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Fanny's First Play

Preface To Fanny's First Play
Fanny's First Play, being but a potboiler, needs no preface. But its lesson is not, I
am sorry to say, unneeded. Mere morality, or the substitution of custom for
conscience was once accounted a shameful and cynical thing: people talked of
right and wrong, of honor and dishonor, of sin and grace, of salvation and
damnation, not of morality and immorality. The word morality, if we met it in the
Bible, would surprise us as much as the word telephone or motor car. Nowadays
we do not seem to know that there is any other test of conduct except morality;
and the result is that the young had better have their souls awakened by
disgrace, capture by the police, and a month's hard labor, than drift along from
their cradles to their graves doing what other people do for no other reason than
that other people do it, and knowing nothing of good and evil, of courage and
cowardice, or indeed anything but how to keep hunger and concupiscence and
fashionable dressing within the bounds of good taste except when their excesses
can be concealed. Is it any wonder that I am driven to offer to young people in
our suburbs the desperate advice: Do something that will get you into trouble?
But please do not suppose that I defend a state of things which makes such
advice the best that can be given under the circumstances, or that I do not know
how difficult it is to find out a way of getting into trouble that will combine loss of
respectability with integrity of self-respect and reasonable consideration for other
peoples' feelings and interests on every point except their dread of losing their
own respectability. But when there's a will there's a way. I hate to see dead
people walking about: it is unnatural. And our respectable middle class people
are all as dead as mutton. Out of the mouth of Mrs Knox I have delivered on
them the judgment of her God.
The critics whom I have lampooned in the induction to this play under the names
of Trotter, Vaughan, and Gunn will forgive me: in fact Mr Trotter forgave me
beforehand, and assisted the make-up by which Mr Claude King so successfully
simulated his personal appearance. The critics whom I did not introduce were
somewhat hurt, as I should have been myself under the same circumstances; but
I had not room for them all; so I can only apologize and assure them that I meant
no disrespect.