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country, and an immortal fame, to the pleafures of life, he is then struck with fentiments fo fuitable to the greatness of his own mind; and, in the style of a hero and a Greek, expreffes how glad he should have been of fuch a bride. The Achillés of Racine is not diftinguished from any young lover of spirit; yet this is one of the best French tragedies.
It is usual to compliment Corneille with having added dignity to the Romans; and he has undoubtedly given them a certain ftrained elevation of fentiment and expreffion, which has perhaps a theatrical greatness: but this is not Roman dignity, nor fuitable to the character of republicans; for, as the excellent Bishop of Cambray obferves *, history represents the Romans great and high in fentiment, but fimple, modeft, natural in words, and very unlike the bombast, turgid heroes of romance. A great man, fays he, does not declaim like a comedian, his expref
fions in converfation are just and strong; he
* Lettres fur l'Eloquence, &c.
utters nothing low, nor any thing pompous. Auguftus Cæfar, reprefented to a barbarous audience, would command more respect, if feated on the Mogul's golden throne, fparkling with gems, than in the curule chair, to which power, not pomp, gave dignity. It is a degree of barbarism to ascribe nobleness of mind to arrogance of phrafe, or infolence of manners. There is a certain expreffion of style and behaviour which verges. towards barbarism; a state to which we may approach by roads that rife, as well as by those that fall. An European monarch would think it as unbecoming him to be ftyled light of the world, glory of nations, and fuch other swelling additions, affumed by the Afiatic princes, as to be called the tamer of horses, or the fwift-footed, like the heroes of Homer.
Pere Brumoy seems to be very fenfible of Corneille's misrepresentation of the Roman character, though he speaks of it in all the ambiguity of language which prudence could suggest, to one who was thwarting a national
nal opinion +. He talks of un raffinement de fierté in the Romans, and asks, if they are of this globe, or spirits of a fuperior world? The Greeks of Racine, fays he, are not indeed of that universe which belonged only to Corneille; but with what pleasure does he make us behold ourselves in the perfons he presents to us! and how agreeably would the heroes of antiquity be furprised to find themselves adorned by new manners, not indeed like their own, but which yet do not misbecome them !
It can hardly be fuppofed that a critic of Pere Brumoy's taste did not mean to convey an oblique cenfure in these observations. The tragic poet is not to let his Pegasus, like the Hippogriffe of Aftolpho, carry him to the moon; he is to reprefent men fuch as they were; and, indeed, when the fable and manners do not agree, great improprieties and perfect incredibility enfue.
manners should accompany it. A fuperficial decorum is kept up if Agamemnon appears a great chief; but he fhould be a Greek chief too, if he is to facrifice his daughter to Diana. The fame magnanimity of fentiment might certainly have been found in Guftavus Adolphus, and in other generals; but then how monftrous would appear the great catastrophe of the play!
If Shakespear had not preferved the Roman character and fentiments, in his play of the Death of Julius Cæfar, we should have abhorred Brutus as an affaffin, who by this artifice appears a tyrannicide: and had not Mr. Addifon made Cato a patriot, according to the Roman mode, we fhould think he was mad for killing himself becaufe Cæfar was likely to become perpetual dictator.
It is difficult to sympathize with a man's paffions, without adopting, for the time, his opinions, customs, and prejudices: but it is certainly neceffary to exhibit the man as ftrongly
ftrongly tinctured with those prejudices and customs as poffible.
To all but fuperficial critics, would it not appear as ridiculous to fee Thefeus and Achilles wear French manners as a French drefs? A little reflection would fhew it is more fo for there are relations between manners and fentiments, and none between drefs and fentiment.
It is ftrange that painters, who are to give the mute inanimate figure, are required to be rigid obfervers of the Costumi, and the dramatic poet who is to imitate sentiment, discourse, and action, should be allowed to neglect them.