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:.'. How often have I blest the coming day, ...en
When toil remitting, lent its turn to play
While many a pastime circled in the shade, ** The young contending as the old survey'd;
And many a gambol frolic'd o'er the ground,
These were thy charms—but all these charms are ied!".! Such, Sir, is the havoc which you would work in society, had you the power ; you would abolish all those manly field sports, which are so many component parts of our national character; the bold hunter hallooing at the break, the sportsman's gun echoing through the mountain cavern of the moor game, the patient fisherman coveting the trout under the northern rapid-sports which have made the distinctive character of British nerve and mind; which have wafted the British flag and civilisation in triumphant victory over all the globe-and without which national character, so formed, your missionaries, Mr. James, could not have conferred on so many savage millions the golden and precious gifts of the gospel ! Should this pamphlet convert you, Sir, which is more than I confess is reasonably to be expected, you may witness at the Birmingham theatre, the proud and splendid scenic representation of Waterloo ; and if you withstand that, I shall say you are past literary redemption, and proof against national pride. But, fortunately, Sir, for the world, your views of human nature never will be realised till society is conducted in balloons ; till the human mind works by steam; or till you possess the mines of Mexico and Peru, and can order in your own moulds some millions of cast iron men and women from the foundry of Messrs. Boulton and Watt.
I now arrive at the grand assault of your work, in " The Christian Father's Present to his Children," volume the second, chap. xvi. “ ON THEATRICAL AMUSEMENTS.”, , ,
Although I have thought proper in my preceding pages to examine other passages of your « Present,” by way of ascertaining and showing how far you were competent to write on the subject of the drama and the stage, I shall, however, strictly confine iny
charactenferred the gospel
confes lame thea
self to this part of your work. There is, I confess, great temptat tion to examine your whole publication, and to exhibit the plagia risms profusely scattered throughout your five hundred pages: but I shall not concern myself or weary my readers with more than has reference to this particular inquiry « On Theatrical
to this marc mientom Themen Amusements ;” and I doubt not this will be a sufficient sample of the whole. I should, however, previously inform you, that I have not had the leisure or the patience to search for many crédi: tors to whom you owe various plagiarised parts of this chapter besides those which I shall justly restore to their injured proprie tors :-but, doubtless, you may expect that many of them living, and the representatives of those who are deceased, will now come in and prove their debts ! I give verbatim your introductory page
· "I do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce the THEATRE to be one of the broadest avenues which lead to destruction; fascinating no doubt it is, but on that account the more delusive and the more dangerous. Let & young man once acquire a taste for this species of entertainment, and yield himself up to its gratification, and he is in imminent danger of becoming a lost character, rushing on his ruip. All the evils that can waste his property, corrupt his morals, blast his reputation, impair his health, embitter his life, and destroy his soul, lurk in the purlieus of a theatre. Vice, in every form, lives and moves and has its being there. Myriads have curse the hour when they first exposed themselves to the contamination of the stage. From that fatal evening they date their destruction. Then they threw off the restraints of education, and learnt to disregard the dictates of conscience. Then their decision, hitherto oscillating between a life of virtue and vice, was made up for the latter.”—p. 32.
I shall make no remarks on these preliminary observations, as you immediately add, " But I will attempt to support by argument and fact these strong assertions." · I shall now examine “ the arguments and facts" you bring to support these strong assertions :" I shall show whence you borrow them ; how little you are a judge of what you borrow, and how impertinent and inconclusive your « arguments” and reputed « facts” are to the question at issue.
I should previously inform my readers (of which some without shame may be uninformed) that there exists a certain book, « Àn Essay on the Character and Influence of the Stage, by John Styles, D. D. third edition, 1820,"price six shillings. A'work against the stage is little likely to be read by the admirers of the dramà and theatrical entertainments, and the price of six shillings would probably place this volume beyond the means of a large part of Mr. James's congregation. Mr. James might therefore very safely appropriate the pages of such a work in the manufacture of his
own : this is evident from the fact of his having liberally done so, and from the certainty that he would not have thus acted, had he anticipated discovery : moreover, it is now some years since the work of Doctor Styles was the subject of public notoriety from the many reviews and answers bestowed on the publication, the first edition being published in 1807. The character of Dr. Styles's book, in its original and unmutilated shape, will appear from these pages ; further I do not think it necessary to add of the reverend author than that his D. D, is not the assay mark of an English University, and that from his illiterate use of classical authors, he has no real pretensions to such honorable initials from any “ seat of learning” in Christendom.
But not to forget you, Mr. James, his hụmble imitator and borrower, I shall immediately return to the argument and fact, For the sake of distinction, I shall number your paragraphs : but first, I shall beg the favor both of you and of my readers to return to pages 9 and 10 of this pamphlet, to re-read your first fulminations against the theatre and the drama, as published in “ Youth Warned.” It is unnecessary to reprint those pages, as in the subsequent extracts from “ The Christian Father's Present" it will be seen that you have repeated the substance, and generally the very words : your right to plagiarise from yourself I shall not question, whatever opinion I may entertain of the bad taste and staleness. I shall, however, briefly notice a few particularly exaggerated and unqualified sentences in those pages. You say the theatre is the “ school where nothing good and every thing bad is learnt !” Now, Sir, as you cannot be suspected, after this, of having read SHAKSPEARE, much less any other dramatic writer of later times, celebrated moral authors (whose plays have been acted on the stage), let me beg of you to borrow Ayscough's Verbal Index to Shakspeare ; turn to the denomination of every virtue and every vice, and if you do not there discover the most eloquent eulogies of virtue, and the most powerful denunciations of vice (the Bible only excepted), I will forfeit all claim to having proved your plagiarisms and ignorance :--so much for your following sentence against the drama as containing " no warnings against irreligion, no mementos of judgment to come ; but on the contrary, every thing to inflame his passions, to excite his criminal desires, and to gratify his appetites for vice”-a plainer proof than these sentences could not be given that you do preach without book," and that you have really never visited the theatre, where you might have heard the eloquent, praise of morality, and the dispraise of immorality more or less in every dramatic piece on the English stage...
" To give you a few examples, for fear these pages should not induce you to read Shakspeare, or witness the representation of his dramas, thus he speaks of the vice of ÇALUMNY
“Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shall not escape ca. lumny."
Hamlet. “ Back wounding calumny the whitest virtue strikes."
Measure for Measure. And thus of the consequences which overtake those who retail its abominations“You shall stifle in your own report and smell of calumny." . Ibid.
You appearunsophistically ignorant of the constitution and history of the human mind : you do not seem to believe, much as you write about « original sin,” that man is frail, and that this world is one of probation and discipline; that " without vice there would be no virtue.”-There is much in the moral character of the world hidden in the final and unsearchable ways of its great Creator ; you may be certain that Providence has constituted the human mind as it was designed, and Shakspeare, who had a profound knowlege of human nature, most expressively writes-
“Our virtues would be proud if our faults whipp'd them not." But if I do not restrain myself I shall be seduced from the examination of your « argument” and “ fact:" I shall therefore hasten to number one. .
. The stage cannot be defended as “The stage considered as an an amusenient : for the proper end of amusement, chap. iii.”- Amusean amusement is to recreate without ment is recreation, and is intended fatiguing or impairing the strength to relieve the mind from severe at and spirits. It should invigorate, tention or to recruit the animal not exhaust the bodily and mental spirits, by an agreeable suspension powers; should spread an agreeable of mental or bodily labor. (p. 47.) serenity over the mind, and be en- Amusement should invigorate, and joyed at proper seasons. Is midnight not exhaust the powers; it should the time, or the heated atmosphere spread a sweet serenity over the of a theatre the place, or the pas- mind, and should be enjoyed at prosionate tempestuous excitement of a per seasons. Midnight is no time for deep tragedy the state of mind, that recreation to a rational being, &c. comes up to this view of the design
Styles, p. 42. of amusement? Certainly not.
James, p. 32. As to the assertions and opinions contained in this paragraph, they are questions only of individual judgment and feeling : you and your followers it appears never frequent the theatre, and therefore cannot be allowed to be witnesses on the subject. But that the stage can be defended as an amusement by those who do
frequent its representations is certain, from the fact of “ myriads” of industrious and moral persons nightly attending the London and provincial theatres, who, if the theatre was not an amusement would doubtless, before 1824, have discovered the fruitjessness of their search : do you think it likely it would have been left to you to reveal such a discovery, or to explode such a delusion ? It is not probable that after the severe and sedentary labors of the warehouse and the counting-house, persons would pay for admittance to what “exhausts their bodily and mental powers.” You offer no proof that the average longevity of human life has decreased since the more popular introduction of stage plays; the bills of mortality contain no new diseases or evidence of this “ stage plague;" the coroners' inquests no verdicts of
sudden deaths” in the theatres. As « all the world,” therefore, at times frequent the theatre, we must allow that it is an amusement and recreation, which, after the fatigues of a long day's labor, recruits the animal spirits, and is an agreeable alterative for the mind. It is also observable, that the theatre usually closes at midnight, and that “the heated atmosphere” has no more injurious effect on the health of his Majesty's subjects than the warm air of your heated evening places of public worship. I think this is sufficient, Sir, on this point : you are of course at liberty in this free country to endeavor to make people believe your assertions, but my opinion is, that you will never succeed in persuading them « against their senses." I advise you therefore, to give up the attempt.
Your second paragraph I now examine.
But what I wish particularly to The immoral and antichristian tendinsist on is, the immoral and anti- ency of the stage. chap. iv. christian tendency of the stage..
It is a remarkable fact (which the It is an indubitable fact that the advocates of the theatre, on the ståge has Aorished most in the most principle that it is the friend of mocorrupt and depraved state of society; rals, must account for if they can) and that in proportion as sound mu- that the stage has florished most in rality, industry, and religion, advance the most corrupt and depraved state their influence, the theatre is de of society. How comes it to pass serted. It is equally true, that among that in proportion as sound morathe most passionate admirers and lity, industry, and religion, advance most constant frequenters of the their influence, that the theatre is stage are to be found the most dis- deserted and neglected, and that it solute and abandoned of mankind. grows in favor in the same ratio as
James, p. 32. virtue and religion decline ? How
has it happened too, if the stage be the school of virtue, that the most dissolute and abandoned of mankind
are its passionate admirers and
. .- Warmrest advocates ? &c. - v. 6) ii i
4. ..vai. Styles, p, 64-5. 1