« PreviousContinue »
“ in the play which were greatly applauded. I believe “ the scene between Lewson and Stukeley, in the fourth “ act, was almost entirely his; for he expressed, during «6 the time of action, uncommon pleasure at the ap
plause given to it.
66 Notwithstanding that the Gamester was generally “ approved, and the acting of it much applauded, (Mr. " Garrick distinguishing himself by uncommon spirit in “ some scenes, and by great agonizing feelings in the “ last,) the play, after having been acted ten or eleven “ nights, was suddenly stopt. It was generally said, “ that the physic administered by the Gamester was not
only too strong for the public in general, but offensive “ to the squeamish palates of some gaming societies; and " that its progress was prevented by the interposition of
people who ought not to have had any weight in a 66 matter of that kind. I rather think this was a mere « circulated report, to give more consequence to some « assemblies than they ever could really boast.”
Mr. Ensor, in his work entitled THE INDEPENDENT MAN, (a work which contains much valuable information and criticism, though I differ widely from him in many of his religious opinions,) says of The Gamester,
The fable is so excellent, that it may be called happy; 66 the incidents and turns of fortune so ingenious, that “ each step increases the interest and the distress: the
catastrophe is unexpected (for the prospect bright“ ened), and terrible and just. The characters are “ powerfully drawn and contrasted: the un-upbraiding;
suffering, pious Mrs. Beverly– thus Heaven turns “ evil into good, and by permitting sin warns men to “ virtue"'--this woman is contrasted by another, of an “ amiable but more resisting nature. The other cha. 66 racters are also inimitable: the unsuspecting Beverly, " the noble-minded Lewson, the faithful affectionate “Jervis, the insidious Stukely.” “The subject of this
piece is highly moral: it exposes to horror a most 66 disastrous vice. Morality is the design of all its 66 sentiments and circumstances. Beverly swallows “ poison through despair, -the fate of many gamblers --
“ at a time when the death of his uncle, and the “ friendship of Lewson, had retrieved all his misfor6 tunes."
(Vol. II. p. 173.) In comparing this Drama with “ A DISSERTATION ON THE PERNICIOUS EFFECTS OF GAMING.” By RICHARD Hey, LL.D. it is wonderful to see how full and moral a lesson, and in how very interesting a form, the Dramatist has here presented to the public; and though neither of them may possibly be effectual to reclaim the confirmed gamester from the infatuation of the vice, yet both of them may be the happy instruments in deterring many from venturing upon so dangerous a course. In these cases the beneficial effects may be expected to be evidenced more in succeeding generations than in that in which the lesson is first exhibited. And this may serve as an answer to one of the objections made against this play as a moral lesson, that gaming is a disease, not a passion, and therefore neither plays nor sermons
can ever remedy"* it. It is intended more, perhaps, as a preventive for those not infected by it, than as a cure for those who are.
To the objection made against the language of the play it will be sufficient answer to refer to what the author himself says upon that subject in the Preface.t
To the characters and conduct of the principal personages in this play considerable objections have been made, both by Mrs. Inchbald in her REMARKS prefixed
* Remarks by Mrs. Iochbald on this Play. + Mr. DJBDIN, in his HISTORY OF TAE STAGE, (Vol. V. p. 179.) says “ The Gamester is exactly the drame of the French Stage, except that it ends unhappily, and thence becomes a tragedy in prose. From this distinction the Gamester, even though the audience were drowned in tears, obtained but a cold reception from the public; so reprehensibly does custom triumph over nature. Is it not extraordinary that the feelings dare not manifest themselves but by command, and that the affections of the mind are to halt till they receive the signal to march in measure and cadence? Moore was aware of this prejudice, and therefore began his play in blank verse, the subject, however, was too touching, and the grief too natural to hear this heavy and unnatural garb. He threw it off and discovered under it one of the most perfect and beautiful ornaments of the theatre,”
to her edition of it in The British THEATRE, and by Mr. Cumberland in his Critique prefixed to his Edition of THE BRITISH DRAMA. Some of these I shall notice.
Mrs. I. objects, that the husband is 66 a very silly man, " and the wise a very imprudent woman.
possesses all that he pretends to hold dear upon earth " though, like other weak characters, he does not un“ derstand his own inclinations; for it is most certain, “ he has long preferred bad company, and the delights " of the dice, to the charms of his elegant and affec~ tionate wife.” This is true, but it is the very thing which the play was intended to exhibit and expose, it is the natural effect of the disease against which (to use a medical phrase) this play is intended to be a prophylactic. This susceptibility of infection from the disease of play” (Act 1. S. 1.) is the “ one spark of folly” ľurking in him, which, being blown by the “ deceitful breath” of Stukely, kindles into “ flames” which consume" him. (Act 11. S. 11.)
Mrs. I. goes on to observe, that “ The only reason“ able persons in this play, the author has, very un
justly, made the only insipid ones. Lewson and 66 Charlotte have both excellent understandings, and
yet, when brought upon the stage, they are mere foils 66 to the knaves and fools of their acqaintance. It seems 6 scarcely possible how a woman of Charlotte's good
sense could endure to be the constant companion of 66 another woman like her sister-in-law, egregiously im“ passioned by conjugal love, and obstinately resolved “ not to make use of it for mutual preservation. When “ Mrs. Beverley gives up her last resort, her jewels, to “ her husband, an audience inostly supposes, that she " performs an heroic action as a wife; but readers call
to mind, she is a mother; and that she breaks through " the dearest ties of nature, by thus yielding up the sole
support of her infant child, to gratify the ideal " honour of its duped and frantic father.”
In answer to this, it appears to me that it may with great truth be said, that Mrs. B. is so far from being weak and imprudent, that she is a rare compound of
greatness and tenderness of mind. Accustomed to “ house, servants, equipage, and shew," (A. 1. S. 1.) with her husband, her little boy and her sister-in-law, she “ was the happiest of the rich;” (Do.) but, on her husband's imprudence, or vice, in taking to play and losing his fortune, she says—“ flis follies I have borne 5 without upbraiding, and saw.the approach of poverty “ without a tear-My affections, my strong affections, “ supported me through every trial." (A. II. S. m.) She retires to lodgings with her dear connections, and says now my fortune is gone, “ give me but a bare sub-“ sistence with my husband's smiles, and I'll be happiest “ of the poor. To me, now, these lodgings want no
thing but their master.” (A. I. S. 1.) She would not part with her jewels to prolong for a short time their luxury and splendour, but kept them to supply their
wants; and when all's gone, these hands shall toil for
our support.” With respect to her little boy, she comforts herself with the reflection, that “ want shall “ teach him industry. From his father's mistakes he “ shall learn prudence, and from his mother's resigna" tion, patience. There's no condition of life, sickness " and pain excepted, where happiness is excluded.” &c. “ All situations have their comforts, if sweet content-
ment dwell in the heart.” (A. I. S. 1.) And again,“ The real wants of life are few. A little industry will “ supply them all And cheerfulness will follow-It is “ the privilege of honest industry, and we'll enjoy it “ fully.” (A. V. S. iv.) I conceive these to be the sentiments of a very superior mind. After this she parts with her jewels to save Stukely, whom she supposes to be the friend of her husband, and to be ruined by his intended, though mistaken, friendship to him, from being obliged to escape a prison by flying his country. She says, I kept them till occasion call'd
to use them; now is the occasion, and I'll resign them 6 cheerfully.” (A. 11. S. 11.) If this is not an heroico action, I think, it is certainly a prudent and a virtuous
She knows that she has the resource of working for the support of herself and those dear to her, and she
will bring up her boy in habits of industry, by which she will perhaps place him more out of the way of temptation than if he had inherited the entire fortune of his father. They have also, as Charlotte says, hope 66 of better days. My uncle is infirm, and of an age 66 that threatens hourly-Or, if he lives, you never “ have offended him; and for distresses so unmerited he 66 will have pity.
66 Mrs. Bev. I know it, and am cheerful. We have no more to lose; and for what's gone, if it brings prudence home, the purchase was well made.”
Mr. Cumberland says, farther, “ In the characters of " the wife and sister of the Gamester, I must observe, 66 there is but one unvaried tone; the former everlast“ ingly excusatory. The latter as uniformly accusatory. “ In the mean time nothing is done by these ladies, ex6 cept now and then sending old Jarvis upon messages 66 to the gaming-table and the prison, in which last“ mentioned place he unluckily leaves his master just in 66 the crisis when he might have stopped his hands from 66 suicide; for Beverley himself “ is made to say“ Jarvis staid this morning, all had been well.”
With respect to the excusatory and accusatory characters of the ladies, it may be said, that it is in great measure true, but also that it is natural. I believe it is generally allowed, that perpetual upbraiding is not the way in a wife to reclaim o a truant husband.” A sister is less scrupulous, and, if she thinks the wife too forbearing, so difficult is it to observe the just line of conduct, that it has rather a tendency to make her more forward to upbraid, and that again induces the wife to excuse. What more these ladies could have done than they really did in sending Jarvis to his master, especially while Lewson is taking a more active and vigorous part, I do not see. The time supposed to pass in the representation of the play is short, only from the morning of one day to that of the following. There is not space nor opportunity therefore for their doing more. Nor is Jarvis deserving of any reproach for neglect. He followed his master at midnight to prison, staid with him during the night, notwithstanding his frantic behaviour, and