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PRECEDINg a play like this, it would be peculiarly injudicious to say a word which might anticipate that interest, and that admiration, which the reader, of good taste, and strong nerves, must feel in the perusal.
Dialogue, character, fable, incident, all combine to render this little three act drama one of the most powerful, at the same time the most instructive, the stage has to boast—yet, for want of that robust constitution just alluded to, which implies strength of mind as well as body, an audience shrink from beholding it performed; and even certain tremulous readers should be forewarned, not to proceed so far as the catastrophe.
The author of this tragedy was a man of a very singular imagination, for all his plays are of a species almost wholly distinct from those of every other dramatic writer. “George Barnwell,” as well as “Fatal Curiosity,” is a proof of the particularity of Lillo's muse; and, to be original both in design and execution, is surely one of the highest encomiums that an artist can deserve,
The affecting tragedy of “ George Barnwell" has more admirers than it is the fashion to acknowledge: yet it gives not even an intimation, that the same dramatist could ever arrive to that degree of perfection in his art, as to produce “Fatal Curiosity."
From the first scene of this tragedy to the last, all is interesting, all is natural-occurrences, as in real life, give rise to passions ; passion inspires new thoughts, elevates each sentiment, embellishes the language and renders every page of the production either sweetly pathetic, or horribly sublime.
Yet the highest merit of any, is the moral which the work contains. The unfortunate should read it, and be taught patience the fortunate, and learn gratitude to Divine Providence.
There is even instruction to be gained by a very inferior event in the glay-deception, for whatever innocent purpose used, is shown to be of most fatal tendency.
Though every character partakes of the general interest which the story excites, yet Old Wilmot and his wife are pre-eminent in all they utter, even before they are provoked to act. It may be, their conversation has greater force, and appears to have more of nature, because the dissatisfied and complainer, though seldom made an object of interest by an author, is a being far more familiar to every observer, and by far more pitiable, than the resigned and the patient.
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