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may be fed. Others think they have observed something of contrivance and policy among these mischievous beings; and those that hover more closely round them, pretend, that there is, in every herd, one that gives directions to the rest, and seems to be more eminently delighted with a wide carnage. What it is that entitles him to such 'pre-eminence we know not; he is seldom the biggest or the swiftest, but he shews by his eagerness and diligence that he is, more than any of the others, a friend to the vultures.

A DISA

DISSERTATION

UPON THE

GRE E K COM E D Y,

Translated from BRUMOY

A D V ER TI SE M E N T.

I

mise, with an account of the Comic Theatre, and intreat the reader, whether a favourer or an enemy of the ancient Drama, not to pass his censure upon the authors or upon me, without a regular perusal of this whole

Pablished by Mrs. Lennox in 4to. 1759. To the third volume of this work the following Advertisement is prefixed.

“ In this " volume, the Discourse on the Greek Comedy, and the General " Conclusion, are translated by the celebrated author of the Ram" bler. The Comedy of the Birds, and that of Peace, by a young “ Gentleman. The Comedy of the Frogs, by the learned and in" genious Dr. Gregory Sharpe. The Discourse upon the Cyclops, " by John Bourrya, Ffq. The Cyclops, by Dr. Grainger, au"thor of the translation of Tibullus." E.

work,

work. For, though it seems to be composed of pieces of which each may precede or follow without dependance upon the other, yet all the parts, taken together, form a system which would be destroyed by their disjunction. Which way shall we come at the knowledge of the ancients shews, but by comparing together all that is left of them? The value and necessity of this comparison determined me to publish all, or to publish nothing. Besides the reflections on each piece, and on the general taste of antiquity, which in my opinion, are not without importance, have a kind of obscure gradation, which I have carefully endeavoured to preserve, and of which the thread would be lost by him who should Nightly glance sometimes upon one piece, and sometimes upon another. It is a structure which I have endeavoured to make as near to regularity as I could, and which must be seen in its full extent and in proper succession. The reader who skips here and there over the book, might make a hundred objections which are either anticipated, or answered in those pieces which he might have overlooked. I have laid fuch stress upon the connection of the parts of this work, that I have declined to exhaust the subject, and have suppressed many of my notions, that I might leave the judicious reader to pleafe himself by forming such conclusions as I fupposed him like to discover, as well as myself. I am not here attempting to prejudice the reader by an ápology either for the ancients, or my own manner,

Í have not claimed a right of obliging others to determine, by my opinion, the degrees of esteem which I

think due to the authors of the Athenian Stage ; nor do I think that their reputation in the present time, ought to depend upon my mode of thinking or expresing my thoughts, which I leave entirely to the judgment of the public.

A

DISSERTATION, &c.

"I ther I should meddle at all with riftopbanes may

be reviewed the Greek comedy, both, because the without trans, pieces which remain are very few, the lating him en

tirely. licentiousness of Aristophanes, their author, is exorbitant, and it is very difficult to draw from the performances of a single poet, a just idea of Greek comedy. Besides, it seemed that tragedy was sufficient to employ all my attention, that I might give a complete representation of that kind of writing, which was most esteemed by the Athenians and the wiser Greeks particularly by Socrates, who set no value upon comedy or comic actors. But the very name of that drama, which in polite ages, and above all others in our own, has been so much advanced, that it has become equal

• There was a law which forbad any judge of the Arcopagus to write comedy,

to

to tragedy, if not preferable, incline me to think that I may be partly reproached with an imperfect work, if, after having gone as deep as I could into the nature of the Greek tragedy, I did not at least sketch a draught of the comedy.

I then considered, that it was not wholly impossible to surmount, at least in part, the difficulties which had stopt me, and to go somewhat farther than the learned writers *, who have published in French some pieces of Aristophanes ; not that I pretend to make large translations. The same reasons which have hindered with refpect to the more noble parts of the Greek drama, operate with double force upon my present subject. Though ridicule, which is the business of comedy, be not less uniform in all times, than the passions which are moved by tragic compositions ; yet, if diversity of manners may sometimes disguise the passions themselves, how much more greater change will be made in jocularities? The truth is, that they are so much changed by the course of time, that pleasantry and ridicule become dull and flat much more easily than the pathetic becomes ridiculous.

That which is commonly known by the term jocular and comic, is nothing but a turn of expression, an airy phantom, that must be caught at a particular point. As we lose this point, .we lose the jocularity, and find nothing but dulness in its place. A lucky sally, which has filled a company with laughter, will have no effect in print, because it is shewn single and separate from

• Madámé Dacier, M. Boivin.

the

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