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myself. We will suppose this vivacity and animation which I have been describing, and which I compare to action, where the possessor is afflicted by accumulated misfortune extending to all around him, and consequently expresses his feelings in a manner proportionate to his sensibility. Here we have no longer leisure to gratify sympathetic curiosity by his distress, nor to make minute remarks upon his conduct; we are absorbed in reflection on his singular fate, and overwhelmed with pity. This effect is heightened by a rapid and striking succession of ideas, as well as the former. The only difference is that the vivacity, which resembles dramatic action, calls the attention here to itself; instead of assisting it to dwell amusively on indifferent appearances, such as manners,
On this subject, Mr. Twining agress with the Bishop; but Dr. Warton asks, are not the strokes of manners in Othello and Macbeth, as admirable as anywhere; and must not there be manners in tragedy? To both questions I answer, yes; but they are there pressed into the office of the passions, and
are admirable as their representatives. Indeed, common sense discovers of how little comparative importance manners are, where ideasof self preservation are excited. I observe too another circumstance. There is a distinction in Burke's Essay between “sensible objects and the passions, on the one hand; 6 and the characters, actions, and designs of men, “ their relations, &c.” on the other, the latter of which is separated by him from the former, in the
province of the judgment.” Therefore, when the Bishop was urging, that tragic poets should have no other object in view but that of affecting the mind, and raising the passions, it seems a fortunate thought to recommend action as the means; and thus intimate, that the understanding has some part in composition; as if foreseeing the tendency of criticism to produce the vain, wild, and improbable patbos of the German school. A truth of manners, therefore, is the object of tragedy, with regard to them; but, as such, I will so far agree with the learned and ingenious critic I dissent from, that a display of the is often necessary.
These reflections may shew us the impropriety of that sort of French play called drame, which neither exhibits the most striking circumstances in human events, nor is careful to render distress interesting by a forcible delineation of manners; and yet expects from us application of thought sufficient to attend to it. Its tragic tones are like those of the modern philanthropist, whose refined code of morality gives an importance to trifles, which is only understood by the initiated. Sometimes a comedy attempts gaiety, and yet equally, and with equal impropriety, fixes the attention upon action. Addison's Drummer is an instance of this, in which, the scenes have certainly the elegant language of a periodical paper; and parts of the plot, especially its conclusion, discover sensible composition ; but which has a coldness that prevents us from being surprised that it is so much neglected. Dr. Johnson's remark of a comedy's having the operation of a tragedy, would be applied to this with peculiar happiness. It is precisely its character; for it is the ultimate event, and not the means by which it is brought about, that seems to interest us, It may be compared to the grave gentleman, who resolves to be facetiouş among his company, but has not the small talk which Lord Chesterfield recommends to ward off impertinent allusions to his interests and their own; nor keep away the subjects of
Fate and chance, and change in human life.
It is not the mighty good joke of frightening the domestics with a drum, that can be supposed to have any thing in it truly comic. We ought, in comedy, to think less of what is done, than of who does it; and the more astonishing the incidents, the less comic. The German critic, Lessing, observes the resemblance between farce and tragedy. They both endeavour to excite the passions ; for, as Longinus remarks, “ laughter is a passion.” But in comedy, this is only excited incidentally, in the portraiture of manners, which is its constant aim. When comedy becomes farcical, it resembles the wag, who interposes ill timed jokes to interrupt
“ The feast of reason, and the flow of soul."
I proceed, THIRDLY, to mention manners as related to time and place. In this view, they will have been considered by Ulysses as furnishing a comparison between foreign countries and his own; who
“_Wandering from clime to clime observant stray'd, “ Their manners noted, and their states survey'd.
This historical sort of effect is favourable to poetical elevation, and to those works where it is required, by the ornament of particular costumi. Its character is the strange, and produces surprise; which, according to Burke, harmonises with the sublime, and of course, with compositions which are sublime. It assists epic poetry, as it does tragedy ; resembling a fancy-dress, which prevents the future effect of quaintness in a portrait. It is not of so much service to comedy, since it gives it the awkwardness of an old fashion : the painter's hand, however, may always please us. It appears to form a sort of incrustation that impedes, or incumbers, the display of manners; and so much the more, as the times to which they