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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Not for the enjoyment of domestic society


are of opinion also, that dramatic exhibitions not only tend, of themselves, to make home less agreeable, but that they excite a craving for stimulants, and, above all, teach a dependence upon external objects for amusement. Hence the attention of people is taken off again to new objects of pleasure, which lie out of their own families, and out of the circle of their friends.

It will not take much time to shew, that the Quakers have not been mistaken in this point. It is not unusual in fashionable circles, where the theatre is regularly brought into the rounds of pleasure, for the father and the mother of a family to go to a play once, or occasionally twice, a week. But it seldom happens, that they either go to the same theatre, or that they sit together. Their children are at this time left at home, under, what is considered to be, proper care, but they are probably never seen again by them till the next noon; and perhaps once afterwards in the same day, when it is more than an even chance, that they must be again left for the gratification of some new pleasure. Now this separation of fathers from mothers, and of parents from children, does not augur well of domestic enjoyments or of a love of home.

But we will trace the conduct of the parents still farther. We will get into their company at their own houses; and here we shall very soon discover, how wearisome they consider every hour, that is spent in the

bosom of their families, when deprived of their accustomed amusements; and with what anxiety they count the time, when they are to be restored to their favourite rounds of pleasure. We shall find no difficulty in judging also from their conversation, the measure of their thought or their solicitude about their children. A new play is sure to claim the earliest attention or discussion. The capital style, in which an actor performed his part on a certain night, furnishes conversation for an hour. Observations on a new actress perhaps follow. Such subjects appear more interesting to such persons, than the innocent conversation, or playful pranks, of their children. If the latter are noisy, they are often sent out of the room as troublesome, though the same parents can bear the stunning plaudits, or the discordant groans and hissings of the audience at the theatre. In the mean time their children grow up, and in their turn, are introduced by their parents to these amusements, as to places, proper for the dissipation of vacant hours; till, by frequent attendances, they themselves lose an affection for home and the domestic duties, and have in time as little regard for their parents, as their parents appear to have had for them. Marrying at length, not for the enjoyment of domestic society, they and their children perpetuate the same rounds of pleasure, and the same sentiments and notions.

To these instances many indeed might be added, by looking into the family-histories of those, who are in the habit of frequenting theatres in search of pleasure, by which it would appear, that such amusements are not friendly to the cherishing of the domestic duties and affections, but that, on the other hand, in proportion as they are followed, they tend to sap the enjoyments of domestic life. And here it may be observed, that of all the amusements, which go to the making up of the round of pleasures, the theatre has the greatest share in diverting from the pleasures of home. For it particularly attracts and fascinates, both from the nature, and the diversity, of the amusements it contains. It is also always open, in the season, for resort. So that if private invitations to pleasure should not come in sufficiently numerous, or should be broken off by the indisposition of the parties, who give them, the theatre is always ready to supply any vacancy, that may be occasioned in the round.

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