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more pure than those of Paris. Is it necessary to particularise them? The disbelief, general among the higher orders, of a religion, depressed, on the one hand, by a load of superstition, and assailed, on the other, by writers of eminent talents and reputation ; and the example of a Court, commonly fignalized by unblushing profligacy, and spreading the contagion of vice throughout the empire. We know that, in one at least of these particulars, England was unhappy enough, during a part of the last century, to furnish a picture resembling that of France: and we know what was at that period the state of our drama. The torrent of immorality and profaneness, which in the days of Charles the second, and for a confiderable time afterwards, deluged the theatre, has subsided; or is no longer permitted to roll its polluted and infamous tide across the Stage. The glaring colours of vice, which gave no disgust to our ancestors, would shock, if not the virtue, yet the refinement, of a modern audience. Let the friends of religion, of their country, of
occurrences and transactions in life. If these rules have been fatisfactorily established, it would be not only superfluous, but tedious, to revive the argument hereafter. I would therefore request the reader to bear them carefully. in mind; to consider them as meant to be applied to every branch of moral behaviour which may be discussed in the subsequent pages; and to turn her thoughts to them, and to the reasoning on which they are founded, whenever in the future intercourse of life she shall hear the common but very mistaken opinions, from the effect of which they are designed to guard her, brought forward to influence her conduct.
Theatrical Entertainments—Musical Enter
tainments Sunday Concerts--Dancing-Gaming and Cards—On Excess in the Pursuit of Amusements.
HEATRICAL Amusements are those which offer themselves to our attention in the next place.
The Stage is an instrument too powerful not to produce visible and extensive effects wherever it is permanently employed. To the sentiments displayed in the tragic or the comic scene, to the examples of conduct afforded by popular characters under interesting circumstances, and to the general tone of manners and morals which pervades
dramatic representations, the opinions, the dispositions, and the actions of the frequenters of the theatre will acquire some degree of fimilitude. What is heard with admiration and pleasure, will be remembered: what is seen under those impressions, will be imitated. The impression of the sentiment will be, in some measure, modified by the leading qualities and inclinations of the mind of the hearer: and the fidelity with which the example will be copied, will depend on a variety of circumstances favouring or discouraging closeness of imitation. The growth of the plant will vary, as it is fixed in auspicious or in ungenial soil : the quantity of its fruit will be affected by the smiles and frowns of the sky. But there is feldom a foil so ungenial as entirely to obstruct its vegetation; feldom a sky so frowning as for ever to divest it of fertility. From antient times to the present hour the influence of the Stage has been discerned. Has it been the object to inculcate or to explode particular opinions ; to 3
elevate or to degrade the characters of individuals ; to strengthen or to shake existing forms of government? From the days of Grecian and Roman antiquity, down to the French revolution, the Stage has been an engine eagerly employed by those who have had it under their control. Is its influence unperceived or disregarded in our own country? The legal restraints to which the theatre is subjected, and the stamp of official approbation which every new play must receive before it can be exhibited, answer the question. The lowest orders of the people, mutable, uninformed, and passionately addicted to spectacles of amusement, may probably be acted upon, through the medium of theatrical representations, with greater facility and success than other classes of the community. But, to speak of individuals
upper and middle ranks of life, young women are the persons likely to imbibe the strongest tinge from the sentiments and transactions set before them in the drama. Openness of heart, warmth of feeling, a lively perception of the lu