Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/94

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The Commission, of which the energetic and intelligent Joseph Payan was the soul, set to work in earnest. On the 5th of Messidor (June 23, 1794) it published a circular under the title of Spectacles, addressed to the directors and managers of plays, the municipal authorities, dramatists, etc. In this pamphlet, written in a declamatory and incorrect style, but burning with generous ambition, Payan declared war not only on the speculation indulged in by authors and directors, and on the scandalous immorality and huge profits of theatrical enterprise, but against the sluggish spirit of the times, and the servile condition of art. "The theaters are still encumbered with the rubbish of the old régime, feeble copies of the masters, wherein art and taste are set at naught, of ideas and interests which are nothing to us, and of customs and manners foreign to us. We must sweep this chaotic mass out of our theaters. … We must clear the stage, and allow reason to enter and speak the language of liberty, throw flowers on the graves of martyrs, sing of heroism and virtue, and inspire love of law and the Patrie." The Commission appealed to all enlightened men: artists, directors, and patriotic writers. "Think of the tremendous moral influence to be exerted by plays. We must erect a great public school wherein taste and virtue shall be equally respected." This was not an attempt, as has been said, to sacrifice art to politics. On the contrary, Payan, in the name of the Commission, vigorously protested against the mutilations made in the texts