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fully. I should feel very reluctant to omit any thing important or curious.
Bourne. I can do so best, perhaps, by an example. Here, for instance, is a work which might easily draw us out of our course; as, besides being one of the earliest incidental censures of the stage, it contains a great deal of amusing matter: the title of it is, "The Fardle of facions, conteining the aunciente maners, customes, and Lawes of the peoples inhabiting the two partes of the earth, called Affrike and Asie. Printed at London by Ihon Kingstone," 1555. It is a production of great rarity.
Elliot. One does not readily see how in a treatise upon Africa and Asia, the author can introduce any thing about theatrical performances in England.
Morton. I think he might do it very easily; when speaking of Asia, he would perhaps notice the plays of the Chinese, who are known to have had them represented some hundreds of years, at least, before they found their way into Europe.
Elliot. Very true: Voltaire's Orphan of China is founded upon an old Chinese play, a translation of which was published by Bishop Percy; and very lately a gentleman of the name of Davis (I think that was his name), put one of them into an English dress, called " An Heir in his old Age."
Morton. In Parke's "Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China," 1588, which has been before mentioned, there is a good deal regarding the theatrical representations of the Chinese.
Bourne. I have not on my memory any thing of that kind: it must be curious. Here is the book; perhaps you will point it out.
Morton. On p. 106, where it is said, "At these bankettes and feastes, there are present alwayes women gesters, who doo play and sing, vsing manie prettie gestes to cause delight, and make mirth to the guestes: besides these they haue diuerse sortes of men with other instruments, as tomblers and players, who do represent their Comedies very perfectly and naturally."
Bourne. "Women jesters" I never heard of before, but it does not seem that they were actresses.
Morton. Further on, on p. 207 and p. 221, the "arguments," as they are called, of two of the plays represented, are inserted as from the mouth of an interpreter: there appears to be great simplicity about them, as you may judge from the following, which is one of them: "In times past there was in that countrie manie mightie and valiant men; but amongest them all, there was in particular three brethren that did exceede all the rest that euer were in mightinesse and valiantnesse. The one of them was a white man, the other was ruddish or hie coloured and the thirde blacke. The ruddish being more ingenious and of better industrie, did procure to make his white brother king, the which iudgement was agreeable vnto the rest. Then they altogether did take away the kingdome from him that did at that time raigne, who was called Laupicono, an effeminate man and verie vicious. This they did represent verie gallantly with garmentes verie meete for those personages."
Elliot. This is enough to show, according to the account of travellers in China nearly two centuries and a half ago, that the dramatic exhibitions of the Chinese were in a very advanced state, both as to subject and what are now called properties.
Morton. The story of the play is capable of considerable variety, but whether female characters were introduced into it we are not informed. The plot of the piece spoken of on p. 221, is somewhat more complicated. However, to go further into this subject, would be to commit the very error which it is our business to avoid. I interrupted you in your observations upon the " Fardle of Fashions."
Bourne. The passage I had to produce from it does not deserve extracting so much as what you have just concluded; but it perhaps still merits notice, as connected in subject, and as containing an incidental blow at the theatrical amusements in England as they existed about the year 1555. The author, or rather translator, who inserts much original matter, is speaking of the Bramins and their employments, and it is observable that he calls them Abrahmanes, which affords a third and a plausible etymology to the two already conjectured, for the word Bramin or Brachman. "Thei couette no sightes, nor shewes of misrule: no disguisinges nor entreludes; but when thei be disposed to haue the pleasure of the stage thei entre into the regestre of their stories, and what thei finde there most fit to be laughed at, that do thei lamente and bewaile."
Elliot. That seems rather contradictory: I suppose it means that these Bramins, like very wise men, lament and bewail the follies of their ancestors: others may say,
Felices proavorum atavos,Jelicia dicas
but they were above the vulgar prejudice.
Bourne. Like Bottom, they " will condole in some measure," and congratulate themselves how much wiser they were than their predecessors. Watreman (the translator) goes on: "Thei delighte not, as many do, to heare olde wiues tales and fantasies of Robin hoode, but in studious consideration of the wondrefull workemanship of the world and the perfect disposinge of thinges in suche ordre of course and degree. Thei crosse no sease for merchaundise, ne learne no colours of Rhetoricque." The whole of the passage of which what I have read is the beginning, is aimed against the manners of the age, and particularly against "sightes, shewes of misrule, disguisinges and entreludes."
Morton. Yet, not long afterwards, what he complains of was partially remedied; our dramatic poets "entered into the register of their stories" in historical plays, and thus gave the audiences "the pleasure of the stage" which the Bramins enjoyed.
Bourne. But they did not "lament and bewail" what " they found there most fit to be laughed at." In that respect our forefathers were not so sagacious as the Bramins, and if they had been, perhaps we might have now been neither wiser nor happier than the Indians. But not to pursue this further, I only introduced that quotation as one among many of the incidental attacks upon stage-plays.
Morton. William Warner, the author of that popular poem of " Albion's England," which went through so many editions between 1586 and 1612, and contains so much good poetry and curious information, has made a heavy hit at the puritans, as the enemies of" meet sports," and among them theatrical representations, which he says they had "well near exiled."
"These Hypocrites for these three Gifts to their Lauerna pray, Just to be thoght, Al to beguile, That none their
guiles bewray: Their art is fayning good they want, and hiding bad
they haue:Their Practise is selfe-praise, of praise all others to depraue. On Loue, say some, waites Ielosie, but Ielosie wants
loue, xi" i..
When curiously it ouer-plus doth idle Quarrels moue.