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Moral reflections may be more frequent in this kind of drama, than in the other species of tragedy, where, if not very short, they teaze the spectator, whose mind is intent upon, and impatient for the catastrophe; and unless they arise necessarily out of the circumstances the person is in, they appear unnatural. For in the

For in the pressure of extreme distress, men are intent only on themselves and on the present exigence. The various interests and characters in these historical plays, and the mixture of the comic, weaken the operations of pity and terror, but introduce various opportunities of conveying moral instruction, as occasion is given to a variety of reflections and observations, more useful in common life than those drawn from the conditions of kings and heroes, and persons greatly superior to us by nature or fortune.

As there are poets of various talents, and readers of various tastes, one would rather wish that all the fields of Parnassus might

be

be free and open to men of genius, than that a proud and tyrannical spirit of criticism should controul us in the use of any of them. Those which we should have judged most barren, have brought forth noble productions, when cultivated by an able hand.

Even fairy land has produced the Sublime; and the wild regions of Romance have sometimes yielded just and genuine sentiments.

To write a perfect tragedy, a poet must be possessed of the Pathetic or the Sublime; or perhaps, to attain the utmost excellence, must, by a more uncommon felicity, be able to give the Sublime the finest touches of passion and tenderness, and to the Pathetic the dignity of the Sublime. The straining a moderate or feeble genius to these arduous tasks, hasproduced the most absurd bombast, and the most pitiable nonsense that has ever been uttered. Aristotle's rules, like Ulysses' bow, are held forth to all pretenders to Tragedy, who, as unfortunate as Penelope's suitors, only betray their weakness by an attempt superior to their strength, or ill adapted to their faculties.

bow,

to their faculties. Why should not Poetry, in all her different forms, claim the same indulgence as her sister art? The nicest connoisseurs in Painting have applauded every master, who has justly copied nature. Had Michael Angelo's bold pencil been dedicated to drawing the Graces, or Rembrandt's to trace the soft bewitching smile of Venus, their works had probably proved very contemptible. Fashion does not so easily impose on our sense, as it misleads our judgment. Truth of design, and natural colouring, will always please the eye: we appeal not here to any set of rules; but in an imitative art we require only just imitation, with a certain freedom and energy, which is always necessary to form a complete resemblance to the pattern, which is borrowed from nature. I will, own, the figures of gods and goddesses, graceful

nymphs,

nymphs, and beautiful Cupids, are finer subjects for the pencil, than ordinary human forms; yet if the painter imparts to these a resemblance to celebrated persons, throws them into their proper attitudes, and gives a faithful copy of the costumi of the age and country, his work will create sensations of a different, but not less pleasing kind, than those excited by the admiration of exquisite beauty, and perfect excellence of workmanship. Perhaps he should rather be accounted a nice virtuoso than a consummate critic, who prefers the Poet or Sculptor's fairest idea to the various and extensive merits of the historic

representation.

Nothing great is to be expected from any set of artists, who are to give only copies of copies. The treasures of nature are inexhaustible, as well in moral as in physical subjects. The talents of Shakspeare were universal, his penetrating mind saw through all characters; and, as Mr. Pope says of him, he was not more

master

а.

master of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations.

One cannot wonder, that, endued with so great and various powers, he broke down the barriers that had before confined the dramatic writers to the regions of Comedy, or Tragedy. He perceived the fertility of the subjects that lay between the two extremes ; he saw, that in the historical play he could represent the manners of the whole people, give the general temper of the times, and bring in view the incidents that affected the common fate of his country. The Gothic muse had a rude spirit of liberty, and delighted in painting popular tumults, the progress of civil wars, and the revolutions of government, rather than a catastrophe within the walls of a palace. At the time he wrote, the wars of the Houses of York and Lancaster were fresh in men's minds. They had received the tale from

Nestor in their family, or neighbourhood, who had fought in the battle, he

related.

some

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