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Elders of the Kirk next endeavoured to prevent the performers representing it, but with no better success. The piece was brought out at Edinburgh, and met with the encouragement to which its merit very justly entitled it. In the following year it was performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden with equal success. It had been offered to Garrick for representation at Drury Lane; but he thought the plot too simple and undramatic, and rejected it. Upon the appearance of Douglas, the Elders in public convocation suspended the author from exercising the ministry, and censured those his friends who went to see his piece performed, and various pamphlets and advertisements were published against the author and the actors.
One of these was Dr. WITHERSPOON's Serious En. quiry into the Nature and Effects of The Stage. Being an attempt to shew That contributing to the support of a Public Theatre is inconsistent with the character of a Christian. In this the writer not only censures the abuses of the stage, but is against all attempts to amend it as being bad in itself. Of this work I have taken some notice in' my Discourses on the Stage. Dr. W. appears to have been in many respects a very worthy man; but on the subject of the Stage he is so evidently carried away by prejudice, and so decidedly writes against the Stage in general, when his arguments apply only to the abuses of it, that the fallacies contained in his work, will naturally occasion the reader to pay less respect to those parts where he may have truth on his side. What can we say to the clearness of his views who thinks it of less consequence to commit a gross sin than to pass an idle hour? “In “ proportion as a man improves in holiness of heart, he $ increases in usefulness of life, and acquires a deeper « and a stronger sense of the worth and value of time. " To spend an hour unprofitably appears to such a one
a greater crime than the commission of gross sin." (Essay on The Stage, in Dr. W.'s Select Works in 2 vols. printed by Baynes in Paternoster Row, 1804.
Vol. 1. p. 274.) Nor should I have expected, after all that Dr, W. has said against profaneness and levity, to have
found him dedicating his “ Ecclesiastical Characteristics” “ To the Departed Ghost, or Surviving Spirit of the ( late Reverend Mr. cies, Minister in ....."; founded on the popular superstitions respecting ghosts. To
say the least of it, it appears to me to be a levity of which I think few dramatic authors in these days would be guilty.
But to return to the subject of this Memoir: Mr. Home was one of those distinguished literary characters who united with Mr. Allan Ramsay the painter in forming the Select Society in Edinburgh, in the
Amongst these were Dr. Robertson (the Historian of Queen Mary), Mr. David Hume, Mr. Adam Smith, Mr. Wedderburn (afterwards Lord Loughborough), Lord Kames, Dr. Carlyle, Mr. Andrew Stuart, Sir Gilbert Elliot, and Mr. Andrew Pringle (afterwards Lord Alemoor). This Society, says Mr. DUGALD STEWART, in his Account of the Life and Writings of Dr. Robertson, “ subsisted in vigour for six or seven 6 years, and produced debates, such as have not often “ been heard in modern assemblies;-debates, where the « dignity of the speakers was not lowered by the in“ trigues of policy, or the intemperance of faction; " and where the most splendid talents that have ever " adorned this country were roused to their best exer
tions, by the liberal and ennobling discussions of lite« rature and philosophy.” (p. 15.)
Afterwards, having mentioned Home’s Douglas, and the sensation excited by it, Mr. Stewart states, that “ In the whole course of the ecclesiastical proceedings « connected with these incidents, Dr. Robertson dis“ tinguished himself by the ablest and most animated *** exertions in defence of his friends; and contributed
greatly, by his persuasive eloquence, to the mildness “ of that sentence in which the prosecution at last ter“ minated. His arguments on this occasion had, it may 6 be presumed, the greater weight, that he had never « himself entered within the walls of a playhouse; a re“ markable proof, among numberless others which the “ history of his life affords, of that scrupulous circum“ spection in his private conduct, which, while it added
so much to his usefulness as a clergyman, was essen<< tial to his influence as the leader of a party ; and
which so often enabled him to recommend successfully 66 to others the same candid and indulgent spirit that
was congenial to his own mind.” P. 18.
In one of Dr. Beattie's Letters to Dr. Blacklock, the sentiments of that excellent man on the conduct of the Elders of the Kirk towards our author may be collected. Dr. Blacklock had translated the play of “ Cenie," by D'Happoncourt de Grafigny, under the title of “ Sera
phina.” Dr. Beattie, in a Letter to him, dated 9th. January, 1769, says, I long much to see your trans"lation of the French poem; pray send it as soon as you can.
You need not, I think, be under any apprehension of meeting with Mr. Home's treatment. “ To translate a dramatic poem, can never be made “ to be on a footing with composing one, and bringing 6. it on the stage. Even Presbyterianism itself allows us " to read plays; and if so, it cannot probibit the trans« lating of them.” See Sir William Forbes's Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL. D. 8vo. Edn. Vol. 1. p. 176:
On these proceedings Mr. Home gave in his resignation, June the 7th. 1757, and contented himself with the income of the small paternal estate of Kelduf; por did he ever resume his ecclesiastical functions : in the title-page to his History of the Rebellion he calls himself John Home, Esq.
In consequence of the treatment which Mr. Home had experienced in his own country, Lord Bute, then prime minister, represented the circumstances to our present beloved sovereign, then Prince of Wales, who graciously stretched out his protecting hand to the author of Douglas, and to hin the play was dedicated; and, in the year 1762, after his Majesty's accession to the throne, a very handsome pension was settled upon him at the same time that one was given to Dr. Johnson. The
year after the performance of Douglas at Covent Garden Theatre, Garrick produced Mr. Home's second 'Tragedy of Agis at Drury Lane. It was strongly supa
ported by the author's friends, and the Prince of Wales commanded it three or four nights. (Davies's Life of Garrick, Vol. 1. p. 222.) It is a piece far inferior, both in interest and in poetical merit, to the former. For the sake of preserving the unities, he has rendered it heary and unnatural. The morality of it is not above the general run of the stage: suicide, revenge, and heathenism prevail throughout. It is not, however, without some good passages. The author of the Biographia Drama tica, (Vol. 11. p. 4.) says that Mr. Home intended in this play to censure his countrymen for having sold King Charles the First to his rebellious subjects, a circumstance which I should not have discovered in the reading; and, if intended by the author, too remote and too slightly mentioned to be generally understood, as Agis is not sold to his own more immediate subjects by another power, but is put to death by his own subjects in rebellion; so that, if any thing, it applies more to the English. than to the Scotch.
In two years more (1760) Mr. Home produced the Tragedy of The Siege of Aquileia, at Drury Lane. This play is founded, not upon the events which took place at that siege, but at the siege of Berwick in the reign of Edward III. It bears very much the character of the former piece; the unities are preserved to the injury of probability and interest. Some of the passages are good, and some of the situations interesting; yet, it is, upon the whole, but a heavy play, at least it is so to read.
Mr. Home was always, as far as his means would admit, the friend and liberal patron of literature and merit. One instance of this was the patronage he gave to Mr. Macpherson, the person who first produced to public `notice the poems of Ossian. While Mr. Macpherson was Schoolmaster of Ruthven, in Badenock, he occupied his leisure hours in collecting from the native but illiterate bards of the mountains of Scotland, fragments of those poems; a few of them he translated, and inserted them occasionally in a weekly miscellany, then conducted at Edinburgh by the learned Walter Ruddiman. These specimens soon attracted the notice of Mr. Ilome,
Dr. Robertson and Dr. Blair; and it was resolved by these gentlemen to send for Mr. Macpherson from his retreat. He accordingly came to Edinburgh, and had an interview with these literary characters, the result of which was, that he resigned his situation as schoolmaster, and by means of a subscription*, procured very much by their patrovage, he travelled all over the Highlands, and collected the materials of Fingal and those other poems, which have since been the subject of so much controversy.t Macpherson, at his death, left Mr. Home L2000. as a mark of grateful recollection of the acts of kindness he had received from him in early life.
It was not till nine years after the performance of The Siege of Aquileia, nor till after the Poems of Ossian had been some time before the public, and that by Mr. Ilome's assistance, that the Tragedy of The Fatal Discovery was performed at Drury Lane. And it shews very forcibly the effect those poems had taken upon the poet's mind. He has departed both from his usual simplicity of plot and of language in this play, and introduced the scenery, and the language, and images of Ossian. Nor is the morality at all superior to that of his former plays; perfidy, revenge and suicide prevail throughout.
In the Tragedy of Alonzo, performed at Drury Lane, in 1773, the reader is very much reminded of the play of Douglas. The situation of Ormesinda, secretly married to Alonzo, and finding her lost son Alberto, bears a great resemblance to that of Lady Randolph in Douglas. Indeed, throughout Mr. Home's pieces there is a great
In The Fatal Discovery we have the Lady married against her will like Lady Randolph; and the 'character of the Recluse Orellan, is very much that of the Hermit from whom Douglas had learned the art of war. In Douglas, the youthful ardour of Y. Norval is imitated from that of David in his combat with Goliath;
* See Dr. Finlayson's Life of Dr. Blair, at the end of Dr. B.'s fith volume of Sermons, p. 500.
† Macpherson's first translations of the Poems of Ossian wese published in July, 1760. The same year he took his jouruey iube the Highlands and Islands to make farther collections.