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THE LIBRARY 

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THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

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THE THEATRE: 

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ITS PEKNICIOUS TENDENCY. 


ADDRESSED TO YOUNG MEN. 


" BB NOT DECEIVED ! EVIL COMMUNICATIONS CORRUPT GOOD MANNERS." 


BY 

WILLIAM KEDDIE. 


(Sllasgoto: 


GLASS AND DUNCAN, 78, ARGYLE STREET; 


EDINBURGH: GREIG AND SON; JOHNSTONE AND HUNTER; 


LONDON : JAMES NISBET AND CO. 


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PREFACE. 



The following Essay is published in the hope 
of providing young men with an antidote to 
the seductive influences with which they are 
plied in certain quarters, under the specious 
guise of dramatic reform, for the purpose of 
inducing them to frequent the theatre. The 
writer has been at pains to enrich his pages 
with the opinions of eminent authors, both 
friendly and adverse to histrionic entertain- 
ments, as to the demoralizing tendency of the 
stage. Indeed, nothing but the importance 
which he attaches to the testimonies quoted 
from the writings of Dr. Witherspoon, Dr. An- 
drew Thomson, Mr. J. Angell James, Mr. Todd 
of Philadelphia, Mr. Macaulay, Sir Archibald 



3 



iv PREFACE. 

Alison, Mr. Charles Mathews, Mr. Thomas Car- 
lyle, the late Mr. Montague Stanley, and others, 
would have led to the appearance of this little 
volume, which owes any value it possesses to its 
containing an epitome of weighty authorities 
against the theatre. 




SOURCES OF 



RATIONAL AND INNOCENT ENJOYMENT. 



To join advantage to amusement, to gather profit with pleasure, 
Is the wise man's necessary aim, when he lieth in the shade of recreation; 
Few, but full of understanding, are the books of the library of God, 
And fitting for all seasons are the gain and the gladness they bestow. 
The volume of mystery and Grace, for the hour of deep communings, 
When the soul considereth intensely the startling marvel of itself : 
The book of destiny and Providence, for the time of sober study, 
When the mind gleaneth wisdom from the olive grove of history ; 
And the cheerful pages of Nature, to gladden the pleasant holiday, 
W T hen the task of duty is complete, and the heart swelleth high with satis- 
faction. 
That which may profit and amuse is gathered from the volume of creation. 
The cheapest pleasures are the best ; and nothing is more costly than sin. 

Tuppee's Proverbial Philosophy. 



God made all his creatures to be happy. When 
he looked upon the finished works of creation, 
He pronounced them to be " very good;" and 
happiness was the consequence of goodness. If 
we inquire into the nature of the lower animals, 
we discover that enjoyment is the result of the 
suitableness of their organization to the condi- 

A 



Z SOURCES OF EXJOYMEXT. 

tions in which they are placed. This holds true 
of the minutest and meanest animalculae re- 
vealed to sight by the microscope ; and the capa- 
cities and means of enjoyment are observed to 
increase the higher we rise in the scale of organ- 
ized being. The principle of goodness or be- 
nevolence, which reigns without an exception 
throughout the realms of animated nature, at- 
tains its highest manifestation in the structure, 
the functions, and the external conditions of 
man ; to whose use and enjoyment, as the last 
and best of the works of God upon earth, all 
the kingdoms of nature have been subordinated. 
Created in the image of his Maker, and endowed 
with faculties of thought and feeling, qualifying 
him, in his pristine state, for holding high com- 
munion with God, the spirit of man, immortal, 
though fallen, still bears uneffaced the impress 
of his heavenly original, in his faculties of ob- 
servation and reflection, and his exquisite sus- 
ceptibilities of emotion and affection. In the 
rightly-directed exercise of his mental powers, 
in the regulated indulgence of his affections, 
and in the discipline and control of his passions, 
according to the infallible standard of Divine 
truth, the Creator has ordained that man's 
purest enjoyment in this life shall consist; — 
whilst that which constitutes his truest happi- 



CAPACITIES AND MEANS. o 

ness here, is also the means of his preparation 
for the future condition of his being, when dis- 
enthralled from the bondage of ignorance and 
sin, and re-created after the image of God, in 
knowledge, righteousness, and holiness — with 
all the faculties of his soul elevated, expanded, 
purified — his spirit shall attain to the perfec- 
tion of his existence, and his happiness shall be 
as boundless as his duration. In order to form 
an estimate of his capacities and means of en- 
joyment, look at man, even in this the infancy 
and imperfection of his being. He is placed in - 
a world which, if its structure and arrangements 
were not all contrived with a special and ex- 
clusive regard to his welfare, is not the less 
suitable to his wants, and conducive to his 
pleasures. He is endowed with senses, fitting 
him to maintain intercourse and communion 
with the outer world. Through these chan- 
nels his mind is stored with the materials of 
improving thought, and his heart receives the 
most grateful impressions. The eye which con- 
veys to him the intimations of visible things, 
and directs him through the daily routine of 
useful occupation, is capable of being trained to 
the perception and appreciation of beauty of 
form and diversity of colour. The ear conveys 
information to him in the accents of articulate 



4 SOUECES OF ENJOYMENT. 

speech ; and its mysterious cavities vibrate to 
melodious successions of sweet sounds, — 

" Untwisting all the chains that tie 
The hidden sonl of harmony." 

From these, and the other senses, the mind is 
supplied with those informations, upon which 
the judgment and the imagination are exer- 
cised ; and the exercise is itself a source of 
refined and exalted pleasure. It thus appears 
that God has endowed us with faculties of body 
and mind susceptible of the highest enjoyment, 
and surrounded us with means and opportunities 
for the moderate and pleasurable use of them. It 
would not have been consistent with the Divine 
benevolence to have conferred these faculties 
on his rational creatures, without at the same 
time bestowing upon them the means of their 
gratification ; nor, on the other hand, would it 
have been in accordance with the wise economy 
of creation to have furnished the world which 
we inhabit with the materials of earthly hap- 
piness, without also giving us the capacities for 
enjoying them. Creative skill has filled the 
world with objects to be studied and admired 
for their infinite contrivance and design. Crea- 
tive beneficence has lavished upon us means of 
delight, fitted to our nature as moral, intellec- 



SIMPLE TASTES. 

tual, and sensitive beings. To be happy is our 
privilege and our duty. To neglect the inno- 
cent pleasures which God has scattered around 
us in bountiful profusion, is to treat his good- 
ness with ingratitude and contempt. To abuse 
them, is to turn the common blessings of Pro- 
vidence into instruments of rebellion against the 
Giver of every good and perfect gift. To use 
them aright, is to guard against their usurping 
the place in our affections that is due to God 
alone — to "use the world as not abusing it," 
seeing that "the fashion thereof passeth away/' 
The materials of human happiness, at least 
as large a share of them as it would be safe to 
trust us with on this side of eternity, are within 
the reach of all of us, to a far greater extent 
than we are willing to acknowledge. Notwith- 
standing all the imperfections of our lapsed 
and fallen world, there are boundless resources 
of moral and intellectual gratification left to 
us, from which we are only excluded by our 
own innate perversity. But in order to enjoy 
them, we must cultivate simple tastes, and 
cherish pure affections, and be content 

" To drink with gratitude the crystal stream 
Of unreproved enjoyment ;" — 

and so our pleasures and amusements will leave 



b SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

no aching void in the heart, and bring no com- 
punctious visitings to the conscience ; they will 
be taken up to refresh the mind in the intervals 
of employment, and laid down again, without 
regret, when we bend our attention anew to 
the sober realities of life. 

Such pleasures are accessible to us, whatever 
place we may occupy in the social scale ; and 
the more simple, natural, improving, and bene- 
ficent they are in their own nature, the less 
will our enjoyment be contingent on external 
circumstances. The further we recede from 
the artificial, unwholesome, and seductive gra- 
tifications of man's contrivance, and yield to the 
loftier impulses of our moral and intellectual 
being, the nearer we approach to the sources of 
true and lasting happiness. One of the most 
thoughtful and sympathetic of our poets dis- 
courses thus on the equality of our means of 

enjoyment : — 

— "The sun is fixed, 
And the infinite magnificence of heaven 
Fixed, within reach of every human eye ; ] 
The sleepless ocean murmurs for all ears ; 
The vernal field infuses fresh delight 
Into all hearts. Throughout the world of sense, 
Even as an object is sublime or fair, 
That object is laid open to the view 
Without reserve or veil ; and as a power 
Is salutary, or an influence sweet, 



COMMON BLESSINGS. 7 

Are each and all enabled to perceive 

That power, that influence, by impartial law. 

$ % i * * # * 

The primal duties shine aloft — like stars ; 

The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless, 

Are scattered at the feet of Man — like flowers. 

The generous inclination, the just rule, 

Kind wishes, and good actions, and pure thoughts — 

No mystery is here ! Here is no boon 

Eor high, yet not for low; for proudly graced — 

Yet not for meek of heart. The smoke ascends 

To heaven as lightly from the cottage hearth 

As from the haughtiest palace. He, whose soul 

Ponders this true equality, may walk 

The fields of earth with gratitude and hope." * 

These general observations are intended to 
guard the object of the following pages from 
prejudice and misconception. The writer is 
well aware, that in stigmatising theatrical 
amusements, as immoral in their tendency, he is 
exposing himself to the charge of being nar~ 
row-minded, illiberal, and austere. He is not 
careful to defend himself from hard words. 
Strike ! but hear. He owns, however, that he 
feels particularly anxious at the outset that he 
may not be considered as inimical to harmless 
amusements. Addressing himself primarily to 
young men, he would express a decided prefer- 
ence for recreation in the form of some useful 

* Wordsworth's Excursion, 



S SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

study in literature, science, or art, thus combin- 
ing rational amusement with self-cultivation. 
It is a fine remark of Sir John HerschelTs — 
"Every young man should have a pursuit; a 
useful one, if possible, but at all events an 
innocent one/' Private and systematic study 
in the leisure of the evening is not incompa- 
tible with laborious and engrossing occupation 
throughout the day, and in most cases will 
serve all the purposes of recreation. The alter- 
nation of study with work affords an agreeable 
relief to the mind, to which it restores vigour 
and animation, and prevents it from sinking 
into lassitude or idle repose. But in order to 
be useful, the study must be systematic ; for 
nothing is less instructive and improving 
than irregular and unconnected mental efforts, 
to whatever subject directed. That which is 
worth doing at all, is worth doing well. The 
temptation of our time is light and desultory 
reading. Our literature is dwindling down 
into reviews, and magazines, and newspapers ; 
things that people can read while they are 
whirled along in railways, as if the railroad 
were the royal road to knowledge. Our habits 
of reflection are becoming as rapid as our loco- 
motion, and the literature of the rail symbolises 
the intellectual characteristics of the age. Su- 



LITERATURE. 9 

perficial reading produces superficial thinking. 
Men are content to acquire their knowledge at 
the smallest possible expenditure of time and 
labour ; and the worst feature of all, because 
the most hopeless, is that they are content. 
Popular literature, popular science, and philo- 
sophy "for the million/' are well enough in 
their place ; but what they are gaining in dif- 
fusiveness, they are losing in depth. That 
which the men of a former generation acquired 
by toiling through massive volumes, the smat- 
terers of our day are satisfied with obtaining in 
penny pamphlets. But it is nevertheless true 
that toil is the condition of acquiring even a 
moderate share of accurate information ; and if 
any young man is so fanciful as to suppose 
that knowledge worth being possessed, is to be 
obtained without labour, and hard labour too, 
he will find himself at last in the predicament 
of those who, in the insane paroxysms of mer- 
cantile speculation, resign themselves to the idle 
and mischievous hope of making money with- 
out working for it. The young man who would 
shun the self-deception and avoid the certain 
disappointment of such a course, should give him- 
self to the reading of books. Magazines and 
pamphlets will occupy their appropriate place, 
when perused by him as a literary pastime, 



10 SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

in which lie unbends his mind from severer 
studies, and from which he can turn without 
reluctance to the productions of the earnest 
thinkers and solid writers who still illumine 
the path of knowledge, and more especially to 
the works of the great intellects of former times. 
Let him choose friends amongst books ; they 
will never fail him in the time of perplexity 
and distress. It is one of the prerogatives of 
a taste for useful and improving literature, 
that a sympathy grows up betwixt the reader 
and a favourite author, by which he is en- 
abled to hold communion with the illustrious of 
every age ; and the companionship elevates his 
thoughts, his feelings, and his self-respect. 

Perhaps many self-improving young men 
will, in the first instance, prefer science to lite- 
rature. Be it so ; the study of science will, in 
due time, bring the love of literature in its 
train ; for every science has its own literature, 
and some of the most eloquent and pleasing, 
not to say poetical productions of the day, belong 
to the literature of science. The age is scientific. 
Its greatest discoveries — its most useful im- 
provements — the development and application 
of its material resources — the principles of its 
arts and manufactures — its facilities of transit 
and travel — its marvellous methods of commu- 



SCIENCE. 11 

nication, literally " annihilating space and time," 
are all based upon science ; and undoubtedly 
that man's education falls short of fulfilling one 
of the prime obligations of the age, which leaves 
him ignorant of the principles involved in these 
improvements. Besides, it does seem incongru- 
ous that an inquiring mind should be satisfied to 
remain unacquainted with the constitution of the 
material tenement which it inhabits, so " fear- 
fully and wonderfully made/' and challenging 
investigation, both as a department of our self- 
knowledge — "the proper study of mankind is 
man" — and with a view to the physical train- 
ing and treatment of an organism so delicately 
strung, and so liable to go out of tune. The 
science of chemistry presents another attractive 
subject of inquiry, — teaching us in one of its 
departments that Infinite Wisdom has impressed 
the ultimate particles of matter, weighing less 
than the millionth part of an atom of dust, 
with laws so exact as to give something like a 
literal significance to the declaration of the 
inspired writer, that the Creator " compre- 
hended the dust of the earth in a measure, 
weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills 
in a balance" — whilst from another department 
we learn that the elementary substances with 
which we become familiar in the mineral kino;- 



12 SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

dom, contribute, under new modifications, to 
the support and nourishment of plants; and 
these, in their turn, are made to minister to the 
sustenance of animals. Still further, the inves- 
tigations of the chemist demonstrate, that of 
fifty-five so-called elementary bodies, presented 
to us by nature, only four are employed in ela- 
borating the mysterious creations of living 
matter ; thus showing how the Almighty can 
work by few as well as by many agencies, 
and that his greatest operations are conducted 
by means of the simplest instruments. Or, 
once more, how many charming and instruc- 
tive objects of study are offered to the inquirer 
in the science of astronomy, penetrating the 
amplitudes of space, telling the number of the 
stars, and calling them by their names ; or 
in geology, occupied with the structure and early 
conditions of the globe which we inhabit ; and 
in the kindred sciences of botany and zoology, 
describing the plants and animals which are con- 
temporary with man upon the surface of the 
earth, and carrying us back to strange forms of 
animal and vegetable life, which existed in the 
successive eras preceding the appearance of the 
human race. For these and other means of 
rational recreation and mental improvement, 
there are abundant facilities provided even for 



ECONOMY OF TIME. 13 

the working-classes, in cheap books and acces- 
sible lecture-rooms. The excessive prolonga- 
tion of the hours of labour is indeed a sad 
obstacle to self-improvement amongst the popu- 
lation of a manufacturing city. But those who 
have the most time at their command do not 
always make the best use of it ; and the young 
man who resolves to save and improve the frag- 
ments of time, will, in the long-run, find himself 
not far behind men of greater leisure. Long 
hours do not preclude opportunities for frivo- 
lous amusement. The hardest worker can 
equally find time for self-improvement if he 
has the will. The old proverb says — "Take 
care of the pence, and the pounds will take care 
of themselves/' In like manner, economise the 
minutes, and the hours will take care of them- 
selves. 

te Small sands the mountain, moments make the year." 

"If it is asked (said Dr. Channing, in an 
address to a mechanics' institute), how can the 
labouring man find time for self-culture? I 
answer, that an earnest purpose finds time, or 
makes time. A man who follows his calling 
with industry and spirit, and uses his earnings 
economically, will always have some portions 
of the day at command. And it is astonishing 



14 SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

how fruitful of improvement a short season 
becomes, when eagerly seized and faithfully 
used. A single hour in the day, steadily given 
to the study of some interesting subject, brings 
unexpected accumulations of knowledge/' In 
the same spirit was the resolution of the ancient 
painter — "No day without a line/' And to 
cite one other authority, that of Dr. Oiinthus 
Gregory, who says — "With a few exceptions 
(so few indeed, that they need scarcely be 
taken into a practical estimate), any person may 
learn anything upon which he sets his heart. 
To insure success, he has simply so to discipline 
his mind as to check its vagrancies, to cure it 
of its constant proneness to be doing two or 
more things at a time, and to compel it to 
direct its combined energies simultaneously to 
a single object, and thus to do one thing at 
once. This I consider as one of the most diffi- 
cult, but one of the most useful, lessons that a 
young man can learn/' The youth who is 
alive to the importance of self-education, and 
seizes every opportunity of prosecuting it, is 
independent of frivolous amusements. The 
pursuit of knowledge, with its pleasant toils 
and grateful rewards, will leave him neither 
time nor inclination for them ; and he will 
derive fresh incentives to effort from the invit- 



INSTKUCTIVE EXHIBITIONS. 15 

ing fields of inquiry constantly opening up be- 
fore him, from the shortness of the period allotted 
for their cultivation, and the urgent calls of 
active duty and social usefulness addressed to 
him by the momentous age in which we live. 

But whilst recommending intellectual pur- 
suits and amusements to youth, we admit the 
necessity for occasional relaxation, in the form 
of mere recreation or diversion. The bow will 
lose its tension if kept constantly on the strain. 
All that we contend for is, that the amuse- 
ment shall still be innocent. The paucity in 
our large towns of popular entertainments of 
an unobjectionable description, is certainly to 
be regretted. It is not enough to suppress such 
corrupting haunts as the cheap theatres, or to 
discourage attendance on those where vice and 
folly are presented in a guise suitable to the 
tastes of their more refined frequenters. There 
is a felt and acknowledged want of a class of 
pure and elevating popular amusements ; and 
although this is no excuse in the meantime for 
tolerating or countenancing those of a perni- 
cious description, it affords a strong reason why 
efforts should be employed to put entertainments 
of at least a harmless nature in their place. 
The growing taste and avidity for exhibitions 
of paintings and sculpture, and of objects of 



16 SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

natural history, point in a direction from which 
substantial improvements in the habits of the 
people might be expected, were our museums, 
botanic gardens, and picture galleries thrown 
open on accessible terms, and some pains taken 
by the friends of the working-classes to render 
them instructive and inviting. Properly regu- 
lated entertainments of music of the higher 
class might also conduce to refine the tastes and 
manners of the people, and withdraw them 
from pursuits of a debasing tendency. But the 
most desirable improvement of all, is one which 
must be left to the slow and silent influence of 
education. It is that which will render home 
the centre of attraction, and train even the 
common people to tastes and habits which may 
be gratified at their own firesides, and in the 
bosom of their families, without either the 
desire or necessity for seeking their pleasures in 
great public assemblies. We would earnestly 
counsel the youthful reader to cultivate as- 
siduously home habits and home affections. If 
he is removed, as many young men in our 
great cities are, from the parental roof, let him 
people the solitude of his lodgings by making 
companions of his books ; and when he invites 
the intercourse of friends, let them be "few 
and well chosen." It is at home we must study 



HOME HABITS. 17 

the principles of action which we reduce to 
practice in the business of life. It is in the 
privacy of home that we receive our daily 
portion of the bread of life, to fit us for daily 
toil and temptation ; and the " closet " is pre- 
eminently the place where man enjoys his 
most exalted privilege on earth, that of holding 
communion with his Maker. It is there where 
the youth must first acquire the habit of con- 
trolling his passions and directing the processes 
of his mind ; and learn to " keep his heart 
with all diligence, for out of it are the issues 
of life" — "out of the heart proceed evil 
thoughts/' It is in the retirement of home 
that we are in the most advantageous circum- 
stances for reading and reflection ; and the love 
of knowledge there cultivated for its own sake, 
is a far more wholesome incitement to mental 
exertion and self-denial, than the love of appro- 
bation, or the desire of fame, which the poet 
affirms to be — 

" The spur that the clear spirit doth raise 
To scorn delights and live laborious days." 

The best and greatest of men have acknow- 
ledged their obligations to the moral influences 
of home for all their public usefulness. It was 
a fine feature in the character of the late Sir 

B 



18 SOURCES OF ENJOYMENT. 

Thomas Fowell Buxton, whose memoirs are 
replete with valuable lessons to young men, 
that his natural robustness of mind was tem- 
pered with a manly tenderness, derived from 
the affections of home ; and that although it 
was his " the applause of listening senates to 
command/' he ever found the strongest en- 
couragement to the faithful and fearless dis- 
charge of public duty — next to the favour of 
God and the approbation of conscience — in the 
love which cheered him on in the domestic 
circle. There is no love so unselfish, — no sym- 
pathy so true, — no human approval so grateful 
and encouraging, as the love, and the sympathy, 
and the approbation of home. Let home be 
the scene of our pleasures and the sanctuary of 
our hearts. Amidst its calm seclusion from a 
jarring world, — its " intimate delights/' "fire- 
side enjoyments/' and " homeborn happiness/' 
— let us quietly prosecute our self-improve- 
ment, preparing ourselves for usefulness in this 
life, and for the moral and spiritual activities 
of the life that is to come ; and it will add a 
charm to every attainment, and an impulse to 
every effort, — it will associate the dearest 
affections of earth with the hopes of heaven's 
high felicity, — to blend all our pursuits with 
the charities of Home. 



PERNICIOUS TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 



The Theatre was, from the very first, 

The favourite haunt of siu, though honest men, 

Some very honest, wise, and worthy men, 

Maintained it might be turned to good account ; 

And so, perhaps, it might, but never was. 

From first to last, it was an evil place; 

And now such things were acted there, as made 

The devils blush ; and from the neighbourhood 

Angels and holy men, trembling, retired. 

Pollock's Course of Time. 

*»N!3SSCai*t« 



We proceed to show that the stage cannot be 
included in the category of innocent amuse- 
ments. With the question of what it might 
become under proper regulation, it is needless 
to encumber the present inquiry. Our busi- 
ness is with the stage as it is, and as it ever 
has been. Probably, in deference to the out- 
ward decorum of the times, theatrical amuse- 
ments are upon the whole less characterized by 
the grosser forms of vice and profanity in our 
day, than at any former period. We may 
therefore assume that we see the stage at pre- 



20 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

sent in its most favourable aspect ; and if, 
under the restraints of public opinion and a 
higher tone of moral feeling than heretofore, 
we shall still find the theatre objectionable in 
itself and its concomitants, we may very well 
dispense with the consideration of what it 
might possibly become, in circumstances which 
have never existed, and in a state of society to 
which there is little prospect of our speedily 
attaining. Let it only be remarked in passing, 
that those advocates of the stage who press-this 
view of the case, admit to a certain extent that 
the theatre is not at present what it ought to be. 
The manager of a play-house in Glasgow, in 
closing the dramatic amusements of the season, 
assured his audience, " that the theatre was 
a powerful instrument for good or bad, and 
with the support of the moral, it was less likely 
to conform itself to the immoral/' According 
to this statement, the moral tendency of the 
theatre depends very much upon the character 
of the people who frequent it ; and if it be . 
found that a large proportion of these are 
not persons, whom, in the eye of Christian 
charity, we are entitled to regard as exem- 
plifying the morality of the Bible, which we 
adopt as our standard, but that, on the con- 
trary, theatrical audiences consist mainly — for 



MORAL PLAYS WILL NOT PAY. 21 

it is not to be denied that there are occasional 
exceptions — of the gay and giddy votaries of 
pleasure, of the dissipated, the profane, the 
idle, the frivolous, the debauched and profli- 
gate of both sexes, then it becomes a grave 
question, what possible inducement any man, 
or any manager, can have, balancing his in- 
terests with the tastes of his patrons, to make 
this " powerful instrument" preponderate on 
the side of the " good" rather than the " bad/' 
Is it not to be apprehended that in such cir- 
cumstances its power will be chiefly exerted on 
the wrong side ? We affirm, and undertake to 
prove, that it is even so in point of fact. It is 
the character of the assembly that determines 
that of the amusement. The dramatic author, 
the actor, and the manager, must take their 
cue from the play-goer. The ruling motive is 
not what will morally benefit the audience, 
but what will remunerate the manager, and 
maintain his company. Moral plays will not 
pay. In the words of Dr. Johnson — 

"They who live to please, must please to live." 

Whether we try the stage by the only true 
standard of morality- — that of the Bible — or by 
the practical test of its social effects, we shall 
find it indefensible. We shall, in the first 



22 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

place, briefly examine the morality of stage 
literature. There is of course nothing inhe- 
rent in the structure of a drama, any more than 
in that of an epic poem, or in a dialogue, more 
than in a monologue or discourse — to prevent 
it from being made the vehicle of sound prin* 
pie and healthful sentiment. But the morality 
of stage plays is not sound, and their sentiment 
is forced and unnatural. The higher the moral 
tone of the drama, the more unpalatable would it 
become to the frequenters of the play-house. 
The lovers of histrionic amusements would not 
crowd to the theatre to witness a representa- 
tion of the moralities and charities of the Bible 
— purity of heart, poverty of spirit, meekness, 
gentleness, long-suffering, forgiveness, patience, 
goodness, temperance, sound speech that cannot 
be condemned, and whatsoever is true, honest, 
just, lovely, and of good report. Were the 
advocates of the stage content to rest its claims 
merely upon its being a place of amusement, 
this is a test which, we frankly admit, it would 
be unfair to apply. In that case, all we should 
require would be that the entertainments be 
innocent in themselves, and be enjoyed in 
moderation. But because the amusements are 
open to serious objections on both these grounds, 
the friends of the drama feel themselves con- 



STAGE MORALITY NOT SCRIPTURAL. 23 

strained to change their position, and attempt to 
elevate the theatre to the higher level of a 
school of virtue. We accept the issue, and go 
to proof upon it. We try this school of virtue 
by the only standard of morality to which we 
can appeal, and find it wanting. The mora- 
lity of the Divine law would be the death of 
the play-house. Play- writing, according to a 
much lower standard of morality than this, but 
still of a higher type than that of the common 
literature of the stage, has been tried and proved 
abortive. Johnson, Hannah More, Young, 
Addison, and a few other authors of note, have 
made honest endeavours to raise the tone of 
histrionic morality ; but the annals of the stage 
record no more conspicuous instances of failure 
than those of their well-meant efforts. We do 
not, of course, involve all plays, or all play-goers, 
or all play-houses, in the same indiscriminate 
censure. " Some plays are better than other 
plays ; and there may be a very few compara- 
tively pure. Some actors are better than other 
actors ; and a few are in private life compara- 
tively moral men. Some theatres are much 
worse than other theatres, so as to be compara- 
tively outcasts even from their own class. Some 
audiences are more select than other audiences ; 
so that the same amount of evil may not be 



24 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

tolerated by them as by many others. Some 
spectators may go to the play from mere curio- 
sity, and not from satisfaction, and therefore 
they are not to be called play-goers; — and 
some qualities may characterize a whole mass 
which may not be found in every single part/'** 
Whilst we grant all this, with one writer 
against the stage, and admit, with another, t 
that " as it cannot be affirmed of every one who 
keeps away from the theatre that he is a true 
Christian, so neither can it be alleged that 
every one who goes to it, however seldom, for- 
feits all title to that character," — we are bound, 
nevertheless, speaking of the system as a whole, 
to avow our solemn conviction that it is radi- 
cally unsound — unscriptural in its morals, and 
unsafe in its tendency ; and that to resort to 
the theatre is incompatible with the Christian 
profession. 

Take the writings of Shakspere, who, in the 
words of Dry den, " created the stage among 
us/' Shakspere was the greatest master of 
human passion that perhaps ever existed, and 
but for his matchless productions the dramatic 
literature of England would be comparatively 



* Rev. John M 'Donald, Calcutta, 
f Dr. Andrew Thomson. 



IMMOEALITY OF SHAKSPERE. 25 

meagre and jejune. It is admitted that Shaks- 
pere was one of the purest writers of the times 
in which he lived ; and this is no mean dis- 
tinction, for it was an age of loose maxims and 
looser morals. But having made this state- 
ment, we must add most emphatically, that 
there is not a single play of this great drama- 
tist in which the principles of scriptural mo- 
rality are not traversed by opinions and senti- 
ments of a directly opposite description, or by 
profaneness and irreverence shocking to every 
pious feeling, and not unfrequently by passages 
of low ribaldry and loathsome impurity, which 
no man of right principle and proper feeling 
dare read audibly in the ears of a sister, a 
daughter, or a wife. Shakspere wrote for 
popular amusement. He made no pretensions 
to the office of a teacher of morals. His own 
character would not have sustained such a pro- 
fession. To this fact Mr. J. Payne Collier, in 
his History of English Dramatic Poetry and 
Annals of the Stage,be&r$ a reluctant testimony, 
as follows : — " If we may believe the plain import 
of his 60th sonnet, he was at one period in love 
with a female who was not very chary of her 
reputation ; . . . and he over and over 
again laments the disgrace brought upon him- 
self by his misconduct; .... so that 



26 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

although it may be very true that no imputa- 
tion upon his moral character had been dis- 
covered from extraneous sources, when Steevens 
or when Boswell wrote, yet, if we are to believe 
himself, although a married man, with a wife 
and family at Stratford, he was not immacu- 
late. The difficulty of reconciling much that 
is contained in the sonnets, has arisen from an 
amiable desire to think Shakspere's moral 
and poetical character equally perfect. If, in 
the course of my inquiries, I have been un- 
lucky enough (I may perhaps say) to find 
anything which represents our great dramatist 
in a less favourable light, as a human being 
with human infirmities, I may lament it, but 
I do not therefore feel myself at liberty to con- 
ceal and suppress the fact/' The moral blem- 
ishes in Shakspere's plays are usually ascribed 
to the age which produced them, rather than 
to the principles and feelings of their author. 
Be it so, — although after the unsuspicious tes- 
timony of Mr. Collier, this apology must be 
received with some deduction ; but if they 
were the product of a corrupt age, what makes 
them still acceptable in ours ? for they are not, 
except in their grosser forms, excluded from 
the expurgated versions prepared for represen- 
tation on the stage. What if, on the other 



OPHELIA. 27 

hand, some of the least objectionable of the 
writings of Shakspere are seldom or never 
brought on the stage at all ? — what if their 
comparative purity be the chief reason of their 
exclusion from it ? We must not allow our 
admiration of the genius which conceived and 
pourtrayed the characters and events depicted 
in plays still so popular as the two parts of 
Henry IV., Hamlet, Othello, the Merry Wives 
of Windsor, the Winter's Tale, Romeo and 
Juliet, &c, to blind our moral perceptions to 
the objectionable features discernable in all of 
them, not excepting even the characters of 
Hamlet and Ophelia, perhaps amongst the 
most generally cherished of the dramatist's 
creations. Dr. Johnson speaks of Ophelia as 
"the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and 
the pious/' whose " mournful distraction fills 
the heart with tenderness/' And yet this 
attractive character is repeatedly exhibited in 
an aspect far from justifying this indiscriminate 
eulogy on the part of a professed moralist. A 
quaint writer, at the close of the seventeenth 
century, contrasting the dramatic authors of 
antiquity with those of the English stage, 
observes that the Phaedra of Euripides " keeps 
her modesty even after she has lost her wits ; " 
adding, " Had Shakspere secured this point for 



28 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

his young virgin Ophelia, the play had been 
better contrived. Since he was resolved to 
drown the lady like a kitten, he should have 
set her a-swimming a little sooner. To keep 
her alive only to sully her reputation, and dis- 
cover the rankness of her breath, was very 
cruel/' * 

One of the principal characters in Henry IV. 
is Sir John FalstafF. None is a greater fa- 
vourite of play-goers. Sir John is represented 
as a coward, a knave, a lecherous, treacherous, 
swagbelly sensualist, with the language of pro- 
fanity and lasciviousness continually on his 
lips : but then he is a mirth-inspiring humour- 
ist — " a wit himself, and the cause of wit in 
others/' The grosser features of his conduct 
are either softened and shaded, so as not to 
prove repulsive, or rendered absolutely attrac- 
tive by the merriment they excite. Sir John 
is the most diverting of vagabonds, the most 
passable of lechers, the drollest in his cups, and 
the most endurable in his knaveries. To re- 
present him successfully before admiring audi- 
ences of men and women, who, it is to be 
presumed, would not endure in private life a 

* View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English 
Stage. By Jeremy Collier, 1698. 



SIR JOHN FALSTAFF. 29 

person stained with any one of his vices, has 
made the celebrity of many players. Sir 
John was so great a favourite with Queen 
Elizabeth* (who, after all, was no paragon of 
virtue), when represented in the first and se- 
cond parts of Henry IV., that she requested 
Shakspere to introduce him anew in another 
play. The poet complied by producing the drama 
of the Merry Wives of Windsor, in which the 
favourite character figures as the hero. And still 
further to show the lingering interest both of the 
dramatist and the play-goers of his day in that 
singular delineation of character, after exhibiting 
Falstaff at the close of Henry IV., by way of 
moral retribution, as falling into disfavour with 
his sovereign and former boon companion, who 
pensions off the worn-out debauchee, and for- 
bids him to come within ten miles of him, the 
poet, in Henry V., makes a profligate female 
companion, who survives the knight, tell, with 
a strange mixture of folly and tenderness, how 

* The first plays exhibited before lier Majesty were of 
such a questionable character, and abounded with such 
coarse and impure allusions, that it is a matter of wonder 
that even, in that day, a maiden Queen could sanction 
them by her presence. Some of these productions are 
still extant, but they are quite unfit for modern perusal. 
— The Stage, Ancient and Modern, by Mr. Close, of 
Cheltenham. 



30 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

fine his end was, " parting at the turn of the 
tide/' wandering in his wits, laughing at his 
finger-ends, and " babbling of green fields/' 
We select this astonishing conception of the 
poet's genius, as illustrating the seductive charm 
with which he has contrived to invest a char- 
acter which, viewed in the abstract, is one of 
loathsome, earthliness and impurity. Hence 
its reproduction in these successive works of 
an author, who, of all men that ever wrote for 
public amusement, was the least necessitated 
by an unfertile fancy to reproduce his ideas 
and characters, seeing that when he " exhausted 
worlds/' he had but to " imagine new ;" and 
hence also the undiminished avidity for the 
representation of Sir John Falstaff amongst 
the play-goers of the present day. We make 
no account of the horde of odious and abandoned 
reprobates, men and women, who are intro- 
duced as the associates of the jovial knight, nor 
of the lewd and irreverent conversations in 
which it is their habit to indulge. But we 
ask, what moral benefit can be derived from 
our being brought into contact with represen- 
tations of this base description of character and 
conduct, even supposing that these are put on 
the stage for a moral purpose, which nobody will 
believe who has perused the plays in question ? 



FAMILIARITY WITH VICE. 31 

Or, leaving out of view the moral considera- 
tions, can we safely indulge in the amusements 
of a place where familiarity with such repre- 
sentations is the primary attraction ? Let us 
beware lest, in our admiration of the genius of 
Shakspere, we become insensible to the value 
of those eternal principles of moral truth and 
duty, which it is but too manifest are seldom 
regarded in the productions of that noble and 
brilliant intellect. Is it argued in defence of 
the representation of degraded characters, that 
vice is rendered abhorrent by such delinea- 
tions? The instance just quoted proves the 
reverse, and it is by no means a solitary case. 
Familiarity with vice does not breed contempt 
for it. It loses its natural repulsiveness by 
repetition : — 

"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, 
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen ; 
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, 
We first endure — then pity — then embrace." 

From the plays of Shakspere we pass on to 
other dramatic writings, and avail ourselves of 
the strictures of the late Dr. Andrew Thomson * 



* The Sin and Danger of being Lovers of Pleasures more 
than Lovers of God. By Rev. Andrew Thomson, D.D., 
of St. George's, Edinburgh. 



32 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

on several comedies which have long enjoyed a 
high degree of popularity on the stage. Speak- 
ing of the "School for Scandal/' he observes — 
"Impurity is carried so far, that not only are 
there many jocular allusions to criminal passion 
and conjugal infidelity, but in one scene (Act 
iv., scene 2) a gentleman is represented as 
making dishonourable proposals to a married 
lady, in terms equally Intelligible and unprin- 
cipled ; and the lady as listening to him with 
marvellous patience and good humour/' We 
interrupt the quotation to remark, that this is 
one of the features in which the modern stage 
contrasts unfavourably with that of the ancients. 
It has been observed, to the credit of the latter, 
that neither in the plays of Plautus, of Terence, 
nor of Aristophanes, are there any instances of 
debauched married women being introduced, 
upon the stage. In one respect, however, the 
modern theatre agrees with the ancient, and 
that is in holding up religious character to 
public contempt, in the guise of imbecility and 
hypocrisy. On the Greek stage, says a learned 
writer, "Gods and men were travestied, gross 
and obscene language was employed, and viru- 
lent invectives and ridicule were cast upon the 
noblest and best of men/' It was thus that 
the venerable and virtuous Socrates was lam- 



beggar's opera. 33 

pooned in the "Clouds" of Aristophanes; and 
the profession of religion is still exhibited to 
the derision of the profane in the odious Tar- 
tuffes, Mawworms, and Joseph Surfaces, of 
modern comedy. But to return, — What is the 
moral teaching of the "School for Scandal?" 
" Sobriety, prudence, outward decorum — all that 
we have from the author in the form of religion 
— is connected with vile and hardened hypo- 
crisy, in the person of Joseph Surface ; while his 
brother Charles, who defrauds tradesmen, calls 
justice an 'old, lame, hobbling beldam/ is c ex- 
travagant/ ' loves wine and women/ c games 
deep/ and, in short, is a thorough-paced de- 
bauchee — is held out as amiable, and made 
quite fascinating to the female heart, because 
he has something of a generous temper." The 
"Beggar's Opera," another popular piece fre- 
quently performed, Dr. Thomson characterises 
as surpassing the greater part of the drama 
in the objectionable nature of its character, 
sentiment, and language. " Robbers, pick- 
pockets, and women of the most abandoned 
description, constitute the gang that figures in 
this performance. The whole piece has not one 
trait of virtue in it to relieve the uniformity of 
its pollutions." It was a guarded remark of the 
same writer respecting this play, that he would 



34 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

not affirm that it had "actually sent young- 
men to the highway, who would not have gone 
there at any rate/' But no such caution is 
necessary in describing the tendency and effects 
of a recent piece, dramatized from the story of 
Jack Sheppard, by Mr. Ainsworth. If the 
play contains, as doubtless it does, the leading 
features of that pestilent tale, which professes 
to depict the life of a highwayman, and the 
habits of the thieves of London a century or 
more ago, it is impossible to imagine anything 
more pernicious to public morals, or more de- 
serving the reprobation of all honest men. And 
yet Jack Sheppard dramatized was performed 
on every stage in the kingdom ; it had what 
is called "a run/' even at the best conducted 
theatres in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow ; 
and one of the songs introduced in the piece, 
was the favourite of the drawing-rooms for 
more than one season, although it was expressed 
in the detestable slang of London pickpockets 
and courtezans. What effect Jack Sheppard pro- 
duced on the educated and moral classes of the 
people, who flocked to see him tricked out as a 
stage-hero, we cannot tell ; what moral lesson 
they received from his burglaries, his highway 
robberies, and his prison-breakings, is best 
known to themselves; but the testimonies of 



JACK SHEPPARD. 35 

jail chaplains, and judges in criminal courts, 
and the confessions of numerous convicts, have 
over and over again proved that this single pro- 
duction, especially when represented on the stage, 
has done more to demoralise the lower classes, 
and send young men to the highway, than any 
tale or play of modern times, Yet Jack Shep- 
pard continues to keep his popularity on the 
stage ; and has, within the last few months, 
figured in the play-bills of the first theatres. 

The following strictures of the vigorous 
writer already quoted, on the impurity of the 
stage, offers a salutary warning to the youth ot 
both sexes: — " Licentious characters, both male 
and female (observes Dr. Thomson), are brought 
before us with daring effrontery; language is 
made use of that would not be endured in a pri- 
vate company ; scenes of indelicate humour are 
exhibited, at which we are expected to laugh ; 
lascivious maxims, double entendres, and wanton 
gestures, are every now and then introduced , 
as if they were not only allowable, but highly 
p conducive to the interest and effect of the repre- 
sentation ; and sometimes an illicit amour, 
with all its vile and polluted accompaniments, 
constitutes its very essence and character. This 
may seem incredible, when it is recollected that 
every audience at a theatre contains a vast 



36 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

proportion of females, who are both intelligent 
and virtuous. But it is nevertheless the fact — - 
and this is the marvel — that females of that 
honourable description should go where their 
feelings are to be so rudely insulted by every 
shabby fellow, and by every infamous woman, 
who may happen to be a player. When any- 
thing of this kind occurs, indeed, they look very 
grave and simple, and appear to be quite 
ignorant of its meaning. But do they really 
imagine that they get credit for this grimace? 
that we have such a low opinion of their acute- 
ness, as to believe that they do not understand 
what is going on ? — that if we admit their want 
of penetration, we can also admit their want of 
suspicion, which is the same thing, in such 
cases, to a chaste and delicate mind ? — that we 
do not consider their behaviour, on these occa- 
sions, as a mere compromise between regard to 
appearances, and passion for amusement ? And 
if we are convinced that the coarse joke, or the 
unchaste innuendo^ is perfectly intelligible to 
them, though they pretend otherwise, what are 
we to think of the real state of their principles 
and feelings ? Leaving religion out of view, 
are they such as every good man must always 
wish the fair sex to be, when they voluntarily 
put themselves in the way, and passively submit 



IMPURITY. 37 

to the affronts that are publicly offered to them, 
merely because thej wish to have an evening's 
diversion ? But if the influence of the gospel 
be permitted to operate, which of them that 
feels and cherishes that influence, can suffer 
what it so pointedly condemns, and against 
which it so earnestly cautions believers ? If they 
truly love God, will not they have respect to 
all His commandments ? And has He not ex- 
pressly prohibited c filthiness, and foolish talk- 
ing, and jesting, which are not convenient?' . . . 
Nor is the argument to be limited to the female 
sex. It applies itself "with perfect justice to the 
other sex also/' And again, "I put it to every 
candid and consistent moralist to say, what 
pretensions our sex can have to Christian pro- 
priety, or the fair sex to virtuous sentiment, 
when they consent to place their feelings for the 
time, under the sway of a profligate or a kept- 
mistress, and to derive their amusement from 
the tragic or the comic efforts of persons who 
are utterly destitute of all that should command 
esteem ; who are flagrantly bloated with all 
that should excite aversion and abhorrence/' 

The tendency of the literature of the stage 
to run into dangerous excess, is illustrated by 
the remarkable fact, that it is the only litera- 
ture in this country which is placed under a 



38 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

legal censorship. Every play, before being put 
upon the stage, is licensed by the Lord Cham- 
berlain, whose duty it is to see that it does not 
transgress the bounds of moral or political pro- 
priety. The surveillance is not very searching, 
as the moral state of the drama proves. To 
exercise such a power too faithfully would be 
fatal. Its existence, however, evinces a salu- 
tary distrust on the part of the law, of a species 
of amusement which is peculiarly liable to 
abuse ; and the same prudent caution is shown 
in the limitation of the number of play-houses, 
each of which also requires a special license. 

In France, where the censorship is still more 
lax, so far as morality is concerned, although 
stringent enough politically, the most unblush- 
ing abominations and horrid blasphemies are 
exhibited on the stage. Of late years, notices 
have repeatedly appeared in the public prints, 
of representation sin the theatres of Paris, of some 
of the most solemn events recorded or foretold in 
the sacred Scriptures. The death of Christ, 
and the last judgment, have been performed by 
French players, before audiences calling them- 
selves Christian, for the purpose of gratifying 
an unhallowed appetite for excitement. During 
the late revolutionary changes in that country, 
the fall of man, and the expulsion of our first 



IMPIETY OF THE PARIS STAGE- 39 

parents from paradise, formed the theme of a 
political farce in Paris, got up for the purpose 
of satirising the Socialist maxim of the noto- 
rious Proudhon, — " La propriete c'est le vol," — 
Property is robbery. An angel was represented 
with a flaming sword, driving our first parents 
out of Eden, which they were seen leaving with 
grotesque and wanton gestures ; and the appear- 
ance of the serpent, wearing a hat and spectacles, 
like Proudhon's, gave piquancy to the political 
allusions of the play.* The moral condition of 
the French stage has been described in a candid 
manner, by Mr. Charles Mathews, manager of 
the Lyceum Theatre, London, in a letter pub- 
lished in August last, and addressed to the 
dramatic authors in France.! Anticipating 
that the new international copyright law 
will have the effect of opening a market for 
their productions in this country, Mr. Mathews 
warns the French dramatists to be more cir- 
cumspect than heretofore in the style of their 
compositions, and to write in a manner more 



* Erom an eye-witness. 

f Lettre cle M. Charles Mathews anx Auteurs Dra- 
matiques de la France : with a translation according to 
the terms of the international Convention. — Letter from 
Mr. Charles Mathews to the dramatic authors of France. 
Translated from himself by himself. 



40 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

becoming the refinement of the English taste, 
if they wish to reap any benefit from the new 
act. It is certainly creditable to the London 
stage as compared with that of Paris, that out 
of 263 new pieces produced in Paris, in the year 
1851, only eight were adopted and translated 
for the London houses ; the rest being "too full 
of indecency, anachronism, immorality, and 
dirt/' to be acceptable to an English audience. 
It is not every day that a player bears testi- 
mony to the immorality of the stage ; and here 
is Mr. Mathews' account of the general charac- 
ter and reception of the dramas that entertain 
the most play -loving people in the world: — 
" The curtain rises. In walks a pretty woman 
— a woman of rank and fashion — into an elegant 
boudoir. 'Ah, ah!' you say, f now we are all 
right!' Are you, my good friend? Wait a 
moment. It soon comes out that the lady is the 
affianced bride of one worthy man, the wife of 
another, in love with a third, and with a child 
by a fourth ; notwithstanding all which, she is 
just as much beloved by indulgent audiences, 
who invariably contrive to find some mitigat- 
ing circumstance to justify her interesting little 
irregularities. 

" We may try our fortune at the other 
theatres, but it is everywhere the same. Milli- 



THE LONDON STAGE. 41 

ners' girls and lawyers' clerks, living together 
in the most unceremonious manner. Actresses 
talking openly, and unblushingly, of their nu- 
merous lovers. Ballet-girls, with accidental 
children by unknown fathers. Interesting 
young ladies, ... in short, nothing but mis- 
tresses, accoucheurs, ... in every direction/' 

But Mr. Mathews gives us, in passing, a 
glance at some of the London theatres also. 
Drury Lane is abandoned to English operas and 
ballets — "it is the mausoleum of Shakspere." 
Covent Garden is given up to Italian operas. 
Twelve theatres in the outskirts of London, viz., 
Surrey, Astley's, Victoria, Queen's, Marylebone, 
Sadler's Wells, City, Standard, Pavilion, Grecian 
Saloon, Britannia Saloon, and Bower Saloon, 
" have an audience of their own, and a jolly 
one it is . . . with the digestion of an 
ostrich — always ready to bolt the raw material 
provided for it." To descend to particulars, we 
have the following graphic description of the 
Victoria: — "The Victoria is a model house, 
the type of a school to which it gives its name. 
It is the incarnation of the English c domestic 
drama,' or rather of the drama of English do- 
mestics. There you will always find the truest 
pictures of virtue in rags, and vice in fine linen. 
There flourish the choicest specimens of all the 



42 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

crimes that make life hideous — robbery, rape, 
murder, suicide. It is a country abounding in 
grand combats of four — a region peopled with 
angelic maid servants, comic house-breakers, 
heroic sailors, tyrannical masters, poetical clod- 
hoppers, and diabolical barons. The lower 
orders rush there in mobs, and in shirt sleeves, 
applaud frantically, drink ginger beer, munch 
apples, crack nuts, call the actors by their 
Christian names, and throw them orange peel 
and apples by way of bouquets/' Again, " The 
City is the natural son of the Victoria, and 
inherits its parent's tastes. It has the same 
task to fulfil. It is a sort of Newgate Calendar 
dramatised — an Apotheosis of the seven deadly 
sins — a chapel of ease to the Old Bailey. 

a At the Pavilion, the shipping interest is 
represented ... As you enter you smell the 
' distempered sea/ The object of the manage- 
ment is to ' hold the mirror up' to sailors. An 
eternal tide of marine melo-dramas and nautical 
novelties ebbs and flows in this dry Naumachia, 
where 'life afloat' is depicted by fresh-water 
seamen before an audience of real tars. I leave 
you to judge whether the pieces are not likely 
to be pitched tolerably strong to suit the web- 
footed connoisseurs who roll in at half price, 
who help to whistle the act music, and . . . 



FEMALE ACTORS. 43 

whose sides are only to be tickled with points 
like pikes, quips like quids, and jokes like junk/' 
Dramatic exhibitions, in the age of Shak- 
spere, wanted one fertile source of vice and cor- 
ruption to which subsequent times gave rise. 
At that period women were not allowed to 
appear upon the stage. In this respect the 
English theatre followed the example of that of 
ancient Greece, which, heathen as it was, ex- 
cluded female actors from the stage. This was 
felt to be due to the character of woman, and 
to the interests of public morality. Whatever 
tends to degrade woman from her feminine 
delicacy, sentiment, and purity of heart, must 
deteriorate social morality. It is admitted that 
amongst the females who have chosen theatri- 
cals as a profession, instances have not been 
rare of high dramatic genius combined with 
irreproachable moral character ; and sorry 
should we be to deny to humbler talent the 
possession of a virtuous safeguard against the 
temptations to which the actress is exposed 
from her habits and companionships ; but after 
making every allowance which the utmost 
charity can demand, the mournful fact still 
remains, that woman has but too frequently 
become first the victim and then the instru- 
ment of theatrical immorality. The presence 



44 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

of profligate women in the theatre, whether on 
the stage or in the audience — and we doubt 
if there be any play-house without them — 
adds momentous importance to the objections 
against histrionic amusements derived from 
the general tenor and tendency of dramatic 
literature ; and justifies the following solemn 
and pointed admonitions of Mr. Todd of Phila- 
delphia, addressed to young men :* — " I may 
here say, and I wish it to be remembered, that 
the Bible is not merely a book of religion. It 
is a book of philosophy also. You will recol- 
lect how frequently, how earnestly, and how 
emphatically that book warns the young man 
against the enticements, the words even, of 
abandoned women. Others may tempt and 
draw away, but she casts down her thousands, 
and her strong men are slain. The philosophy 
of it is, that one impure look from woman's 
eye, and one impure word from woman's lips, 
will do more towards polluting the imagina- 
tion, and destroying the heart of a young man, 
than any amount of temptation from his own 
sex. We look for purity in women, and there 
we generally find it ; and when we do not, her 
words are death. It is this fact in the consti- 

* Lectures on Great Cities y by Rev. John Todd. 



MIDNIGHT TEMPTATIONS. 45 

tution of our nature, that makes the presence 
of abandoned females so dangerous at the 
theatre, and which leads the Bible to place 
such stress upon their influence/' 

It is observable also that theatrical amuse- 
ments in the Shaksperian period took place in 
broad day- light, at three o'clock in the after- 
noon, and it was customary for ladies and gen- 
tlemen, after attending the play, to take their 
walks in the public gardens. The performances 
in the ancient Athenian theatre were likewise 
exhibited in daylight and in the open air, in a 
vast uncovered amphitheatre. Whatever other 
faults may have been chargeable against these 
amusements, they were free from the moral 
and physical evil of late hours, an unwhole- 
some atmosphere, and prolonged emotional ex- 
citement, stimulating without invigorating, and 
deleterious alike to mind and body ; and also 
from the lures spread for youth in the silence 
and obscurity of midnight, by those " whose 
house is the way to hell, leading down to the 
chambers of death." The histrionic scene and 
its accessories, inflaming the passions, and giv- 
ing a loose rein to a prurient imagination, have 
prepared many a young man for becoming the 
prey of those who "sleep not, except they 
have done mischief, and their sleep is taken 



46 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

away, unless they cause some to fall/' The 
haunts of drunkenness, debauchery, and infamy, 
which in every city are observed to cluster 
round the theatre as its natural parasites, 
afford fearful evidence of the connection sub- 
sisting betwixt the love of this amusement and 
dissoluteness of manners. With what con- 
sistency can a frequenter of the theatre pray — 
(if he prays) — "Lead me not into temptation?" 
The plays of Shakspere are further open to 
censure on account of their profanity. That 
law of the decalogue which says, " Thou shalt 
not take the name of the Lord thy God in 
vain," is violated with painful frequency both 
in the tragedies and comedies of the great dra- 
matist. But profane swearing is a fault com- 
mon to most plays ; and where oaths are 
awanting in the originals, they are supplied 
by the players ad libitum. This is technically 
called " spicing." And so habitually has this 
vice been indulged in by players, in all periods 
of stage history, that so early as the reign of 
James VI., an act was passed " for the prevent- 
ing and avoiding of the great abuse of the holy 
name of God in stage-plays, interludes, &c." 
It was remarked of some one that when he had 
nothing to say, he swore ; and many stage 
jokes owe their piquancy solely to the oath 



HISTORY OF THE STAGE. 47 

with which they are pointed. " Swearing 
(says Jeremy Collier, speaking of the profane- 
ness of the stage), is no ordinary relief. It 
stands np in the room of sense, gives spirit to 
a flat expression, and makes a period musical 
and round. In short, 'tis all the rhetoric some 
people are masters of/' 

From the time of Shakspere, in the reign of 
Queen Elizabeth, to that of Charles II., the 
English stage became more and more gross and 
debasing. It is described by Jeremy Collier 
as being " superlatively corrupt/' and u exceed- 
ing the liberties of all times and countries." 
For most evils, he remarks, some precedents 
may be pleaded, but here was fresh discover}^ 
" a new world of vice found out, and planted 
with all the industry imaginable." To such 
an extent did irreligion prevail in the reign of 
Charles L, that plays were usually acted on 
the Lord's-day ; and Mr. J. P. Collier, the 
annalist of the English stage, relates that the 
Bishop of London had Shakspere's " Midsummer 
Night's Dream" represented in his house in the 
metropolis, on Sunday, September 27, 1631. 
The Puritans applied a temporary check to the 
progress of the evil, by closing the theatres 
and suppressing histrionic entertainments ; but 
the restoration of Charles II. was the signal 



48 TEXDEXCY OF THE STAGE. 

for the introduction of universal depravity, and 
the theatre, which was immediately revived, 
partook of the licentiousness and profanity of 
the time. Mr. Macaulay does great injustice 
to the character and motives of the Puritans in 
the following extract from his history, but it is 
quoted here as embodying an important testi- 
mony to the condition of stage morality in the 
middle of the seventeenth century: — "From the 
day on which the theatres were re-opened they 
became seminaries of vice; and the evil propa- 
gated itself. The profligacy of the representa- 
tions soon drove away sober people. The frivolous 
and dissolute who remained, required every year 
stronger and stronger stimulants. Thus the artists 
corrupted the spectators, and the spectators the 
artists, till the turpitude of the drama became 
such as must astonish all who were not aware 
that extreme relaxation is the natural effect 
of extreme restraint, and that an age of hypo- 
crisy is, in the regular course of things, followed 
by an age of impudence/' It may be added, 
that it was before the stage had reached this 
degree of dissoluteness, that female characters 
in plays were first performed by women, an 
innovation which no doubt tended powerfully 
to aggravate the demoralising influence of the 
system, and land it in that lowest depth of 



HISTORY OF THE STAGE. 49 

degradation which the historian here laments. 
The first women who appeared on the boards 
of an English theatre, belonged to a French 
company who visited London in 1629, and, 
according to Prynne, a contemporary writer, 
u attempted to act a French play at the play- 
house, in Blackfriars, an impudent, shameful, 
unwomanish, and graceless attempt/' Another 
writer of the time says — " Those women did at- 
tempt, thereby giving just offence to all ver- 
tuous and well-disposed persons in this town, to 
act a certain lascivious and unchaste comedy e, 
in the French tonge, at the Black-fryers. Glad 
I am to saye they were hissed, hooted, and 
pippin-pelted from the stage/' In 1663 the 
names of English actresses appear in the play- 
bills. 

The condition of the stage during the reign 
of Queen Anne, the golden age of English 
literature, when Ave might look for some im- 
provement corresponding to the refined senti- 
ments of the times, is described in the Spec- 
tator, by Addison and Steele, warm admirers 
of the drama, to the authorship of which they 
both contributed. First, as regards the state 
of public taste, Addison, in a paper on the 
artifices resorted to by play- writers to excite 
terror and pity in the minds of an audience, 
D 



50 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

points out as the most absurd and barbarous, 
"that dreadful butchering of one another, 
which is very frequent upon the English 
stage/' " To delight (he says) in seeing men 
stabbed, poisoned, racked, or impaled, is cer- 
tainly the sign of a cruel temper/' " It is, 
indeed, very odd (he adds, referring to the 
better feelings manifested by the French in 
this respect) to see our stage strewed with car- 
cases in the last scenes of a tragedy ; and to 
observe in the wardrobe of the play-house 
several daggers, poniards, wheels, bowls for 
poison, and many other instruments of death/' 
But this is nothing compared to the testimony 
of Steele on the moral abuses of the stage at 
this time, which, it is to be remembered, was 
not preceded by " an age of hypocrisy," but one 
of unbounded libertinism. The Spectator hav- 
ing received from a female correspondent a 
remonstrance against an unchaste allusion in 
one of Sir Richard Steele's plays, that writer 
made the letter the subject of the moral stric- 
tures from which we are about to quote, and 
afterwards expunged from his comedy all its 
obnoxious passages. He ascribes the immodest 
character of many plays to dearth of invention 
on the part of authors, and a depraved taste on 
that of audiences. He pleads ironically on 



HISTORY OF THE STAGE. 51 

behalf of a writer who has to keep up a 
sprightly dialogue for five acts together, that 
he may be allowed, "when he wants wit, and 
cannot please any otherwise, to help it out 
with a little smuttiness/' " When the author 
cannot strike out of himself any more of that 
which he has superior to those who make up 
the bulk of his audience, his natural recourse 
is to that which he has in common with them ; 
and a description which gratifies a sensual 
appetite will please, when the author has no- 
thing about him to delight a refined imagina- 
tion/' " This expedient to supply the deficien- 
cies of wit, has been used more or less by most 
of the authors who have succeeded on the 
stage ; though I know but one who has profess- 
edly writ a play upon the basis of the desire 
of multiplying our species, and that is the polite 
Sir George Etheridge ; if I understand what 
the lady would be at, in the play called c She 
would if she could/ Other poets have here 
and there given us intimation that there is this 
design, under all the disguises and affectations 
which a lady may put on ; but no author, ex- 
cept this, has made sure work of it, and put 
the imaginations of the audience upon this one 
purpose from the beginning to the end of the 
comedy. It has always fared accordingly ; for 



52 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

whether it be that all who go to this piece 
would if they could, or that the innocent go to 
it, to guess only what she would if she could, 
the play has always been well received!' 
Again, " It lifts an heavy empty sentence, 
when there is added to it a lascivious gesture 
of body ; and when it is too low to be raised 
even to that, a flat meaning is enlivened by 
making it a double one/' " When a poet flags 
in writing lasciviously, a pretty girl can move 
lasciviously, and have the same good consequence 
for the author/' And not to multiply similar 
testimonies from the same writer as to the dress 
(or the want of it) of females on the stage, and 
other corrupting influences, for which refer- 
ence must be made to the paper itself,* Sir 
Eichard winds up his description of the drama- 
tic writings of the same popular class, hy female 
as well as male authors, in the following terms : 
— " As the male wit gives his hero a great for- 
tune, the female gives her heroine a good gal- 
lant at the end of the play. But, indeed, there 
is hardly a play we can go to, but the hero or 
fine gentleman of it struts off upon the same 
account, and leaves us to consider what good 
office he has put us to, or to employ ourselves 

* Spectator, No. 51, April 28, 1711. 



SIR ARCHIBALD ALISON. 53 

as we please. To be plain, a man who frequents 
plays will have a very respectful notion of him- 
self, were he to recollect how often he has been 
used as a pimp to ravishing tyrants, or success- 
ful rakes. When the actors make their exit on 
this good occasion, the ladies are sure to have 
an examining glance from the pit, to see how 
they relish what passes ; and a few lewd fools 
are very ready to employ their talents upon 
the composure or freedom of their looks. Such 
incidents as these make some ladies wholly 
absent themselves from the play-house ; and 
others never miss the first day of a play, lest 
it should prove too lascivious to admit their 
going with any countenance to it on the 
second/' 

Sir Archibald Alison, in his new volume, 
occupied with contemporary history,* bears a 
regretful testimony to the declining prospects 
and degraded character of "the noble and 
bewitching art" of the drama at the present 
time. Sir Archibald has not thought it beneath 
the dignity of history, or unbecoming the gra- 
vity of his judicial character, to devote a page 
of the History of Europe to a panegyric on the 

* History of Europe, from the Fall of Napoleon in 1S15, 
to the Accession of Lotas Napoleon in IS 5 2. By Sir 
Archibald Alison, Bart., vol. i. 1352. 



54 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

dramatic genius, "the dark raven locks/' and 
"fine figure/' of Miss Helen Faucit, an actress 
of tragedy. If powers of the very highest order, 
he remarks, united to "fascinating beauty/' 
and "the most lofty conceptions of the dignity 
and moral objects of her art, could have arrested 
the degradation of the stage" this actress would 
have done so. But she " arose in the decline of 
the drama/' and was " unequal to the task of 
supporting it in the days of corrupt taste/' The 
eulogy on her high conceptions of the dignity 
and moral capabilities of her art, is repeated 
with its extravagant superlatives, after the 
lapse of a few lines; "but it is all in vain," 
adds the learned historian, with touching de- 
spondency ; " she has appeared in the days of 
the decline of taste, and, notwithstanding 
her great genius and celebrity, is unable to 
arrest it. The drama here, as elsewhere, has 
been in a certain stage of society succeeded by 
the melo-drama ; the theatre by the amphi- 
theatre. Co vent Garden has become an Italian, 
Drury Lane an English, opera-house. Singing 
and dancing, stimulants to the senses, splendour 
for the eye, have come to supplant the expres- 
sion of passion, the display of tenderness, the 
grandeur of character." Sir Archibald considers 
this change in the public taste to be due to 



CORRUPT TASTE. 55 

" the ascendancy of a middle class in society, 
the minds in which are not so cultivated as to 
enable them to enjoy intellectual or moral 
pleasures, while their senses are sufficiently 
excited to render them fully alive to the enjoy- 
ments of the physical. Disguise it as you will 
(he continues), that is the real principle. 
When that class, which is ever a vast majority 
of mankind, becomes, in the progress of opulence, 
so rich and powerful that its patronage forms 
the main support of the theatre, the ruin of 
the drama is inevitable and at hand/' This 
statement is scarcely compatible with the well- 
known fact that the Italian opera in London, 
which Sir Archibald deplores as having 
usurped the place of the drama, is almost ex- 
clusively supported by the aristocracy. But 
it is inconsistent with the still more remark- 
able and important fact, that the decline of the 
drama synchronizes with a wider diffusion of 
intelligence and moral principle amongst the 
middle class, than ever characterized it at 
any former period; and just because this 
class has become more susceptible than here- 
tofore of intellectual and moral enjoyments, 
and therefore more independent of triflitig 
amusements, it has in great measure with- 
drawn from the theatre ; abandoning it, on the 



56 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

one hand, to the luxurious and sensual of the 
upper, and, on the other, to the gross and 
degraded of the lower ranks of the community. 
The middle rank has alwaj^s been the most 
favourable for the cultivation and development 
of those intellectual and moral habits to which 
the theatre is most inimical. Without depre- 
ciating the excellencies which adorn many of 
the British aristocracy of the present day, it 
may be affirmed that the talent, the education, 
the science, the religion, the active philan- 
thropy, the political influence, the mental and 
moral energy, and the robust virtues which 
form the stamina of a state, and " the cheap 
defence of nations/' are mainly concentrated 
in the middle class of the community. 

But Sir Archibald Alison goes a step farther, 
and affirms that " this change was accelerated, 
and perhaps prematurely brought on in this 
country, by the well-meant and sincere, but un- 
fortunate prejudices of a large and respectable 
portion of society, which withdrew altogether 
from our theatres, from a natural feeling of in- 
dignation at the immorality of some of its 
[their] dramas, and the license of many of its 
[their] accessories/' We venture respectfully, 
but firmly, to demur to this extraordinary 
dictum of judicial wisdom. For what does it 



WHO CORRUPTED THE STAGE? 57 

amount to but an attempt to make the reli- 
gious and the moral of society accountable, 
in some degree, for the deterioration of the 
stage? The learned Sheriff seems to take it 
for granted, that at some period or other the 
theatre was a place frequented by the Christian 
and virtuous of the community. We have 
sought in vain for such an era. It was not, as 
as has been shown, in the age of Shakspere and 
Elizabeth, or of the Stuarts, or of Queen Anne ; 
and for the modern character of plays and the 
play-house, we are well content to receive 
the testimony of Sir Archibald Alison. But 
admitting, for the sake of argument, that the 
amusements of the stage were once such as could 
be witnessed with pleasure and profit by Chris- 
tian men and their families — for it must be their 
u unfortunate prejudices" which are chiefly in 
the author's view — we have to ask, why did 
the stage become corrupt in spite of their pre- 
sence, unless there be some inherent defect in 
its constitution? And why are good men to 
be held responsible for its having sunk to a 
lower depth in their absence, when it was "the 
immorality of some of its dramas, and the 
license of many of its accessories/' that drove 
them away with " a natural feeling of indig- 
nation V If they were wrong, as our author 



58 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

thinks, in abandoning the theatre, it must 
clearly be their duty to return to it. But how, 
and when, is the derelict amusement to be raised 
out of the mire of moral pollution, and rendered 
fit for the participation of the pure and virtuous? 
The statement of the historian virtually confirms 
a previous remark, that it is the character of 
the spectators which determines the nature of 
the entertainment. Before a thorough reform 
can be introduced into the theatre, therefore, 
the great proportion of its audiences must con- 
sist of the moral and religious of the community. 
And in order that even a beginning may be 
made, men and women, of this high character, 
must be found animated with a zeal for theatri- 
cal reform, which will induce them to divest 
themselves of " unfortunate prejudices/' to re- 
press " natural feelings of indignation/' to dis- 
regard appearances, to brave temptations, to 
outface the indecencies of the ballet and melo- 
drama, and the licentiousness of many of the 
frequenters of the playhouse, in the hope (a 
somewhat vague one, it must be confessed) of 
giving to the theatre a moral purity which will 
repel the dissolute and profligate from its walls ! 
Let the friends of the drama "call such spirits 
from the vasty deep ; but will they come when 
they do call for them?" We are less concerned 



THE STAGE INCORRIGIBLE. 59 

with the historian's reasons than his facts ; but 
they are inextricably interwoven, and we, there- 
fore, quote the remainder of his remarks on this 
subject: — "There can be no doubt/' he con- 
tinues, "it would be well if these abuses could 
be corrected ; and it would also be well if cor- 
ruption could be banished from literature, vice 
from the world. Unfortunately the one is not 
more likely to happen than the other. Both 
spring from the universal corruption of our 
nature, and will cease when we are no longer 
children of Adam ; but not till then/' The 
fallacy of the illustration here employed is ap- 
parent. We do not attempt to purify litera- 
ture of a vicious and demoralizing description, 
by recommending respectable people to read it ; 
nor do we censure those who, for moral reasons, 
have discontinued its perusal, as having been 
instrumental, from their "unfortunate preju- 
dices/' in rendering it more debasing than it 
was before. And sure we are that, in his judi- 
cial capacity, our respected Sheriff does not illus- 
trate his own argument, by encouraging the 
practice of vice as a means of "banishing it 
from the world." Yet he contends that the 
stage has become degraded because good men 
would not stand by it, despite their indignation 
at its immoralities and licentiousness. Once 
more — "The only effect of this portion of society 



60 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

withdrawing from our theatres has been, that 
their direction has fallen into the hands of the 
unscrupulous. Their support of the profli- 
gate, and the licentious characters of their 
representations, have, in consequence, been 
greatly increased. We cannot destroy the art 
of iEschylus, Shakspere, and Schiller, but we 
may alter its character, and degrade its direc- 
tion ; and the unhappy result of the respect- 
able classes withdrawing from the theatre, has 
been too often to convert what might be, at 
least occasionally, the school of virtue, into the 
academy of vice." There is nothing new in 
this method of reasoning the question. A 
writer in support of the stage, half a century 
ago, fell upon much the same line of argument 
as Sir Archibald Alison has adopted in his his- 
tory; but instead of merely reproaching the 
respectable classes for neglecting or relinquish- 
ing the theatre, he boldly took up positive 
ground, and made it "matter of duty" to attend 
plays, and to " do good in the face of prejudice." 
To this argument the celebrated Dr. Wither- 
spoon, in a treatise on the stage,* — now less 
known than it deserves to be — replied thus 

* A Serious Inquiry into the Nature and Effects of the 
Stage. By John Witlierspoon, D.D., sometime minister 
of the gospel at Paisley, and late President of Princeton 
College, New Jersey, 1805. 



SYLLOGISM, 61 

pointedly: — "But how shall we refute this new 
and wonderful doctrine, of its being necessary 
that good men should attend the theatre ? I 
cannot think of a better way of doing it, than 
tearing off some of the drapery of words with 
which it is adorned and disguised, and setting 
his own assertions together in the form of a 
syllogism : — 

"The manager of every theatre must suit his 
entertainments to the company, and if he is 
not supported by the grave and sober, he must 
suit himself to the licentious and profane : 

" We know that in every nation there must 
be amusements and public entertainments, and 
the stage has always made one in every civilized 
and polished nation. We cannot hope to abo- 
lish it : 

"Ergo, according to this author, it is the duty 
of good men to attend the stage. 

" But I leave the reader to judge whether, 
from the first of his propositions, which is a cer- 
tain truth, it is not more just to infer, that till 
the majority of those who attend the stage are 
good; its entertainment cannot be fit for the 
Christian ear ; and because that will never be, 
no Christian ought to go there. And what a 
shameful begging of the question is his second 
proposition, 'That we cannot hope to abolish 



62 TENDENCY OF THE STAGE. 

it/ It is hard to tell what we may hope for in 
this age, but we insist that it ought to be 
abolished. Nay, we do hope to abolish it just 
as much as other vices. We cannot hope to 
see the time" when there shall be no gaming, 
cheating, or lying ; but we must still preach 
against all such vices, and will never exhort 
good men to go to gaming tables, to persuade 
them to play fair, and lessen the wickedness of 
the practice/' 



THE SCHOOL OF VIETUE; 

ITS SCHOLARS AND TEACHERS. 

Slight those who say, amidst their sickly healths, 
" Thou livest by rule." What doth not so hut man? 
Houses are built by rule, and Commonwealths. 
Entice the trusty sun, if that you can, 
From his ecliptic line ; — beckon the sky. 
Who lives by rule, then, keeps good company. 

By all means use sometimes to be alone. 
Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear. 
Dare to look in thy chest — for 'tis thine own, — 
And tumble up and down what thou fiud'st there. 
Who cannot rest till he good fellows find, 
He breaks up house, turns out of doors his mind. 

George Hekbeet. 
#>## 



Rejoice, young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the 
days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of 
thine eyes : but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee 

INTO JUDGMENT. ECCLESIASTES. 



The defenders of dramatic amusements main- 
tain that the stage is a school of morality. We 
have seen some of the lessons which it teaches. 
Let us next examine the scholars and the 
teachers as to the soundness of this claim. In 
the first place, does the general character of 
the frequenters of the theatre indicate that 



64 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

their purpose in attending it is to receive moral 
instruction ? and do they really derive moral 
benefit from the lessons it inculcates, and the 
examples it displays? None stand more in 
need of such influences than many of both sexes 
who are nightly within its walls. Sir Walter 
Scott, who was no enemy to the drama, writ- 
ing to Southey, describes a London theatrical 
audience in the following terms : — " One-half 
come to prosecute their debaucheries, so openly 
that it would degrade a bagnio. Another set, 
to snooze off their beef-steaks and port wine ; a 
third, are critics of the fourth column of the 
newspaper/' A part of most theatres is appro- 
priated for the accommodation of females of 
abandoned character. In Drury Lane a saloon 
is set apart expressly for the purpose of intro- 
ducing the licentious of either sex to each other. 
When Mr. Macreacly, whom we name with re- 
spect, as the most earnest dramatic reformer of 
the clay, became the lessee of Drury Lane, 
some years ago, he resolved to purge the stage 
of low and immoral plays, and replace the 
melo-drama with the tragedies of Shakspere 
and the higher dramatists. He determined fur- 
ther to exclude from the house all females of an 
improper character. He made known his mo- 
tives and intentions in a published prospectus, 



MR. MACREADY's EXPERIMENT. 65 

and invited the support of a moral and respec- 
table class of play-goers. Many, in common 
with ourselves, watched the progress of this 
instructive experiment on the taste and moral 
feeling of play-goers. The sock was displaced 
for the buskin. Shakspere was produced in 
his least obnoxious aspects ; frivolous melo- 
dramas, profane and impure interludes, and 
wanton and indecent dancing, were discarded. 
Profligate women were refused admittance. 
What was the consequence ? The legitimate 
drama, as it was termed, failed to attract the 
moral class of society ; the habitues of the place 
withdrew, when their gross appetites were no 
longer gratified with garbage ; and the licen- 
tious of one sex having been ejected, those of the 
other sex had no longer any inducement to fre- 
quent the house. The plan notoriously proved a 
complete failure, and was abandoned in despair, 
after involving Mr. Macready in serious loss. 
The theatre in question reverted to the prac- 
tice from which few or none can afford to de- 
viate, that of admitting improper characters — of 
furnishing special accommodation for them, — 
and of providing fitting amusements for them. 
If the play-house be a school of morals, and not 
" an academy of vice/' what inducement have 
the vicious and the vile to frequent it ? And 
E 



66 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

if its entertainments are adapted to their tastes, 
what effect are they calculated to produce upon 
the pure and virtuous? Is the moral atmo- 
sphere of the place such as the two classes 
ought to breathe together ? Trom amusements 
which the one can enjoy with as much zest as 
the other, it is worse than idle to talk of deriv- 
ing moral instruction. It is not denied that 
moral lessons are occasionally inculcated on the 
stage in its present state ; but its whole history 
warrants the affirmation, that were this the 
usual character and tendency of its teaching, 
nothing would be so distasteful and unattrac- 
tive to the great majority of its friends and 
admirers. Neither " the many-headed monster 
of the pit/' nor the dii minores of the gallery, 
would long be gratified with that description 
of pleasure, which, according to Seneca, the 
gods enjoy when they look upon a virtuous 
man struggling with misfortunes ; and moral 
precepts and virtuous examples on the stage 
would speedily show " a beggarly account of 
empty boxes/' 

There is something ineffably fulsome in this 
cant about the virtue of the theatre, as if the 
attractiveness of the stage culminated in the 
representation of a moral piece, and the appear- 
ance of a moral player ; whereas it is well known 



UNCHRISTIAN MORALS. 67 

that there are not in existence, in the English 
language, or in the whole literature of the stage, 
as many moral plays as would stock a theatre, 
and render it independent of objectionable 
pieces ; and as for the players, whilst we desire 
to bring no railing accusation against them as 
a class, it is not to be denied, that if their pro- 
fession and aims are virtuous, they exhibit a 
marvellous inaptitude for learning their own 
lessons. The virtues of the stage are not the 
virtues of Christianity ; and not being Christian, 
they are anti-Christian ; for here there is no 
middle term, and no neutrality. " He that is 
not with me, is against me/' was the declaration 
of the Great Teacher. It is equally true, that 
natural feelings and emotions are not repre- 
sented on the stage. The pure pathos and ten- 
derness of common life could not be acted with- 
out revolting an audience. Pathetic feeling must 
therefore be mingled with ingredients of a more 
exciting kind. Hence immoderate love, disap- 
pointment, jealousy, revenge, pride, ambition, 
suicide, and murder, form the prominent features 
in tragedies; and gallantry and intrigue, pro- 
digality in the guise of generosity, profanity 
dignified with the name of spirit, and vice 
in the garb of wit and humour, furnish the 
chief materials of comedies. In such represent 



68 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

tations the simple feelings of nature are out- 
raged, human life and experience are shown 
through a false and deceptive medium, moral 
principle is distorted, religion is insulted, and its 
professors are turned into ridicule. " How often/' 
says Mr. Angell James,* "is some profligate rake 
introduced to the spectators, furnished with a 
few traits of frankness and generosity, to interest 
them by his vicious career, and who so far recon- 
ciles them all to his crimes, as to tolerate his 
atrocities, for the sake of his open-hearted, good- 
humoured virtues. Who can wonder that young 
women should be prepared by such stuff, for any 
intrigue with a bold and wily adventurer ? or 
that young men should be encouraged to play the 
good-natured heroic rake, which they have seen 
such a favourite with the public on the stage? 
Besides, how saturated are both tragedies and 
comedies with irreverent appeals to heaven, 
profane swearing, and all the arts of equivoca- 
tion, and falsehood, and deception ! What lasci- 
vious allusions are made, what impure passages 
are repeated ! What a fatal influence must 
this have upon the delicacy of female modesty ! 
.... Little will go down with the public in 



* The Christian Father's Present to his Children. By 
J. A. James. 



DEPRAVED TASTE. 69 

the shape of comedy, farce, or opera, but what is 
pretty highly seasoned with indelicate allusions. 
Hence it is, that even the newspaper critics, 
whose morality is, in general, not of the most 
saintly character, so often mention the too- 
barefaced indecencies of new plays/'* Again, 
" How many sentiments are continually uttered 
on the stage, how many indelicate allusions are 
made, which no man who had any regard to the 
virtue of his sons, or the feelings of his daughters, 

* The following notice of a popular farce of the current 
season is not quoted as a case in point, for it indicates an 
indelicacy without rebuking it, but as affording an unde- 
signed testimony to the depraved tastes of London play- 
goers: — "A short dramatic tale, in which some new adven- 
tures of the celebrated Messrs. Box and Cox are set forth, 
is the successful novelty at the Haymarket. Box and 
Cox are, as the bills inform us, now supposed to be 
"married and settled; 5 ' and the dramatic happiness of 
Cox receives a transient interruption through the suspicion 
that too great an intimacy has existed between Mrs. Cox 
and Box. However, the cloud blows over, and the friend- 
ship of the modern Orestes and Pylades is more firmly 
cemented than ever. Those little circumstances of dra- 
matic discomfort which particularly delight a London 
audience are plentifully introduced ; and who could refrain 
from laughter when Mesdames Box and Cox fall out at 
breakfast, and Mr. Cox gets into a street row on the sub- 
ject of an umbrella ? Much as the Englishman reveres 
the domestic hearth, he [the play-goer] is never more 
amused than when he- sees it converted into a field of 
battle."— Spectator, Oct. 16, 1852. 



70 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

would allow to be uttered at bis table ? Are not 
whole passages repeatedly recited, which no 
modest man would allow to be read before the 
family ? Nothing but the countenance of num- 
bers could induce many females to sit and listen 
to that which they hear at the theatre. Were 
any man to quote, in company, some of the 
expressions which are in constant iteration at 
the play-house, would he not be regarded as a 
person most dangerous to the virtue of others ? 
And yet these nauseating exhibitions are heard 
with pleasure, when they are heard with the 
multitude. Can this be friendly to modesty, 
to virtue, to piety ? Must there not be an in- 
sensible corrosion going on under such an influ- 
ence upon the fine polish of female excellence, 
and upon the moral principle of the male sex? 
Is this avoiding the appearance of evil V 

To the above testimony may be added that 
of Mr. Binney* on the same point : — " The 
countenance and encouragement which the 
theatre gives to vice ; the stimulus applied to the 
passions by the nature of the performances, and 
the excited emotions, the language, the ges- 
tures, the dress of the performers themselves ; the 



* Objections to Theatrical Amusements. A discourse by 
the Rev. Thomas Binney, London. 



SOCIAL INEXPEDIENCY. 71 

nature of the audience, composed for the most 
part of the doubtful and the bad ; the facilities 
afforded to prostitutes to mingle with the com- 
pany in every part of the house (or almost every 
part), and the perfectly understood and recog- 
nised arrangement by which from some parts of 
the house the modest and virtuous of the sex, the 
wives and sisters of gentlemen, are systemati- 
cally excluded, — these are things that constitute 
our reasons for condemning the theatre, even 
when we take no higher ground than a becom- 
ing regard to the morals of the people. Exclud- 
ing religion altogether — leaving out of view the 
peculiar views and professions of piety — reason- 
ing as if there were no such book as the New 
Testament in the world, with its spiritual 
functions and unearthly demands on the habits 
and the heart — feeling and thinking, if you 
please, as mere moral philanthropists, the friends 
and advocates of decency and decorum, the 
protectors of youth, the guardians of man's 
innocence, and of woman's imagination, — on 
this ground, independently of all others of a 
higher character, it is our deep and solemn 
conviction, that theatres deserve nothing from 
the thoughtful and the pure but unmitigated 
and unequivocal condemnation/' 

The late Mr. Macdonald of Calcutta, a man of 



72 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

eminent talent and piety, was, in his youth, de- 
votedly fond of theatrical amusements, and his 
testimony to their pernicious effects is the result 
of personal experience and observation. He 
speaks of evils which he has seen and known, 
and with touching humility and frankness meets 
in his own person the argument usually em- 
ployed by the defenders of the theatre, when 
instances are pointed out to them of the demora- 
lising influence of the stage, upon the character 
of individuals. Referring to his own experience 
of this malignant influence, he anticipates the 
reply, that this arose from the peculiar badness 
of his own heart. u Be it so/' is the rejoinder — 
" his heart was bad ; very bad. But here lies 
the question again in its turn, ' Why did so bad 
a heart find such delight in the play-house V" 
The evidence of such a witness is invaluable, 
and here is his description of the average cha- 
racter of the frequenters of the play in London : 
— "What class of the rich habitually occupy 
the boxes ? Let West-end tradesmen say — let 
Tattersal and Crockford tell. Do you want the 
scum of vicious poverty? You will find it in the 
gallery. Do you want the froth of vicious me- 
diocracy ? You will find abundance in the pit. 
Why does the swindler love the play? Why 
does the gambler love the play ? Why does 



AVERAGE CHARACTER OF PLAY- GOERS. 73 

the forger love the play? Why does the horse- 
jockey love the play? Why does the scoffer at 
religion love the play ? Why does the back- 
slider from the worship of God love the play ? 
Why does the man that never prays love the 
play? Why does the apostate love the play? 
Why do fashionable swearers love the play? 
Why do shameless adulterers love the play? 
Why do embezzling clerks love the play? Why 
do those that never enter a church love the 
play? Why is it, in short, that all the very 
worst classes of society delight to frequent the 
theatre ? Is it because it is good, or because it 
is evil ? That there are moral persons who also 
go there on select occasions, we admit ; but it 
is undeniable that actors do not expect their 
benefits from them ; they would distrust their 
largest payers, and .be ashamed of their best 
attendants/' Speaking of the uniformly bad 
character of the precincts of the London play- 
houses, the same writer says: — " Ministerial 
duties compelled us to pass through certain 
theatrical neighbourhoods, and the scenes which 
we saw prevented our doubting, what at least 
one large portion of a London population judged 
even its best theatres to be. We remember 
once discussing the merits of the stage with a 
gentleman of liberal profession, and a native 



74 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

of London, who endeavoured to take up the 
ground that the stage was moral in its ten- 
dency ; but when asked why, if theatres were 
so moral, their immediate localities were sinks 
of vice, and their porticoes thronged by the 
expectants of iniquity, he replied, ' I acknow- 
ledge the difficulty, and I cannot account for 
the fact according to my views/ Nor could 
he ; but we can, in the trite old adage, ' Where 
the carcass is, there also shall the vultures be 
gathered together/" 

From a statement in a work on Fashionable 
Amusements, it appears that Mr. Macready's 
experiment was not the only attempt to purify 
the "school of morality" in Drury Lane. When 
the theatre was under a numerous proprietary, 
it was remitted to the Committee of Manage- 
ment (including several distinguished senators 
of both Houses of Parliament), to consider a 
proposal to exclude females of a certain charac- 
ter from the house; but in the Committee's 
report, " the measure was over-ruled, under the 
conviction that, if adopted, the institution could 
not be supported !" A similar result followed an 
effort to reform the Tremont Theatre in Boston. 
The trustees protested even against an order 
of council prohibiting intoxicating liquors to 
be sold on the premises, alleging that it was 



THE PRESS AND THE STAGE. 75 

impossible to maintain the theatre without it. 
In the United States, as in our own country, 
a reformed theatre could not exist, were it 
practicable. 

Some years ago, the Literary Gazette raised a 
powerful protest against the licentious tenden- 
cies of the dramatic representations popular on 
the London boards, lamenting that, as the true 
drama declined, meretricious attractions were 
multiplied. The writer says, " The liberal and 
wanton exhibition of the female person became 
common, was tolerated, applauded, sapped the 
public taste, and now revels in triumphant 
impurity/' " The saloons have long been in- 
famous : the representations behind the curtain 
are now pretty much on a par with the saloons. 
If you seat yourself or family in a public box, 
the chances are, that you are mixed up with 
a class whose manners and conversation shock 
every sense of decency." This was in February, 
1834. In the following month, a theatrical 
fund anniversary meeting was held, and the 
drama lauded as the great engine of morality, 
and handmaid of genuine religion : the " Puri- 
tans " were denounced for discouraging the 
stage, and the aid of the press was invoked on 
behalf of the theatre. The same periodical 
responded to the appeal, by demanding, as a 



76 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

condition to its support, that the drama should 
no longer " retrograde into licentiousness, and 
take the lead in corrupting public morals ; ". 
adding, that the age of Charles II. was ex- 
ceeded in grossness by the exposures in such 
pieces as the " Revolt of the Harem/' and the 
" Masked Ball/' "It may not be expedient 
for the pulpit to notice this foul and corrupting 
tone which now prevails so entirety in theatres, 
that it is hardly possible for a modest woman 
to visit one of them without having her feel- 
ings exposed to outrage ; but it would, in our 
judgment, be a still greater breach of its trust 
in the press to uphold it. The bishop of Lon- 
don has foiled one attempt to travesty the 
Scripture ; but he cannot stem the tide of 
obscenity and pimping which make our na- 
tional drama a national obloquy/' — (Lit Gaz., 
March, 1834.) Should any friend of the drama 
consider it unfair to implicate the theatres of 
the present day in the vices which stamped 
them eighteen years ago, we must refer him 
to the testimony of Sir A. Alison to the con- 
tinued decline of dramatic taste, of which, also, 
Mr. C. Mathews has furnished some instructive 
examples in his letter. But we have yet 
another witness to call, whose evidence, from 
recent personal observation, identifies, in the 



RECENT PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS. 77 

present condition of the stage, all the vicious 
and repulsive features which writers have de- 
scribed since the time of Sir John Hawkins 
(the biographer of Dr Johnson), who charac- 
terized the play-house, and the region about it, 
as " the hot-beds of vice/' Mr. Samuel James 
Button, who furnished Mr. Binney of London 
with some illustrations of the present state of 
the stage, affirms that all the enormities de- 
tailed by earlier and later writers, and many 
others which had escaped their notice, had 
fallen under his own observation. "Though 
never officially connected with the stage in 
any capacity whatever, yet peculiar circum- 
stances gave me, for several years, free access, 
by day arid night, to both before and behind 
the curtain of our principal winter and summer 
metropolitan theatres, and also threw me into 
intimacy with many of their authors, managers, 
and chief performers ; consequently, there is no 
part of stage economy with which I am unac- 
quainted. And it is my personal, complete 
knowledge of that economy, which forces upon 
me the conviction, that, were another Ezekiel 
to arise, and another angel to descend to exhibit 
to him the c greater ' and c greater abomina- 
tions ' of this land, he would reserve, for the 
astonished and indignant prophet, a display of 



78 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

the iniquities of a London theatre, as the last 
and most fearful c chamber of imagery/ " 

There must be something radically defective 
in a system which, in all ages, has been re- 
garded by wise and good men as a source of 
danger to the bests interests of society. Plato 
described plays as exciting the passions, and 
perverting the use of them. Aristotle suggested 
that young people should be forbidden by law 
to witness comedies. Tully denounced licen- 
tious plays and poems as the bane of society. 
Livy remarked that plays were introduced 
amongst the Romans to pacify the gods and 
remove a mortality, but that the remedy proved 
worse than the disease. Tacitus reproached 
Nero for having hired decayed gentlemen for 
the stage, observing that it was a prince's part 
to relieve their necessity, and not to tempt it. 
He also observes that the German women pre- 
served their honour by having no theatres 
amongst them. Plutarch spoke of plays as the 
corrupters of youth. Solon, Xenophon, Cicero, 
Seneca, and Cato, are also amongst the vene- 
rable names of antiquity arrayed against the 
stage. The Athenians had a law that no judge 
of the Areopagus should degrade himself by 
writing a play. The Lacedaemonians would 
not tolerate the stage in any form. The Ro- 



TESTIMONY OF THE WHOLE MOEAL WORLD. 79 

mans counted plays discreditable and scan- 
dalous, and held players to be degraded and 
denationalized. When Csesar compelled Libe- 
rius to recite some of his own works on the 
stage, " Alas ! " said the aged man, " I have 
lived one day too many. I left my house this 
morning a Roman knight ; I return to it this 
evening an infamous stage-player/' To the 
testimonies of the heathen world against the 
stage, which are stated more at large by Jeremy 
Collier, we add those, of the Christian world, as 
summed up by William Prynne, in his Histrio- 
mastix, the Players' Scourge, published in 
1633. This venerable writer made a catalogue 
of authorities against the stage, which contains 
every name of eminence in the heathen and 
Christian worlds; comprehends the united tes- 
timony of the Jewish and Christian churches 
— the deliberate acts of fifty-four ancient and 
modern, general, national, and provincial coun- 
cils and synods, both of the Eastern and West- 
ern churches — the condemnatory sentence of 
seventy-one ancient fathers, and one hundred 
and fifty modern authors, Popish and Protes- 
tant — the hostile endeavours of philosophers, 
and even poets — with the legislative enact- 
ments of a great number of Pagan and Chris- 



80 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

tian states, nations, magistrates, emperors, and 
princes. 

After this accumulation of testimonies against 
the stage, we are surely warranted in affirming, 
that it is not from this boasted school of morals 
that society derives any of those impulses which 
elevate and improve men in the social scale, 
restrain vice, stimulate to virtue, and excite to 
generous efforts to do good ; or which prompt 
youthful and ingenuous minds to enter upon 
the path of self-education, to cultivate habits 
of manly thought and feeling, to cherish pure 
and simple tastes, and exercise vigorous self- 
control. From the " relaxing, sentimentalizing, 
dreamy, passion-stirring atmosphere of a thea- 
tre/' — from weeping over scenes of fictitious 
misery, what man or woman has ever gone 
forth into the hovels of the poor, and lent a 
helping hand to raise their inmates from their 
wretchedness, to educate the ignorant, to re- 
claim the wandering, to relieve the sick, to 
cheer the sorrowing, and, were it but by a 
loving and sympathizing word, to take a single 
atom from the heap of human suffering, and 
add it to the sum of human happiness ? Oh ! 
no. Selfishness is at the bottom of theatrical 
sentiment, and its tenderness melts into thin 



THE TEACHERS. 81 

air when brought into contact with the stem 
realities of life. The tree is known by its fruit. 
" Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of 
thistles?" 

If this is all that the theatrical school of 
morality does for its scholars, let us take a peep 
behind the scenes, and inquire what it does 
for its teachers. In a school where the pupils 
choose their own lessons, it is not to be ex- 
pected that the teachers will be very rigid in 
enforcing or exemplifying a high degree of 
moral principle. The influences of the system 
are indeed all against the poor player. If he 
maintains his integrity amidst such a scene of 
temptations, it is not because of the lessons of 
the theatre, but in spite of them ; and it is to 
be feared that the instances are rare and ex- 
ceptional, in which actors possess firmness and 
fortitude to resist the moral contamination of 
the place. We shall not go the length of some 
writers, and maintain that, by identifying 
themselves with the bad characters they enact, 
histrionic performers come to lose the percep- 
tion of moral distinctions ; but it is unquestion- 
able that many of them conduct themselves as 
if it were really true, that on the stage, as well 
as in the world, " example strikes all human 
F 



82 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

hearts — a bad example more." Garrick once 
boasted to Dr. Johnson, that he entered into 
the assumed vicious character as if it were his 
own. " Then/' replied Johnson, " if you really 
believe yourself such a monster, you ought to 
be hanged every time you perform it/' A simi- 
lar sentiment, as to the influence of the lessons 
upon the teachers in the dramatic school of 
morals, led an old writer on this subject to 
remark, that to send young people to the 
theatre to form their manners, is to expect 
" that they will learn virtue frpm profligates, 
and modesty from harlots/' Did the reader 
ever hear of a pious actor or actress ? of a reli- 
gious tragedian or religious comedian ? Why, 
the very terms are contradictory. We shall 
demonstrate presently, by a memorable ex- 
ample, that Scriptural piety is incompatible 
with the profession of an actor. Nor is it 
a condition of their being acceptable to the 
frequenters of the theatre, that they should be 
either religious or moral. Cases are not infre- 
quent where they have maintained their popu- 
larity, notwithstanding their living in notorious 
disregard of the laws of chastity, or in open 
violation of the decencies of society. Sir Archi- 
bald Alison has honoured the elder Kean with 



EDMUND KEAN. 88 

a niche in the contemporary History of Europe, 
already quoted.* This is what the Times jour- 
nal said of him on one occasion : — " The con- 
duct of persons who appear on the stage has 
never been the most irreproachable ; and it 
may be doubted whether such a mass of living 
vice, as the actors and actresses but too gene- 
rally present in their private lives, is not more 
injurious to public morals, than the splendid 
examples of virtue which they exhibit in their 
theatrical characters are useful. It appears, 
however, that Kean, the defendant in the cause 
which was tried yesterday, is advanced many 
steps in profligacy, beyond the most profligate 
of his sisters and brethren of the stage. Some 
of Kean's letters are of so filthy a description 
that we cannot insert them. Yet have the 
managers of Drury Lane Theatre the effrontery 
to present, or to attempt presenting, such a 
creature to the gaze of a British audience, on 
Thursday next."— {Times, Jan. 18, 1825.) 

* The learned Sheriff has lately given a flattering letter 
of recommendation to the manager of a Glasgow theatre, 
expressing approval of his efforts to "exclude all the 
objectionable characters, whose presence have [sic] done 
so much to injure the cause of the pure and legitimate 
drama." The manager's circular, containing Sir Archi- 
bald's letter, holds out to the play-going public the pros- 
pect of an engagement with Lola Monies/ 



84 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

We are desirous that the character of the 
profession should be judged of, not from the 
opinions of religious writers, but from the tes- 
timonies of dramatic and other authors, and 
of players themselves. Jean Jacques Rousseau 
will not be suspected of prejudice against the 
players, from any inclination to favour religion 
and virtue ; yet this is what he wrote when it 
was proposed to rear a theatre in Geneva, with 
the intention of sapping the simple morality of 
former times : — " The situation of an actor is a 
state of licentiousness and bad morals ; the men 
are abandoned to disorder, the women lead a 
scandalous life ; the one and the other, at once 
avaricious and profuse, are overwhelmed with 
debt, and ever prodigal, and as unrestrained in 
their disposition as they are void of scruple in 
respect to the means of providing for it. In 
all countries their profession is dishonourable/' 

In the memoir of Montague Stanley, to be 
subsequently quoted, occurs the following letter 
from a dramatic writer, who was no doubt dis- 
posed to take rather a favourable view of the 
theatre, on the occasion of a young lady being 
about to adopt the stage (in Edinburgh) as a 
profession : — " I must give you a caution about 
Miss L. She will find the theatre a dangerous 
place for a young person. Many of the women 



WARNING BY A DRAMATIC AUTHOR. 85 

with whom she must associate are of the worst 
principles and conduct, and many of the men 
are insolent and depraved to an excess. If, 
therefore, she has anything to do with the 
theatre, you ought to take care of providing 
some elderly and discreet woman to accompany 
her there and protect her ; otherwise, however 
good may be her principles, and regular her 
conduct, she will be constantly exposed to a 
thousand insults. A theatre is, in fact, a place 
into which no woman of delicacy ought to set 
her foot (behind the scenes, I mean), unless pro- 
tected by the presence of a husband. I hope 
you will find this kind of life answer for Miss 
L. ; but I fear the contrary very much. For 
a man, the case is far different/' 

We gladly avail ourselves of the opportunity 
of enriching our pages with the following vigo- 
rous and pungent strictures on opera-singers, 
ballet-dancers, and their audiences, from the 
pen of Mr. Thomas Carlyle :"* — 

" Of the Haymarket Opera my account, in 
fine, is this : Lustres, candelabras, painting, 
gilding at discretion; a hall as of the Caliph 
Alraschid, or him that commanded the slaves 
of the Lamp ; a hall as if fitted up by the 

* Keepsake for 1852. 



86 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

genies, regardless of expense. Upholstery and 
the outlay of human capital, could do no more. 
Artistes, too, as they are called, have been got 
together from the ends of the world, regardless 
likewise of expense, to do dancing and singing, 
some of them even geniuses in their craft. One 
singer in particular, called Coletti, or some such 
name, seemed to me, by the cast of his face, by 
the tones of his voice, by his general bearing, 
so far as I could read it, to be a man of deep 
and ardent sensibilities, of delicate intuitions, 
just sympathies ; originally an almost poetic soul, 
or man of genius, as we term it ; stamped by 
nature as capable of far other work than squall- 
ing here, like a blind Samson, to make the 
Philistines sport ! 

" Nay, all of them had aptitudes, perhaps, of 
a distinguished kind ; and must, by their own 
and other people's labour, have got a training 
equal or superior in toilsomeness, earnest assi- 
duity, and patient travail, to what breeds men 
to the most arduous trades. I speak not of 
kings' grandees, or the like show-figures ; but 
few soldiers, judges, men of letters, can have 
had such pains taken with them. The very 
ballet girls, with their muslin saucers round 
them, were perhaps little short of miraculous ; 
whirling and spinning there in strange mad 



THOMAS CARLYLE AT THE OPERA. 87 

vortexes, and then suddenly fixing themselves 
motionless, each upon her left or right great- 
toe, with the other leg stretched out at an 
angle of ninety degrees ; — as if you had sud- 
denly pricked into the floor, by one of their 
points, a pair, or rather a multitudinous cohort, 
of mad, restlessly jumping and clipping scis- 
sors, and so bidden them rest with open blades, 
and stand still, in the Devil's name ! A truly 
notable motion ; marvellous, almost miraculous, 
were not the people there so used to it. Motion 
peculiar to the opera ; perhaps the ugliest, and 
surely one of the most difficult, ever taught a 
female creature in the world. Nature abhors 
it ; but art does at least admit it to border on 
the impossible. One little Cerito, or Taglioni 
the Second, that night when I was there, went 
bounding from the floor as if she had been 
made of Indian -rubber, or filled with hydrogen 
gas, and inclined by positive levity to bolt 
through the ceiling; perhaps neither Semiramis 
nor Catherine the Second had bred herself so 
carefully. 

" Such talent and such martyrdom of train- 
ing, gathered from the four winds, was now 
here, to do its feat and be paid for it. Regard- 
less of expense, indeed ! The purse of Fortu- 
natus seemed to have opened itself, and the 



88 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

divine art of musical sound and rhythmic 
motion was welcomed with an explosion of all 
the magnificences which the other arts, fine 
and coarse, could achieve. For you are to 
think of some Rossini or Bellini in the rear of 
it, too ; to say nothing of the Stanfields, and 
hosts of scene-painters, machinists, engineers, 
enterprisers; — fit to have taken Gibraltar, 
written the History of England, or reduced 
Ireland into industrial regiments, had they 
so set their minds to it ! 

" Alas, and of all these notable or noticeable 
human talents, and excellent perseverances 
and energies, backed by mountains of wealth, 
and led by the divine art of music and rhythm, 
vouchsafed by Heaven to them and us, what 
was to be the issue here this evening ? An 
hour's amusement, not amusing either, but 
wearisome and dreary, to a high-dizened select 
Populace of male and female persons, who 
seemed to me not much worth amusing ! 
Could any one have pealed into their hearts 
once, one true thought, ancT glimpse of Self- 
vision : c High-dizened, most expensive persons, 
Aristocracy so called, or Best of the World, 
beware, beware what proofs you give of bet- 
terness and bestness !' And then the salutary 
pang of conscience in reply : c A select Populace, 



THOMAS CARLYLE AT THE OPERA. 89 

with money in its purse, and drilled a little by 
the posture - maker : good Heavens ! if that 
were what, here and everywhere in God's 
creation, I am? And a world all dying be- 
cause I am, and show myself to be, and to have 
long been, even that ? John, the carriage, the 
carriage : swift ! Let me go home in silence, 
to reflection, perhaps to sackcloth and ashes f 
This and not amusement, would have profited 
those high-dizened persons. 

" Amusement, at any rate, they did not get 
from Euterpe and Melpomene. These two 
Muses, sent for, regardless of expense, I could 
see, were but the vehicle of a kind of service 
which I judged to be Paphian rather. Young 
beauties of both sexes used their opera-glasses, 
you could notice, not entirely for looking at the 
stage. And it must be owned the light, in this 
explosion of all the upholsteries, and the human 
fine arts and coarse, was magical ; and made 
your fair one an Armida — if you liked her 
better so. Nay, certain old Improper-Females 
(of quality), in their rouge and jewels, even 
these looked some reminiscence of enchantment; 
and I saw this and the other lean domestic 
Dandy, with icy smile on his old worn face ; 
this and the other Marquis Singedelomme, 
Prince Mahogany, or the like foreign digni- 



90 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

tary, tripping into the boxes of said females, 
grinning there awhile, with dyed moustachios, 
and macassar-oil graciosity, and then tripping 
out again ; — and, in fact, I perceived that 
Coletti, and Cerito, and the rhythmic arts, 
were a mere accompaniment here. 

" Wonderful to see ; and sad, if you had eyes ! 
Do but think of it. Cleopatra threw pearls 
into her drink in mere waste ; which was 
reckoned foolish of her. But here had the 
modern aristocracy of men brought the divinest 
of its arts, heavenly music itself ; and, piling 
all the upholsteries and ingenuities that other 
human art could do, had lighted them into a 
bonfire to illuminate an hour's flirtation of 
Singedelomme, Mahogany, and these improper 
persons ! Never in nature had I seen such 
waste before. Coletti, you whose inborn 
melody, once of kindred as I judged to 'the 
melodies eternal/ might have valiantly weeded 
out this and the other false thing from the 
ways of men, and made a bit of God's creation 
more melodious, — they have* purchased you 
away from that ; chained you to the wheel 
of Prince Mahogany's chariot, and here you 
make sport for a macassar Singedelomme and 
his improper -females past the prime of life ! 
Wretched spiritual nigger, Oh, if you had some 



JENNY LIND AND SHERIDAN KNOWLES. 91 

genius, and were not a born nigger, with mere 
appetite for pumpkin, should you have endured 
such a lot ? I lament for you beyond all other 
expenses. Other expenses are light ; you are 
the Cleopatra's pearl that should not have 
been flung into Mahogany's claret-cup. And 
Rossini, too, and Mozart and Bellini — Oh 
Heavens, when I think that music too is con- 
demned to be mad and to burn herself, to this 
end, on such a funeral pile, — your celestial 
Opera-house grows dark and infernal to me ! 
Behind its glitter stalks the shadow of Eternal 
Death ; through it too I look not • up into the 
divine eyes/ as Richter has it, ' but down into 
the bottomless eyesocket' — not up towards God, 
Heaven, and the Throne of Truth, but too truly 
down towards Falsity, Vacuity, and the dwell- 
ing-place of Everlasting Despair/' 

It was, no doubt, from considerations of a 
moral kind that the celebrated Swedish voca- 
list, Jenny Lind, was induced, at a great pro- 
fessional sacrifice, to relinquish the operatic 
stage. Mr. Sheridan Knowles, also, may be 
presumed to have renounced the stage, both as 
an author and an actor, in uniting in church 
communion with the Baptist denomination, 
three of whose ablest ministers he formerly 



92 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

withstood in a controversy on the immoral 
tendency of the stage."* 

But there is yet another testimony against 
the theatre and its evils, given in the most 
impressive manner, by an actor of no small 
mark and likelihood, within the last few years. 
We allude to Montague Stanley.! He was 
devoted to the stage at an early period of 
life, and became strongly attached to it. He 
was first brought into notice in Edinburgh, 
where he was engaged in the theatre in 1828 ; 
and from the first exhibited talents which pro- 
mised to raise him to distinction in his profes- 
sion. He was a man of lively and generous 
impulses, a close observer of nature, possessed 
a poetical taste and temperament, cultivated a 
talent for drawing, and painted with growing 

* Now that he is a member of the denomination, three 
among the ablest of whose ministers he withstood, and in 
place of his old avocations is found delivering lectures on 
rhetoric at Stepney Baptist College, "chiefly with a view 
to secure an easy and elegant style of delivery on the part 
of the students now training in that institution," possibly 
he looks back upon the contest we have referred to, with 
feelings different from those with which he entered into it, 
and with views not precisely similar to those he then so 
forcibly enunciated. — Devonport Independent. 

f Memoir of Montague Stanley, A.R.S.A. By the Rev. 
"D. T. K. Drummond. 



MONTAGUE STANLEY. 93 

success for the annual exhibition. All the while 
his popularity on the stage was increasing. 
After an engagement in Dublin, and another 
in London, in 1832-3, he returned to Edinburgh, 
and continued on the boards of the Theatre 
Royal till 1838, when he closed his histrionic 
career in the height of his popularity in that 
city. He had, some years previously, formed a 
marriage connection with a family of great re- 
spectability in Edinburgh, which was destined 
to give a new complexion to his character and 
life. One member of this family had gone out 
to India to practise medicine, and there, like 
many others of our countrymen, in similar cir- 
cumstances, was brought to seek after the Lord, 
whom he had neglected in his father-land. His 
correspondence with the family breathed the 
spirit and affection of a renewed nature. Out 
of a large family circle, not one remained un- 
influenced by his letters. Mr. Stanley alone 
held out resolutely, characterising the commu- 
nications of his brother-in-law as the " rhapso- 
dies of Methodism/' and their writer as "right- 
eous over much, and as assuming an air of 
sanctity which was both unreasonable and 
absurd/' Still there were indications even in 
the vehemence of his opposition, that a work of 
momentous importance was beginning in the 



94 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

heart of the proud player. Dimly at first, he 
began to discern that all was not safe betwixt 
him and his righteous Judge. As his spiritual 
perceptions cleared up, he sought refuge in a 
more rigid adherence to moral duties. " The 
works of the law became paramount — religion 
was not only respected, but its observances were 
attended to — family worship was begun in the 
evening, and every oath or expression of irre- 
verence was expunged from the parts which he 
had to commit to memory for the stage. From 
tolerating, he was led to hate and condemn 
sin" In 1837 we find him formally resolv- 
ing, by the grace of God, " to lead a new life, 
and become a new creature in Christ/' And we 
are prepared for discovering, in 1838, a struggle 
going on betwixt his religious principles and 
his profession as an actor. His biographer, 
the Rev. Mr. Drummond, of Edinburgh, who 
was also his pastor, says: — "He had for years 
devoted himself to the profession of his choice 
— one which gratified his tastes, which seemed 
to open an easy and pleasant path to the rea- 
lizing of his ambitious hopes, and in the pur- 
suit of which he had been eminently successful. 
It may be safely affirmed, that, in the thea- 
trical profession, few indeed ever had brighter 
prospects than Mr. Stanley had at the period 



MONTAGUE STANLEY. 95 

now mentioned. But the last portion of his 
service in this profession was anything but 
happy. All was succeeding with him as re- 
garded worldly things. He had acquired the 
esteem and confidence of a considerable circle 
of friends. He was happy in his home. He 
was beginning to attain to something more 
than a local celebrity. He was considered one 
of the most rising in his profession. He was 
experiencing the intoxicating draught of popu- 
lar applause. He was in the receipt of a very 
handsome income from his professional labours ; 
and yet amidst all this his mind was ill at ease/' 
In short, the felt incongruity between his Chris- 
tian character, and his pursuits as an actor, 
became intolerable. His conscience told him 
that he could not hold the high and heavenly 
principles which had been revealed to him, 
together with the opinions and feelings he for- 
merly had cherished. " He saw (says his 
biographer) that he could not serve God and 
mammon. Yet what was he to do ? His live- 
lihood, the support of his family, all depended 
upon his professional exertions. Was he to 
throw away the only means apparently within 
his reach of providing for them ? Was he pre- 
pared to step down at once with them, from a 
state of comfort to one of straitened means, 



96 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

perhaps of penury ?" Although these sentences 
follow consecutively in his memoir, it is not to 
be supposed that Mr. Stanley, after he had be- 
come convinced of the unchristian character of 
the stage, hesitated for a single moment as to 
the duty of leaving it at all hazards ; and 
modern religious biography exhibits no finer 
example of simple faith, trustful confidence, 
singleness of purpose, and promptitude of deci- 
sion. " No sooner (says his biographer) did 
he, by the grace of God, discover that he was 
not honouring God by the course he was pur- 
suing, than c immediately he conferred not with 
flesh and blood' — he threw aside every other 
consideration than that of child-like submis- 
sion and obedience to the Word of God, and 
at once resigned his situation with all its pre- 
sent advantages, and all its future hopes/' 
His Journal contains the following entries : — 
"February 14, 1838. — Having resolved to 
quit the theatrical profession, as contrary to 

the will of God, I this evening told Mr. , 

and decided upon a step which I feel assured the 
Almighty will bless, since it is for his honour 
and glory that I take it ; trusting entirely in 
God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen/' 

"April, 28. — Last night of my dramatic 
career ; and now thanks be to the Lord who 



MONTAGUE STANLEY. 97 

hath called me from darkness to light. / am 
emancipated from a most ungodly profes- 
sion. May the Lord bless and prosper me in 
my new one/' 

We cannot help lingering with a mournful 
interest on the subsequent career of this noble- 
minded man, which, although not bearing im- 
mediately on the subject in hand, furnishes 
some traits of character which give additional 
weight to his testimony against the stage, and 
enhance the magnanimity of his self-sacrifice. 
Montague Stanley had counted the cost, and 
taken up the cross, soberly, deliberately, and 
prayerfully. He had cheerfully surrendered 
his growing emoluments, and what is dearer 
to the player, his cherished popularity ; and 
now we find him embarked on the wide sea 
of life, and buffeting its billows with a brave 
heart. His fine talents were in the first in- 
stance devoted to teaching drawing, elocution, 
fencing, and the flute, whilst his leisure was 
given to the cultivation of landscape painting, 
with a view to its becoming his ultimate pro- 
fession ; and it is remarked as singularly indi- 
cative of his gifted mind that he taught all 
these branches well. His success enabled him 
ere long to confine himself exclusively to his 
favourite pursuit as an artist, and a teacher of 
G 



98 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

drawing and painting. Whilst giving lessons 
in elocution, several persons became his pupils 
who were avowedly preparing themselves for 
the theatrical profession. We are told that in 
such cases he never faltered in his duty. He 
entreated them to re- consider their resolution. 
He spoke to them as a Christian man upon the 
principles involved in their choice, and he 
spoke to them from experience as to the actual 
state of things in the theatrical profession. He 
was successful in dissuading no fewer than five 
of his pupils from their purpose of entering upon 
that profession. His love of art induced him to 
spend his first autumnal holidays in painting 
from nature amongst the old oaks of Cadzow 
Forest, at Hamilton, " living in the little cot- 
tage of the keeper of the Duke's white cattle." 
" While he laboured with his pencil during the 
day, he did not neglect his higher calling as a man 
of God. Mr. Stanley formed a little church in 
the house ; and every morning and evening- 
did he gather the inmates together, and the 
Bible was read, and prayer offered up, and the 
voice of praise was heard ascending from the 
little band/' And the savour of his faithful 
warnings, his fervent prayers, and his humble 
walk, was long after cherished in that rural 
abode. But his close application and laborious 






MONTAGUE STANLEY. 99 

efforts, mental and physical, proved too much 
for his constitution. He removed to the island 
of Bute, where symptoms of consumption were 
developed; and died there in May, 1844. We 
have seen what he sacrificed for conscience' 
sake, and what was the manner of his life. We 
add a single quotation more to illustrate the 
peace of his death. On the last Sabbath that 
he spent on earth, in his cottage at Ascog, after 
listening to some passages of the Word of God, 
upon which his soul fed continually — " Stretched 
upon his bed, Montague watched the people as 
they passed along the road on their way to the 
sanctuary — the house of prayer — where he was 
never again to worship with them but in spirit, 
where his voice had been so often heard leading 
the psalm of praise and thanksgiving, and where 
he had, Sabbath after Sabbath, spoken to the 
school children of a Saviour and a God of love. 
The chapel-bell ceased, and no sound was heard 
but the ripple of the tide upon the beach, and 
the carolling of the birds, but these were sounds 
in harmony with his feelings. Everything in 
the vegetable world was awaking into life, 
and nature, after her winter sleep, again sprang 
forth with renewed vigour and the activity of 
health ; but our dear brother, before the sum- 
mer of his life had closed, was withering away 



100 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

That liis mind was at this time occupied in 
dwelling upon the glories that were yet to be 
revealed to him, I have no doubt ; for, when 
the Kev. Mr. Monteith called at the close of the 
morning service, and as he entered, said, ' Well, 
after all, this is certainly a beautiful world we 
live in/ Montague placed his finger on his eye 
and on his ear, and gazed expressively towards 
heaven. Mr. Monteith interpreted the action, 
and repeated, 'Eye hath not seen/ &c, whereon 
Montague smiled, and nodded assent/' Again, 
" Do you remember " — he wrote, on a subsequent 
day, when he could scarcely articulate, in con- 
versation with a brother-in-law — and what a 
contrast betwixt the enjoyments to which his 
recollections now turned, and those which he 
had once derived from the plaudits of the gay 
and giddy throng — " do you remember the 
Sabbath-days we used to pass at Ascog church, 
and the sweet counsel we took together at the 
school ?" 

An anecdote is quoted by Mr. James, of a 
noted comedian named Shuter, in Mr. Whit- 
field's time, showing the unhappy life he led, 
from the consciousness of following "an ungodly 
profession/' without the grace which enabled 
Montague Stanley to emancipate himself from 
its thraldom. Shuter had trembled under the 



SHUTER THE PLAYER. 101 

preaching of Whitfield, while warning his 
hearers of a judgment to come. He also occa- 
sionally attended the ministrations of Mr. Kins- 
man, and sometimes called upon him in Lon- 
don. After a period of separation, they met 
at Plymouth, where Mr. Kinsman was now 
settled. "I am just returned from London/' 
said he, " where I have preached so often, and 
to such large auditories, and have been so 
indisposed, that Dr. Fothergill advised my 
immediate return to the country for change of 
air/' " And I/' said Shuter, " have been act- 
ing Sir John Falstaff so often, that I thought 
I should have died, and the physicians advised 
me to come into the country for the benefit of 
the air. Had you died, it would have been 
in serving the best of masters ; but had I, it 
would have been in the service of the devil. 
! Sir, do you think I shall ever be called 
again ? I certainly was once ; and if Mr. Whit- 
field had let me come to the Lord's table with 
him, I never should have gone back again. 
But the caresses of the great are exceedingly 
ensnaring. My Lord E sent for me to- 
day, and I was glad I could not go. Poor 
things ! they are unhappy, and they want 
Shuter to make them laugh. But, ! Sir, 
such a life as yours. As soon as I leave you, 



102 THE SCHOOL OF VIKTUE. 

I shall be King Kichard. This is what they 
call a good play, as good as some sermons. I 
acknowledge there are some striking and moral 
things in it ; but, after it, I shall come in again 
with my farce of 'A Dish of all Sorts/ and 
knock all that on the head. Fine reformers 
we ! " A Methodist minister, now in India, 
sometime since published an account of his in- 
tercourse with Mr. Power the comedian, during 
their voyage to New York in company. On 
s their parting, Mr. Power shook his companion 
by the hand, expressing, with much feeling, 
and in terms not unlike poor Shuter's, his con- 
sciousness of the unhappy service in which he 
was engaged, as compared with that of a mini- 
ster of the gospel. Power was afterwards lost 
in the President steamship. 

In relinquishing the stage as a profession, 
Montague Stanley acted upon a Scriptural 
principle, which ought to restrain Christians 
from countenancing it as an amusement — " Be 
not conformed to this world ; but be ye trans- 
formed by the renewing of your mind/' The 
difference between these two conditions is as 
wide as words can make it. The precept de- 
scribes a change of heart and habit, of taste 
and pursuit, nothing short of an entire renewal. 
It admits of no intermediate state. Conformity 



THE TESTING PRINCIPLE. 103 

to the world's maxims and its ways, is one 
thing ; transformation, after the Christian 
model of principle and action, is diametrically 
the opposite. It is a change feebly imaged by 
the metamorphosis of the creeping caterpillar 
into the winged and gilded butterfly. The 
line of demarcation betwixt the two descrip- 
tions of character is broad and impassable. 
Christianity is on one side ; on the other, 
worldly-mindedness. "Ye cannot serve God 
and mammon/' Let this test be applied to 
the pleasures and pursuits of Christians and 
men of the world. " Where the treasure is, 
there will the heart be also/' A man's cha- 
racter is evinced by his amusements, as well 
as by the choice of his friends and books. Tell 
me what pleasures you indulge in, and I will 
tell you what you are. The Scriptures, in 
presenting us with a testing principle for our 
pursuits and enjoyments, require us to go 
through with it. No principle is less liable to 
misconception. It possesses the virtue of Ithu- 
riel's spear. The true and the false are made 
apparent by its touch. Apply it to the theatre. 
It is pre-eminently a worldly amusement. It 
is indeed fashionable and fascinating, — granted. 
It might be both, and yet be innocent, except 
when indulged in to excess. But, reader, it 



104 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

must have been established to your conviction, 
by the accumulated testimonies of the preceding 
pages, that innocent it cannot be regarded. 
From the general description of its literature ; 
from the average character of its frequenters ; 
from its injurious effects upon the great pro- 
portion of those who have the misfortune to 
be connected with it as a profession, it has been 
proved that it is an immoral amusement. Its 
boasted morality is not that of the Word of 
God, which owns no other school of virtue, and 
proclaims all efforts to supplement its lessons 
as gratuitous and presumptuous. " The law 
of the Lord is perfect/' And when the holy 
Oracles declare that c: the lips of the righteous 
shall feed many/' it is no breach of charity 
to aver that stage-players are not included 
amongst the teachers, nor the frequenters of 
the theatre amongst the taught. The morals 
of the stage are lower even than those of the 
world ; and general society, irrespective alto- 
gether of that portion of it making a profession 
of religion, repudiates alike its teachers and its 
lessons. Is the theatre, then, a place which a 
Christian can consistently enter, far less fre- 
quent, for the purpose of amusement? If in 
the expression a the world/' the inspired writer 
included frivolous and corrupting amusements, 



WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. 105 

surely amongst these the theatre stands in the 
foremost rank ; and to it, therefore, the precept 
applies with peculiar emphasis, " Be not con- 
formed to the world/' " The controversy would 
be short indeed/' Mr. Wilberforce* has re- 
marked on this subject, " if the question were to 
be tried by the criterion of love to the Supreme 
Being. If there were anything of that sensi- 
bility for the honour of God, and of that zeal 
in His service which we show in behalf of our 
earthly friends, or of our political connections, 
should we seek our pleasure in that place which 
the debauchee, inflamed with wine, or bent on 
the gratification of other licentious appetites, 
finds most congenial to his state and temper of 

mind? In that place where when 

moral principles are inculcated, they are not 
such as a Christian ought to cherish in his 
bosom, but such as it must be his daily endea- 
vour to extirpate — not those which Scripture 
warrants, but those which it condemns as false 
and spurious, .... where, surely, if a Chris- 
tian shall trust himself at all, it would be requi- 
site for him to prepare himself with a double 
portion of watchfulness and seriousness of mind, 
instead of selecting it as the place in which he 

* Practical View of Christianity . 



106 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

may throw off his guard, and unbend without 
danger \" 

The theatre is a favourite resort of young 
men. Dear young brother, these pages have 
been written, and these authorities of the wise 
and good adduced, in the earnest hope of dis- 
suading you from ever crossing its threshold, 
" Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass 
away/' Eesist the first temptation. No other 
amusement has been so fertile in corrupted man- 
ners, and ruined reputations, as this hot-bed of 
vice and folly. Doubtless, many escape the worst 
effects of the moral pollution of a play-house, as 
they might the physical contagion of a pest- 
house ; but no one has a right to calculate on this 
immunity, and rashly venture in where others 
are falling victims to the poisoned atmosphere 
of the place. " You must eschew, if you would 
be safe, that accursed casuistry which should 
dispose you to inquire how near you might go 
to what is dangerous, and adopt that which 
will teach you rather to consider at how great 
a distance you can keep yourselves from what 
is sinful. Instead of tampering with tempta- 
tion, and running with open eyes into scenes of 
peril, deeply conscious of the corruption and 
manifold deceitfulness of your hearts, you will 
do well oft to send up to the throne of the 



DEATH-BED RETROSPECT. 107 

Eternal, the earnest ejaculation, " Turn away 
mine eyes from beholding vanity/' * 

Do you make a profession of Christianity, 
and have you been to the theatre ? You are 
a member of a Christian congregation ; how 
should you feel towards your pastor had you 
seen him witnessing, along with you, a frivolous 
comedy or a*n indecent ballet ? If you are a Sab- 
bath-school teacher, how should you like to meet 
your scholars there ? Yet, if you can attend 
the theatre consistently with your religious 
profession, why may not they do the same? 
But it is a light thing to be tried by man's 
judgment. The question must be determined 
at a higher tribunal, and it will be well if it is 
studied, ere it be too late, in the light of eter- 
nity. A lady was expatiating to the pious 
Hervey on the pleasures of the play. " What 
are those pleasures?" he inquired. a They are 
three/' replied the lady — " pleasure before the 
play, pleasure during the play, and pleasure 
after the play." " You have omitted another 
pleasure/' rejoined Hervey. "What is that, Sir ?" 
asked the lady eagerly. " The pleasure which 
it will afford you on a death-bed." Who does 



* Discourse on Amusements of Youth By Dr. W. 
Symington. 



108 THE SCHOOL OF VIRTUE. 

not shudder at the thought of being suddenly 
summoned from the voluptuous and impure 
enjoyments of the theatre, into the presence of 
the Judge of all the earth \ Who amidst its 
giddy and delirious pleasures, or after they are 
over, dare invoke the Divine blessing upon 
them ? 

They tell us of a valley in a distant island. 
teeming with vegetable forms of tropical beauty, 
where an invisible vapour is ever suspended, 
which the unsuspecting traveller inhales and 
perishes ; and a scene which, to the observer. 
is superficially one of attractive loveliness, is 
strewed below with dead men's bones. Such 
a scene of seductive and perilous fascination is 
the stage. The wrecks of youthful purity and 
promise are there, and the gaunt spectres 
blighted characters, and the despairing cry ot 
disappointed hopes. Young brother, you may 
venture to the theatre, and perhaps remain 
scatheless. It is a hard battle where none 
escapes. But your true safety is in flight. 
" Escape for thy life ; tarry not in all the plain : 
but flee unto the mountain." As young men 
form the most numerous class of supporters of 
the stage, so the moral desolation which it has 
wrought in society has always fallen principally 
and primarily upon them ; and all experience 



YOUTHFUL WRECKS. 



109 



and observation warrant us in predicating of a 
large proportion of the youthful votaries of the 
play, that their doom is as certainly sealed, as if 
it were written in the language which the poet 
saw inscribed upon the gloomy portals of the 
" Inferno "— 

" Abandon hope, all ye who enter here ! " 




APPENDIX. 



THE CHEAP THEATRES. 

Dr. Griscom of New York, in a report made a few years 
ago on the sources of vice and crime in that city, says, 
" Among the causes of vicious excitement in our city, none 
appear to be so powerful in their nature as theatrical 
amusements. The number of boys and young men who 
have become determined thieves, in order to obtain the 
means of introduction to the theatres and circuses, would 
appall the feelings of every virtuous mind, could the whole 
truth be laid before them." 

The Hon. and Rev. H. Montagu Yilliers, in a discourse 
delivered before the Young Men's Christian Association of 
London, in 1851, says, " I had occasion to investigate the 
books of a Penitentiary last year, and 1 was told, without 
any qualification, that the majority of the inmates, who 
were seeking to recover their characters in these places, 
were first seduced from the paths of virtue at theatres, 
races, or tea-gardens." 

Mr. M c Callum, the respectable Governor of the Glasgow 
House of Refuge for Boys, has obligingly furnished the 
writer with the following notes, as average specimens of 



112 APPENDIX. 

the cases of youthful delinquents placed under his charge, 
with a view to their reformation : — 

Jan. 28, 1852. — W. D., aged eleven years, sent here 
on the 28th of January, by Baillie Mitchell, charged with 
theft. Was born in Ireland, and came to this country 
with his father six years ago. Began to go wrong three 
years ago, by associating with the boys who came about 
the shows. In his own words, " Stole whatever I could 
lay my hands upon." Had seen nothing but wickedness, 
as far back as he can remember, about these shows. 

Feb. 6, 1852. — W. G., aged fourteen years, sent here 
on the 6th inst., by Baillie M c Gregor, charged with theft. 
Was born in Liverpool. Parents are both living in South- 
ampton. Ban away from his parents and came to Glasgow. 
Has been at sea. Fell in with a gang of bad boys, who 
reside about Cheapside Street, technically known among 
thieves as the Barracks. With them he commenced his 
depredations by stealing iron, copper, lead, rags, ropes, 
&c, which they sold in rag shops, and spent the money in 
theatres and shows, which they regularly attended. Was 
eleven times in the different police-offices, and twice in 
Bridewell ; once for sixty days, and another time for six 
weeks. 

Feb, 20, 1852. — W. M'G,, aged fourteen years, sent 
here on the 20th of February, by Baillie Stewart, charged 
with theft. Was born in Alloa, and came to Glasgow- 
five years ago. Father and mother both living. Was 
some time employed in a rope-work, where he got 3s. a- 
week ; left that about a year ago, and began to go astray ; 
first, by associating with bad boys, and then took to steal- 
ing. First stole two short-gowns from step-mother, which 



THE CHEAP THEATRES. 113 

he sold for lOd.y and spent sixpence of it in the shows, 
and the rest in sweetmeats. Was fond of the shows and 
theatres, and constantly stole to get to them. Was greatly 
addicted to lying, swearing, stealing, and Sabbath-breaking. 

May 7, 1852. — D. G., aged thirteen years, recommended 
here by Baillie Gourlay, and taken up on the 7th of May, 
by his mother, a widow. Was led astray about two years 
ago ; first, by bad companions. Began by stealing a shil- 
ling from his mother, which he spent in sweetmeats and 
the shows. His father took him there the first time, and 
afterwards he stole regularly to get to them. 

May 7, 1852. — J. B., aged twelve years, sent here on 
the 7th of May, by Baillie Bogle, accused of theft. Was 
born in Ireland, and came to this country when a child. 
Was four years in the Industrial School ; learned to read 
and write there, and was at the tailoring trade. Was led 
astray by bad boys, who were sent from the police-office. 
Eirst learned to steal pocket handkerchiefs, and on a Sab- 
bath evening picked sometimes nine, which they sold in 
the Wynds to the wee pawns, and got from Zd. to Is. for 
each of them. This money was spent at the shows and 
theatres, and on sweetmeats, of which he was very fond. 

Mr. M'Callum adds, " I took fifty boys, not selected, 
but in the order of their admission, and no fewer than 
forty of them, either began, or were confirmed in their 
course of crime, by means of the theatres and shows. These 
places are the most fruitful sources of juvenile delinquency 
and immorality in the city. They pander to the passions, 
and supply vicious excitement, in the shape of such plays 
as " The Pirates," " Jack Sheppard," &c, which have a 
most demoralizing effect on the youthful community. I 
H 



114 APPENDIX. 

have seen two or three hundred young persons, from ten 
to twenty years of age, coming out of an evening from 
one of these places, upwards of three-fourths of whom 
stole to get there ! The shows and theatres annually 
enlist a large staff of fresh recruits to supply the places 
of those whom the vigilance of the police has lodged in 
the jail, or the judge's sentence expelled the country. 
In my opinion (and I had some experience during eight 
years in the City Mission), until the shows, theatres, 
saloons, &c, are swept away, the Sabbath-school teacher's 
labour will be greatly retarded, and his sanguine hopes 
often doomed to the bitterest disappointment. All who 
have the best interests, temporal and spiritual, of the youth 
of our city at heart, ought to make a combined and irre- 
sistible effort to abolish these nuisances without delay." 



ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIES AGAINST THE STAGE. 

Miss Joanna Baillie, though she does not absolutely 
condemn the stage, is constrained, as a moralist, to pro- 
test against fashionable comedy. "The moral tendency 
of it," she observes, " is very faulty ; that mockery of 
age and domestic authority, so constantly held forth, has 
a very bad effect on the younger part of an audience; 
and that continual lying and deceit in the first characters 
of the piece, which is necessary for conducting the plot, 
has a most pernicious one." 

The Hon. and Rev. H. M. Yilliers says—" An indivi- 



ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIES. 115 

dual can know but little of life in London, who is not 
aware that the neighbourhood of the theatre is, of all 
others, the most prolific in sensuality and vice. That 
neighbourhood cannot be worse naturally. It can only 
be that it is more suited for that particular trade, owing 
to the customers being such as are the commonest fre- 
quenters of the theatre." 

During the progress of the most ferocious revolution 
which ever insulted the face of heaven, theatres, in Paris 
alone, multiplied from six to twenty-five. Now, one of 
two conclusions follows from this: either the spirit of 
the times produced the institutions, or the institutions 
cherished the spirit of the times; and this would cer- 
tainly go to prove, that they are either the parents of 
vice or the offspring of it. 

In one of the essays published by the Jansenists of the 
Port Royal in Prance, is the following remark : — " It is 
so true that plays are almost always a representation of 
vicious passions, that the most part of Christian virtues 
are incapable of appearing upon the stage. It would be 
strange to see a modest and silent religious person re- 
presented." 

Dr. Witherspoon observes — "Whatever debate there 
be, whether good men may attend the theatre, there can be 
no question at all, that no openly vicious man is an enemy 
to it, and that far the greatest part of them do passion- 
ately love it." As to the lawfulness of Christians fre- 
quenting the theatre, the same writer says — "Por many 
ages there was no debate upon it at all. There were 
players; but they did not pretend to be Christians them- 
selves, and they had neither countenance nor support 



116 APPENDIX. 

from any who did. Whereas now there are abundance of 
advocates for the lawfulness, some for the usefulness, of 
plays, — not that the stage is become more pure, but that 
Christians are become less so, and have lowered the stan- 
dard or measure requisite to attain and preserve that 
character." 

The Rev. William Law remarked, that, "If a person 
were to make a collection of all the wicked, blasphemous, 
lewd, impudent, detestable things that are said in the 
playhouse only in one season, it would appear to be such 
a mass of sin, as would sufficiently justify any one in say- 
ing, that the profession of players is the most wicked and 
detestable in the world. All people, therefore, who ever 
enter their house, or contribute the smallest mite towards 
it, must look upon themselves as having been so far 
friends to the most powerful instrument of debauchery, 
and to be guilty of contributing to a bold, open, and 
public exercise of impudence, impurity, and profaneness." 
"Be not partaker of other men's sins." 

Sir Andrew Agnew, on first going to London, was ac- 
companied by his elder boys, of the ages of twelve and 
thirteen; and on their account he once more made an 
experiment which he had before tried for himself. He 
thought (says Dr. Thomas M'Crie, his biographer), that 
they would naturally wish to see and judge for themselves 
of such places of amusement as Astley's, Sadler's Wells, 
and Covent Garden ; and he once accompanied them to 
the latter theatre. One visit was, however, sufficient. He 
found, as an eminent Christian once said, that " either he 
was changed, or all the world was changed." Everything 
appeared in a new light to him ; and he remarked, " I do 



ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIES. 117 

not understand how it was, that when I formerly attended 
such things, they did not strike me in the same way. I 
must surely have been more occupied with the party that 
I went with, than with the proceedings on the stage ; for, 
do you know that actually the main thing in the play I 
witnessed with my boys was just a low piece of intrigue, 
most revolting to good taste ; and the attempt at conceal- 
ment of vice, with the discovery made at last, constituted 
the whole interest of the piece; while any allusion to 
morality or better feelings, seemed so out of place as 
only to make it worse. Of the characteis that frequent 
such places," he continued, " I was aware, and felt it to 
be an argument against them ; but I had certainly forgot 
the depraved and revolting nature of the performances 
themselves. I shall never go again myself, and far less 
take my children to such places. 5 ' 

Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his Life of Savage, speaks of the 
condition of an actor, as that which makes almost " every 
man, for whatever reason, contemptuous, insolent, petu- 
lant, selfish, and brutal." 

A modern writer observes : — " I am as sensible as any 
man of the wonderful talents of that poet, Shakspere ! 
For force of language, for exhaustless invention, for an 
insight into human nature, for a power to touch and rend 
the heart, he is unequalled, and stands amongst dramatists 
as a diamond among pearls ; but while I honour his intel- 
lectual capacities, I must deeply lament their miserable 
abuse. So far from having a moral end before him, he 
has frequently its opposite, and seems indifferent to moral 
results. His licentious witticisms, his corrupt allusions, 
many times repeated, render many parts of his works, 



118 APPENDIX. 

in a moral light, the objects of indignation and dis- 
gust." 

Sir John Hawkins, in his Life of Br. Samuel Johnson, 
observes : — " Although it is said of plays, that they teach 
morality, and of the stage, that it is the mirror of human 
life ; these assertions are mere declamation, and have no 
foundation iu truth or experience. On the contrary, a 
playhouse, and the regions about it, are the very hot-beds 
of vice. How else comes it to pass, that no sooner is a 
playhouse opened in any part of the kingdom, than it be- 
comes surrounded by a host of brothels ? Of this truth 

the neighbourhood of has had experience : one 

parish alone, adjacent thereto, having, to ray knowledge, 
expended the sum of £1300 in prosecutions for the pur- 
pose of removing those inhabitants, whom, for the instruc- 
tion in the science of human life, the playhouse had drawn 
together." 

Archbishop Tillotson characterized playhouses as "devil's 
chapels," and "schools and nurseries of lewdness and vice." 

It is recorded of Sir Matthew Hale, that "he was an 
extraordinary proficient at school, and for some time at 
Oxford ; but the stage players coming thither, he was so 
much corrupted by seeing plays, that he almost wholly 
forsook his studies. By this he not only lost much time, 
but found that his head was thereby filled with vain images 
of things ; and being afterwards sensible of the mischief 
of this, he resolved, upon his coming to London, never 
to see a play again, to which resolution he constantly 
adhered." 

The American Congress, soon after the Declaration of 
Independence, -passed the following motion: — ■ 



ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIES. 119 

" Whereas, true religion and good morals are the only 
solid foundation of public liberty and happiness ; 

"Resolved, that it be, and hereby is, earnestly recom- 
mended by the several States, to take the most effectual 
measures for the encouragement thereof, and for the sup- 
pressing of theatrical entertainments, horse-racing, gaming, 
and such other diversions as are productive of idleness, 
dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and man- 
ners." 



THE STAGE HOLDING THE MIRROR UP TO NATURE." 

(From The Races — The Theatre, by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, 
United States.) 

It is too true. There is scarcely an evil incident to 
human life, which may not be fully learned at the theatre. 
Here nourishes every variety of wit — ridicule of sacred 
things, burlesques of religion, and licentious double-en - 
tendres. Nowhere can so much of this lore be learned, 
in so short a time, as at the theatre. There one learns 
how pleasant a thing is vice ; amours are consecrated ; 
license is prospered ; and the young come away alive to 
the glorious liberty of conquest and lust. But the stage 
is not the only place about the drama where human nature 
is learned. In the boxes, the young may make the ac- 
quaintance of those who abhor home and domestic quiet ; 
of those who glory in profusion and obtrusive display ; of 
those who expend all, and more than their earnings, upon 



120 APPENDIX. 

gay clothes and jewellery; of those who think it no harm 
to borrow their money without leave from their employer's 
till ; of those who despise vulgar appetite, but affect 
polished and genteel licentiousness. Or he may go to 
the pit, and learn the whole round of villain-life, from 
masters in the art. He may sit down among thieves, 
swindlers, broken-down men of pleasure — the coarse, the 
vulgar, the debauched, the inhuman. Or, if still more of 
human nature is wished, he can learn yet more ; for the 
theatre epitomizes every degree of corruption. Let the 
virtuous young scholar go to the gallery, and learn there, 
decency, modesty, and refinement, among the women who 
are regularly to be found there ! Ah ! there is no place 
like the theatre for learning human nature! A young 
man can gather up more experimental knowledge here in 
a week, than elsewhere in half a year. But I wonder 
that the drama should ever confess the fact ; and yet more 
that it should lustily plead in self-defence that theatres 
teach men so much of human nature ! If you would per- 
vert the taste — go to the theatre. If you would imbibe 
false views — go to the theatre. If you would efface, as 
speedily as possible, all qualms of conscience — go to the 
theatre. If you would put yourself irreconcileably against 
the spirit of virtue and religion — go to the theatre. If 
you would be infected with each particular vice in the 
catalogue of depravity — go to the theatre. Let parents, 
who wish to make their children weary of home and quiet 
domestic enjoyments, take them to the theatre. If it be 
desirable for the young to loathe industry and didactic 
reading, and burn for fierce excitements, and seek them 
by stealth or through pilferings, if need be — then send 



PRIVATE THEATRICALS. 121 

them to the theatre. Theatres which should exhibit 
nothing but the classic drama, would exhibit it to empty 
seats. They must be corrupt, to live; and those who 
attend them will be corrupted. 



PRIVATE THEATRICALS. 
(From Lecture on the Stage, by Rev. F. Close, Cheltenham.) 

" Why should we not have our private theatricals ? in 
which all that is offensive to good taste and the most re- 
fined delicacy shall be excluded, in which neither improper 
persons shall act, nor indelicate allusions be tolerated, or 
improper displays on any account be allowed ?" I reply 
— that questioning the possibility even of this, and sus- 
pecting, if I am rightly informed, that there is generally, 
even here, a mingling of public and private performers 
which may be very dangerous to the latter ; yet supposing 
it all possible, and indeed accomplished, I still object to 
these amusements. And chiefly upon this ground; so 
favourable an exhibition of the Drama is calculated to 
create and cherish a taste and an inclination for the art, 
especially in the minds of the young, many of whom will 
be allowed by their parents to attend such performances 
who would not have been suffered to enter a play-house ! 
Hence the private amateur stage becomes the forerunner 
of more public and objectionable exhibitions. For it is 
not in human nature to suppose, that an appetite for 
theatrical amusements being once created, the occasional 



122 APPENDIX. 

and meagre performances of amateurs will satisfy it. The 
transition from the one to the other, in most cases, will 
be found natural, easy, and almost certain — just as when 
children have consumed the apple they eat the peel ! The 
same principle operates in most things. I remember that 
when the Scottish novels appeared, hundreds read them 
who would never have dipped into the common trash of 
novels ; and I was informed at the time by several book- 
sellers, that, so far from a purer taste being generated by 
that very superior class of works of fiction, an appetite 
for desultory and noxious reading was created, and, when 
the better ones were devoured, recourse was had to all 
the garbage of the circulating library, and an actual im- 
pulse was given to novel reading. Thus I greatly fear it 
will be with the purified Stage of the Amateurs. They 
themselves will not contribute directly to the corruption 
of the stage ; but they will create and foster a theatrical 
taste, they will be the means of tempting many first in a 
less criminal and then in a more criminal manner, until 
those who first imbibed the pleasures of the Drama at the 
hands of the amateur, will be found night after night in 
the crowded avenues and abominable purlieus of the me- 
tropolitan theatres. And since we have proved what 
these are, we hesitate not to condemn the amusements 
which naturally lead to them. If we would not have the 
pollution and abomination of the one, we must take care 
how we entrap the young in the fascinating meshes of the 
other ! Again we say, even innocent amusements, sup- 
posing them to be so, are bought too dearly if they occa- 
sion, even remotely, such enormous evils. 



DEATH OF THE OLD ACTOR. 123 

THE OLD ACTOR. 

(From Blackwood s Magazine.) 

Aloft the rustling curtain flew 
That gave the mimic scene to view, 
How gaudy was the suit he wore, 
His cheeks with red how plastered o'er ! 

Poor veteran ! that in life's late day, 
With tottering step and locks of gray, 
Essayest each trick of antic glee ; 
Oh ! my heart bleeds at sight of thee. 

A laugh of triumph ! and so near 
The closing act and humble bier ; 
This thy ambition ! this thy pride ! 
Far better thou hadst earlier died. 

Though memory long has owned decay, 
And dim the intellectual ray, 
Thou toil'st from many an idle page, 
To cram the feeble brain of age. 

A tear creeps down his cheeks — with pain 
His limbs the wasted form sustain ; 
Ay — weep ! no thought thy tears are worth, 
So the pit shakes with boisterous mirth. 

Dead in his chair the old man lay, 
His colour had not passed away; 
Clay-cold the ruddy cheeks declare 
What hideous mockery lingers there. 

Yes ! there the counterfeited hue 
Unfolds with moral truth to view, 
How false his every mimic part, 
His life, his labours, and his art. 



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