A Denunciation of the Stage by a Signer of the Declaration of Independence

A SERIOUS INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF THE STAGE.

(New York: By Whiting & Watson, 1812). 171 x 108 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/4"). 2 p.l., [5]-199, [1] pp. First American Edition.

EXTREMELY ATTRACTIVE CONTEMPORARY FLAMED SHEEP, flat spine with simple gilt rules and black morocco label. Front pastedown with modern book label of Amos Tuck French. Minor offsetting throughout the text, one gathering rather foxed and browned, isolated stains of no great consequence; internally with some problems caused by inferior paper stock, but most of the text still surprisingly fresh, and THE INEXPENSIVE ORIGINAL BINDING IN SUPERB CONDITION, UNWORN AND VERY BRIGHT.

A fiery Presbyterian preacher at odds with the moderate party of his denomination, Witherspoon (1723-94) wrote this denunciation of players and playgoers in shocked response to the 1756 Edinburgh production of the historical tragedy "Douglas," written by a fellow minister, John Home. (Witherspoon and Home had previously shared an adventure, having led loyalist troops against a Scottish insurrection in 1745, having been imprisoned together in Doune Castle, and having effected a daring escape on bed sheets.) The stage drama and Witherspoon's response to it caused such an uproar that one minister was prosecuted by the Kirk merely for having attended, while Home himself was forced to resign his presbytery. All ended well, however, for Home went on to produce "Douglas" successfully in London and to become tutor to the Prince of Wales. Witherspoon also went on to higher honors: in 1768 he left Scotland to become president of Princeton College in what was then the colony of New Jersey. A rebel at heart, Witherspoon became one of the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution, signed the Declaration of Independence, and served the new government in several capacities before returning to Princeton, where he lectured on eloquence, history, philosophy, and divinity. The immediate motivation for the reprinting of Witherspoon's text in America more than half a century after its first appearance was the tragic fire in 1811 at a theatre in Richmond, Virginia, a blaze that took 60 lives, including that of the acting state governor, George W. Smith. A group of 11 New York ministers thought to respond with a stern denunciation of the immorality of the theater and a caution to all Christians to keep away from this playground of the devil. Their animadversions, along with a sermon on the topic by one of their number, Samuel Miller, comprise the preface to our first American edition.
(CEZ0223)

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PJP Catalog: 63.497

A SERIOUS INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF THE STAGE. JOHN WITHERSPOON.
A SERIOUS INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF THE STAGE.

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