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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 bcat in with the fçrula, 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.
+ The year 1802, after which Mr. Newcome* retired from public life.
was taken to expunge every exceptionable passage from the pieces performed; at least to purify them according to the general opinions of the world; for, notwithstanding this, much heathenism, and much sentiment contrary to Christianity, were still suffered to remain: it was here, however, that, while I imbibed a love for the Drama, I acquired likewise some idea of wishing to render it more proper for public representation.
My love for the Drama certainly increased with my years, and, I must speak it to my shame, interfered too much with what ought to have been the object of my studies. 1 say, to my shame, not because I think time worse employed in cultivating a taste for the English Drama, than in studying the Greek and Roman Poets; but, as the study of the classics was a duty I then owed to my Parents and Teachers, that ought to have been my pursuit, had I possessed adequate ideas of filial obedience.
At length the time arrived, when, having taken my degree in the University, it became necessary for me to prepare for the profession to which the wisdom and kindness of my parents had intended me; and, in the autumn of 1792, I began to attend the Lectures of Dr. Hey, then Norrisian Professor of Divinity ; a circumstance, which I consider to have been one of the many great blessings which I have experienced in my life. At a time when the world was convulsed with new speculations in politics and divinity, likely to warp a young and uninformed mind, I conceive it to have been in a great measure
owing to the sound doctrines I imbibed at these Lectures, that I was not drawn aside by the specious glare of false philosophy. *
But, while I was studying divinity, my dramatic taste was occasionally gratified by some subject connected with it, and admirably illustrated by unexpected allusions to my favourite authors.
Soon after my entrance into Priest's Orders, I was licensed, by the late Bishop of Ely, in the year 1797, to the Sequestration of Hinxton, where parochial duties, and the studies immediately connected with my profession, began entirely to engross my thoughts; and yielding to the prejudices of the world, I determined to relinquish in great measure the amusement of the Stage. In the year 1801, I accordingly disposed of the greater part of a large Dramatic Library, with the produce of which I purchased books of a different description, chiefly in divinity. Amongst these, however, were the complete works of Mrs. H. More, in which I first saw her Dialogue on carrying Religion into the Amusements of Life, and her Preface to her Tragedies, in which she altogether condemns the Stage, as it is
* In speaking of the blessings I enjoyed at that time, gratitude requires that I should likewise mention the great advantages I derived from the friendship of the Gentleman who was then Tutor of ClareHall, The Rev. John DUDLEY, and likewise of my greatly re-spected and lamented Friend and Private Tutor, the late Rev. WILLIAM Wilson, B. D. Fellow of St. John's College, and author of that very valuable and learned work, An Illustration of the Method of explaining the New Testament by the early opinions of Jews und Christians concerning Christ.
now conducted. These two Tracts had certainly a very great effect upon my mind. . The circumstances of my parish, however, soon called my attention to the subject of convivial Songs, the result of which has been sometime before the public; and, for some years, I wholly abstained from the amusement of the Theatre. There have been always, however, several points, when the Theatre has been the subject of discussion, to which I could never assent; as the absolute unlawfulness of it, under all circumstances, and the impracticability of amending it to any extent. So long ago, as the year 1794, I conceived an idea of writing a work upon the Drama, with a view to its improvement; but more in a critical, than in a moral or religious, light, though not totally devoid of those considerations. My attention to the subject of convivial Songs, in some measure, revived my attention to the Drama, and, in the autumn of 1805, when I quitted Hinxton, I revolved in my mind, in what manner I should employ my time, till I should again find myself in the charge of another flock; and I determined, while I was endeavouring to improve myself for the undertaking such a charge, to compose at my leisure, out of the hours chiefly dedicated to relaxation, a set of “ Lectures on English Poetry, chiefly as it relates to Dramatic and Lyric Poetry;" and those I had some idea of delivering in the University, should I find circumstances concuring. I mentioned my idea to one or two of my friends, but they seemed to think, in which I did not acquiesce,) that the subject had no connection with the studies and objects of the