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Moral reflections may be more frequent in this kind of drama, than in the other fpecies of tragedy, where, if not very short, they teaze the spectator, whose mind is intent upon, and impatient for the catastrophe; and unless they arife neceffarily out of the circumstances the person is in, they appear unnatural. For in the preffure of extreme distress, a person is intent only on himself, and on the prefent exigence. The various interefts 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 occafion is given to a variety of reflections and obfervations, more useful in common life than those drawn from the conditions of kings and heroes, and perfons greatly fuperior to us by nature or fortune.

As there are poets of various talents, and readers of various taftes, one would rather wish all the fields of Parnaffus might be free and

and open to men of genius, than that a proud and tyrannical spirit of criticism should controul us in the ufe 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 fublime; and the wild regions of romance have fometimes yielded just and genuine senti→


To write a perfect tragedy, a poet muft be poffeffed of the pathetic or the sublime; or perhaps to attain the utmost excellence, must, by a more uncommon felicity, be able to give to the fublime the finest touches of paffion and tenderness, and to the pathetic the dignity of the fublime. The ftraining a moderate or feeble genius to these arduous tasks, has produced the most absurd bombaft, and the most pitiable nonsense that has ever been conceived. Ariftotle's rules, like Ulyffes' bow, are held forth to all pretenders to tragedy, who, as unfortunate as Penelope's

Penelope's fuitors, only betray their weakness by an attempt superior to their strength, or ill adapted to their faculties. Why should not poetry, in all her different forms, claim the fame indulgence as her fifter art? The niceft connoiffeurs 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 foft bewitching smile of Venus, their works had probably proved very contemptible. Fashion does not fo eafily impofe on our fenfes 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 require only juft imitation, with a certain freedom and energy, which is always neceffary to form a compleat refemblance to the pattern which is borrowed from nature. I will own, the figures of gods and goddeffes, graceful nymphs, and beautiful Cupids, are finer fubjects for the pencil than ordinary human forms; yet if the painter imparts to these a refemblance


to celebrated perfons, throws them into their proper attitudes, and gives a faithful copy of the Costumi of the age and country, his work will create fenfations of a different, but not lefs pleasing kind than those excited by the admiration of exquifite beauty and perfect excellence of workmanship. Perhaps he should rather be accounted a nice virtuofo than a consummate critic, who prefers the poet or sculptor's faireft idea to the various and extensive merits of the hiftoric representation.

Nothing great is to be expected from any fet of artifts, who are to give only copies of copies. The treasures of nature are inexhaustible, as well in moral as in phyfical fubjects. The talents of Shakespear were univerfal, his penetrating mind faw through all characters; and, as Mr. Pope fays of him, he was not more a master of our ftrongest emotions than of our idleft fenfations.

One cannot wonder, that endued with fo 乓


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 fubjects that lay between the two extreams; he faw, that in the historical play he could reprefent 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 progrefs 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 Houfes of York and Lancaster were fresh in mens minds. They had received the tale from fome Nestor in their family, or neighbourhood, who had fought in the battle he related. Every spectator's affections were ranged under the white or red Rofe, in whofe contentions fome had loft their parents and friends, others had gained establishments and honours.



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