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IN FIVE ACTS ;
By EDWARD MOORE.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES-Roy AL,
DRURY-LANE AND COVENT-GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
By MRS INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, AND BROWN, PATERNOSTER-ROW,
This tragedy is accounted of high moral tendency, as it paints the pernicious consequences of gaming in their blackest colours. The author's design has been a proper one, and he has produced a very affecting and ingenious drama from his materials. Yet surely its power of deterring one single gamester from his visionary pursuits, seems as improbable as the converting to reason the strayed minds of Moor Fields by the force of argument. Gaming is no passion—it is a disease;—it cannot be called avarice, for the prodigal, of all others, delights in it;-it is not ambition, for the careless and the vile resort to it;-it is not love, for it predominates over all tender affections. Still it may be urged, that gaming inspires ardent hope; but anxious hope of winning money, and agonizing fear of losing money, without the love of momey, is a contrariety of sentiment that is produced by some latent defect in the brain, which neither plays nor sermons can ever remedy. This tragedy is calculated to have a very different effect upon the stage and in the closet. An auditor, deluded into pity by the inimitable acting of a Mrs Siddons and a Mr Kemble, in Mr and Mrs Beverley, weeps with her, sighs with him, and conceives them to be a most amiable, though unfortunate pair. But a reader, blessed with the common reflection which reading should give, calls the husband a very silly man, and the wife a very imprudent woman :-and as a man without sense, and a woman without prudence, degrade both the masculine and the feminine character, the punishment of the author is rather expected with impatience than lamented as severe. Stukely is so outrageously wicked, that his character can hardly comprise either moral or example— yet Stukely has temptations for his crimes; he is in love, and disappointed. But Beverley possesses all that he pretends to hold dear upon earth—though, like other weak characters, he does not understand his own inclinations; for it is most certain he has long preferred bad company, and the delights of the dice, to the charms of his elegant and affectionate wife. In taste, therefore, Stukely has the advantage of his friend. The only reasonable persons in this play the author has, very unjustly, made the only insipid ones. Lewson and Charlotte have both excellent understandings, and yet, when brought upon the stage, they are mere foils to the knaves and fools of their acquaintance. It
seems scarcely possible how a woman of Charlotte's
good sense could endure to be the constant compa
nion of another woman like her sister-in-law, egregi
ously impassioned by conjugal love, and obstinately resolved not to make use of it for mutual preservation. When Mrs Beverley gives up her last resort, her jewels, to her husband, an audience mostly supposes that she performs an heroic action as a wife, but readers call to mind she is a mother; and that she breaks through the dearest tie of nature by thus yielding up the sole support of her infant child, to gratify the ideal honour of its duped and frantic father. The reception of this play when first performed was by no means favourable; and it was said that the love of gaming had formed conspirators to drive it from the stage. But as the author meant his gamester to be an object of pity, not of detestation—and, in general, his design has been fulfilled—it appears that he has pleaded an apology for the vice, rather than set all hearts against it. Ridicule had been the best means by which to have accomplished its extirpation. Had Beverley, in the beginning of the play, been seen with architects and masons around him, busy in laying the first stone of a castle which was to be constructed with his intended winnings—the sight of this foundation in every act, rising no higher in its structure, and his own snug house gradually falling down in the meantime for want of repairs, and, in the last scene, tumbling with pantomime crash, so as to break his shallow pate, whilst all the by-standers had laughed and hooted,—this had been the surest moral for a gamester.