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dicean, with the very meat between his teeth, which he had been chewing voluntarily, rather than abide the penalty ? Relief for tender consciences means nothing, where the conscience has previously relieved itself; that is, has complied with the injunctions which it seeks preposterously to be rid of. Relief for conscience there is properly none, but what by better information makes an act appear innocent and lawful with which the previous conscience was not satisfied to comply. All else is but relief from penalties, from scandal incurred by a complying practice, where the conscience itself is not fully satisfied.
“But,” say you, “ we have hard measure: the Quakers are indulged with the liberty denied to us.” They are; and dearly have they earned it. You have come in (as a sect at least) in the cool of the evening,--at the eleventh hour. The Quaker character was hardened in the fires of persecution in the seventeenth century; not quite to the stake and faggot, but little short of that ; they grew up and thrived against noisome prisons, cruel beatings, whippings, stockings. They have since endured a century or two of scoffs, contempts; they have been a by-word and a nay-word; they have stood unmoved : and the consequence of long conscientious resistance on one part is invariably, in the end, remission on the other. The Legislature, that denied you the tolerance, which I do not know that at that time you even asked, gave them the liberty, which, without granting, they would have assumed. No penalties could have driven them into the churches. This is the consequence of entire measures. Had the early Quakers consented to take oaths, leaving a protest with the clerk of the court against them in the same breath with which
they had taken them, do you in your conscience think that they would have been indulged at this day in their exclusive privilege of affirming? Let your people go on for a century or so, marrying in your own fashion, and I will warrant them, before the end of it, the Legislature will be willing to concede to them more than they at present demand.
Either the institution of marriage depends not for its validity upon hypocritical compliances with the ritual of an alien Church (and then I do not see why you cannot marry among yourselves, as the Quakers, without their indulgence, would have been doing to this day), or it does depend upon such ritual compliance; and then, in your protests, you offend against a divine ordinance. I have read in the Essex Street Liturgy a form for the celebration of marriage. Why is this become a dead letter? Oh! it has never been legalized; that is to say, in the law's eye, it is no marriage. But do you take upon you to say, in the view of the gospel it would be none? Would your own people, at least, look upon a couple so paired to be none? But the case of dowries, alimonies, inheritances, &c., which depend for their validity upon the ceremonial of the Church by law established, --- are these nothing? That our children are not legally Filii Nullius,-is this nothing? I answer, Nothing; to the preservation of a good conscience, nothing; to a consistent Christianity, less than nothing. Sad worldly thorns they are indeed, and stumbling-blocks well worthy to be set out of the way by a Legislature calling itself Christian ; but not likely to be removed in a hurry by any shrewd legislators who perceive that the petitioning complainants have not so much as bruised a shin in the resistance, but, prudently declining the briers and the prickles, nestle quietly down in the smooth two-sided velvet of a protesting occasional conformity.
WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF A CLUB OF DAMNED
BP R. REFLECTOR,-I am one of those
W persons whom the world has thought PETU proper to designate by the title of
UA! Damned Authors. In that memorable season of dramatic failures, 1806-7,-in which no fewer, I think, than two tragedies, four comedies, one opera, and three farces, suffered at Drury Lane Theatre, --I was found guilty of constructing an asterpiece, and was damned.
Against the decision of the public in such instances there can be no appeal. The clerk of Chatham might as well have protested against the decision of Cade and his followers, who were then the public. Like him, I was condemned because I could write.
Not but it did appear to some of us that the measures of the popular tribunal at that period savoured a little of harshness and of the summum jus. The public mouth was early in the season fleshed upon the “Vindictive Man,” and some pieces of that nature ; and it retained, through the remainder of it, a relish of blood. As Dr. Johnson would have said, “Sir, there was a habit of sibilation in the house.”
Still less am I disposed to inquire into the reason of the comparative lenity, on the other hand, with which some pieces were treated, which, to indifferent judges, seemed at least as much deserving of condemnation as some of those which met with it. I am willing to put a favourable construction upon the votes that were given against us; I believe that there was no bribery or designed partiality in the case: only “our nonsense did not happen to suit their nonsense;" that was all.
But against the manner in which the public on these occasions, think fit to deliver their disapprobation, I must and ever will protest.
Sir, imagine-but you have been present at the damning of a piece (those who never had that felicity, I beg them to imagine)—a vast theatre like that which Drury Lane was before it was a heap of dust and ashes (I insult not over its fallen greatness ; let it recover itself when it can for me, let it lift up its towering head once more, and take in poor authors to write for it ; hic cæstus artemque repono),--a theatre like that, filled with all sorts of disgusting sounds,-shrieks, groans, hisses, but chiefly the last, like the noise of many waters, or that which Don Quixote heard from the fullingmills, or that wilder combination of devilish sounds which St. Anthony listened to in the wilderness.
Oh! Mr. Reflector, is it not a pity that the sweet human voice, which was given man to speak with, to sing with, to whisper tones of love in, to express compliance, to convey a favour, or to grant a suit,—that voice, which in a Siddons or a