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AT A GENERAL MEETING, NOV. 16, 1825,
Subscribed by the Members.
RULE 1. THAT each Member of the Shakespeare Club shall pay one guinea to the Treasurer, for which he shall be entitled to a ticket for the annual dinner, and two box tickets for the evening on which the play bespoken by the Club is performed ; but if, from any cause whatever, a play should not be bespoken, the subscription shall then be thirteen shillings.
2. That a General Meeting shall be held annually, within a month of the opening of the Theatre, and in case the Theatre be not opened, then such Meeting shall take place in the month of November ; at this Meeting, the President, Committee, Treasurer, and Secretary for the ensuing year, and the Vice-President and Stewards for the then present year shall be chosen,-the day for the annual dinner appointed,—new members balloted for,— and it shall also be determined, by vote, whether or not
a play shall be bespoken, and such play selected; and all other business relative to the Club, shall be then transacted.
Individuals who have attended the preceding annual dinner, shall be considered as Members of the Club.
3. Strangers residing beyond five miles from the town, to be admitted to the annual dinners, on the introduction of a Member.
4. The annual subscriptions to be collected immediately after the General Meeting.
5. Members on a journey, ill, or absent from any other sufficient cause, to be exonerated from the payment of the annual subscription, on giving notice of the same to the Treasurer, four days previous to the annual dinner.
6. All Members shall be required to subscribe these Rules, and be liable to the payment of their annual subscriptions, until notice of retiring from the Club be given to the General Meeting.
THE SHEFFIELD SHAKSPEARE CLUB, whose proceedings are recorded in the following pages, was established in the autumn of 1819, and the festival, which was intended to be annual, was held at the Tontine Inn, on the 4th of November. That a Minister of the Established Church brought this society into existence need not be concealed ; that he will be able to destroy the work he has created, is extremely doubtful. Sometime in the year 1818, when the opening of the Sheffield Theatre for the season was announced, he commenced a series of philippics, not of the most liberal kind, against stage representations of every description. In the course of these annual lectures, it has been invariably insisted upon, that those who frequent Theatrical performances, cannot possibly be christians, and that none but christians can be admitted to everlasting blessedness hereafter. The ergo is too obvious to be specifically pointed out.
In consequence of this uncharitable denunciation, a few individuals, not altogether satisfied with the way in which they had been disposed of, and who, until then, could say in the language of their favorite bard,
“ Nature's common frailties set aside
“ I'll meet my audit boldly,”— and who thought themselves somewhat harshly and uncharitably condemned, felt themselves called upon, either to abandon the Theatre altogether, or to avow and defend their reasons for a different line of conduct, They unhesitatingly said, we haye occasionally visited
the Theatre, and we intend to visit it again, because we do think, that in so doing, we are not commiting any offence either against Man or God; the latter of whom, according to our notions of his character, has not less of either charity or justice in his composition, than the Rev. Preacher, who thus presumes to understand the whole counsels of the Almighty, and fulminates his condemnations as if he were the Viceroy of heaven, and privileged to dispose of the eternal fate of man, by divine commission.
“Let not this weak unknowing hand,
Presume thy bolts to throw ;
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay,
To find the better way."
This is a humble and christian-like prayer, and the spirit it manifests is not altogether unworthy of imitation. Let the Members of the Shakespeare Club, sinners as they are,
be partakers of a small portion of that charity 6 which vaunteth not,-is not puffed up,—and thinketh no evil,” instead of being annually consigned to perdition. The victims of so harsh a sentence have a clear right to complain of the manner in which they have been judged, and of the spirit which appears to have dictated that judgment. It is the admitted privilege of the pulpit, to denounce vice of every description; and a christian minister, in an honest zeal for the interests of religion, may conscientiously regard it as a duty to warn his hearers of the danger and sinfulness of attending theatrical amusements; so far he may certainly be permitted to go, without being regarded as uncharitable or unkind; -but, when he assumes to himself the office of Deity,