Fashionable Amusements

by D. R. Thomason, 1831

Chapter 1. Preliminary Observations

Chapter 2. The Theater

Chapter 3. Card-playing

Chapter 4. Dancing

Chapter 5. Novel-reading

Chapter 6. Conclusion


The subject which this interesting volume treats, is presented in an unusually attractive manner. Christian parents and Christian families would do well to consider, that the tendencies of fashionable amusements are unfavorable to the cultivation of piety. Our children and youth are naturally far enough from God. It is both wise and kind — not to multiply and increase the temptations and dangers which everywhere lurk around their path, and beguile them to eternal ruin! The world is vain and alluring enough already. The way of death is sufficiently enticing, and abundantly strewed with flowers.

Nothing is more evident — than that a passion for fashionable amusements banishes all serious regard for true piety, silences the voice of conscience, and neutralizes the means of grace and salvation. They may not always prove to be "the school of vice and profligacy," but they are always "the school of thoughtlessness and vanity," where everything else is fortified, rather than serious thoughts of God and the coming judgment. "What is a man profited, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"
Gardiner Spring, New York, March 1, 1831.

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Independently of the measure of talent employed in the present production, the Author entertains some apprehensions respecting its success. Although the subject of Fashionable Amusements has engaged the attention of numerous writers, a whole volume devoted to the topic has never appeared. The subject, moreover, is inviting, as well as important, and, unless decidedly defective in execution, can hardly fail to become, in some degree, popular. What, then, are the writer's apprehensions? He affirms them to be neither pretended nor groundless. The spirit and tone of the volume, he fears, will, in some quarters, limit its acceptance.

In their opinions of Fashionable Amusements — both the religious and worldly classes of society are, for the most part, confirmed. If they read on the topic — it must be books which will sanction and strengthen their present convictions. An acceptable writer must be devoted to their interests; he must be the disputant, rather than the enquirer, an advocate rather than a judge. That in most of the discussions on the subject, this taste has been consulted, or at least conformed to — is sufficiently apparent. Colored representations, overstrained arguments, unsupported assertions, sweeping censures, and unsparing anathemas, are the glittering — but feeble weapons, which have too often been displayed in this field of controversy. They have been wielded in proud — but useless defiance; they have provoked rather than intimidated, and engaged without conquering the foe.

The present writer ventures into the arena — but in a different attitude, and in other habiliments. Though firm to the cause professedly maintained, he is, nevertheless, fair and liberal to his opponents. Contending for truth, and not for victory, he yields the palm into what hands soever justice assigns it. Approaching his subject in the spirit rather of enquiry than opposition, he endeavors to lend an impartial ear to the arguments on either side, and to give them their legitimate weight in the scale of judgment.

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That such a spirit is the more commendable, will, by the judicious and considerate, be readily granted; that it will be the more generally approved admits a question. The ignorant, narrow, and bigoted will probably pronounce it timid and compromising; they will be impatient with its arguments, and provoked with its caution; they will censure its candor, and reproach its liberality. With another class of readers, however, the Author hopes for success — people of correct mental habits and moral principles, possessing intelligence, a spirit of enquiry, and a love of truth. Such people will readily perceive the delicacy and difficulty of the task which the writer has undertaken, and will extend to it, he trusts, that consideration and indulgence which it will undoubtedly need. They will welcome an attempt to discover truth, to soften the asperities of party-feeling, and to diffuse, both among the advocates and opponents of the gratifications in question — a more calm and equitable judgment on the points in debate. In the sentiments and spirit of the present production, the writer presumes, an identity will especially be found with the habits of thought and feeling which are peculiar to young people; and on this ground he advances a claim to the particular attention of this class of his readers.

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The Author commits his book to the world. He is relieved, in some measure, from the unpleasantness attending the consciousness of its numerous defects, by the hope that his fears have overrated them, and, still farther, by a recollection of the value of the cause to which his labors have been devoted. London, June 17th, 1827.

Preface to the American Edition.

In laying the present volume before an American public, the Author professes the same motives which induced him to publish it in his native country — a desire to do good. The topics discussed in the following pages, he presumes, cannot but be appropriate and seasonable in the New World, as well as the Old — the former fast rivaling the latter, as it obviously does, in refinement and polish, in arts and luxuries, as in the more substantial elements of national greatness; and consequently exposed, in like manner, to the perils to virtue and moral happiness which are ever attendant on such a state of society. The Author presumes that there will be no appearance of ostentation, as he believes there is nothing in the reality, in the announcement of his intention to consecrate the profits of this volume to a pious purpose. It will be a proof of the unselfishness of his motives, at least as far as financial considerations are concerned, and at the same time may secure for his book a notice which a stranger's name and a humble performance might not obtain.

He esteems it as much an honor as a duty to place the first fruits of his literary labors on the sanctuary altar of a country endeared to him by the liveliest associations and warmest sympathies. A descendant, not indeed of 'the Pilgrim Fathers' but of those brethren and friends who were left behind, and whose prayers and benedictions followed them in their devoted and heroic enterprise, he has cherished, from his earliest years, an enthusiasm of affection for this country, to visit which he has cheerfully left his native land and the endearments of home, and in which, if Divine Providence permits — he designs to spend his days and find his grave.
Greenwich, New York, March 7, 1831.

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