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adorned with the semblance of morality and benevolence, she becomes infinitely more dangerous-than when she retains her native and disgusting form of vulgar Sensuality. I shall therefore think it incumbent upon me to offer a few observations upon some Comedies, which have been lately imported into this country from Germany. In a former paper, I have alluded generally to their tendency and effects; but I propose at present to enter a little more into detail, on the subject.
In the first place, I shall notice the Comedy of Lovers' Vows, a professed imitation of Kotzebue's “ Child of “ Love;" in preparing which for the English stage, Mrs. Inchbald has done every thing that was practicable, to divest it of many of the exceptionable passages in the original. But, preserving the general character, it was not possible wholly to exempt it from an objection, which I will repeat in her own words; that “ Vice is never so dangerous, as when it “ assumes the garb of morality.”
Nothing can be more amiable than pity for the misguided sufferer, who, by ungoverned passions, or by evil example, has been seduced from virtue, and involved in misery. This delightful sentiment has the highest possible example and authority, in that compassion and mercy, to which we address all our hopes: and if it is more lovely in any one earthly instance, it is when it emanates from the pure and refined sensibility of a delicate and virtuous female. But if such a female, misled by kindness and affection, approves and admires the crime, instead of lamenting and detesting it, she corrupts her own moral feeling, and that of others. When pity for a wretched criminal leads to the palliation and approval of his guilt, the bounds between virtue and vice are soon broken down, and the heart is prepared to participate in that criminality of disposition, which it already approves.
To apply this observation to the Play
before us.—We may compassionate the unhappy man, who beholding the distress of his mother, his wife, or his child, is impelled, like Frederick*, in a moment of desperation, to commit a robbery. But let us beware how we venture to approve it ; much more how we hold up the deed to admiration,-as the crime of Frederick is offensively offered to public view, in this dramatic composition. If the precedent be once admitted, the consequences, not merely of misfortune, but of dissipation and idleness, will for ever supply a pretest, for infringing the laws of civilized society, and for invading the peace and security of individuals.
* In a circumstance of this kind Shakspeare has acted with his usual propriety and delicacy. I refer to the scene where ISABELLA is soliciting Angelo, in favor of her brother, condemned to die for breach of chastity.
« Isab. There is a vice, that I do most abhor, “ And most desire to meet the blow of justice ; "For which I would not plead, but that I must; " For which I would not plead, but that I am “ At war, 'twixt will and will not."
She offers no approval, nor even palliation, of her brother's offence, but suggests to the judge the consequences of human frailty.
“ If he had been as you, and you as he, “ You would have slipt like him; but he, like you, « Would not have been so stern."
She then reminds Angelo of our hopes of mercy from Heaven.
Why, all the souls that were, were forfeit once; “And He that might the vantage best have took, “ Found out the remedy: How would you be, “ If He which is the top of judgment, should
To give another example from this play. We may weep over the unfortunate woman, who, like the mother of Frederick, betrayed by passion and vanity, and unmindful of her duty to her benefactress, falls a sacrifice to criminal solicitation; and seeking for pleasure, wealth, and rank, finds misery, poverty, and contempt. But, unless we would increase beyond all endurance, the number of such wretched victims, we must not adorn them with the fascinating ornaments of mind and body,--we must not render them amiable and interesting, and attempt to place them in the Temple of Honour. The shrine would be
“ But judge you, as you are ? Oh think on that, “ And mercy then will breathe within your lips, " Like man new made.”
She concludes by an appeal to his conscience, in favor of her brother.
“Go to your bosom ; “ Knock there ; and ask your heart, what it doth
know “ That's like my brother's fault: if it confess “ A natural guiltiness, such as is his, « Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue, " Against my brother's life.”
Bụt in all this there is not a word of palliation, Her disapprobation of what her brother has done, is expressed clearly and distinctly in every part.
profaned. Give them your tears, your pity, your protection : strive by every act of kindness and mercy, to recal them to the paths of peace and virtue. But do not honour and exalt them : do not
propose them for example and imitation. Direct your praise, your respect, your admiration, to a more pure and meritorious object.
The reserve, the restraint, and the diffidence of the female sex, are the brightest, and most irresistible ornaments and attractions of a young and beautiful