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Some Lessons From The School Of Morals
by [?]

Any study of suburban life would be very imperfect without some glance at that larger part of it which is spent in the painful pursuit of pleasures such as are offered at the ordinary places of public amusement; and for this reason I excuse myself for rehearsing certain impressions here which are not more directly suburban, to say the least, than those recounted in the foregoing chapter.

It became, shortly after life in Charlesbridge began, a question whether any entertainment that Boston could offer were worth the trouble of going to it, or, still worse, coming from it; for if it was misery to hurry from tea to catch the inward horse-car at the head of the street, what sullen lexicon will afford a name for the experience of getting home again by the last car out from the city? You have watched the clock much more closely than the stage during the last act, and have left your play incomplete by its final marriage or death, and have rushed up to Bowdoin Square, where you achieve a standing place in the car, and, utterly spent as you are with the enjoyment of the evening, you endure for the next hour all that is horrible in riding or walking. At the end of this time you declare that you will never go to the theatre again; and after years of suffering you come at last to keep your word.

While yet, however, in the state of formation as regards this resolution, I went frequently to the theatre–or school of morals, as its friends have humorously called it. I will not say whether any desired amelioration took place or not in my own morals through the agency of the stage; but if not enlightened and refined by everything I saw there, I sometimes was certainly very much surprised. Now that I go no more, or very, very rarely, I avail myself of the resulting leisure to set down, for the instruction of posterity, some account of performances I witnessed in the years 1868-69, which I am persuaded will grow all the more curious, if not incredible, with the lapse of time.

There is this satisfaction in living, namely, that whatever we do will one day wear an air of picturesqueness and romance, and will win the fancy of people coming after us. This stupid and commonplace present shall yet appear the fascinating past; and is it not a pleasure to think how our rogues of descendants–who are to enjoy us aesthetically–will be taken in with us, when they read, in the files of old newspapers, of the quantity of entertainment offered us at the theatres during the years mentioned, and judge us by it? I imagine them two hundred years hence looking back at us, and sighing, “Ah! there was a touch of the old Greek life in those Athenians! How they loved the drama in the jolly Boston of that day! That was the golden age of the theatre: in the winter of 1868-69, they had dramatic performances in seven places, of every degree of excellence, and the managers coined money.” As we always figure our ancestors going to and from church, they will probably figure us thronging the doors of theatres, and no doubt there will be some historical gossiper among them to sketch a Boston audience in 1869, with all our famous poets and politicians grouped together in the orchestra seats, and several now dead introduced with the pleasant inaccuracy and uncertainty of historical gossipers. “On this night, when the beautiful Tostee reappeared, the whole house rose to greet her. If Mr. Alcott was on one of his winter visits to Boston, no doubt he stepped in from the Marlborough House,–it was a famous temperance hotel, then in the height of its repute,–not only to welcome back the great actress, but to enjoy a chat between the acts with his many friends. Here, doubtless, was seen the broad forehead of Webster; there the courtly Everett, conversing in studied tones with the gifted So-and-so. Did not the lovely Such-a-one grace the evening with her presence? The brilliant and versatile Edmund Kirke was dead; but the humorous Artemas Ward and his friend Nasby may have attracted many eyes, having come hither at the close of their lectures, to testify their love of the beautiful in nature and art; while, perhaps, Mr. Sumner, in the intervals of state cares, relaxed into the enjoyment,” etc. “Vous voyez bien le tableau!”