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more correct and refined, and their whole structure more elegant than those of any preceding age.
The English Comedies which have attracted attention, and to which great excellence is attributed, are numerous. The Careless Husband, of Cibber, first performed in 1704, is generally ranked among the most respectable of this class, though it can scarcely be said to be perfectly pure in its moral tendency. The Recruiting Officer, and the Beaux Stratagem, by FARQUHAR, though liable to still greater blame, for the same kind of fault, have long been popular plays. The Conscious Lovers, of Sir RICHARD STEELE, for purity and tenderness of sentiment, and chasteness of language, has generally received warm commendation. The Suspicious Husband, by Hoadly, also ranks high in this list. The Jealous Wife, and the Clandesţine Marriage, by COLMAN, have had a degree of popularity much beyond ordinary comic productions. The Good-natured Man, and She Stoops to Conquer, by GOLDSMITH, have generally a place assigned them among the superior works of this class. The School for Scandal, by Mr. SHERIDAN, is pronounced, in a literary view, the best comedy of the age; but when measured by a correct moral standard, considerable deduction must be made from its merit." The West Indian, and the Wheel of Fortune, by Mr. CUMBERLAND, have been much applauded by judges of dramatic excellence. The comic productions of GARRICK, though certainly not deserving of a place in the highest rank, are yet lively and pleasing, and in general free from the charge of immoral tendency. The Heiress, of General BURGOYNE, for taste and wit, stands high in the opinion of connoisseurs. The comedies of Mr. HOLCROFT are entitled to considerable praise, as efforts of genius; but the errors of the author's moral and philosophical principles are
too often brought into view. In strong and popular exhibitions of the vis comica, Mr. MACKLIN displayed unusual talents. For the construction of musical Afterpieces, of delicate and sentimental humour, Mr.DIBDin rendered himself famous. In Farce, few writers of the age discovered more broad humour than FOOTE; but his humour is generally coarse, frequently licentious, and in some instances so grossly impious and immoral, as to disgrace the author in the estimation of every virtuous mind. For taste and wit the dramatic productions of Mrs. Cowley and Mrs. INCHBALD, deserve to be honourably mentioned. In elegant comedy, Miss Lee has displayed very respectable powers. But it would far exceed our limits to give a full catalogue of those who have sought and received high dramatic honours in the course of the age under consideration.
The various dramatic works of O'KEEFE, KELLY, MORTON, REYNOLDS, and several others, are well known to those who have a tolerable acquaintance with the English drama, and have attained various degrees of respect in the public estimation.
That kind of dramatic composition which is set to music, and is denominated an Opera, is well known to be a modern invention. This species of theatrical exhibition was first made in Italy, about the beginning of the seventeenth century; but it was never introduced into England till the beginning of the eighteenth. And in order to avoid the absurdity of dramas, in an unknown tongue (for the first operas performed in Britain were in the Italian language), Mr. ADDISON wrote and published his Rosamond. Since that time operas have becoine more popular in almost every part of Europe, and generally find a place where the theatre is stipported. The operas of FONTENELLE, of Met.A'sTasio, and of other celebrated dramatic writk:rs, are well known. But they are, after all, a kind of composition too unnatural to hold a very high place in the list of dramatic amusements. The first serious operas were brought on the English stage by Dr. Arne, who translated some of the operas of MetastASIO; but this kind of theatrical exhibition gained little ground. The first musical piece which commanded any great success on the English stage was the Beggars' Opera, of GAY. Since his time the comic opera has been much more popular than the serious.
It would be a culpable omission to conclude our remarks on this department of British poetry, without taking some notice of the unwearied labours of literary men, during the age under con
: sideration, to illustrate the writings of SHAKSPEARE, the great Father of the English drama. For some time after the publication of his works, they were, from the defective taste and negligence of the times, greatly corrupted by various transcribers and editors. The first attempt to remove these corruptions, and to present a corrected edition to the public, was made by Mr. Rowe, in 1709, with considerable success. afterwards, Mr. Pope made his countrymen more fully acquainted than they had ever been before with the corrupt state of SHAKSPEARE's text, and excited high expectations that a more complete reform of it would be effected by his labours. Neither his emendations, nor his commentaries, however, are now considered of much value. Indeed he has been openly charged with corrupting, rather than purifying or elucidating his author. His edition was published in 1725. Pope was followed, in this field for the display of literary taste and enterprise, by Mr. THEOZALD, who, in 1733, gave a new edition; in preparing which for the press he collated many copies, and cor:
Some years rected many errors; but, defective both in taste and learning, he was still far from having done justice to his undertaking. The next in this list of critical editors is Sir Thomas Hanmer, whose edition appeared in 1744. He made many emendations with great judgment, and in a manner which indicated both discernment and erudition; but in others he discovered much caprice, and adopted a large number of the censurable innovations of Pope. In 1747, Dr. WARBURTON made trial of his great critical acumen, and his profound erudition; on the works of the same illustrious dramatist; but though he displayed much sagacity and learning, his work was rather considered as an exhibition of himself; than an elucidation of his author. In 1765 appeared the edition of Dr. Johnson. This great critic threw more light on SHAKSPEARE than all who had gone before him. His preface to the edition, his numerous emendations, and his notes on obscure passages, discover a soundness of judgment; a profundity of critical skill, and an elegance of taste, which will do him lasting honour. The editorial labours of Mr. MALONE close the list. His edition appeared in 1789. Having devoted much time and pains to the work; and having the advantage of all that had been done by his predecessors, he may be considered, on the whole, the most complete commentator on SHAKSPEARE that has hitherto appeared.
The dramatic productions of France, during the period under consideration, were numerous; and some of them attained, and still hold a high reputation. The first class of French Tragedies belonging to this age may be slightly noticed. In this list the first place is due to the several tragic productions of VOLTAIRE. The Zaire, the Alzire,
į See La Harpe's Lectures, and his Literary Correspondence,
the Merope, and the Orphan of China, by him, are all possessed of distinguished excellence. It is peculiarly worthy of remark, that notwithstanding that celebrated infidel, in almost every page of his prose writings, discloses his hatred of religion, and the profligacy of his principles, nothing can be more pure, in a moral and religious view, than his tragedies. Next to those of VolTAIRE are the tragic compositions of the elder CREBILLON, which are universally allowed to display great powers, and especially to excel in force of character. His Rhadamistus and Atræus are always quoted as his best performances. The tragedies of La Motte have also a place assigned them among the great dramatic productions of France, during the last age. Of his several works, the Ines de Castro holds the highest rank. The historical and patriotic tragedies of DUBELLOY are much celebrated in the annals of French literature. His Siege of Calais attained the greatest degree of celebrity; and afterwards his Titus and Žel: mira commanded considerable attention. The tragedies of M. Saurin are also honourably mentioned among the critics of the author's own country. Of these, to his Spartacus the most liberal praise has been given. M. Diderot, among the numerous productions of his pen, gave to the public several tragedies; but they are, like many of his other writings, more conspicuous monuments of his moral depravity than of his genius or taste.
The French Comedies which have attracted attention are much more numerous. The comic production of LE SAGE rank high in this list. His Tuscaret gained great and general popularity. The Le Glorieux, and Le Philosophe Marie, of DESTOUCHES, were still more eminently popular. The former, indeed, has been pronounced one of