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with regard to lime* and magnesia,t both of which were found to he utterly refractory. These substances have been all of them melted by the gas blow-pipe, the powers of which are entirely due, not only to the presence of hydrogen gas in a state of mixture with the oxygen gas, but the two gases mixed together in the exact proportion for forming water; namely, two parts, by bulk, of hydrogen gas added to one part of oxygen gas ; and as our author is the first person who made use of the two gases in this state of mixture, as fuel for his gas blow-pipe, the invention is so far his own. Indeed when the hydrogen is added only 'in slight excess,' which some pretend to have used, the mixture will not burn.
We will add a very few words with regard to the theory maintained in this work, upon the effects, rather than the origin, of volcanic fire. It is maintained by the author that the effects of the combustion of the mixed gases, resemble those which are produced by volcanoes. This appears to be capable of the strictest demonstration. If while the gaseous mixture is propelled from a gas blow-pipe, and exposed to combustion, the result of this combustion be collected in a receiver, it is found to be pure water. The same may be said of the gases propelled from volcanoes, as it has been proved by repeated observations upon Mount Vesuvius. After the tremendous explosions of that volcano, water descends as dew or rain, sometimes covering the whole surface of the cone. By placing vessels over any of the crevices or apertures upon the sides of the mountain whence the steam of the mixed gases is propelled after combustion, pure water may also be collected, as appears by accounts which have lately been published. That water has been admitted to the action of volcanic fire, and thereby decomposed, is therefore evident in its recomposition; and we conceive that nothing more is requisite to establish the opinion maintained in this work. We all know that when water is cast upon burning coal it is liable to decomposition. If this decomposition, therefore, ensue, in consequence of the admission of sea-water to the vast beds of fire which connect Etna with Vesuvius and with other volcanoes, the gaseous result, exposed to indefinite compression and subsequent combustion, may be attended with effects differing only from those exhibited by the gas blow-pipe, as the mighty operations of nature in the universe differ from the puny imitations of the chemist in his laboratory.'
* résulte de ces expériences, que la terre calcaire pure, ou plus exactement la chaux est absolument infusible par le plus grand degré de feu qu'on a pu lui faire éprouver jusqu'à present.'--Ibid. p. 275.
+Le Morceau s'est reduit, mais la violence du feu n'y a occasionné aucune autre altération.'--Ibid. p. 278.
ART. IX.-The Comedies of Aristophanes. By T. Mitchell, A. M. late Fellow of Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge. Vol. I. pp. 462. London. 1820. SOME of our readers may be disposed to think that the subject of the Aristophanic comedy has of late occupied a sufficient space in our pages: we must, however, persevere, and insist like Falstaff Play on the play. We have much to say in behalf of that same Aristophanes. With respect to the present translation, it may truly be said to be much the best that has hitherto appeared in our own, or, as far as our acquaintance extends, in any other modern language. It may even be said, with truth, that, to an English reader, the first perusal of this translation may afford as much pleasure as the perusal of the original is calculated to give to a proficient in the Greek language, who undertakes, for the first time, to read a play of Aristophanes in the original. Those, however, who have indulged in a continued study of the original, and (prompted by the perpetual developement of new and unobserved beauties in the change and play of style, and in the brief and pointed expression of comic character,) have become entirely familiar with the author, will continue to derive a pleasure from repeated reperusals of the original, such as we cannot venture to promise to the English scholar, if he should be induced to recur, for a second or third time, to the work now before us. We shall, however, before we conclude, have the satisfaction of pointing out some passages which, like those of the original, fix themselves (the great test of excellence) involutarily in the memory, and which may be recalled to it and repeated with undiminished gratification. The main cause of the defect alluded to, and of the disappointment which will be experienced by those who are best acquainted with the original, if they expect to find the various forms of language, and the phrases expressive of character, represented in a satisfactory manner by English equivalents, is to be attributed to the adoption of a particular style; the style of our ancient comedy in the beginning of the 16th century. We shall proceed to give the reasons, which lead us to consider this style as peculiarly proper for the purposes to which our own early dramatic poets applied it; and which, at the same time, and for the same reasons, if they are just ones, must render it wholly unsuitable for representing or reproducing that peculiar species of drama to which the comedies of Aristophanes belong.
The early comedy of modern Europe, that of the first of the 16th century, is a fancy portrait of the society of the time. The pleasure which it afforded was similar to that which we experience when we contemplate a picture, in which the resemblance of a countenance familiar to us is expressed with that addition of harmony
and grace which embellish the resemblance, without much detracting from its truth. Such was the character and principle of the dramas of Calderon and his cotemporaries; and, before him, of Lope; and of Fletcher, Shirley and others, amongst ourselves. In all these, dignity of character is uniformly maintained-the cavaliers are represented as daring and generous, delicate and faithful to excess: the highest tone of sentiment is kept up: the tone of the language, also, (which is more to our purpose) is proportionably elevated above the common parlance of those times. Hence, as in tragedy, (and for the same reasons,) the appearance of truth and nature in the whole composition, is preserved by the easy and probable arrangement of events, quarrels, jealousies, discoveries, and sudden turns of fortune, which constitute what is called the plot. The excellence of these comedies, and the merit of the author, were estimated, in great measure, from the construction of the plot; for as by the rules which belong to that species of drama, the language and characters were idealized, and, therefore, to a certain degree, removed from reality and experience, the admission of this improbability would require to be compensated, by a greater apparent probability in the only part which remained, viz. the action and events.*
But the ancient Aristophanic comedy proceeded upon a principle of compensation totally different. In this species of composition, the utter extravagance and impossibility of the supposed action, is an indispensable requisite; the portion of truth and reality, which is admitted as a counterpoise, consists wholly in the character and language. It is a grave, humorous, impossible, GREAT LIE, related with an accurate mimicry of the language and nianner of the persons introduced, and great exactness of circumstance in the inferior details. In its simpler state, it appears to be one of the commonest and most spontaneous products of the human mind; and usually arises in some strong expression, which, a moment
In what we have said on this subject, we have followed the course by which we are persuaded that the authors we have mentioned arrived at the conclusions which guided their practice; but for mere illustration it would be equally obvious to invert the statement, and to say that where the incidents are probable, the language and sentiments must be elevated above ordinary nature, and in this order it would seem that the inferior tribe of dramatists have, in general, proceeded, taking probability of character and incident as their basis, and endeavouring to ennoble it by displays of style and sentiment. The result of the direct and of the inverted process may be exemplified in the Electras of Sophocles and Euripides: in the first, the display of character is evidently the principal object; the probability of the story is artfully elaborated; but we see that it was a secondary consideration. In Euripides, on the contrary, probability is evidently the primary object, while the characters are left to display themselves as circumstances may permit. We have taken our illustration of the two opposite processes from tragedy, because, in fact, this system of counterpoise, in which the probability of the story is placed as a weight in one of the scales, belongs equal ly to tragedy and to the higher species of comedy.
after, is taken literally, converted into a reality, and invested with all the circumstances of action and dialogue. We shall shew that the plays now before us; the Acharnæ and the Knights (or Demagogues,) are capable of being traced to the kind of conversation, out of which, in all probability, they did originate.
There are other plays, which appear to have grown up from mere sport, when in a playful conversation, fancied events are developed into an imaginary detail.
If we were possessed of the Boswells of antiquity, who are cited by Athenæus, we might, perhaps, find some notices, which would illustrate the history of the comic stage; but for want of them, let us suppose an ancient prototype of our entertaining countryman, giving an account of the origin and first suggestion of the Thesmophoriozousæ. After supper Philonides, meaning to rouse Aristophanes, who had been cracking his nuts without much attending 'to the conversation, began to talk about Euripides, and, turning to 'Aristophanes, asked him-what he thought of his last tragedy?"
Arist. Why, it has his usual faults and his usual merits, only I think he's more than usually severe upon the women.'
Phil. He's worse than ever-why he'll drive them to desperationyes, they will be driven to some desperate measure against him-we have had so many plots and conspiracies of late, the women will take the hint-we shall have a conspiracy of the women against Euripides.' Arist. Well, now is their time-they have three days to themselves at the Thesmophoria-considering how the art of plotting is improved, there is time enough to form a very promising conspiracy.'
Phil. Upon my word, I begin to suspect that there must be something of the kind in agitation-I almost think it would be right to speak to some friend of Euripides to desire him to be upon his guard. -But what would he do, do you think, upon the first alarm?'
M. or N. (across the table.) Why I suppose he would consult with that fine rough-handed fellow his father-in-law Mnesilochus.'
Arist. No, he would not consult him; he would only tell him to keep himself in readiness to receive his orders.'
Phil. But what would be the first thing he would do?'
Arist. The first thing of course, would be to compose one of his long apologetical harangues, according to all the established rules of rhetoric, and in direct opposition to decorum and common-sense.'
Phil. But after all, this harangue must be delivered among the assembled females-how is he to contrive that ?-The women are so exasperated against him, none of them would be persuaded to appear as his advocate.'
M. or N. (as before.) Might not Agathon, the poet, go amongst them in disguise, with that smooth face of his ?'
Arist. 'Oh no, Agathon would take care of himself, depend upon it ; he will never get himself into a scrape for any body.'
Phil Well then, it must be old Mnesilochus himself-Euripides
must shave him and dress him up for the purpose. But what will become of him when he is detected?'
Arist. Then of course Euripides must exert himself, and employ his whole system of tragical devices for his escape.'
Phil. (after a pause.) Well now, Aristophanes, I can't help thinking, if all that we have been saying was put together, and worked up in your way, it would turn out a very tolerable comedy.'
Arist. Why perhaps it might, as good as some of mine are; and bet
ter than some others; and better than other people's.'
Phil. Then perhaps you will think of it, if nothing better should occur, as a subject in time for the next festival ?'
Arist. Why perhaps I may.'
For the sake of those who may not have read it, or who do not immediately recollect it, it may be necessary to state that this supposed dialogue comprehends all the material incidents of the comedy.
The origin of the Acharnæ is simpler. Let us suppose an honest warm-tempered man obliged, (as many were at the time,) like Dicæopolis in this play, to abandon his landed property to destruction, and to take refuge in the town-we may suppose that he would be likely to express his feelings nearly in this way:
If our great politicians, and your leading people here, in Athens, chuse to waste the public treasure in embassies and expeditions, that is their own affair; but I do not see what right they have to bring down a Peloponnesian army to drive me out of my farm-there's no quarrel that we country-people ever had with them to my knowledge-we should all be glad enough to let-alone for let-alone-for my part, if these enemies of ours (as they call them) would allow me to live on my farm, and buy and sell as I used to do, I'd give 'em up all the money I'm worth, and thank 'em into the bargain--and I'd go there to-morrow-but as for our Statesmen, I'm persuaded if a Deity were to come down from Heaven, on purpose to propose a Peace to them, they would never listen to him.'
We have here a natural and passionate form of expression, which, uttered in the hearing of a poet such as Aristophanes, was sufficient to suggest the plot of the Acharnæ and the scene of the Demigod Amphitheus; the rest of the play, with all its wild and fanciful circumstances, being in fact nothing more than a whimsical exemplification of the first supposition; namely, that a private citizen had succeeded in concluding and maintaining a separate peace.
With respect to the play of the Knights (or Demagogues), the very conversation out of which it originated is to be traced in the passage from line 125 to 144 of the original. The conversation turned upon the degradation of the democracy since the death of Pericles, whose successors in administration had been a lintseller, Eucrates, a sheepseller, Lysicles, and a leatherseller, Cleon, (œuπ