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I cannot close this Preface without addressing a few words to the dramatic Authors and Performers of the present day.
Let every Autuor consider, when he sits down to any dramatic composition, that he is about that which will have effects beyond the mere bringing a few pounds into his own pocket, by interesting an audience and raising a laugh in a theatre. Let him consider, that, if it be successful, thousands and thousands will witness the representation, who will take impressions from it, and act, from those in real life. Let him consider how many will read it, editions will be multiplied ; and should it be corrupt in its principles, it will go on in its work, when it is past recall, and even after his death, when he can. not even renounce it, or attempt to counteract its pernicious tendency; and that he must one day account for his work and the mischief done by it, before Him from whom nothing is hidden.*
Is it not wonderful that Authors will write for the stage and PERFORMERS will speak what they would be ashamed to utter in a private room, or for which, if they did, they would be reprimanded, or desired to quit the room, or else the company themselves would withdraw? these things would be thought low even in a drayman in a public house. Is it not strange that the audience will hear these things, and will not reprove them, nor take any measures to have them'amended? Is it a fear of being thought over-scrupulous which re
* I am indebted in a Friend for the following extract on this suit ject from Bishop Sherlock's Discourses, taken by him some years ago, but without making a reference. I have turned over the volumes hastily to find it, but have not succeeded :-" He who has vented & “ pernicimus Doctrine or published an ill book, must kvow, that " his Guilt and his Life terminate not together. Such an one being .. dead, yet speaketh: he sins in his very Grave: he corrupts others, “ while he is rotting himself, and has a growing account in the other “ world, after he has paid Nature's last Debt in this. Like one « who is carried off by ihe Plague, he dies himself, but does execu« tion on others, by a surviving infection. These considerations are truly appalling for the profane, for the loose, or the inconsiderate writer.
strains them? or that what is every body's business is done by nobody?
The Rules of many of the FRIENDLY SOCIETIES among the lower classes prohibit indecent conversation or songs. These are societies of men only. Yet these things are allowed in a Theatre where there are persons of all ranks, of both sexes, and of all ages, and these indecencies are too frequently spoken by women. learn from these humble societies.
That these things are, in some instances, as distressing to the performer* as to the hearer, I believe I may say with truth. I am well assured, and I trust that it is more from a want of an understanding amongst all classes,—at least of the better part of them,--that the reformation has not been effected sooner. Let us come to this understanıling and begin the reformation without farther loss of time.
In The Artist, the twentieth number is on the Re. form of our Stage, and there is a Proposition for y Theatre directed to the maintenance of the Dramu in its best and most useful state, to be established in the metropolis by subscription. As Mr. Iloare is himself a successful dramatic writer, a suggestion of this nature must come with great effect from him; and this is one of those circumstances of the present day which make me hope, that the time is not very far distant when the stage will be materially amended, if not altogether reformed, speaking after the manner of men.
I have also lately, and only very lately, seen a pamphlet intitled OBSERVATIONS on the Drama, with a view to its more beneficial effects on the MORALS AND MANNERS OF Society. In Three Parts. By Edward Green, corresponding Member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. Printed for Cadell and Davies, price 2s. 6d. 8vo. no date, but I think printed in 1805. Though I do not agree with this gentleman in all his sentiments, yet I consider it as a very valuable work, and wish it were in the hands of every Manager and Dramatic Author-and indeed of every person connected with the Theatre, throughout the kingdom.
* lo the sixteenth number of THE ARTIST, Vol. II. On Theatrical Representations, the author of that paper, speaking of the Oaths introdgced into plays, says, " let no one imagine that the “ performers are guilty of that nuisance for their own sake.
No persons are, in general, much more free from this distinguishing « mark of low manners, than the players; and it may be fairly “ asserter, that there are as few opihs uttered in the green room, " as iu any other assembly room in London," p. 321,
In proportion as the stage becomes purified, so the prejudices against it must wear away.
Let it be remembered that Prynne, one of the great adversaries of the stage, was scarcely a greater enemy to organs and church music than to the stage. But our organs, I believe, now swell their diapason in our venerable cathedrals upanathematised by the gloom of superstition. It appears to me that one of the greatest obstacles to the amendment of the stage is the undistinguishing censure which is cast upon the stage in general, when it should be directed only against its abuses.
Here, in conclusion, I once more throw myself upon the candour of my readers. They have here the result of many a laborious, many a thoughtful, many an anxious, --and I will add of many a pleasant,--hour. If I have not received all the encouragement a sanguine author might wish, I have received more, perhaps, than I had cause reasonably to hope. I have certainly experienced much, of which I had no expectation, when I commenced the undertaking, and that of the most valuable kind. My anxiety and labours shall not, however, rest here. I shall not, like the Ostrich, leave my egg in the sand, to be trodden underfoot by the casual passenger, or to be hatched by the accustomed influence of the sun. It is 'my intention to forward my work into the hands of the principal Managers of Companies throughout the king. dom, that it may not be from ignorance of the existence of such a work, if they do not adopt, either absolutely, or in effect, these dramas, or the principles upon which they are purified.
To my friends, in proportion as the debt of gratitude is divided amongst a few, so the larger share is due to each individually. Let me cherish the hope that none will find cause to lament the trust which was placed in my principles and my discretion.
That this work may tend in its way to the promotion of unaffected and pure morality, and preserve succeeding generations from those corruptions which have been the bane of past ages, is the aim, and shall be the continued hope of
their much obliged,
and obedient humble servant,
Clare Hall, April 3, 1812.