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independently of any reference to effects
may be produced by your ex ample. And secondly, that whatever may be your station in life, there is no case in which your example cannot do harm; nor any in which it may not do good.
To some persons I may, perhaps, appear to have dwelt on the supposed inefficacy of individual example, and on the duty of abftaining from every proceeding which confcience, previously to all consideration of the probable effect of that example, pro, nounces to be in itself morally wrong, with an extraordinary degree of particularity and solicitude. I have, in truth, been anxious to explain myself on these topics with
perfpicuity. For I have been fully conscious, that in pointing out their bearings on the conduct of an individual with respect to one species of public amusement, I have, in fact, been ascertaining two moral rules which may be applied almost daily and hourly, and to many of the most important
occurrences and transactions in life. If these rules have been satisfactorily established, it would be not only superfluous, but tedious, to revive the argument hereafter. I would therefore request the reader to bear them carefully in mind; to consider them as meant to be applied to every branch of moral behaviour which may be discussed in the subsequent pages ; and to turn her thoughts to them, and to the reasoning on which they are founded, whenever in the future intercourse of life she shall hear the common but
very mistaken opinions, from the effect of which they are designed to guard her, brought forward to influence her conduct.
Theatrical Entertainments-Musical Enter
tainments—Sunday Concerts--DancingGaming and Cards-On Excess in the Pursuit of Amusements.
. which offer themselves to our attention in the next place.
The Stage is an instrument too powerful not to produce visible and extensive effects wherever it is permanently employed. To the sentiments displayed in the tragic or the comic scene, to the examples of conduct afforded by popular characters under interesting circumstances, and to the general tone of manners and morals which pervades
dramatic representations, the opinions, the dispositions, and the actions of the frequenters of the theatre will acquire some degree of similitude. What is heard with admiration and pleasure, will be remembered: what is seen under those impressions, will be imitated. The impression of the sentiment will be, in some measure, modified by the leading qualities and inclinations of the mind of the hearer: and the fidelity with which the example will be copied, will depend on a variety of circumstances favouring or discouraging closeness of imitation. The growth of the plant will vary, as it is fixed in auspicious or in ungenial foil : the quantity of its fruit will be affected by the smiles and frowns of the sky. But there is feldom a soil so ungenial as entirely to obftruct its vegetation; feldom a sky so frowning as for ever to divest it of fertility. From antient times to the present hour the influence of the Stage has been difcerned. Has it been the object to inculcate or to explode particular opinions ; to 3
elevate or to degrade the characters of individuals; to strengthen or to shake existing forms of government? From the days of Grecian and Roman antiquity, down to the French revolution, the Stage has been an engine eagerly employed by those who have had it under their control. Is its in, fluence unperceived or disregarded in our own country? The legal restraints to which the theatre is subjected, and the stamp of official approbation which every new play must receive before it can be exhibited, answer the question. The lowest orders of the people, mutable, uninformed, and parsionately addicted to spectacles of amuse, ment, may probably be acted upon, through the medium of theatrical representations, with greater facility and success than other classes of the community. But, to speak of individuals among the upper and middle ranks of life, young women are the persons likely to imbibe the strongest tinge from the sentiments and transactions set before them in the drama. Openness of heart, warmth of feeling, a lively perception of the lu