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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 companion of another woman like her sister-in-law, egregiously 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.
ACT THE FIRST.
Enter MRS BEveRLEY and CHARLoTTE.
Mrs Bev. Be comforted, my dear, all may be well yet. And now, methinks, the lodging begins to look with another face. Oh, sister | sister l if these were all my hardships; if all I had to complain of were no more than quitting my house, servants, equipage, and show, your pity would be weakness. Char. Is poverty nothing then 2 Mrs Bev. Nothing in the world, if it affected only me. While we had a fortune, I was the happiest of the rich; and now ’tis gone, give me but a bare subsistence and my husband's smiles, and I’ll be the happiest of the poor. . To me now, these lodgings want nothing but their master!—Why do you look so at me 2 Char. That I may hate my brother. Mrs Bev. Don’t talk so, Charlotte. . . Char. Has he not undone you?–Oh, this permicious vice of gaming! But methinks his usual hours
of four or five in the morning might have contented him, 'twas misery enough to wake for him till then. Need he have staid out all night?—I shall learn to detest him. Mrs Bev. Not for the first fault. He never slept from me before. Char. Slept from you! No, no, his nights have nothing to do with sleep. How has this one vice driven him from every virtue!—Nay, from his affections too !—The time was, sister Mrs Bev. And is. I have no fear of his affections. *Would I knew that he were safel Char. From ruin and his companions.—But that’s impossible—His poor little boy, too ! What must become of him 2 Mrs Bev. Why, want shall teach him industry. From his father's mistakes he shall learn prudence, and from his mother’s resignation, patience. Poverty has no such terrors in it as you imagine. There's no condition of life, sickness and pain excepted, where happiness is excluded. The husbandman, who rises early to his labour, enjoys more welcome rest at might for’t. His bread is sweeter to him; his home happier; his family dearer; his enjoyments surer. The sun that rouses him in the morning, sets in the evening to release him. All situations have their comforts if sweet contentment dwell in the heart. But my poor Beverley has none. The thought of having ruined those he loves is misery for ever to him. *Would I could ease his mind of that I Char. If he alone were ruined ’twere just he should be punished. He is my brother, 'tis true; but when I think of what he has done,—of the fortune you brought him, of his own large estate too, squandered away upon this vilest of passions, and among the vilest of wretches! Oh, I have no patience!—My own little fortune is untouched, he says. 'Would I were sure on’t l