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Sunday Amusements of the Rich., Issue 7945, 28 June 1889
Sunday Amusements of the Rich.
The question of Sunday amusements of the rich was lately discussed at the London Diocesan Conference, under the presidency of the Bishop of London. The debate arose on the proposition of Canon Capel Cure: “That the laxity of the observance of tho Sunday amongst the higher classes has an injurious influence on tho religion of tho community.” The rev. gentleman included in his indictment the fact that they read in the newspaprs of Sunday smoking concerts, jugglery entertainments, parades of drags and four-in-hands, dinner parties, dances, and picnics up the river, which showed, he argued, that a great many of the rich used tho Sunday simply as a day of amusement. Then there was “Show Sunday” in the studios, and other gatherings, which were frequented by men and women well known in social, political, and artistic circles, as well as by others, who were devoted to pleasure. Altogether there was a different tone in the general feeling as regarded the Sabbath in the upper class than used to be the case. Books were allowed to bo read on Sunday which were not permitted when he was young. The continuance of this state of things was seriously demoralising to the working classes, besides interfering with their day of rest. Canon Nisbet mentioned that in one of the clubs it was debated whether the billiard table should be used or not on the Sunday, and one member stated that in the country houses which he visited billiards were played on the Sabbath, lie had been in the presence of clergymen who looked upon the observance of tho Sunday as a very open question, and it had been discussed in a so-called church meeting not long ago whether Friday or some other day should not be substituted for it. This showed what laxity of feeling had been growing up. The place which tho commandment occupied in the decalogue had always struck him as one of the great arguments in favor of observance, It was a positive commandment in the midst of tho others which set forth the immutability of truth, justice, and piety, and it was one of those irrevocable precepts , which were binning not only upon one \ nation, but upon all mankind. They ought Ito guard in every possible way against the least infringement upon this holy day. Mr T. Rutt, expressing the views of a layman, said the practical point was: How were they to remedy the evil which they all agreed existed ? How were they to deal with those people who did not recognise the spiritual character of the Sunday. The question was : What is Sunday ? The great point in favor of its observance was its divine authority. The Rev. J. J. Nash declared that Sunday receptions, dinner parties, and games were now in many families the rule rather than the exception. Ten years ago newspapers and light literature were frequently removed on the Saturday evening, but they were now allow'cd to remain for the use of guests. Numbers of the aristocracy travelled on Sundays, and the effect on tho members of the household, from his personal observation, was most demoralising, He suggested that a letter diould be drawn up by a committee to be appointed by the Conference, and that this letter, signed by the various incumbents, should be sent once a month during the season to those members of the upper classes who were known to mark the day of rest by devoting it almost entirely to secular pleasure. Lord Beauchamp was of opinion that the evil complained of was no new thing, and that It was a passing phase due to the fermentation of thought which had taken place. At the beginning of this century Sunday parties wore not the exception, but tho rule, and it was the same with Sunday travelling. The Bishop of London at that time made a successful letter to bring the upper classes to a greater sense of what was duo to the observance of the Sabbath ; and therefore they might hope that, if a letter was framed by the Conference, or a pastoral letter was issued by the bishop, a good deal might be done to check tho evil which prevailed; but they would not strengthen their cause by making use of arguments which would not bear rigid examination.
Prebendary Forest lamented the fact that numbers of people had given up coming to church a second time on Sunday, and many who used to come did not do so at all. He threw out a suggestion for the employment of churches for the singing of sacred music between the services, as a means of counteracting the evil. The President thought it was possible that the suggestions made by Mr Nash might have some little ellect; but it must not be forgotten that last year the whole Upper House of Convocation unanimously addressed an appeal to the upper classes particularly on this point. He did not think that it had been without effect, and the only question in his mind was whether any letter from himself alone would be quite in place immediately after the letter from the whole of the Episcopate, Letters of the kind had not the effect of an Act of Parliament; they did not bring about a complete change in customs and practices, and no one would desire that they should do so. However, they often had a slow, imperceptible effect, which told on the public at large little by little. He felt that the religious life of this country was very much more bound up in the observance of the Lord’s Day, and it was not possible to dispense with it; but he agreed with Lord Beauchamp that, looking back fifty years, they found that the upper classes were much more careless of the observance of Sunday than they were now, and although there was no lawn tennis, he was afraid there was a good deal of card playing of a mischievous kind. There was reason to hope that the present evil was but a passing phase, and those who felt strongly on the question should use their influence towards diminishing any mischief that might otherwise come.
The resolution was carried, and it was further agreed to request the bishop of the diocese to address a pastoral letter to the clergy and laity on the matter.
Sunday Amusements of the Rich., Issue 7945, 28 June 1889
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