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quenched the fire of patriotic feeling in the bosom of the Greek; how it had quelled every fear, enfeebled every energy, frustrated every noble purpose, and finally opened the gates of Athens to the sweeping conqueror of Macedon!
Heathenism, as low as it is in moral feeling, condemns the theater. Plato denounces it as dangerous to morality. Aristotle thinks, that young people ought never to see comedies acted. Ovid advises Augustus to suppress this kind of amusement, as being a grand source of corruption. Julian, the apostate from christianity, speaks of theaters and play actors as so many corruptors of men. The infidel Rousseau, when it was proposed to establish a theater in Geneva, wrote against the project with much force and zeal, declaring that no friend of virtue could approve it.
Here then is the theater, condemned alike by the nature of man, by patriotism, by heathenism, and even by infidelity itself. Let no one speak in abatement of these condemning voices, of a pure theater. There is no such thing on the face of this earth. There never has been, and there never can be. The theater cannot be reformed. We should just as soon think of reforming the devil himself. Its reformation will be its annihilation. Its whole history is a history of corruption. In all periods of its existence it has been the nursing mother of abominations, and as such, repulsive to virtue, and attractive to vice.
Degeneracy is its natural tendency. By one trespass upon decency, it prepares the way for another. Novelty is the ruling law of pleasure, and the only novelty of a licentious stage, is in newer designs of corruption; in one and another startling breach upon public propriety. Hence it is constantly putting out its feelers, and trying the moral pulse of the community, in order to ascertain how much of increased indecency the patient will bear. Some of our readers may accordingly remember the “bold experiment,” which the managers of the Bowery theater in New York, a few years since, made—not upon the rabble in the pit, for they can always be sure of their approbationbut upon the manly virtue of young men, and the shrinking delicacy of young women, in the boxes. They introduced Madame Hutin upon their boards—the shameless creature of a shameless French stage. They had a splendid house, and imagined the experiment would be complete. But it was not quite so. The slight tinge of modesty on the cheek of youth, the drooping heads of ladies, bespoke a greater amount of remaining purity than they had supposed still to reside in the bosoms of their audience. The mistake, however, was promptly Vol. X.
corrected. They added a few fig-leaves more to the apron of their hireling favorite, and complacency was restored. They compounded the matter with their more sensitive auditors. An inch of dress was added for an ell of modesty surrendered ; an ounce of prejudice was humored, for a ton of indecency forgiven ; vice promised to move less wantonly, and virtue agreed to smile! Thus all was soon righted, and the shameless nudity of the Parisian stage was acted out before an American audience! Oh, if we have ever felt a sinking of soul within usif we have ever given away to despondency in regard to the perpetuity of our free institutions-it was when American virtue stooped to this! Why, we should rather have supposed she would have risen in the strength of her indignation, and insulted majesty, and hurled the hated creature from our shores, back to the polluted soil, whence she came! But no; all was tame submission. No wonder, surely, that the flames of the devouring element have thrice swept through that edifice, and that its walls are now desolate, and are left to rot under the winds and rains of heaven!
But where are we to stop in the descending scale of morals? The corrupting influence of which we complain is increasing in our land. We look around us and see, in all our large cities, this mystery of iniquity at work. Every thing is done, that can well be done, to allure the thoughtless and the unwary into these whirlpools of vice. Every thing which can captivate the ear, or delight the eye, or please a vitiated fancy, is eagerly seized upon, and held up for this inglorious purpose. Within are snares. Without are temptations. Pictorial representations are posted up at every corner of the streets, inviting and alluring people to the theater; and a profligate and venal press teems with eulogiums upon the actors and the actresses, upon the scenery and the play.
Our hearts bleed within us, when we think of the youth who are thus enticed away from the path of virtue ; youth who have left the homes of purity and love; the hearts that will cease to feel for them only when they cease to beat. Their eye rests upon one of these representations—one of these bloated paragraphs—curiosity is excited—the secret purpose is formed ; and they begin their career of crime, by pilfering from their employers the means of accomplishing their determination of attending the theater. Thus the work of ruin commences. The warm glow of innocence ceases ; the keen sensibility of youth dies away; shade after shade in deepening gloom, descends upon their character, until virtue is extinct. Like the loadstone in
Eastern fable, which drew the nails out of the luckless ships that approached it, the theater thus draws away one principle after another, by which character is held together, until it falls to pieces, a useless wreck.
Oh, if the curse of God came upon Jeroboam because he made Israel to sin ; if the wrath of heaven was poured out without mixture upon the mystical Babylon of the Apocalypse, because she corrupted the earth with her wickedness, what must be the doom of those, who established, and support, and countenance, the theater—the fountain of corruption—the play house of the devil! On them rests the responsibility of this great evil. Let then the advocate of the theater come forward and take one of the graduates of this school of morals; one of these ruined young men, of whom we have spoken, and return him to the home of virtue, which he has left. Let him take that youth, and present him to the family circle, as the individual who first enticed him to the playhouse. Let him, as such, "meet the father's brow of burning indignation, the mother's lip of quivering anguish," the sister's eye bursting with grief." Let him—but we will not complete the picture, for he has not nerve enough to go through with such a farce. He has not hardihood enough thus to insult the blasted hopes of parental love. He has not the moral courage to meet thus the withering scorn, the anathema maranatha of virtue.
Upon what principle, then, we ask in conclusion, can a man justify his attendance upon, or his countenance of, an institution which affects man injuriously in all the variety of his being, as social, intellectual and moral ; one which pours its unceasing tide of ruin over this land ? One which inflames the passions, and subverts all the moral principles of men ? How can he do it, as a man-as the friend of man? How can he with any claim to benevolence, approve that which saps the very foundation of virtue, introduces universal idleness, profligacy, and ruin; which swallows up time, and money and character; yea, every thing that is dear to the heart of virtue. How can he sanction what patriotism condemns ? What must be the moral dimness of that eye, which can see propriety and beauty, where heathenism, low, degraded heathenism, can see nothing but evil and deformity!
But most of all, we ask, upon what principle can a delicate lady visit the theater? Man's moral constitution is made of coarser materials, of “firmer stuff,” than that of woman. His virtue is of a rougher cast, of a stronger fiber, and yet it withers and dies in the atmosphere of the theater. What then must be its influence on the tender and delicate nature of female virtue ?
-virtue which complains at the slightest breath of wrongwhich shrinks back, like the sensitive plant, from the least touch of rudeness? Can her mind, thus delicately framedthus nicely attuned to the sweet harmonies of virtue, listen to the polluting comedy, or behold the absorbing and corrupting tragedy, with impunity? Can pride, ambition, and revenge ; can malice, seduction, and murder, act out their hellish purpose before her eyes—can she be agitated by these materials of the tragedy, under the imposing scenes of the theater, the music, the action, and the oratory of the stage, without receiving an injury? Can she open her ear to unblushing obscenity, or fix her eye upon disgusting nudity, without receiving a moral blight upon the holy sympathies of her nature? Can she go where sensuality reigns; where virtue is treated with open scorn, or covert contempt; where christianity is ridiculed ; where the bible is caricatured, and where the Savior of the world is crucified afresh, and put to an open shame? man do this without injury to her moral nature ? No; she can never behold such things without a blush, or take pleasure in them without deep self-degradation.
ART. V.-A TALE OF THE HUGUENOTS.
A Tale of the Huguenots, or Memoirs of a French Refugee
Family. Translated and compiled from the original manuscripts of James Fontaine, by one of his descendants. With an Introduction, by F. L. Hawks, D. D. New York: John S. Taylor. 1838.
This is a faithful record of the perils, toils, sufferings, escapes, and various adventures of a devoted servant of Christ,one of those, who, in the bitter days of persecution, “ took joyfully the spoiling of their goods,” and hazarded their lives for their steadfast adherence to the precious gospel. History has chronicled, in letters of blood, the name of the Huguenots of France, as among the most zealous assertors of religious liberty; and it requires no aid of fiction to throw an interest around the heroism and fortitude with which they dared and endured the assaults of enraged power. Treachery circumvented them, when their foes could not overcome them in the fair field of bat
tle; but France lost some of her best and noblest sons, when the edicts for their slaughter and expatriation were issued. The Condes and Colignys, and names of scarcely inferior note, though less known, were more than a match for the Montmorencys and Guises, their Catholic adversaries; but they trusted too implicitly to the word of a king,—the infamous Charles IX, and too late, amid the horrors of St. Bartholomew's day, they learned, that their monarch was as treacherous as he was weak and bigoted.
They left the land which was not worthy of them, and England, which opened her arms to receive them, profited richly by the infatuation which led the bloody Charles, and his imperious mother Catharine de Medici, as also the proud and voluptuous Louis XIV, to decree their persecution. Deeply imbued with religious feeling, acquainted with the arts of manufacture, and industrious in their habits, they added their inventive genius and their steady enterprise to the means of their adopted country's advancement : so that, with their introduction into it may be said to have commenced almost a new era in her commercial history. Instead of being obliged to go abroad for her merchandise and wares, she sent out the products of the skill of her artisans, competing at once with the old and long-established manufactures of her neighbors across the channel. God thus rewarded her for her charity to the oppressed, and proved, that it was self-blessing even with temporal benefits, as well as blessing others.
No one can read the history of those times without a deep conviction, that a crooked policy will sooner or later meet its retribution; and, that the promises of a faithful Creator will not fail of their accomplishment.
The work before us, as the title-page shows, is taken from the manuscripts of the ancestor of numerous descendants in the United States. It is prefaced by a short introduction and accompanied with explanatory notes from the Rev. Dr. Hawks, and is dedicated to the two thousand descendants of the man whose fortunès it describes.
Born of a noble stock-for one of his ancestors was a nobleman and held a post of some distinction near the king,James Fontaine seems to have inherited not a little of the high spirit of his sires; and though a Huguenot preacher, he was fearless in the very face of his persecutors. His early history is identified with that of his religious teacher, a brother-in-law, who was imprisoned and otherwise persecuted by the papists, till he finally left France. His own brother, also, the minister of his