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meets with Francis, who, on Lady Caroline's marrying another person, and on his father's permission, marries Mary,
The question discussed before, in the examination of Lovers' Vows, will equally apply here; I therefore refer the reader to the consideration of those passages again, and shall merely notice here, what I conceive to be an error in Mrs. West, in her remarks on this play. She draws a parallel between Mary Thornberry, and Jesse, in Shenstone's ELEGY, Describing the Sorrow of an ingenuous Mind, on the melancholy Event of a licentious Amour ; and says, “ The penitent Jesse had no wish to shew the face which grief had furrowed, among the happy and the innocent: concealment and forgetfulness bounded her earthly views.” (p. 326.) This, likewise, is the case with Mary Thornberry. She telis Peregrine, who had rescued her from the robber, that she was going to Sir Simon's house, to try to see Frank “ for the last time; to tell him, I shall always pray for his happiness, when I am far from a place which he has made it misery for me to abide in ;-and to beg him to give me a small supply of
money, now I am pennyless, and from home, to help me to London; where I may get into service, and nobody will know me.” A. I. p. 19. Nor do I think that Mrs. West is justified in saying, that Thornberry proposes
“ to found the future aggrandise. ment of his family, on his daughter's shame.” p. 313. It rather appears to me that Thornberry does not think the marriage any honour to his family, but merely a matter of necessity and justice. (p. 97.) He does not appear to entertain the respect due to rank: When Sir Simon says, " What! my son marry the daughter of a brazier !" he replies, “ He has ruin'd the daughter of a brazier.-If the best lord in the land degrades himself by a crime, you can't call his Catonement] making reparation for it a condescension. - I lose my respect for my superior in rank, when he's so much below my equals in fair dealing." A. V. S. 2. p. 91.
I will now mention some other particulars, in which the play of John Bull appears to me to be exceptionable.
The humour is throughout low, and in some instances indelicate. It abounds with oaths and curses, and there are several light allusions to Scripture; one of these has been mentioned before, p. 158. In A. I. p. 27. of Mrs. Inchbald's Edition, Eve is mentioned in a light way; and A. II. S. 2. p. 31. Adam. A. IV. S. 2. p. 76, there is a very strange speech respecting “ the devil plucking knowledge from a tree,” and “ original fruit." A. II, S. 2. there is a very
improper allusion to the “ last account” and “ the devil.” Some names are introduced too from Scripture, as if merely to associate ludicrous ideas with them; as, in A. II. S. I. p. 26. and A. III. S. 1. p. 46.*
The following passage, in the mouth of Peregrine, is at least light and unguarded : “Let the sterner virtues, that allow no plea for human frailty, stalk on to Paradise without me.” A. I. p. 22.
Act II. S. 2. Frank says,
father hath chosen for me; whom I expect here to-morrow? And must I, then, be told 'tis criminal to love my poor deserted Mary, because our hearts are illicitly attached? Illicit for the heart? fine phraseology! Nature disowns the restriction ; I cannot smother her dictates with the polity of governments, and fall in, or out of love, as the law directs.”
Here is a compliment to the heart and nature, not only at the expence of governments and law, but they are likewise traduced. Governments and law do not interfere with any one in his love, so long as he conforms to the law of God, and attaches himself to one woman, and confirms his choice by the sacred rite of marriage. They would not prevent his marrying Mary Thornberry, who is the object of his affections, nor do they expect him to marry Lady Caroline. He is of age to judge for himself; and, though he owes every respect and duty to a parent, yet, having connected himself with Mary, and promised her marriage, by that act, he is no longer master of himself, but is bound in conscience, according to the law of God, to fulfil that engagement. Of this however, he does not seem to be aware, for he says to Mary, A. V. S. l. “Oh, Mary, how painful, if performing the duty of a son, I must abandon, at last, the expiation of a penitent! but so dependent on each other are the delicate combinations of probity, that one broken link perplexes the whole chain, and an abstracted virtue becomes a relative iniquity."
A very objectionable part of this play is the last scene, between Sir Simon and Job Thornberry, (John Bull-considered as the abstract representative of the English Character,) in which the latter
* So likewise in The Stranger, one of the characters, a foolish Butler, is called Solomon, and the Count says to him, “ Well, Solomon, you are as great a fool as ever I see.” A. II. S. 2. p. 30.
treats the former with the greatest insolence. Sir Simon is undoubt. edly highly to blame with respect to the part he acts towards his son, and towards Thornberry and his daughter, when he hears that his son has seduced her. But Sir Simon's failing in his duty is no reason why Thornberry should fail in his also. There seem, likewise, to be some very unjust reflections upon those justices of the peace, who set apart, (and I think wisely and justly,) a portion of each day, or of so many days in the week, for justice business ; when, it being known in the neighbourhood, those who have business with him, may be certain of finding him at home: and should there be business of a pressing nature, at any other time, I believe there are very few Justices who would not attend to it. The case which Job draws as a parallel, is by no means so: He says to the servant, who at first refuses him admittance to his master, and whose wife keeps a chandler's shop at Penzance, that, supposing it was in flames, and he was to run to the Church for the engine, would not he think it hard, if the sexton said, “ Call for it to.morrow, between twelve and two?" The case of the fire is one of instant necessity; the other it was the duty of Job to have brought that morning, at the appointed time, or to have waited till the following day. I think this scene likely to have very bad effect upon the lower classes, it so completely chimes in with the feelings of the turbulent.
I am sorry that it has fallen to my lot to find so much fault with Mr. Colman's Plays, the more so, as Mr. Colman has talents, which, employed in the cause of virtue, might be very serviceable. In this play there are many good sentiments, particularly an address of Peregrine's to seducers, A. I. p. 20. Another of Thornberry's, A. IV. S. 1. p. 73. and A. V. S. 2. p. 91, on a person of birth seducing the daughter of a person in humbler life; and again another of Peregrine's to Frank, A. IV. S. 3. p. 80. and A. V. S. 2. p. 95. Peregrine, likewise, pays a compliment to our laws: he says to Thornberry, “ Nay, nay; cease to grasp that cane.
While we are so conspicuously blessed with laws to chastise a culprit, the mace of justice is the only proper weapon for the injured." A. V. S. 2. p. 93. But, after the bad erumpie which the audience have before seen,
in his behaviour to the Justice, the good effect can be come paratively but very small.
Notwithstanding these objections to the play of John Bull, I do not consider it so objectionable as the generality of the plays of Dryden, Congreve, Vanbrugh, Mrs. Buin, and other writers of the
time after the Restoration; and I have no scruple in saying, that, take
any snumber of the acting plays of this time, and an equal number of the other, and, on an attentive comparison, those of the present day will have decidedly the superiority.
There is a passage in Seal without Innovation, where the author is speaking of the publications of many well-intentioned persons, but with whom he cannot agree on many points, which appears to me to be so full of moderation and good sense, and so applicable generally to the present subject, that, even were I less easily induced tò quote, I should not be willing to withhold it:
“ Let not any seriously intended book be thought slightly of, because its author appears to the reader not to be strictly orthodox in every particular. We should view with pleasure any intention to do good; and honour and cherish it. And, indeed, if it be actually the case, that some things are not stated with critical exactness, yet it may have a very excellent tendency on the whole: yea, for aught we know, it may be better calculated for an incipient reformation, than the production of one, who is a compleat master of the controversies on which its subjects may touch. In compositions of the latter kind of writers, it is sometimes the case, that though we have great precision of ideas, yet no common ground on which they and the bulk of their readers can treat. More is demanded by their authors than can be expected of the age for which they write; and hence they fail of carrying any point, except that of giving satisfaction ta those who stand in no need of their labours. It is desirable indeed, to find that which is written for the instruction of mankind, free from every blemish ; and it must be owned, that an erroneous statement is no inconsiderable blemish. Yet to require that beginnings be perfect, is to demand more than the usual course of things will warrant us to expect. We must be contented with what God has wrought; and till maturer efforts appear, give thanks to the Author of all Good, that there is a serious endeavour to counteract the evils of the day.”
I do not consider what I have here said, as by any means an argument to induce us to rest satisfied with the advances we have made in the way of amendment, but merely as an incitement and encouragement to go on aiming at PERFECTION.
O. p. 96. Magistrates in country towns, where the players perform under their sufferance, have them so completely in their
power, that they might effect almost any thing. It would be easy, when the Manager waited upon the Magistrate for permission to perform, to say, you shall have it, under such and such conditions; but, if any immoral pieces are performed, or any blasphemy or profaneness is uttered upon the Stage, I shall withdraw it, and take case that an information is lodged against you accordingly. Were fines to be levied upon those performers who utter oaths, and the money given to the poor, after a few examples, the evil would cease. Were the Magistrate, likewise to look over the list of plays pero formed by the company, and make objections to such as be may think improper, the pieces might either be dropped, or the objectionable passages altered or omitted. Where the magistrate is not acquainted with the plays himself, he might ask the advice of some friend, on whose judgment and principles he could selje: and never let it be forgotten, that “the next bad thing to the writing impieties, is to suffer them." Collier, po 184.
The Charge of JUDGE BULSTRODE to the Grand Jury of Middlesex, (April 21, 1718) bas been frequently quoted; in which
“ That one Play-house ruins more souls than fily Churches are able to save." (See Title to The Coneiuct of the Stage Considered, also Burder's Village Sermons, vol. iv. Serm. LI. p. 9.) Our Ladiges might do eminent service, by inquiring into the abuses of the Stage, in various towns on their circuits, and recommending the correction of them to the Grand Jewy.
Mr. Styles objects (p. 45) to an adrocate for the Stage, who, nevertheless, advises, " that the public should hold it with a tight rein. It is bad indeed (adds Mr. Styles) when an advocate, after exhausting so much rhetoric in behalf of a client, informs the court that he is not to be trusted; and advises the judge to tie his hands to prevent his doing mischief.” But, I ask, is not this the case witha many things decidedly lawful and good? In meats and drinks, as mentioned before, (p. 2. 40.) and in all, amusements ?
Have we not been told before, (p. 103..) that the abuse of the best things is of the worst consequences ?
There are a few point's worthy attention, besides the matter of the play itself, which it is desirable that all concerned with a theatre should keep in mind
To have the performance begin as early as possible, in order that it may be over in good time. The great tendency to keep lake horas in the higher ranks, which, in some measuwe, affects the bawer, is