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Some later writers for the stage have, no doubt, avoided these defects of the exactest of our old dramatists. But do they reach his excellencies? Posterity, I am afraid, will judge otherwise, whatever may be now thought of some more fashionable comedies. And if they do not, neither the state of general manners, nor the turn of the public taste, appears to be such as countenances the expectation of greater improvements. To those who are not over-sanguine in their hopes, our forefathers will perhaps be thought to have furnished (what, in nature, seem linked together) the fairest example of dramatic, as of real


But here it will probably be said, an affected zeal for the honour of our old poets has betrayed their unwary advocate into a concession, which discredits his whole pains on this subject, For to what purpose, may it be asked, this waste of dramatic criticism, when, by the allowance of the idle speculatist himself, his theory is likely to prove so unprofitable, at least, if it be not ill-founded? The only part I can take in this nice conjuncture, is to screen myself behind the authority of a much abler critical theorist, who had once the misfortune to find himself in these unlucky circumstances, and has apologized for itThe

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objection is fairly urged by this fine writer ; and in so profound and speculative an age, as the present,


presume to suggest no other answer, than he has thought fit to give to it.

Speculations of this sort, says he, do not be“ stow genius on those who have it not; they “ do not, perhaps, afford any great assistance

to those who have; and most commonly the

men of genius are even incapable of being “ assisted by speculation. To what use then “ do they serve? Why, to lead up to the first principles of beauty such persons as “ love reasoning and are fond of reducing, un“ der the controul of philosophy, subjects that

appear the most independent of it, and “ which are generally thought abandoned to “ the caprice of tastep.”

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p" Ces sortes de speculations ne donnent point de genie à ceux qui en manquent ; elles n'aident beaucoup

ceux qui en ont : et le plus souvent même les gens de “ génie sont incapables d'être aidées par les speculations. “ A quoi donc sont-elles bonnes ? A faire remonter jus

qu'aux premieres idées du beau quelques gens qui aiment “ la raisonnement, et se plaisent à reduire sous l'empire “ de la philosophie les choses qui en paroissent le plus in

dépendantes, et que l'on croit communément abandonnées à la bizarrerie des goûts." M. DE FONTENELLE,

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