it would have acted, had she been blessed with the light of the Gospel. This is indeed turning history to the best advantage ; but the Stage does not seem to admit of this, as we have no opportunity of making those comments. The ancient Chorus, indeed, served the office of a commentator; but it is too artificial for our Stage. The Prologue and Epilogue used formerly to serve the same purpose, and might still do so; but, instead of this, unconnected
and unmeaning folly is too commonly the subject of both, but more especially of the latter. It was iny intention to have read Miss Hamilton's Work, before I came to this part of my Notes, but I have not been able to find time for it.
U. p. 39. In the sorrows of an Imogen, Cordelia, Desdemona, Hermione, Queen Catharine, Constance, &c. &c. we sympathize and feel pity; the jealousy of Posthumus, Othello, and Leontes, the capricious rage of Lear, the unnatural want of duty and affection in his two elder daughters, the treacherous ambition of Macbeth, and the misanthropy of Timon, turn the current of the feelings, and fill us with terror.
Of particular scenes and sentiments innumerable might be adduced. In the first, scene between Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest, there are some most exquisite touches, particularly where Prospero gives an account of their being turned adrift in a boat, and
Alack! whal trouble was I then to you! Prospero. O! a cherubim
Thou wast, that did preserve me ! This is going too far, I think, even for a figurative expression ; but what follows is beautiful,
Thou didst smile,
burden groan'd; which rais'd in me
Here in this island we arriv’d; and here
For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful. A. I. S. 2. So in King John, A. III. S. 4. where Pandulph tells Constance,
You hold too heinous a respect of grief. Her reply is very touching :
He talks to me that never had a son.
There are two words in Hamlet, in the scene between him and his father's Ghost, which contain more affection in them, thấn could
be expressed in much longer speeches; 'they must be felt to be
If thou didst ever thy dear father love,-
A. I. S. 5. Of the same kind are the scenes between Lady Randolph and her son, and her various speeches respecting her husband and him. In the fifth Act, there is one sentiment so very simple, beautiful and pathetic, that I cannot forbear inserting it: Lady Randolph, having appointed to meet him in the wood, at night, enters and says,
My son! I heard a voice-
The voice was mine.
That thus in dusky shades, at midnight hours,
The peculiar feelings of a mother towards her offspring, and the circumstance of her bringing them into the world, can never fail to interest. An instance, from The Regent, has been given already, under a different head, (see Note F. to this Discourse, p. 149.) but there is one in Douglas very pathetic, and which includes a mixture of the sublime, or terrible. After Lady R. has seen Young Norval, not knowing him to be her son, she says,
How blest the mother of yon gallant Norval !
peers: Whilst I to a dead husband bore a son, And to the roaring waters gave my child.
A. II. There are three lines in The Battle of Hastings, which are equal to any thing of the kind I know. Edwin says to his sister,
Three nights and days thy widow'd mother travail'd
the fourth succeeding morn She blest her new-born murderer, and expir’d.
A. J. There is a scene in Such Things Are, which demands attention in this place. Elvirus (A. II. S. 3.) is discovered watching an old
man, who is asleep; the Keeper and Mr. Haswell (who is meant to represent the Philanthropist Howard) enter.
Keeper. That young man, you see there, watching his aged father as he sleeps, by the help of fees gains his admission-and he never quits the place, except to go and purchase cordials for the old man, who (though healthy and strong when he first became a prisoner) is now become ill and languid. See how the youth holds his father's hand !-I have sometimes caught him bathing it with tears.
Elvirus sees them, 'comes forward, and, after some conversation, says to Haswell, Behold
father! but three months has he been confined here; and yet-unless he breathes a purer air—0, if you have influence at Court, Sir, pray represent what passes in this dreary prison—what passes in my heart.-My supplication is to remain a prisoner here, while my father, released, shall be permitted to retire to humble life;
to serve as a soldier-or in the mines,
Keeper. You don't know, young man, what it is to dig in mines -or fight against foes, who make their prisoners die by unheard-of tortures.
Elvirus. You do not know, what it is,--to see a parent suffer.
I will give but one instance more, and then close this interesting subject. It is from The Surrender of Calais, A. I. S. 2. after Eustache de St. Pierre has been talking with the citizens, who are clamorous for provisions, they go out, and An old Man, alone, renaina in the back scene. Eustache. Fie, I am faint With railing on the cormorants.
(Takes off his wallet) Old Man. (Coming forward.) O, Heaven!
Eustache. Who bid thee bless the meat ? --How now, old grey beard!
What cause hast thou-prom