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are not interfered with hundreds of houses virtually licensed by the police for the accommodation of the public.
But this is not the greatest of the evils. We have the gin palaces decorated at an enormous expense, with their numerous gas lights flaring and pointing out where inebriety holds his court. This is horrible, most horrible ; call England a virtuous nation a'ter this—when the government, showing in a body the national folly, think only of an increased revenue, and nothing of the demoralization of the people. A man may be guilty of some crimes when sober, but he will do what he would otherwise recoil at when intoxicated. There is a very apt fable of a man who was obliged, from some previous compact or another with the devil, to choose to obey him in three offices. The devil gave him his choice, to murder his father, to ruin his sister, or to get drunk. The man chose the last, as the least crime of the three; but what was the consequence í as soon as he was drunk, the devil persuaded him to commit the other two.
It may be urged, that the laws are severe, and are put in force. This is true, and, until lately, the laws were much too severely imposed ; but is not prevention better than remedy ? and is it not the duty of a paternal government to put an end to this nursery of crime? At present, they are acting in the same way as landed proprietors do, when they allow their rabbits to get a-head, that they may have the amusement of destroying them ; for, by not interfering with this juvenile delinquency, they procure a continual supply of subjects for the hulks, the colonies, and the gallows.
Now that I have shown what our legislators for the last century do not think it their duty to interfere with, I will point out what they do interfere with, viz. the rational amusements of the people, such as dancing, theatricals, and any species of relaxation, particularly on a Sunday.
And here we come to a very important question, which is, upon what is, and what is not a due observance of the sabbath day. I feel that I am on dangerous ground; but I have my opinion on the subject, and if I am wrong, it is not from not having reflected upon the subject.
In England, the universal principle which guides every thing, has sunk the lower classes into mere machines; they are worked to excess during the six days in the week, and the utmost possible amount of labour is extracted from them at the lowest possible cost. Amusement is unknown and unthought of during the week days. Unlike the Catholic countries, we have no festival days except Easter and Christmas, in which a man can lay by his work and be merry. If he did, he would not have bread for his children for the day after.
The poor man in England has fifty-two days of rest in three hundred and sixty-five. Abroad, the poor man does not work more than two hundred days in the year. Now, with such incessant toil, our legislators will tell the poor wretches, that they are to keep the Sabbath in due observance-according to their reading of the word due observance, which, be it observed, is outward form only. There are no sabbath laws for the rich—they may, and they do, do as they please. It is true, that they observe the sabbath as far as going to church,
June 1836.—VOL. XVI.—NO, LXII.
some, perhaps, twice a day; but are the cattle within their gates” allowed the benefit of the commandment? Does even the bishop walk to church ? Besides, be it remembered, that there is a great deal of difference between keeping one day sacred after having amused yourselves the other six, and keeping that day sacred, after having toiled for the same period. I will not pretend to say what may be implied by a due observance of the sabbath, as given out in the commandment, but this I do know, that our Saviour walked in the corn fields with his disciples on that day. I know that the sabbath is not observed by the higher classes, according to their own reading of the commandment as legislators and as divines, and that the measures taken by them to enforce the due observance of this day by the lower classes, is productive of much crime and misery, and that merely because the lower classes are denied rational amusement, which cannot be offensive to God.
The absurdity of legislating upon this point is fully proved by the inconsistencies which it has produced; for instance, barbers are not to shave on Sundays; is not cleanliness a duty, and is it not a part of the respect paid to the Lord's day? The upper classes may have their beards taken off by their valets, or with their own razors on a Sunday morning, but the poor may not. Might you not just as well prohibit washing hands and faces on a Sunday? for ablution is quite as necessary as shaving, if people are to appear clean.
Some devout legislator, I forget who it was, gets up a petition from the journeymen bakers, who, by cooking the Sunday dinners, complain that they are not able to attend Divine service. Now, in the first place, as all the Sunday dinners are out of the oven by half-past one o'clock, if they were prevented attending morning service, they were not prevented going to church in the afternoon; and in the next place, allowing this petition to have been attended to, what must have been the result ? Say, that there are five thousand journeymen bakers throughout the kingdom who are detained watching the dinners of fifty families in each oven. Had these five thousand journeymen bakers gained their petition and baking on Sundays been put an end to, instead of one journeyman baker being kept away from church, there would have been fifty people obliged to remain at home to watch each separate dinner, or that to enable these five thousand to go to church, if so inclined, two hundred and fifty thousand people must have remained at home in the cottages to watch the separate cooking. And this is legislation !
The whole system, at present, is such as to drive the lower classes into vice and dissipation. Dancing is totally prohibited every day in the week, but a man may get as drunk as he pleases. Now, there is no recreation so valuable or so innocent as dancing; it affects the imagination, for the time absorbs all other ideas, the mind is exhilarated by the exercise and by the music, and it should be encouraged as much as possible. Upon what plea is it denied because it leads to immorality ? On the contrary, it checks immorality: the man who is amusing himself with dancing will not get tipsy half so soon as he would otherwise ; in all probability not drink more than he ought. But we insist upon idleness, which is the root of all evil, and having nothing
better to do our people get drunk. Why are the French such a sober people ? Because they are exhilarated by amusements, and do not require further stimulus. In England, the people get drunk in a corner like logs, because they are not permitted to do any thing else.
Some months ago, a friend asked me whether I would accompany him to the play. I consented, without caring which theatre we might visit. He led me through a part of St. Giles's, until we arrived at a gateway leading into a yard. At the gateway he gave a man twopence for our entrance, and we received two dirty bits of card. We walked to the end of the yard, mounted an outside staircase, and found ourselves in what had once been a large hayloft, and was now fitted out as a rude theatre. The sight was curious. There were about two hundred people collected, all unwashed except ourselves. Chimney-sweeps, apple-women, journeymen of all descriptions, boys and girls. Behind me sat in a row seven old women, each with a short pipe in her mouth. The man who acted as, I cannot say boxkeeper, for we sat upon forms, but as master of the ceremonies, was deficient in that necessary appendage called a shirt, but he was very polite. Perceiving that we were rather respectable, he handed us to the best places, and in a few minutes, during which I was astonished at the quiet and decorum which were maintained, the curtain drew up and the performance commenced. The first piece was “ Frankenstein:" I will not say much for the merits of the actors; but they acted with all their heart and soul, and we were much amused. They concluded with the “ Mayor of Garratt," and here I could not help being surprised at one circumstance :—there is a part of this farce not very delicate, where Jerry Sneak comes in and relates to Bruen what he has seen through the keyhole relative to the Mayor and his wife. This is generally said out aloud in the theatres, but here it was whispered. But in other points, this penny theatre set an example to those licensed by the Lord Chamberlain. When the curtain drew up, the order for hats and bonnets off was immediately complied with ; there was the greatest decorum and quiet throughout the whole of the performance, and, when it was over, the spectators separated without noise or confusion.
Now, I would put the case to the reader—were not these two hundred people much more rationally employed for two or three hours in spending a penny, and being thus amused and instructed, too, than in getting drunk at one of the gin palaces ? And yet, had the police known of it they would have broken in, taken some of us up and lodged us in the watchhouse till we could make our appearance before their worships, the magistrates, on the following morning, who, in their horror of such profane and unlicensed doings, might have, perhaps, sent me and my friend for a week or so to the treadmill as an example to evil-doers.
We must now return to the sabbath-day, and examine how it is spent in this country in consequence of unwise legal enactments: the great object of legislation is to correct as far as possible—to render man perfect is impossible-but we have to choose the minor evil and the major good. If we cannot force people to keep the commandment, we must do all we can to induce them to keep it as far as possible : and, in our legislation, we must always bear in mind the peculiarities and the circumstances which bear upon the case. Under the present system, the most immoral day of the seven, in England, is the sabbath-day. It is singular that, while legislating upon such trifles as a man's beard, it has never occurred to our rulers that the sabbath is not the day of rest, but the day of hard work par ercellence, for our noble friend the horse. Every animal that can be mounted or driven is put into requisition on that day: to the horse it is a day of misery. Away they go out of London in every direction, to distances beyond their strength, and do not return till late at night, driven furiously back by people in a state of inebriety. You may drive a noble animal to death, you may get drunk, you may seduce a virtuous girl, in short, you may be guilty of every species of vice and immorality, and cruelty on a Sunday, provided you do not shave, or play cricket, or dance in the evening, after having attended divine service and thanked God for his mercies in the morning of that day. And this is legislation !
I have said that the poorer classes of England require relaxation and amusement, which is denied them in toto. Circumstances will not permit them, even if it were allowed them to benefit by it on the six days in the week; it appears to me that sound legislation would permit it on the Sunday, and that, by its being permitted, the cause of morality would be upheld ; and with all due respect to those who think otherwise, I do not think that it would be an offence in the eye of a merciful and kind God. We are told to keep that day holy, but the question is, what is the meaning of the word holy ; is it not explained by what follows in the commandment, that it is to be a day of rest from worldly labour to all, not only to yourself but to your household and to your cattle. Does holy imply that you are to wear a grave face? Does holiness consist in outward observance ? Is it a sin to laugh or be merry ? Are we required to pray during the whole of that day? Did not our Saviour rebuke the Pharisee for his ostentatious public prayers, and justify the publican who ejaculated shortly and in secret? But the question is this :- Are we required of the Almighty to do more than our nature and infirmity will permit? And can any man—can the Archbishop of Canterbury, declare solemnly that he can dedicate that whole day to the service of God, without wandering? Impossible. Then if such is the case, let us make the day as holy as we can, and not attempt to desecrate it by hypocrisy. Let us enjoin a due attendance at church, and let us not forbid rational amusements which will put a stop to vice and immorality. The mind cannot be kept on the stretch, it cannot direct its attention to serious subjects for a whole day, nor is it required. If the rich, who have no excuse for the outward observance of that day, fail in their duty, how can they expect the poor man, after his six days of toil, to accomplish it, when he feels that relaxation is absolutely necessary for his existence ?
At present, the day is desecrated. It is a day of beastly intoxication, because nothing else is permitted except idleness. It is a day which is the cause of bitter tears, of wretchedness, and infamy to many a poor girl ; for it is a singular fact, that the idleness and want of amusement on that day is the cause of their ruin, and it has been proved by inquiry that nine out of ten of the unfortunates who have been seduced have to recall the evening of some Sunday as the cause of their misfortune.
Let me conclude by observing, that there are more ways of worshipping and honouring the Deity than falling down before him on our knees. Why the chosen of God danced before the ark I leave to be explained by the divines; but this is certain, that cheerfulness and thankfulness, innocent mirth, good-will towards others, gratitude for mercies received, amusement and exercise, creating happiness and injuring none, are as acceptable to a merciful and loving God at the close of the day dedicated to him, as devout prayer and meditation at the commencement.
( To be continued.)
MY ISLAND HOME.
They tell of the breezes of Araby,
With spices on their wings;
Which the broad blue ocean brings.
Some talk of the thrill of the bulbul's notes,
In a perfumed eastern bower;
At England's sunset hour.
Some sing of the maiden of Georgia's face,
And the sunburnt dames of Spain;
Nor seek it across the main.
Not the clime where the turrets of Venice rise,
Like a queen from out the sea ;
Can vie with the isle of the free.
Show me the source of the eastern wind,
And the forests of the west,
That here is the isle of the blest.
Not the home of the Arab, the Persian, or Greek,
Where the myrtle and olive twine,
Would I exchange for mine.