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ferent to what it was when they were first urged; and from their objections being urged against the Drama itself, and not against the abuses of it. The Reviewer objects against me, that I have written a formal de"fence of the stage." (p. 1031.) But this is only of the stage in itself," or "abstractedly considered." The Stage, as it is, I have censured without reserve, where I have judged it liable to blame. But I have endeavoured to be just, and not to censure it for those things which are innocent, or decidedly worthy of praise.
Were this view of the Stage solely my own, I ought certainly to entertain it with greater doubt; but, when I find persons of piety and learning equal to those who are so decidedly adverse to the stage, holding opinions similar, or nearly so, to mine, I confess that I contemplate my own with the greater boldness and satisfaction. The names of Tillotson, of Watts, of Hanway and of Porteus, as far as authority goes, would have equal, if not greater weight with me, than those of Law, of Witherspoon, and others, even if I did not see those glaring evidences of prejudice and a warped judgment in the circumstances beforementioned, (p. ii.) of Law, in quoting only partially Arch-bishop Tillotson, and in the very singular passage quoted from Witherspoon's Tract against the Stage in my Preface to Douglas, p. 246.
In addition to the numerous authorities I have brought forward in the Notes to my Discourses on the Stage, p. 103, &c. in support of my opinions, I could now produce many more; but I shall merely add two, as they are remarkable, and come from great sources: "Luther recommended the acting of comedies even in "schools, as he thought them capable of edifying young persons. In comedies,' observed Luther, "particularly in those of the Roman writers, the "duties of the various situations of life are held out ❝to view, and as were reflected from a mirror. "The office of parents, and the proper conduct of "children, are faithfully delineated; and what to 66 6 young men may be advantageous, the vices and cha"racters of profligate women are exhibited in their
true colours. Excellent lessons are given to them "how they should conduct themselves towards vir"tuous women in courtship. Strong exhortations "to matrimony are brought forward, without which "state no government can subsist: celibacy is the "plague of any nation."" See the Biogr. Dram. (Edn. 1812.) Vol. I. p. 777.
Arch-bishop Secker, in his Sermon on 2 Tim. iii. 4.-"Lovers of Pleasures, more than Lovers of God." (Vol. I. Serm. V.) says, Another considerable Ingredient in the favourite Amusements of the World, are "public Spectacles. And provided Regard be had to "Time and Cost, they might be allowably and bene"ficially frequented, if they were preserved from Ten"dencies dangerous to virtue. But Failings in that "Article totally alter the Nature of them; and gross "failings reflect not only on our Morals, but our "Taste. Indeed it is lamentable that, fond as we are "of adopting the Fashions and Qualities of our Neigh"bours, often much for the worse, we should not "import what is praiseworthy in them, but suffer the "most dissolute of them to excell us in the Chastity of "their dramatical Representations: yet after all, were "they ever so innocent, in Proportion as they are "trifling and insignificant, they are contemptible and "unworthy of Regard."
This passage is quoted in A Discourse on Stage Entertainments, by the Rev. David Simpson, M. A. Printed at Birmingham, 8vo, 1788, p. 48. See Vol. III. of this work, p. 321.
Having mentioned "the Stage considered " in itself,” it leads me to a second objection of the Eclectic Reviewer, who accuses me of "disingenuous and de"ceptive language" (p. 1035) in considering the stage. "in itself," or abstractedly considered." A question which I, certainly, deem it of great importance to determine; for, if the Stage be "absolutely unlawful" in itself, as some seem to suppose, by attributing its origin to the Devil, undoubtedly, Christians are not to have any thing to do with it. But, if it be not unlawful
in itself, but only in the abuses of it; then it must be the duty of Christians to attempt to reform it. If this be not the meaning of Law, and other writers, in calling the Stage absolutely unlawful and ascribing the origin of it to the Devil, I do not know what they mean. But, if this be not a point of contention with the adversaries of the Stage, if they concede that there is nothing unlawful, abstractedly considered, in the dramatic form of writing, and of representing that composition, then I maintain, that the evils alleged against the Drama arise only from the abuses of it, and if you can do those away, Christians may lawfully attend dramatic representations; that it is the duty of Christians to assist in this work,that we must not be more severe in our censures of this particular species of literature or amusement, than of others; nor must we expect absolute perfection, or near it, in an imperfect world,—and that we must not expect from the Drama and the Theatre, what we do not see attainable in Sermons and in the Church. An ideal perfection of the Stage may certainly be conceived to exist: let us form this idea to ourselves, and make it our aim, not in wrath and contention, but in a spirit of brotherly love and charity.
There is one point of great importance, which should ever be kept in mind in estimating the value of the opinions of writers upon the Stage. The observations of those who write against the stage, can be applicable at a different period, only so far as the stage then resembles what it was when their opinions were first delivered. They may be totally inapplicable. Whereas the opinions of those who write on the stage abstractedly considered, are as applicable at one time as at another.
An objection sometimes urged against the Stage is, that it is amongst the pomps and vanities of the world" which we renounce in baptism. Witherspoon says (Select Works in 2 vols. 8vo. 1804. Vol. I. p. 284.) that "there is something of pomp and gaiety in it, on the "best possible supposition, that is inconsistent with the "character of a christian." As particulars are not specified, there may be some difficulty in fixing upon those
intended. But is all shew, is all gaiety unlawful? What was the marriage feast mentioned in the Gospel? (John ii. 1. See also Matt. xxii. 1-14.) What is the wedding garment? (Matt. xxii. 11. and Revelat. xix. 7-9.) What are the music and dancing on the return of the Prodigal? (Luke xv. 25.) What is the gaiety to which objection is made? Does it apply to the performance? Must it not depend upon the kind of composition? Is it applicable to Tragedy? Are the dresses, the scenery and the company the things censured? Is it worse to sit in a theatre and contemplate a well painted scene of an apartment, a noble building, or a beautiful view, than it is to sit in a well-furnished drawing-room, or to view a noble building in reality, or to admire an improved piece of natural scenery, or to possess a fine collection of paintings? yet these things many of the objectors will do without scruple; will themselves dress elegantly, nay, finely and expensively, and mingle in the crouded assembly. I have even known persons, who would not enter a theatre, take their family to Vauxhall, a place at which I never was myself; but which, from the accounts I have heard of it, must have at least as many evils as the theatre, with not even the chance of producing any good effects upon the minds of the frequenters by moral scenes and exhibitions. All these things have undoubtedly their limits and their modifications; and the luxuries of the rich, their buildings, their dresses and their grounds, under çertain restrictions, administer to the wants and the comforts of the Poor.
But the adversaries of the stage, as if unwilling to have it in any wise amended, take great pains to inculcate upon the minds of their readers, that, if the stage were to be purified from its corruptions, it would become so uninteresting and stupid to the generality of tastes, that a blameless stage could never exixt for want of encouragement. In support of this position, it has been stated, that Mr. Gambold's Tragedy of The Martyrdom of Ignatius was once performed at Hull, at the suggestion of the late Mr. Milner, but that it met with no success. As this is a remarkable incident in Stage
History, I have made some inquiries upon the subject, and will state the result for the information of my readers. Mr. Milner, during the latter years of his life, opposed the theatre with all his zeal; and usually preached against it at the time when it opened for the season, and used constantly to declare in his conversation, that no Christian could be seen at the play-house. He was, nevertheless, extremely fond of the Tragedy of Ignatius, and could repeat it by heart. He once in treating of the Stage from the pulpit, excepted this Tragedy from the general censure on the Drama, and intimated, that, if any piece could be tolerated on the stage, this might. The encomium on the piece was reported to the Manager, Tate Wilkinson, who said that he was happy to bow to such authority, and that Mr. M. and his congregation should be indulged. This was in the year 1781. In the Play-bill for Dec. 22 of that year the following advertisement appeared:
"The play of St. Ignatius being recommended publicly from that respectable authority, where truth, << candour, judgment, taste, and virtue dwell: Mr. "Wilkinson (upon the first hint,) had the Tragedy pro"perly examined, curtailed, adapted to the stage, and "presented to the Lord Chamberlain for his sanction;
the Theatre-Royal at Hull, honoured with his Ma<< jesty's Patent and confirmed by Parliament, render"ing such Permission necessary, the Tragedy is now in "Rehearsal, and will be acted on Saturday December ❝29, 1781. "Vivant Rex et Regina.”
The Play was acted accordingly, with the Farce of Tom Thumb, and A Hunting Song was sung between the Play and the Farce. Of this incident Wilkinson himself gives the following account in The Wandering Patentee; or, A History of the Yorkshire Theatres from 1770 to the Present Time. (1795) In Four Volumes, 12mo. Vol. II, p. 121.
"As a chronologist I could not possibly avoid the "mentioning the Rev. Mr. Milner's name; indeed the "peculiarity of that gentleman's recommendation of "St.