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kept up in its full vigour, or rather heightened to a further extravagance, the laughter of the people being its more immediate and direct aim. But, the, stage not only conformed, as of course it would, to the spirit of the times (which, for the reason already given, were none of the most observant of decorum) but, as we shall also find, it had perhaps the greatest influence in producing and forming that spirit itself. This will appear, if we recollect, in few words, the rise, progress, and character of the ancient stage.

The Greek drama, we know, had its origin from the loose, licentious raillery of the rout of Bacchus, indulging to themselves the freest sallies of taunt and invective, as would best suit to lawless natures, inspirited, by festal mirth, and made extravagant by wine. Hence arose, and with a character answering to this original, the satyric drama; the spirit of which was afterwards, in good measure, revived and continued in the old comedy, and itself preserved, though with considerable alteration in the form, through all the several periods of the Greek stage; even when tragedy, which arose out of it, was brought to its last perfection. Much the same may be observed of the Roman drama, which, we are told, had its rise in the unrestrained festivity of the rustic youth. This gave occasion to their Satyræ, that is, medleys of an irregular form, acted for the diversion of the people. And, when afterwards Livius Andronicus had, by a further reform, reduced these Satyræ

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into regular tragedies, another species of buffoon ridicule was cultivated, under the name of Atellana fabule; which, according to Diomedes' character of them, were replete with jocular witticisms, and very much resembled the Greek satyrs. Dictis jocularibus refertæ, similes fere sunt satyricis fabulis Græcorum. These were ever after retained, and annexed to their most regular dramatic entertainments in Rome, just as the satyrs were in Greece; and this (as was seen in its place) though much pains was taken to reform, if not wholly remove, them. But to shew how strong the passion of the Romans was for this rude illiberal banter, even the licentious character of the Atellanes did not fully satisfy them; but, as if they were determined to stick to their genuine rusticity, they continued the Satyre themselves, under the name of Exodia, that is farces of the grossest and most absurd composition; which, to heighten the mirth of the day, were commonly interwoven with the Atellane pieces. . The reason of the continuance of such ribaldry in the politest ages of Greece and Rome hath been inquired into. At present it appears, what effect it must necessarily have upon the public taste.

II. Another cause connected with the foregoing, and rising out of it, seems to have been the festal licence of particular seasons, such as the Dionysia and Panathenæa, amongst the Greeks; and the Bacchanalia and Saturnalia, at Rome. These latter, it is observable, were continued to the latest

period of the Roman empire, preserving in them an image, as well of the frank and libertine wit of their old stage, as of the original equality and independency of their old times. Quintilian thinks, that, with some regulation, good use might have been made of these seasons of licence, for the cultivating a just spirit of raillery in the orators of his time. As it was, there is no doubt, they helped much to vitiate and deprave it. His words are these: Quin ille ipsæ, quæ DICTA sunt ac vocantur, quas certis diebus festa licentiæ dicere solebamus, si paulum adhibita ratione fingerentur, aut aliquid in his serium quoque esset admixtum, plurimum poterunt utilitatis afferre: quæ nunc juvenum, aut sibi ludentium exercitatio est. [Quint. 1. iv. c. [Quint. 1. iv. c. 3.] Besides, in Greece, the jester was a character by profession, necessary to the pleasantry of private feasts, and, as we learn from the fine satyr in Xenophon's Symposium, even in that polite age, welcome to all companies P.

p This is further confirmed from Lucian, who, in the descrip-. tion of a splendid feast in his AAEKTPYON, and in the Symposium of his ΛΑΠΙΘΑΙ, brings in the ΓΕΛΩΤΟΠΟΙΟΙ as necessary attendants on the entertainment.-But the reader will not take what is said of the fine satyr of Xenophon's Symposium, who hath not observed, that this sort of compositions, which were in great credit with the ancients, are of the nature of dramas, HOIKOI AOгOI, as Aristotle would call them. In which the dialogists, who are real personages as in the old comedy, give a lively, and sometimes exaggerated expression of their own characters. Under this idea of a Symposium we are prepared to expect bad characters

From these reasons I think it not difficult to account for the coarseness of ancient wit. The free genius of the Greek and Roman constitution was unquestionably its main spring and support. But, when this character of their government was seconded by the freedom of their demagogues, the petulance of the stage, and the uncontrouled licence of recurring festival solemnities, it was no wonder, the illiberal manner so thoroughly infected all ranks and degrees of the people, as by no after diligence and refinement wholly to be removed. And this theory is indeed confirmed by fact. For, when now the

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as well as good. Nothing in the kind of composition itself confined the writer to the latter; and the decorum of a festal conversation, which, in a republic especially, would have a mixture of satyr in it, seemed to demand the former. We see then the undoubted purpose of Xenophon in the persons of his JESTER and SYRACUSIAN; and of Plato, in those of ARISTOPHANES and some others. Where we may further take notice, that, to prevent the abuse and misconstruction, to which these personated discourses are ever liable, Socrates is brought in to correct the looseness of them, in both dialogues, and in some measure doth the office of the dramatic chorus, BONIS FAVENDI. But it is the less strange that the moderns have not apprehended the genius of these Symposia, when Athenæus, who professedly criticises them, and one would think, had a better opportunity of knowing their real character, hath betrayed the grossest ignorance about them.-I can but just hint these things, which might afford curious matter for a dissertation. But enough is said to let the intelligent reader into the true secret of these convivial dialogues, and to explane the ground of the encomium here passed upon one of them.

tyranny of one man had ingrossed the power, and oppressed the liberties, of Greece, their stage refined, their wit polished, and Menander wrote. And though a thorough reform was never made in the Roman stage, partly, as Quintilian thinks, from the intractability of their language, but chiefly, it may be, as to the point in question, from the long continuance of their rude farcical shews, yet something like this appears to have followed upon the loss of their freedom; as is plain from the improved delicacy of their later critics; who, as Quintilian and Plutarch, are very profuse in their encomiums on Menander, and the new comedy; whereas we find little said of it by the Augustan writers, who seem generally to have preferred the coarser wit and pleasantry of the old. The state of modern wit too confirms this account. For it has grown up, for the most part, under limited monarchies, in which their scenical entertainments were more moderate, or for plain reasons must less affect the public taste. Whenever therefore a turn for letters has prevailed, a poignant, but liberal kind of wit hath generally sprung up with it. Where it is worth observing, the growing tyranny in some states hath either extinguished it intirely, or refined it into an effeminate and timid delicacy, as the growing licentiousness in others hath sunk it into a rude and brutal coarseness; whilst b a due mixture of liberty and letters, we have seen it acquire a proper temperament at home, and, as managed by our best writers, exhibit a specimen



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