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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Preserves it from the charge of an immoral origin


And

as the Quakers conceive this species of argument to be tenable in Christian morals, so they hold it to be absolutely necessary to be adopted in the education of youth. For grown up persons may have sufficient judgment to distinguish between the use of a thing and its abuse. They may discern the boundaries of each, and enjoy the one, while they avoid the other. But youth have no such power of discrimination. Like inexperienced mariners, they know not where to look for the deep and the shallow water, and, allured by enchanting circumstances, they may, like those who are reported to have been enticed by the voices of the fabulous Syrens, easily overlook the danger, that assuredly awaits them in their course.

CHAP. IV. SECT. I.

_The theatre--the theatre as well as music abused--plays respectable in their origin--but degenerated--Solon, Plato, and the ancient moralists against them--particularly immoral in England in the time of Charles the second--forbidden by George Fox--sentiments of Archbishop Tillotson--of William Law--English plays better than formerly, but still objectionable--prohibition of George Fox continued by the Quakers._

It is much to be lamented that customs, which originated in respectable motives, and which might have been made productive of innocent pleasure, should have been so perverted in time, that the continuation of

them should be considered as a grievance by moral men. As we have seen this to be the case, in some measure, with respect to music, so it is the care with respect to plays.

Dramatic compositions appear to have had no reprehensible origin. It certainly was an object with the authors of some of the earliest plays to combine the entertainment with the moral improvement of the mind. Tragedy was at first simply a monody to Bacohus. But the tragedy of the ancients, from which the modern is derived, did not arise in the world, till the dialogue and the chorus were introduced. Now the chorus, as every scholar knows, was a moral office. They who filled it, were loud in their recommendations of justice and temperance. They inculcated a religious observance of the laws. They implored punishment on the abandoned. They were strenuous in their discouragement of vice, and in the promotion of virtue. This office therefore, being coeval with tragedy itself, preserves it from the charge of an immoral origin.

Nor was comedy, which took its rise afterwards, the result of corrupt motives. In the most ancient comedies, we find it to have been the great object of the writers to attack vice. If a chief citizen had acted inconsistently with his character, he was ridiculed upon the stage. His very name was not concealed on the occasion. In the course of time however, the writers of dramatic pieces were forbidden to use the names of the persons, whom they proposed to censure. But we find them still adhering to the same great object, the exposure of vice; and they painted the vicious character frequently so well, that the person was soon discovered by the audience, though disguised by a fictitious name. When new restrictions, were afterwards imposed upon the writers of such pieces, they produced a new species of comedy. This is that which obtains at the present day. It consisted of an imitation of the manners of common life. The subject, the names, and the characters, belonging to it, were now all of them feigned. Writers, however, retained their old object of laughing at folly and of exposing vice.


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