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This is a drama, which might remove from Mr Wilberforce his aversion to theatrical exhibitions, and convince him, that the teaching of moral duty is not confined to particular spots of ground; for, in those places, of all others, the doctrine is most effectually inculcated, where exhortation is the most required--the resorts of the gay, the idle, and the dissipated.
This opera was written when the author was very young; and, should hé live to be very old, he will have reason to be proud of it to his latest day--for it is one of those plays which is independent of time, of place, or of circumstance, for its value.
It was popular before the subject of the abolition of the slave trade was popular. It has the peculiar honocr of preceding that great question. It was the bright forerunner of alleviation to the hardships of slavery.
The trivial faults of this opera are too much play on words (as it is called) by Trudge; and some classical allusions by other characters, in whose education such knowledge could not be an ingredient.
A fault more important is—that the scene at the commencement of the opera, instead of Africa, is placed in America. It would undoubtedly have been a quick passage, to have crossed a fourth part of the western globe, during the interval between the first and second acts; still, as the hero and heroine of the drama were compelled to go to sea, imagination, with but little more exertion, might have given them a fair wind as well from the coast whence slaves are really brought, as from a shore where no such traffic is held.
As an opera, Inkle and Yarico has the singular merit not to be protected, though aided, by the power of music: the characters are so forcibly drawn, that even those performers who sing, and study that art alone, can render every part effectual : and singers and actors of future times, like those of the past, and of the present, will find every character exactly suit, ed to their talents.
* No doubt the author would have ingenuity to argue away this objection- but that which requires argument for its support in a dramatic work, is a subject for complaint. As slaves are imported from Africa, and never from America, the audience, in the two last acts of this play, feel as if they had been in the wrong quarter of the globe during the first act. Inkle could certainly steal a native from America, and sell her in Barbadoes, but this is not so consonant with that nice imitation of the order of things as to rank above criticism.
This opera has been performed in every London theatre, and in every theatre of the kingdom, with the same degree of splendid success. It would have been wonderful had its reception been otherwise ; for the subject is a most interesting one, and in the treat ment of it, the author has shewn taste, judgment-virtue.