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torian lungs, who can break glasses and shatter window-panes with the loudness of his vociferation, has engaged in that one scene, where Hercules laments the loss of his Hylas, to make the whole house ring again with his bawling; and the wonderful man, who talks in his belly, and can fling his voice into any part of a room, has promised to answer him in the character of Echo.
'I cannot conclude without informing you, that I have made-an uncommon provision for the necessary embellishments of singing and dancing. Grim Pluto, you know, the black peruked monarch, must bellow in bass, and the attendant devils cut capers in flamecoloured stockings, as usual; but as Juno cherished an immortal hatred to our hero, she shall descend in a chariot drawn by peacocks, and thrill forth her rage; Deianira too shall vent her amorous sighs to soft airs : the Amazons with their gilt leather breastplates and helmets, their tin-pointed spears and looking-glass shields, shall give you the Pyrrhic dance to a preamble on the kettle-drums; and at Omphale's court, after Hercules has resigned his club, to celebrate her triumph, I shall introduce a grand dance of distaffs, in emulation of the Witches' dance of broomsticks. Nothing of this kind shall be omitted, that may heighten either the grandeur or beauty of my entertainment: I shall therefore, I hope, find a place somewhere in this piece, as I cannot now have the Wire-dancer, to bring on my Dancing-bears. I am, Sir, your humble servant,
N° 4. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1752.
Ficta voluptatis causa sint proxlma veris Hon.
Fictions to please should wear the face of truth.—Rose.
No species of writing affords so general entertainment as the relation of events; but all relation of events do not entertain in the same degree.
It is always necessary, that facts should appear to be produced in a regular and connected series, that they should follow in a quick succession, and yet that they should be delivered with discriminating circumstances. If they have Mot a necessary and apparent connexion, the ideas which they excite obliterate each other, and the mind is tantalized with an imperfect glimpse of innumerable objects that just appear and vanish; if they are too minutely related, they become tiresome; and if divested of all their circumstances, insipid; for who that reads in a table of chronology or an index, that a city was swallowed up by an earthquake, or a kingdom depopulated by a pestilence, finds either his attention engaged, or his curiosity gratified?
Those narratives are most pleasing, which not only excite and gratify curiosity but engage the passions.
History is a relation of the most natural and important events ; history, therefore, gratifies curiosity, but it does not often excite either terror or pity; the mind feels not that tenderness for a falling state, which it feels for an injured beauty; nor is it so much alarmed at the migration of barbarians who mark their way with desolation, and fill the world with violence and rapine, as at the fury of a husband,
who, deceived into jealousy by false appearances, stabs a faithful and affectionate wife, kneeling at his feet," and pleading to be heard.
Voyages and Travels have nearly the same excellences and the same defects: no passion is strongly excited except wonder; or if we feel any emotion at the danger of the traveller, it is transient and languid, because his character is not rendered sufficiently important; he is rarely discovered to have any excellences but daring curiosity; he is never the object of admiration and seldom of esteem.
Biography would always engage the passions, if it could sufficiently gratify curiosity: but there have been few among the whole human species whose lives would furnish a single adventure; I mean such a complication of circumstances, as hold the mind in an anxious yet pleasing suspense, and gradually unfold in the production of some unforeseen and important event; much less such a series of facts, as will perpetually vary the scene, and gratify the fancy, with new views of life.
But Nature is now exhausted; all her wonders have been accumulated, every recess has been explored, deserts have been traversed, Alps climbed, and the secrets of the deep disclosed; time has been compelled to restore the empires and the heroes of antiquity; all have passed in review; yet fancy requires new gratifications, and curiosity is still unsatisfied.
The resources of Art yet remain: the simple beauties of nature, if they cannot be multiplied, may be compounded, and an infinite variety produced, in which by the union of different graces both may be heightened, and the coalition of different powers may produce a proportionate effect.
The Epic Poem at once gratifies curiosity and moves the passions; the events are various and im
portant; but it is not the fate of a nation, but of the hero in which they terminate, and whatever concerns the hero engages the passions; the dignity of his character, his merit, and his importance, compel us to follow him with reverence and solicitude, to tremble when he is in danger, to weep when he suffers, and to burn when he is wronged; with these vicissitudes of passion every heart attends UJysses in his wanderings, and Achilles to the field.
Upon this occasion the Old Romance may be considered as a kind of Epic, since it was intended to produce the same effect upon the mind nearly by the same means.
In both these species of writing truth is appa. rently violated: but though the events are not always produced by probable means, yet the pleasure arising from the story is not much lessened; for fancy is still captivated with variety, and passion has scarce leisure to reflect, that she is agitated with the fate of imaginary beings, and interested in events that never happened.
The Novel, though it bears a nearer resemblance to truth, has yet less power of entertainment; for it is confined within the narrower bounds of probability, the number of incidents is necessarily diminished, and if it deceives us more, it surprises us less. The distress is indeed frequently tender, but the narrative often stands still; the lovers compliment each other in tedious letters and set speeches; trivial circumstances are enumerated with a minute exactness, and the reader is wearied with languid descriptions and impertinent declamations.
But the most extravagant, and yet perhaps the most generally pleasing of all literary performances, are those in which supernatural events are every moment produced by Genii and Fairies: such are Jhe Arabian Nights' Entertainment, the Tales of the
Countess d'Anois, and many others of the same class. It may be thought strange, that the mind should with pleasure acquiesce in the open violation of the most known and obvious truths; and that relations which contradict all experience, and exhibit a series of events that are not only impossible but ridiculous, should be read by almost every taste and capacity with equal eagerness and delight. But it is not, perhaps, the mere violation of truth or of probability that offends, but such a violation only as perpetually recurs. The mind is satisfied, if every event appears to have an adequate cause; and when the agency of Genii and Fairies is once admitted, no event which is deemed possible to such agents is rejected as incredible or absurd; the action of th6 story proceeds with regularity, the persons act upon rational principles, and such events take place as may naturally be expected from the interposition of superior intelligence and power: so that though there is not a natural, there is at least a kind of moral probability preserved, and our first concession is abundantly rewarded by the new scenes to which we are admitted, and the unbounded prospect that is thrown open before us.
But though we attend with delight to the achievements of a hero who is transported in a moment over half the globe upon a griffon, and see with admiration a palace or a city vanish upon his breaking a seal or extinguishing a lamp ; yet if at his first interview with a mistress, for whose sake he had fought so many battles and passed so many regions, he should salute her with a box on the ear; or if immediately after he had vanquished a giant or a dragon, he should leap into a well or tie himself up to a tree, we should be disappointed and disgusted, the story would be condemned as improbable, unnatural, and absurd, our innate love of truth would