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with me more than the former. I consider that the tax on paper was given for the support of the government; and as I have ene. mies, who are apt to pervert every thing I do or say,' I fear they would ascribe the laying down my paper, on such an occasion, to a spirit of malecontentedness, which I am resolved none shall ever justly upbraid me with. No, I shall glory in contributing my utmost to the weal public;' and if my country receives five or six pounds a day by my labours, I shall be very well pleased to find myself so useful a member. It is a received maxim, that no honest man should enrich himself by methods that are prejudicial to the community in which he lives, and by the same rule I think we may pronounce the person to deserve very well of his countrymen, whose labours bring more into the public coffers than into his own pocket.
Since I have mentioned the word enemies, I must explain myself so far as to acquaint my reader, that I mean only the insignificant party zealots on both sides; men of such poor narrow souls, that they are not capable of thinking on any thing but with an eye to whig or tory. During the course of this paper, I have been accused by these despicable wretches, of trimming, time-serving, personal reflection, secret hate, and the like. Now, though in these my compositions, it is visible to any reader of common sense, that I consider nothing but my subject, which is always of an indifferent nature; how is it possible for me to write so clear of party, as not to lie open to the censures of those who will be applying every sentence, and finding out persons and things in it, which it has no regard to ?
Several paltry scribblers and declaimers have done me the honour to be dull upon me in reflections of this nature; but not
'V. Guardian, 166—Note on the subject.-C.
*This is Tickell’s reading, altered by modern editiors, on I know not what authority, to the more common form-public weal.—G.
withstanding my name has been sometimes traduced by this contemptible tribe of men, I have hitherto avoided all animadversions upon them. The truth of it is, I am afraid of making them appear considerable by taking notice of them, for they are like those imperceptible insects which are discovered by the microscope, and cannot be made the subject of observation without being magnified.
Having mentioned those few who have shewn themselves the enemies of this paper, I should be very ungrateful to the public, did not I at the same time testify my gratitude to those who are its friends, in which number I may reckon many of the most distinguished persons of all conditions, parties, and professions, in the isle of Great Britain. I am not so vain as to think this approbation is so much due to the performance as to the design. There is, and ever will be, justice enough in the world, to afford patronage and protection for those who endeavour to advance truth and virtue, without regard to the passions and prejudices of any particular cause or faction. If I have any other merit in me, it is that I have new.pointed all the batteries of ridicule. They have been generally planted against persons who have appeared serious rather than absurd ; or, at best, have aimed rather at what is unfashionable than what is vicious. For my own part, I have endeavoured to make nothing ridiculous that is not in some measure criminal. I have set up the immoral man as the object of derision : in short, if I have not formed a new weapon against vice and irreligion, I have at least shewn how that weapon may be put to a right use, which has so often fought the battles of impiety and profaneness.
No. 446. FRIDAY, AUGUST 1.
Quid deceat, quid non; qud virus, qud lerat error.
HOR, Ars Poet. 808.
Since two or three writers of comedy who are now living. have taken their farewel of the stage, those who succeed them finding themselves incapable of rising up to their wit, humour, and good sense, have only imitated them in some of those loose unguarded strokes, in which they complied with the corrupt taste of the more vicious part of their audience. When persons of a low genius attempt this kind of writing, they know no difference between being merry and being lewd. It is with an eye to some of these degenerate compositions that I have written the following discourse.
Were our English stage but half so virtuous as that of the Greeks or Romans, we should quickly see the influence of it in the behaviour of all the politer part of mankind. It would not be fashionable to ridicule religion, or its professors; the man of pleasure would not be the complete gentleman ; vanity would be out of countenance, and every quality which is ornamental to human nature, would meet with that esteem which is due to it.
If the English stage were under the same regulations the Athenian was formerly, it would have the same effect that had, in recommending the religion, the government, and public wor. ship of its country. Were our plays subject to proper inspections and limitations, we might not only pass away several of our vacant hours in the highest entertainments; but should always rise from them wiser and better than we sat down to them.
It is one of the most unaccountable things in our age, that the lewdness of our theatre should be so much complained of,
and so little redressed. It is to be hoped, that some time or other we may be at leisure to restrain the licentiousness of the theatre, and make it contribute its assistance to the advancement of morality, and to the reformation of the age. As matters stand at present, multitudes are shut out from this noble diver. sion, by reason of those abuses and corruptions that accompany it. A father is often afraid that his daughter should be ruined by those entertainments, which were invented for the accomplishment and refining of human nature. The Athenian and Roman plays were written with such a regard to morality, that Socrates used to frequent the one, and Cicero the other.
It happened once, indeed, that Cato dropped into the Roman theatre, when the Floralia were to be represented ; and as in that performance, which was a kind of religious ceremony, there were several indecent parts to be acted, the people refused to see them whilst Cato was present. Martial on this hint made the following epigram, which we must suppose was applied to some grave friend of his, that had been accidentally present at some such entertainmont.
Nosses jocose dulce cum sacrum Flore,
L. i. Ep. 3.
Why dost thou come, great censor of thy age,
An accident of this nature might happen once in an age
• Reformation of the oge. Impossible. No play will take, that is not adapted to the prevailing manners. But to flatter the age, is not the wav to reform it.-H.
among the Greeks or Romans; but they were too wise and good to let the constant nightly entertainment be of such a nature, that people of the most sense and virtue could not be at it. Whatever vices are represented upon the stage, they ought to be so marked and branded by the poet, as not to appear either laudable or amiable in the person who is tainted with them. But if we look into the English comedies above-mentioned, we would think they were formed upon a quite contrary maxim, and that this rule, though it held good upon the heathen stage, was not to be regarded in Christian theatres. There is another rule, likewise, which was observed by authors of antiquity, and which these modern geniuses have no regard to, and that was, never to chuse an improper subject for ridicule. Now a subject is improper for ridicule, if it is apt to stir up horror and commisera tion rather than laughter. For this reason, we do not find any comedy in so polite an author as Terence, raised upon the violations of the marriage-bed. The falsehood of the wife or husband has given occasion to noble tragedies, but a Scipio or a Lelius would have looked upon incest or murder to have been improper subjects for comedy. On the contrary, cuckoldon is the basis of most of our modern plays. If an alderman appears upon the stage, you may be sure it is in order to be cuckolded. An husband that is a little grave or elderly, generally meets with the same fate. Knights and baronets, country squires, and jus tices of the quorum, come up to town for other purpose.
I have seen poor Dogget cuckolded in all these capacities. In short, our English writers are as frequently severe upon this in.
· Would think. The author should have said, should think, -for he meant to express the cerlainty of the conclusion ; not any inclination of ours to form it. Yet there seems to be something arbitrary and capricious in the use of these auxiliary verbs, --would, and should for, in this very instance, it would be right to say-a man would think, and not, a man should think. The rule is clear, (see Dr. Wallis, de verbis auxiliaribus mulilis) but the reason of it is not so apparent.-H.