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EDWARD PEARSON, D.D.
MASTER OF SIDNEY SUSSEX COLLEGE,
THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.
Reverend and Dear Sir,
Motives, both of private regard and of public consideration, induce me to inscribe the following DISCOURSES to your Name, and to solicit your patronage on publishing them. It is in a great measure owing to your obliging sanction and advice, that they have been written; and it is to the influence of your name and authority, that I look for their effecting some good in the world, and particularly in this place, of which you are now the chief Magistrate, and of the Morals of which you are the Guardian.
In order to give you an adequate idea of the nature and design of the following work, I hope I shall be spared the imputation of egotism, if I enter somewhat at large into the history of my own mind, as far as regards my knowledge of the
Stage. My attachment to the Drama, if it be a fault, is certainly, in a proportionate degree, my misfortune ; for such were the circumstances of my education, that it appears to have arisen from it naturally, As long as I can remember any thing, I recollect my love for the Sacred Writings and for English Poetry; but I never took much, I may almost say any, delight in the usual routine of a classical education. I remember the interest and the fulness of heart, with which I read the story of Joseph and his Brethren, and the delight with which I attended to the easy verse and playful humour of the Bath Guide. At the Classical School * to which I was sent, it was customary, once in three years, to perform one of Shakspeare's Plays, as a public exercise; an event, which was always regarded with much delight in the School, and which formed an era, both in the School itself, and in the lives of those who sustained the characters in them. In the year 1783, when I was between eleven and twelve years of age, the Play of King Lear was performed; and during the time that was in preparation, some friends took me to see a play in London. My love for the Drama was fixed from that time; and while so rational and fascinating a source of amusement was set before us in the most pleasing manner, and crowned with the applause of our teachers and friends, is it to be wondered at, that the more difficult and less entertaining lessons from the Classics, which were set as a task, and beat in with the ferula, should become our aversion, and that every opportunity
* AT HACKNEY, then kept by Henry Newcome, Esq,
should be taken of following the one and avoiding the other? Such, I must confess, was my case; and, while at School, I became both an actor and an author.
Much hath been said, both for, and against, the practice of performing plays at Schools. The author of an admirable Essay on Education, * hath stated his objections at length; and, indeed, as far as the subject had fallen under his observation, they appear to be well founded. With respect to the School of which I am now speaking, it is but justice to say, that, coming only once in three years, being got up chiefly out of school hours, and consisting of one of Shakspeare's Plays only, without a Farce, the chief objection to them seems to me to have been the dissipation which was introduced about the time of performance, and that very much by the friends and relatives of the boys being accessary to it: this, however, during the latter part of the time before the plays were discontinued, † had been greatly corrected. As to its giving the boys a turn for becoming public actors, justice likewise requires it to be said, that as far as my own knowledge extends, I believe there never was an instance of any one of the actors performing afterwards upon a public Stage, much less of embracing the profession of a player. One thing, I must say, greatly to our credit, was the care which
* DR. WILLIAM BARROW.