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rate production. The author appears perfectly to understand his subject, and his observations are extremely ingenious. I
Elegantiat Latinte; or Rules and Exercises illustrative of elegant Latin Style; intended for the Use of the higher Classes of Grammar Schools. 3s. 6a\ 12mo. Pridden.
The public are indebted to the classical taste of Dr. Valpy of Readingtor these very excellent rules, which are calculated, in amost especial manner, to assist the scholar in his endeavours to acquire a pure and elegant Latinity. They are the compilation of his brother, the Rev. Edward Valpy.
Rhyme and Reason; short and original Poems. 3s. 6d. Large 8vo. Black and Parry. We have found plenty both of rhyme and reason in this collection of poems, and we may add no inconsiderable portion of wit and humour. It is the production of a gentleman of Oxford.
Didon Abandonnee, de L'ltalien del Signor Abbate Pietro Metastasio. 2s. 6d. Cadell and Davies. 1803. We have no sort of objection that the unhappy expatriated females of France should avail themselves of the advantages of education, and, to dispel the impending gloom, enter the fields of literature for their amusement, as seems to be the case in the instance before us. The French is correct enough, but the drama itself is uninteresting.
The Marriage Promise: a Comedy in five Acts, as performed at the Theatre Royal Drury-Lane. By John Till Allingham. 2s. 6d. Ridgway, 1803.
This very clever comedy shared our unqualified favourable report on its representation at the theatre. In the closet it hath much good writing and moral excellence to recommend it to the reader of plays.
Bonaparte; or the Freebooter. A Drama, in three Acts. By John Scott Ripon, Esq. Highly. 1803. This drama is well suited to the times, and merits to be read. The Corsican hero unfolds his own ambitious character, and foretels his miserable and ignominious fall, with which the play terminates.
Imitdtio vita, speculum cmmietudinis, imago vrrttntU. Cicero.
The Imitation of Life—The Mirror of Manners—The Representation of Truth.
THE DRAMATIC ESSAYIST.
ON TRAGEDY. BY DR. BLAIR.'
Dramatic poetry has, among all civilized nations, been considered as a rational and useful entertainment, and judged worthy of careful and serious discussion. According as it is employed upon the light and the gay, or upon the grave and affecting incidents of human life, it divides itself into the two forms of comedy or tragedy. But as great and serious objects command more attention than little and ludicrous ones; as the fall of a hero interests the public more than the marriage of a private person; tragedy has always been held a more dignified entertainment than comedy. The one rests upon the high passions, the virtues, crimes, and sufferings of mankind; the other on their humours, follies, and pleasures. Terror and pity are the great instruments of the former; ridicule is the sole instrument of the latter. Tragedy shall therefore be the object of our fullest discussion. This and the following lecture shall be employed on it; after which I shall treat of what is peculiar to comedy.
Tragedy, considered as an exhibition of the characters and behaviour of men in some of the most trying and critical situations of life, is a noble idea of poetry. It is a direct imitation of human manners and actions. For it does not, like the epic poem, exhibit characters by the narration and description of the poet; but the poet disappears; and the personages themselves are set before us, acting and speaking what is suitable to their characters. Hence, no kind of writing is so great a trial of the author's profound knowledge of the human heart. No kind of writing has so much power, when happily executed, to raise the strongest emotions. It is, or ought to be, a mirror in which we behold ourselves, and the evils to which we are exposed; a faithful copy of the human passions, with all their direful effects, when they are suffered to become extravagant.
• Lecture 45.
As tragedy is a high and distinguished species of composition, so also, in its general strain and spirit, it is favourable to virtue. Such power hath virtue happily over the human mind, by the wise and gracious constitution of our nature, that as admiration cannot be raised in epic poetry, so neither in tragic poetry can our passions be strongly moved, unless virtuous emotions be awakened within us. Every poet finds, that it is impossible to interest us in any character, without representing that character as worthy and honourable, though it may not be perfect; and that the great secret for raising indignation, is to paint the person who is to be the object of it, in the colours of vice and depravity. He may, indeed, nay he must, represent the virtuous as sometimes unfortunate, because this is often the case in real life; but he will always study to engage our hearts in their behalf; and though they may be described as unprosperous, yet there is no instance of a tragic poet representing vice as fully triumphant and happy, in the catastrophe of the piece. Even when bad men succeed in their designs, punishment is made always to attend them; and misery, of one kind or other, is shewn to be unavoidably connected with guilt. Love and admiration of virtuous characters, compassion for the injured and the distressed, and indignation against the authors of their sufferings, are the sentiments most generally excited on tragedy. And therefore, though dramatic writers may sometimes, like other writers, be guilty of improprieties, though they may fail of placing virtue precisely in the due point of light, yet no reasonable person can deny tragedy to be a moral species of composition. Taking tragedies complexly, I am fully persuaded that the impressions left by them upon the mind, are, on the whole, favourable to virtue and good dispositions. And, therefore, the zeal which some pious men have shewn against the entertainments of the theatre, must rest only upon the abuse of comedy, which, indeed, has frequently been so great as to justify very severe censures against it.
The account which Aristotle gives of the design of tragedy is, that it is intended to purge our passions by means of pity and terror. This is somewhat obscure. Various senses have been put upon his words, and much altercation has followed among his commentators. Without entering into any controversy upon this head, the intention of tragedy may, I think, be more shortly and clearly defined to improve our virtuous sensibility. If an author interests us in behalf of virtue, forms us to compassion for the distressed, inspires us with proper sentiments, on beholding the vicissitudes of life, and, by means of the concern which he raises for the misfor* tunes of others, leads us to guard against errors in our own conduct, he accomplishes all the moral purposes of tragedy.
In order to this end, the first requisite is, that he choose soma moving and interesting story, and that he conduct it in a natural and probable manner. For we must observe, that the natural and the probable must always be the basis of tragedy; and are infinitely more important there, than in epic poetry. The object of th» epic poet is to excite our admiration by the recital of heroic adventures; and a much slighter degree of probability is required when admiration is concerned, than when the tender passions are intended to be moved. The imagination, in the former case, is exalted, accommodates itself to the poet's idea, and can admit the marvellous, without being shocked. But tragedy demands a stricter imitation of the life and actions of men. For the end which it pursues is, not so much to elevate the imagination, as to affect the heart; and the heart always judges more nicely than the imagination, of what is probable. Passion can be raised, only by making the impressions of nature, and of truth, upon the mind. By introducing, therefore, any wild or romantic circumstances into his story, the poet never fails to check passion in its growth, and, of course, disappoints the main effect of tragedy.
This principle, which is founded on the clearest reason, excludes from tragedy all machinery, or fabulous intervention of the gods. Ghosts have, indeed, maintained their place; as being strongly founded on popular belief, and peculiarly suited to heighten the terror of tragic scenes. But all unravellings of the plot, which turn upon the interposition of deities, such as Euripides employs in several of his plays, are much to be condemned; both as clumsy and inartificial, and as destroying the probability of the story. This mixture of machinery with the tragic action, is undoubtedly a blemish in the ancient theatre.
In order to promote that impression of probability which is so necessary to the success of tragedy, some critics have required, that the subject should never be a pure fiction invented by the poet, but built on real history, or known facts. Such, indeed, were generally, if not always, the subjects of the Greek tragedians. But I cannot hold this to be a matter of any great consequence. It is proved, by experience, that a fictious tale, if properly conducted, will melt the heart as much as any real history. In order to our being moved, it is not necessary, that the events related did actually happen, provided they be such as might easily have happened in the ordinary tours* of nature. Even when tragedy borrows its materials from history, it mixes many a fictitious circumstance. Th« greatest part of readers neither know, nor enquire, what is fabulous, or what is historical, in the subject. They attend only to what is probable, and are touched by events which resemble nature. Accordingly, some of the most pathetic tragedies are entirely fictitious in the subject; such as Voltaire's Zaire and Alzire, the Orphan, Douglas, the Fair Penitent, and several others.
Whether the subject be of the real or feigned kind, that on which most depends for rendering the incidents in a tragedy probable, and by means of their probability affecting, is the conduct or management of the story, and the connexion of its several parts. To regulate this conduct, critics have laid down the famous rule of the three unities; the importance of which, it will be necessary to discuss. But, in order to do this with more advantage, it will be necessary, that we first look backwards, and trace the rise and origin of tragedy, which will give light to several things relating to the subject.
Tragedy, like other arts, was, in its beginnings, rude and imperfect. Among the Greeks, from whom our dramatic entertainments are derived, the origin of tragedy was no other than the song which was wont to be sung at the festival of Bacchus. A goat was the sacrifice offered to that God; after the sacrifice, the priests, with the company that joined them, sung hymns in honour of Bacchus; and, from the name of the victim, rjayoj a goat, joined with iiti a song, undoubtedly arose the word tragedy.
These hymns, or lyric poems, were sung sometimes by the whole company, sometimes by separate bands, answering alternately to each other; making what we call a chorus, with its strophes and antistrophes. In order to throw some variety into this entertainment, and to relieve the singers, it was thought proper to introduce a person, who, between the songs, should make a recitation in verse. Thespis, who lived about five hundred and thirty-six years before the christian sera, made this innovation; and, as it was relished, TEschylus, who came fifty years after him, and who is properly the father of tragedy, went a step farther, introduced a dialogue between two persons, or actors, in which he contrived to interweave some interesting story, and brought his actors on a stage, adorned with proper scenery and decorations. All that these actors recited, was called episode, or additional song; and the songs of the chorus were made to relate no longer to Bacchus, their original subject, but to the story in which the actors were concerned. This began to give the drama a regular form, which was soon