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Another incidental Reason, why I press for some Regulation in this Affair, is in order to prevent the Frauds, the Lies, and even Perjuries arifing from this Profefion of Brief-procurers, as will appear from the few Instances annexed to this Letter.
Sufferers, Sir, are not under Difficulties, how to obtain a Brief; but by those, who make indirect Advantages of it, they are even courted to get one, where their own Modesty, arising from the Sense of the Smallness of their Losses, would discourage any Attempts of that Kind.
From hence it comes to pass, that we are so crouded with Briefs, that the best-disposed are almost tired out with giving ; and the Grant, or Publication of the Briefs is poftponed for 3, 4 or 5 Years, notwithstanding they set forth in the Body of them, that the Sufferers must inevitably perish, unless speedily relieved by the Charity of others.
This would not be the Cafe, if some exorbitant Fees did not attend the procuring of them.
Upon a proper Regulation, we should have fewer Briefs, greater Collections, a more early Relief, and less, I hope no, Frauds, Lies, or Perjuries attending them.
If I am not so happy as to think with you, Sir, upon this Occasion, my next Desire is to have my Notions rectified by your better Judgment, in order to influence my own Practice in particular, that I may contribute something myself, and encourage others to do so too,
Who am, SIR, with all due Refpert,
Your most obedient bumble Servant, A. B. Mr Edward Byrd and Company, Creditors on Napton Brief, 1728.
£ 2. Paid for Lord Chancellor's Fiat
33 7 For figning the Briefs
397 For 168 Briefs laid in London at is. 4d.
Instances of Frauds, Lies, Perjuries, &c. A Brief was obtained for a Fire. The real Loss amounted to but one hundred Pounds
The Hon. Mr Wrio. D_by, Voucher. Another for re-building a Church. The Repairs amounted to but fourscore Pounds.
Tho. W-d, of C-p-,V. Another for a Fire, which left the Sufferers worth at leaft 10,000 l. each, Tho. Loh, Restor of Hd, V.
By a Suit against the Collectors, in favour of the Sufferers, upon the Inspection of the particular Briefs, was recovered double the Súm that was paid them as the Sum Total.
Ditto V. Mi Justice Pre ordered a Prosecution against Brief-gatherers, for not giving up their whole Collection. They compromised the Matter with the Sufferers, by adding 500 l. to their first Payment A Compromise very much resented by the Judge.
B-ne, Esg; of An Hall, v. Sir Tho. L-t-n offered to rebuild his Parish Church for 2001.The Offer was rejected, and a Brief laid the Damage at 1100 1.
Ditto V. Ombley Fire Part was Parish Houses, the other Houses that were burnt had Land in Proportion belonging to them. But the Fee of the Whole (Land and Houses too) not worth 400 l. The Damage was laid at 800 l, for the Houses only.
Ditto V. N. B. This last was a joint Brief, which I suppose (for I never saw the Particulars of any but Napton Brief) is attended with more Ad. vantage to the Procurers, and consequently is of less to the Sufferers. From hence it comes to pass that there is a notorious Falsehood inserted in this kind of Briefs, wherein we are told, that 'tis to save the Expence of separate Collections, that the Sufferers have joined together ; whereas it is well known, that no Brief is granted for less Damage than a thousand Pounds; to make up which Sum (when the Collectors happen to be over-modeft) they do, by an unnatural Conjunction, bring sometimes the four Corners of England together, tho' they meet no where else but in a Brief, nor ever heard of each other
. before: The separate Losses of whom, fairly stated (which I am afraid is feldom or never the Case) would be beneath the Notice of the Pub. lick, and might be made up in the Neighbourhood, at least as far as is reasonably to be expected: For, very good Reasons there are, why the whole Loss should not be made up to the immediate Sufferers. They ought to be very thankful, as well as satisfied, if half of the Da. mage sustained be removed by the Contributions of the Charitable, e. specially if their Losses are really rated at the highest, contrary to what is pretended to be, at the lowest Computation.
The Reformation of the STAGE; a small Treatise lately
published in French, by Lewis RICCOBONI.
U R Author modestly declares, in his Preface, " that he is not a O
Man of Genius or Letters ; but that having been a Comedian for thirty five Years, he has had an opportunity of being convinced that the Stage, upon its present Footing, greatly corrupts Good Manners ; and that he thought himself obliged to publúh his Sentiments upon this Subject, together with a Plan which he had form'd for rendering it, if posible, such as Good Manners and the Regard due to Society require". In this View we are to consider M. Riccoboni's Work, without which we may fail of perceiving its Merit. This Treatise is divided into fix Parts : In the first the Apthor gives his Reasons for
a Reformation of the Stage. The second contains his Plan for that Purpose. The third, a List of the Tragedies which he would retain on the Stage thus reformed. The fourth, a List of such Tragedies as may always be acted after making some necessary Alterations. The fifth, a List of the Tragedies he would absolutely reject. The fixth relates to Comedies only, in which he regulates those that may be retained, those to be corrected, and those that ought to be rejected.
Part I, The Author declares sincerely, "that he perceives, in its full Extent, the great Good that would be produced, by the entire Suppression of the Stage :” And he readily agrees with all that fo. many Persons of Learning and Genius have already written upon that Subject : But as there is little Hope of a total Suppression, he contents himself with proposing a Plan for its Reformation, for these Reasons.
1. Because Comedies turn all upon Love, which, tho' it generally tend to Marriage , yet the Inconveniences which arise from the Rea. presentation of indecent and irregular Amours on the Stage are not sufficiently guarded against ; for, as fome think, People do not con-' sider that these Amours, which are pretended to be honourable, are always treated without Decorum, and in contempt of all Obligations to Parents and Guardians. The young People, even the Females, are represented as contriving nothing else but to deceive their Parents, and turn them into Ridicule. And their Maid-Servants and Valets, who always favour Licentiousness, continually advise them to Irregularities.
2. It is certain also that the Expressions of Lovers, which upon the Stage are always strained too far, confirm the Libertine in his Licentiouf. ness, awaken the dullest Minds, and cannot fail to instruct in Vice, and to give Admittance to a dangerous Passion into the Heart of the most innocent Youth.
3. The Manner in which the Passion of Love is treated in Tragedies, is no less apt to corrupt and enervate the Heart. It is always the fa-vourite Palsion of the Heroe, for which he does and facrifices every Thing, and which almost always carries him to Vice, and rarely to Virtue ; so that the ordinary Effects of Love in Tragedies are Murders, Usurpations, Treachery, Treason, and a Contempt of the Laws.
4. M. Riccoboni dwells next upon the indecent Manner in which the Women appear upon the Stage. What seems to him to be still more dangerous, is to see them fing and dance, and excite Desires not only. by their Gestures, Dress and Tone of Voice, but by the pernicious Maxims which they commonly utter. How dangerous, Jays be, are such Objects to young People! How destructive to their Innocence !
Part II. contains the Regulations for his Reformed Stage.
“ After a Reformation of the Stage, says be, by any Sovereign or Republick, a Council of the following Persons ought to be appointed :
A Head, or President, for the King or Senate, a Substitute of the Lieutenant General of the Police, or of the Magistrate who has the Government within a City, two Doctors of the Faculty of Divinity, (wo of the fenior Poets of the Theatre, able to judge of Theatrical Performances, and one or two old Actors. At their first Meeting they should establish the following, or the like Articles.
1. That no Actor fhall be received, but one who is known to ke a Man of Honour, and avouched as fuch- by his family : For this
purpose purpose he shall be obliged to bring Certificates in due Form, and ihal submit to all the Regulations of the new Theatre, &c.
II. That in all the new Pieces which thall be written for the Theatre thus reformed, whether Tragedies, Comedies, or of what kind soever, the Passion of Love, such as it is usually represented now-a-days, hall be entirely laid aside : Yet with this Exception, that if any Author should hit on the Secret of giving useful Instructions on this paflion, so that the Spectators may thereby become better, his Performance shall be admitted as well as those in which Hatred, Wrath, &c. are represented so as to excite in the Spectators a virtuous Horror.
III. All old Pieces shall be examined, to see which are capable of being corrected, by cutting out all Scenes of Love, incompatible with that Purity of Manners which is proposed to be inculcated,
IV. There shall be no Women in this Company of Comedians bat such as are married, and whose Husbands live with them, whether they be Comedians or not: And, as to Actresses, the Method in Holland hould be observed, to dismiss them upon the least Offence.
V. Girls and Women, not excepting even Adresses, shall not for the future be allowed to dance upon the Stage.
VI. Every new Piece, before it can be presented to the Council, which alone has the Right of receiving it, must pass four Examinations.
1. The Substitute of the Police hall judge whether or not the Work be contrary to the Laws of the Kingdom.
2. The Piece shall be remitted to one of the Divines of the Council, who shall decide whether or not it wounds Religion and Good Manners.
3. It shall be read by one of the Poets of the Council, who shall give his Opinion upon the Style, the Versification, the Plot, and the Conduct of it, and who shall make all the Objections which his own Genius may suggest, and which are cognizable by Rules of Art.
4. Examination shall be made by one of the Comedians of the Council, as to what concerns the Execution of the Work.
VII. All the Money which is taken shall be lodged in a publick Box; and at the Year's End, whatever Balance shall remain, after all Charges are cleared, shall be laid out in charitable Uses.
Vil. The Company of Comedians shall be regulated in the same Manner as the French Stage is at present; but, in order to render little Pieces the more diverting, among the usual Actors, shall be introduced a Harlequin maskėd, in the same manner as on the Italian Stage.
IX. It shall not be allow'd to open the Theatre, or to exhibit Shows of any kind foever on Festivals, Sundays, and all the Time of Lent.
As to the Opera, it appearing to our Author incapable of being reform'd, he modestly insinuates that it must be entirely suppressed.
Part III. The Tragedies to be retained on the Reformed Stage are Atbalie, Iphigenie en Aulide, Heraclius, Stilicon, Andromaque, Dom Sancbe d Arragon, Polieude, Manlius Capitolinus, La Thebaide, Esther, Ines de Castro, Atree et Thyeste, Radamiste et Zenobie, La mort de Cefar, Oreste et Pylade, and Brutus.
M. Riccoboni treats of each of these Pieces in particular; and he does the same with regard to those he speaks of afterwards, and all along alligns Reasons for his Opinion. Some Readers, perhaps, will think that, in this third Part, M. Riccoboni is not sufficiently steady and
confistent upon his own Principles: And indeed after all he has said about theatrical Love, and in what follows, there is Reason to be sure prised at the Indulgence he News to many Tragedies in which this Passion is so strongly represented.
Par. IV. The Tragedies to be corrected are Britannicus, Cinna, Oedipe, Les Horaces, Sertorius, Geta, Penelope, Medee, Agrippa, RomaJus, Jugurtha, and Amasis.
Thus M. Riccoboni speaks in particular of Britannicus : “The Amours of Junia, Britannicus and Nero, intermixed with the grand Sentiments which Agrippina, Burrhus, and even Nero express in this Tragedy, dirfigure it entirely. For my part, I would altogether fuppress the Part of Tania: Much might be said of it; every Thing else might be referr'd to it, but it should never be brought upon the Ståge. Then would the great Action be no longer disgraced, or weakend by the Verses and illiy Scenes of Love, which spoil all the Grandeur of this Piece.
I cannot bear, for instance, that Nero should hide himself in order to over-hear the Conversation of his Rival } there is nothing more trivial, nor less agreeable to a grand Subject. I repeat it again, all Junia does and says might be said and done by the Persons concerned in the Action. Britannicus might make Narcisus his Confident, and Narcisus might tell it Nero; and so the Piece would lose nothing.
Should any one take the Pleasure of attempting it, he would, perhaps, find, with surprise, what Addition might be made to the Action, which would still remain in its full Force and Majesty. On the other hand, should any one be so hardy as to cut off altogether the Episode of Junia (which indeed Racine had no Occasion for) so as to retain nothing of Love, but only the Policy of Nero, who would willingly get rid of Britannicus that he might have no Rival in the Empire, the Trouble might be greater, but the Advantage would be more considerable, and the Representation more natural. The Tragedy of Britannicus, thus reformed, might be reckoned among the best and most valuable Pieces of the Stage, and suit very well the new Theatre."
Part V. The Tragedies to be rejected are Le Cid, Berenice, Pompee, Mithridate, Comte d'Elex, Phædrus, Alexandre le Grand, Wenceslas, Bajazet, Astrate, Roi de Tyr.
Part VI: The Comedies to be retained are Le Misanthrope, M. Du Fresney's Chevalier joueur, les Femmes Sçavantes, les Precicafes ridicules, Les Facheux.
Comedies to be corrected are Moliere's l' Avare, la Mere coquette, les Plaideurs, Reconciliation, M. Du Fresney's Normande, le Cocu Imaginaires.
The Comedies to be rejected, r Ecole des Maris, T Ecole des Femmes, George Dandin.
Our Author not only criticises each of these Pieces, and affigns Reasons for retaining Some, correcting others, and rejecting the rest, but he goes farther, and proposes a Plan of a new Theatre, to be build for the Representation of the Performances in his new Talte, according to which a separate Place is appointed for the Spectators of each Sex.
Tho' this Author disclaims all Pretences to Genius, his Reflections on the bad Effects of theatrical Representations are of great Weight, as long Experience had enabled him to determine better than any Body clfc upon such Matters. His good Intentions ought certainly to be commended, and his Book may be very serviceable to such as would either Speak or write against the Srage.