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take care that the amusements we allow ourselves, may not inspire us with disgust towards religious duties. To exceed these bounds on the subject is likely to draw us into declamation, to make us exceed in severity, and to inspire distrust, even, though all we say should, on every other point of morality, be most indisputably rational.
Gellert proposed to himself, in his dramatic works, to attack vice and folly, and, by drawing the most interesting pictures of virtue, to inspire the minds of men with the love of it." Vol. i. p. 45.
Biskor Porreus, in his 16th Lecture on St. Matthew's Gospel, speaking of the different ways by which a man may make his brother to offend, or fall off from Gud, notices the profane and immoral publications of the time, and says,
“ What then have they to answer for, who are every day obtruding these publications on the world, in a thousand different shapes and forms, in history, in biography, in poems, in novels, in dramatic pieces,".." and instead of being inspired, as they ought to be, even apon the Stage, with a just detestation of vice, they are furnished with apologies for it, which they never forget, and are even taught to consider it as a necessary part of an accomplished character."
DR. Hey, in his Lectures in Divinity, speaking of the propagation of Christianity, says, " That any one, who was master of the history and antiquities of the early ages of Christianity might form fables, Mubor, out of them, for epic or dramatic compositions, which would be extremely interesting, affecting, and improving." Vol. in
Again, in his chapter (book II. ch. iv.) Of using Ridicule in Disputes about Religion, he says,
« I conclude this account of authors with the mention of one or two now living; Madame De Sillery-Brulart (late Madame Genlis) and Monsieur Berquin. In their pleasing, moral, affecting Dramas,* I find a mixture of comic and ethic, which is peculiarly powerful; it has, from many
* Particularly those contained in the 4th vol. of the Theatre of Education ; and the larger piecein L'Ami des Enfans.
readers drawn tears in torrents, of the most delicious kind; I wish some student in the higher parts of criticism, (which include the emotions of the mind,) would examine this mixture ;-one may see, that the comic makes the virtue so unaffected and unpretending, as greatly to heighten the merit and the effect of it; but the more it was examined, the more clearly would the use and excellence of ridicule appear, when rightly refined and judiciously applied." Vol. i. p. 453.
Speaking of The School for Scandal, he says, “ Joseph Surface is, in my judgment, an hurtful piece of humour; sentiments are expressed as ridiculous, which indeed every honest man feels.-Ridicule is, in this play, very useful in exposing censoriousness pretending to candour.” Ditto.
In his Chapter Of improving Religious Societies, (B. III. ch. xv.) he
says, “ With the same view of improving Religion, we must endeavour to improve our imagination. What I mean, is to be done by improving the fine arts, and by applying them to religious uses. By the fine arts are usually understood painting, music, poetry, eloquence, sculpture, architecture, and perhaps some others; these give the mind ideas of beauty, sublimity, grandeur, order, symmetry, harmony, rythm, &c. and serve to excite and strengthen sentiments of various kinds:— if these are in an improved state, they refine and polish, and as it were, enrich and ennoble the mind, so long as they are applied to any subjects which are moral or only innocent;- but they are far more useful, and do much more good to the mind, if they are employed in the service of religion ; religious paintings are very improving; sacred music, even its plainest kinds, softens and soothes the heart, and makes it feel a warm and affectionate piety; and when it becomes sublime, it exalts the mind to heavenly conceptions: when pathetic, it melts the heart with “ godly sorrow,” in a manner not to be described; — and similar observations might be made on poetry, eloquence, and the rest; though there may be a difference in degree.
It seems to be undeniably true (and surely it proves how great and noble a thing religion is in itself, and how.cungenial to the human mind,) that the fine arts are (generally speaking) infinitely more efficacious, when exercised on religious subjects, than any others. The paintings which have the greatest effect, are on religious subjects; I should be curious to compare the works of the best masters in the Art of Painting, and see whether the best work
of each is not religious; the Nativity, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, strikes me more than any other piece of his that I have seen. I doubt whether the Art of Sacred Poetry has as yet been well studied.” (Vol. ii. p. 170.)
Afterwards, in the same chapter, speaking of superstition, he says, it is an enemy to reason, and to arts and sciences. Reason is dull and tedious, in comparison with the imagination; and their dictates will thwart and contradict each other. Reason thus becomes despised and abhorred, and if it pretends to make much resistance, gets persecuted. If the fine arts are only neglected by the superstitious, they are fortunate; they may easily get reckoned supporters of impiety, and then they will suffer persecution.” Ditto, p. 178.
The amiable and pious, and, in some respects, severe Cowper, in a letter to his friend Dr. HURDIS, speaking of his tragedy of Sir Thomas More, says, “ I wish to know what you mean to do with Sic Thomas. For though I expressed doubts about his theatrical possibilities, I think him a very respectable person, and with some improvement, well worthy of being introduced to the public. Hayley's Life of Cowper, Letter CXXXVIII. vol. iii. 8vo. p. 335. see also p. 374.
MR. CUMBERLAND's opinion and example, as a man of considerable piety, as well as a dramatic writer, must not be omitted. It is not my meaning to defend his writings altogether, though most of them, I think, have a good tendency. His Calvary is a poem which does honour to literature, and his Few plain Reasons for believing in Christ, are excellent. So is his Observer. The Wheel of Fortune, a highly interesting and popular Comedy, I consider as a good lesson on the forgiveness of injuries,
MR. DIBDIN, a dramatic author, as well as the writer and composer of some of the best ballads in the English language, and upon whose writings I have elsewhere freely made my re
says of himself, “ It cannot be denied, that my proper duty is to instruct as well as amuse, and it would be impossible without instruction, to convey any amusement that would not be
* See Introduction tú Collection of Songs : Postscript.
degrading and contemptible." Professional Life, vol. iv. p. $. Note.
MR. GISBORNE's sentiments are quoted in Discourse IV. p. 83. He
says færther, that “the Stage ought to recommend itself as the nurse of virtue.” " The restrictions, which, if enforced, would render the spectacles of the Stage irreproachable, are such as would neither lead it from its natural province, nor cripple its powers of entertainment." Duties of Women, ch, vii. p. 176. 178.
DR. WILLIAM BARROW, in his excellent Essay on Education, in the chapter On Dramatic Performances at School, acknowledges the profession of an actor to be “consistent with religion and virtue.” He says, “ In this, and in every other part of the present disquisition, the author begs to be understood, as neither applauding nor condemning, upon his own judgment, the profession of an actor; as entering into no statement of its general merits and disadvantages, into no comparison between its respectability and that of other occupations; but as receiving it according to the estimation in which it appears to be usually held, according to the rank in which public opinion seems to have placed it, as one of the last pursuits of all that are consistent with religion and virtue, in which a gentleman would wish his sons or daughters to engage."
To these testimonies I must add that of the ANONYMOUS AUTHOR of an excellent pamphlet, entitled, Observations on the Effect of Theatrical Representations, with respect to Religion and Morals : occasioned by the Preface to the third Volume of the works of Mrs. H. More. Dedicated to The Earl of Dartmouth, and printed at Bath, but not published. I have so frequently had occasion to quote this in the Discourses themselves (See p. 37. 97, &c.) and again in other parts of these Notes, that I shall not transcribe any particular passage in this place.
Opinions to the same effect might be cited without end. The above are, however, sufficient; nor would so many have been adduced, notwithstanding what Mr. Styles has said, (see p. 103.) had not Orton, following Dr. Owen, made one of the heads, in his Serious Dissuasive from frequenting the playhouse, that " It is acting contrary to the judgntent and advice of the most wise and pidas
men in all ages.'
And as they have brought forward so many authorities in favour of their view of the subject, so I can produce as førmidable a phalanx in support of mine, and shall conclude the subject in ORTON's own words: “Now I think the opinion of so many judicious and holy men ought to have great weight, to lead you to suspect your own judgment, or your own piety, if you are otherwise minded : and the rather, as thus you will grieve pious ministers and fellow Christians; which ought to have some weight with you." Disc. XVII. p. 295.