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6. True," says Qctavius, " we Christians refrain from the Play-house, because of its intolerable corruptions. We cannot be present at the Plays, without great sin and shame."
London: PRINTED FOR FRANCIS WESTLEY, 10, STATIONERS,
COURT, AND AVE-MARIA LANE.
ON THEATRICAL AMUSEMENTS.
i “ And, therefore, I do not see how any person pretending to sobriety and retirement, and especially to the pure and holy religion of our blessed Saviour, can, without great guilt, and open contradiction to his holy profession, be present at such lewd and immodest plays, much less frequent them, as too many do, who yet would take it very ill to be shut out of the communion of Christians, as they most certainly would have been in the first and purest ages of Christianity.”
* Mr. Talbot. “But, Sir, are there not many who wear. the gown, and who make higher pretensions to private virtue, than the servants of the stage ; : who, after they have given their public lectures on morality, will retire and sin in secret. Now, Sir, permit me to ask, if the sanctimonious hypocrite is not a more odious character than the profligate player ?”
Mr. Lewellin. “ I regret, Sir, that you so often travel out of the record of a continuous discussion, to level your throws against the clerical professions but lest you should imagine that you are occupying a position from which no fair argument can displace you, I will for once attempt to follow you. I admit, then, for the sake of the argument, that there are some who make higher pretensions to private virtue, than the actors and actresses of modern times, who after delivering their public lectures on morality, retire and sin in secret ; but, Sir, will the vices of one order of professional men justify the vices of another? If some of the Clergy are corrupt, will the fact of their corruption, diminish the magnitude of the player's vices? 'Why you have introduced this charge against the Clergy, into the discussion, I cannot say, unless it was for the purpose of taking me off the scent I was following. The fact in proof, is, the necessary connection between a player's profligacy of manners, and the duties of his profession. That is, the very performance of his duties, when he is engaged in promoting the morality of the
public, has a natural tendency to produce a corruption of his private morals. But, Sir, you can bring no such charge against the moral tendency of the clerical duties. A Clergyman is not compelled, in the discharge of his functions, to give utterance to any expressions, or to perform any actions, which have, even a remote tendency, to vitiate his taste, or corrupt his morals; so that if he should become depraved, you must look for the cause of it, not, as in the case of the stage player, in any impure and contaminating influence of his profession, but in the impurity of his nature. If he be-' come immoral, he acts an inconsistent part offers an insult to the feelings of the virtuous part of Society; and is visited with their just rebuke-as a man who is a disgrace to his profession—whose example is in direct opposition to the acknowledged tendency of his ministerial functions; but as a pure morality of character is not necessary to qualify a man to appear on the stage, no one feels at liberty to charge a theatrical performer with inconsistency, even if he should acquire the highest degree of celebrity, for swearing, gaming, drunkenness, or debauchery. He may revel in these vices and yet appear before an audience, with as much con
fidence of affording them gratification by his per. formances, if he possess the talent of pleasing, as he would feel, if he were a man of the purest moral excellence. It is true, that if publicly convicted of the crime of adultery, and held up through the medium of the press, as the base wretch who violates the sanctity of friendship’s honour, the more virtuous part of society will express their indignation, and wish him to perform a sort of quarentine before he makes his appearance before them; yet they are heard to express no astonishment, and after a while, if attached to the drama, they will again press to feel the magic charms of his theatrical powers.",
Mr. T. “Well, Sir, after all the attacks which you have made, on the character of our theatrical performers, and the defence which you have set up in favour of the gown, I maintain that the sanctimonious hypocrite, who retires from the pulpit, where he has delivered his grave moral lectures, to sin in secret, is a more pernicious character, than the most profligate player that ever dis
graced his "profession. For, Sir, do not the vices of the Clergy shake our confidence in the truth of religion, which you know is never done by the vices of the stage ; and is not their example, in consequence of their more powerful influence over the public mind, more destructive to the morals of society?"
Mr. L. “If, Sir, your belief in the divine origin of Christianity is ever shaken by the vices of its professors, you give a decisive proof, that it does not rest on the legitimate evidence which is offered in confirmation of it. Christianity claims a divine origin, and she adduces valid and irrefutable arguments to attest it; but the consistent conduct of all her professors is not one of them. Judas was a traitor, but his treachery did not destroy, or weaken the force of evidence which the miracles of Jesus Christ supplied in favour of his divine mission; and though it is very common for us to look for an exact correspondence between the life of a Christian, and the purity of his professed faith, yet if all who profess to believe in the Christian Religion should become as profligate in their manners as the most celebrated libertines, their profligacy would not weaken the evidences on which Christianity founds her claims to our belief. They would be convicted of the crimes of which they are guilty; but by what process of fair argumentation, would you bring the verdiet recorded against them, to disprove the divinity of a system of religion, which is supported by the evidence of prophecy--of miracle-mof testimony- and its own internal purity ?
But, Sir, I readily concede that the vices of the Clergy have a more pernicious effect on the morals of society than the vices of players, because the clerical character is held in higher estimation, and because the Clergy have access, and free access, to families, who would feel themselves degraded if a player was to be introduced into their company. The Clergy, who support the dignity of their profession, as the great majority of them do, are esteemed, and respected their friendship is highly valued, and the most delicate virtue, in the highest ranks of life, is gratified by their presence; but the servants of the stage are doomed to neglect when off the boards--they are shunned in the ordinary
intercourse of virtuous life, as unfit members of the social circle, and kept in that state of exclusion, which is something like an instinctive evidence, pervading all classes, with a few exceptions, that they must not approach us, in our sacred home. And it is to this sensitive abhorrence, which the virtuous part of society feels, against any friendly intercourse with the servants of the stage, that we are to attribute the comparatively trifling injury, which the profligacy of their private character does to the morals of the public ; but if ever this safeguard should be overcome-if ever the line of demarcation, which keeps them off from our intercourse should be removed, and they should have free access to our social circles-allowed to intermingle with our sons and our daughters, unawed by the watchful eye of suspicion—they would introduce into our families a degree of moral corruption, which no authority could check, or influence subdue.” · Mr. T. “ But, Sir, I have known some of the servants of the stage introduced into the highest intellectual societies of London and Edinburgh, and amongst the most literary and accomplished nobility. The Kemble's and Siddons's, Mr. Bannister, Mr. Young, Mr. Kean, and others are my 'proofs ;-if you have not met them, and are ignorant of this, your want of knowledge of the fact is no proof against it, but merely that you do not know any thing of that high class of society to which they are so honourably admitted.”
" Mr. L. I admit, Sir, that the intellectual and literary eminence of a few of the profession, will procure for them an admission into the society of men of literature; but, Sir, a virtuous public, and even that part of the public which admires the drama, with few exceptions, will not receive them into its private or social friendship. And in the case of the few exceptions into whose circles of friendship they have been received, shall we find no husband, no father, who has had occasion to rue the day when he consented to call a player his friend. It would be invidious to give names, or I could from my personal knowledge, place on record some, who have not been chronicled by the newsman of the day, who have stolen away the rich