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not appear to me to know what beauty is, which cannot be, as I have shown elfewhere, without a

system and a whole, of a certain extent, having beginning, middle, and end."



[From the Third Volume of the Obferver.]

SHALL now proceed to lay before the public, fuch an account as I have been enabled to collect of the feveral Greek writers of comedy.

"The learned reader needs not to be informed, how little is to be found in Ariftotle's Poetics on the subject of comedy; that treatife by no means anfwers to the general pro:cifion of its title; if it had come down to us as perfect and entire, as it probably was when the author put the last hand to it, and prefented a correct copy of his work to Alexander, we might conclude otherwife of it; but to fpeak of it as it is, we can call it nothing more than a differtation upon tragedy, in which many things are evidently out of place and order, fome no doubt loft, and others mutilated. It is thus confidered by the learned commentator Daniel Heinfius, who in his fupplementary treatife annexed to his edition, profeffedly fpeaks only of the conftruction of tragedy, and endeavours with great diligence and per picuity to methodize the whole work, and difpofe his author's fyftem into fome order and regularity.

"With the exception of a few obvious remarks upon the epic, as tending to illuftrate the drama, and two or three paffages where comedy is fpoken of only as contrafted with tragedy, the whole of this celebrated differtation is nothing more than

a fet of rules for the drama, which are mere tranfcripts from the compofitions of the great writers of the Homeric tragedy, Efchylus, Sophocles, and Euripides: he anaÏyzes and defines a poem, then actually carried to its perfection; but gives no new lights, no leading inftructions, for the furtherance and improvement of what had not ar rived to the like ftate of maturity.

"With the remains of the three tragic poets above mentioned in our hands, I profefs I do not fee how we are edified by Ariftotle's differtation, which offers nothing but what occurs upon the reading of their dramas; unless pofterity had feen fit to abide by the fame laws, which they obferved, and the mo dern tragedy had been made exactly to conform to the Greek model.

"Ariftotle, as we have before remarked, fpeaks of no comedy antecedent to the comedy of Epicharmus: there is reafon to think that this author did not fall in with the perfonal comedy in the licentious manner it prevailed upon the Athenian ftage, even to the time of Ariftotle; for it was not reformed there, till the perfonal fatirifts were awed into better refpect by the Macedonian princes, who fucceeded to Alexander; whereas Epicharmus wrote for the court of an abfolute prince.

"Now it is remarkable, that Ariftotle makes no ftrictures upon G 3


the licentioufnefs of the Athenian comedy, por offers any rules for the correction of the stage, though the schools profcribed it, and the tribunals were at open hoftility with ir, It is plain he states things as they were, not as they ought to have been; for he pronounces of comedy-that it is a picture of human nature, worfe and more deformed than the original.

"I cannot hold this to be a juft character of comedy, as it stood at the time when Ariftotle pronounced it the only entire comedies we have to refer to, are a contradiction to the affertion; for no one will contend that the corrupt and abominable manners of the times in which Aristophanes wrote, did not fully warrant the feverity of his fatire, or that his characters of depravity are in general overcharged, and his pictures of human nature more deformed than their originals. As for the rest of the comic fraternity, their fragments only can plead for them; but they are fragments of fuch a nature, as prove them to have been moralifts of the fublimeft fort, and they have been collected, tranflated, and applauded, by the graveft and moft fententious of the Christian writers for many ages, I will venture to fay, that in thefe fcattered reliques of the comic ftage, more ufeful knowlege and good fenfe, better maxims for right conduct in life, and a more generous difplay of benevolence, juftice, public fpirit, and all the moral virtues of natural religion are to be found, than in all the writings of the phi lofophers, which are fo much more entire.

"Socrates, it is true could hardly be prevailed upon to enter the comic theatre, but I infer very little against the poets on that ac

count; Plato, I am aware, thoug an intimate of Aristophanes, banified the drama out of his vifionary republic; but what is that more than to fay, that if all men were virtuous there would be no need of fatirifts? The comic poets in return lashed the philofophers over the ftage, and they had what they merited, the public applaufe on their fide; the fchools and acade mies of fophifts furnished an inexhaustible fund for wholesome ridicule; their contradictory first principles, their dæmons and clouds, and water and fire, with all their idle fyftems and hypothefes, their fabulous conceits, dreams and devices to catch the vulgar, and the affected rigour of their manners, whilft in fecret they were addicted to the groffeft debauchery and impurity, were continual fubjects of fatire; and if hypocrify is not the comic poet's lawful game, what is? There is not a play of Aristophanes to be named, in which these fancti. fied finners have not their share in the ridicule; and amongst the frag ments above mentioned, a very large proportion falls to their lot.

"Ariftotle, who had very little feeling for Plato and his academy, or indeed for practical philofophy in general (which he feems to have profeffed only in oppofition to Xenocrates) concerned himself no further about the state of the ftage, than to comment and remark upon the tragedies of the three chief writers above mentioned; and it is humiliating enough to the pride of criticifm to obferve, that tragedy, after all his pains to hold it up to the ftandard of Sophocles and Euripides, funk with those authors, and was no more heard of; whilst comedy, without his help, and in defiance of his neglect, rofe in cre

dit with the world, till it attained perfection under the aufpices of Menander.

"I have spoken of tragedy as a written poem before comedy of the fame defcription, because I think that Sufarion did not write comedy, though he acted it fo early as the fiftieth Olympiad; and I alfo think that Thefpis did write tragedy in the fixty-first Olympiad, if not fooner; in other words, although the complexion of the original drama was comic in the most extravagant degree, yet it appears probable that tragedy had the start in point of publication. The nature of the firit comedy, compared with that of the first tragedy, feems to warrant this opinion; for it is eafy to fuppofe that the raillery and fatire of the village mafques, which would pafs off at a lawless festival, fpoken off-hand and without the malice of premeditation, would not fo readily have been committed to writing by the poet, as the tragic drama; which being compofed in honour of deceased heroes, or on religious and grave fubjects, not only called for greater deliberation on the part of the author, but would also be made public without danger or offence.

"It now remains to enquire in to the chronology of the written comedy.

"I have already obferved, that Ariftotle afcribes the first written comedy to Epicharmus.

"Both Ariftotle and Horace call him a Sicilian, but in what particular place he was born is not agreed; fome contend that he was a Syracufan, fome that he was a native of Craftum, others of Megara in Sicily Diomedes the grammarian fays he was born in Cos, and derives the word comedy from the name of that ifland, a derivation

that fets afide his authority altogether. The father of Epicharmus was named Chimarus, or according to others Tityrus, and his mother Sicida, Cicero in his Tufculans calls him, acutum nec infulfum bominem: Demetrius Phaleræus celebrates him for the elegant and appofite choice of his epithets, on which account the Greeks gave the name of Epicharmion to his ftile, making it proverbial for its beauty and purity. It is difficult to fix the precise time when he began to write comedy, especially as he lived to the great age of ninety-feven: it is certain however he was ftill writing in the reign of Hiero, in or about Olympiad feventy-four, at which time Phormis alfo wrote co medy in Sicily; and Chionides, Dinolochus and Magnes, comic poets, flourished at Athens.

"Suidas's chronology does not agree with Ariftotle's, for he makes Chionides antecedent to Epichar mus, and calls him the first writer of comedy; adding, that Evetes, Euxenides, and Mylus, all Athenians, were his contemporaries; he allows, however, that Epicharmus and Phormis were the first writers in the island of Sicily; but this is in the vague manner of his dates, and not to be relied upon: he takes no notice of Ariftotle's exprefs affertion that Epicharmus was long fenior to Chionides; and yet he might have recollected, that facts are fo far in favour of Ariftotle's chronology of these poets, that there is a title upon record of one of Chionides's plays called The Perfians, which must have been pofterior to the Perlian era, when it is on all hands agreed that Epicharmus was living.

"Amongst the epigrams of The ocritus, published by Henry Steveas in 1579, there are fome lines

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In the conclufion, it celebrates him for the many useful maxims which he gave for the inftruction of youth; but this I am difpofed to think may apply to the circumftance of his having been a fchoolmafter at Syracufe; for if we are to take our judgment of Epicharmus's drama from his imitator Plautus, perhaps its morality, though not to be overlooked amongst other excellencies, is nevertheless not the most striking feature in its character. And though it is probable that Epicharmus did not launch out into that perfonality, which the freer Athenians indulged to fuch excefs, yet I can fuppofe him to have been not very chaste in his dialogue, from the anecdote which Plutarch gives us, of his being heavily fined and compelled to manual labour by order of Hiero for certain obfcene jetts, which he fuffered to pafs in hearing of his queen: I must ground another remark upon this anecdote, refpecting the time in which he is generally thought to have struck out his co medy, as being long antecedent to the time of Hiero; which being admitted, it will follow that he was near the close of his life, when this

fentence of manual labour was executed upon him; a kind of punishment fo very unlikely to be inflicted on a man of ninety-fix years by a prince of Hiero's magnanimity and benevolence, that if I am to take the anecdote for granted, I cannot affent to thofe authorities that have placed him fo high in time, for the purpofe only of putting his title of first founder of comedy out of difpute.


Upon the whole, I think it likely the Athenians wrote comedy as foon as the Sicilians, but that Epicharmus was the first, who form. ed his drama upon the poems of Homer: it is alfo clear that his countryman and contemporary Phormis wrote comedy as foon or nearly as foon as he did; for although Theocritus, in the epigram above cited, fays exprefly that Epicharmus ftruck out comedy, yet it must be remarked that Theocritus was a Syracufan by birth, living in the time of Ptolemy Lagus; and in giving this teftimony for his fellowcitizen, it is more than probable he fpoke locally of the Sicilian comedy only, as Suidas did in after times, when he faid that Epicharmus and Phormis first struck out comedy in Sicily.

"I would therefore fix Epicharmus's first comedy antecedent to Olympiad seventy-five, at the low. eft date, becaufe we have it from good authority that he was teach ing fcholars at Syracufe four years before the Perfian æra; and this date is confirmed by the age of Phormis, who certainly flourished in the time of Gelon, and was in great favour in the court of that prince, who was predeceffor to Hicro, and was fucceeded by him in Olympiad feventy-feven."




[From the fame Work].

SAID in my former paper that Plutarch had made a comparison between Arilophanes and Menander, and given his decided judgment for the latter. It might well be expected, that a Greek of the lower ages, living in the time of Trajan, and in courtfavour with that emperor, fhould prefer a polished elegant author like Menander to one fo bold, perfonal and farcastic as the poet he compares with him. Horace even in the time of Auguftus had begun to decry the Plautinos Sales, and the manners were much more refined in Plutarch's time than in his. As we can take little eftimate of Menander from the fragments only of his comedies which now remain, we cannot fee what general reafons Plutarch, or any other critic of his time, might have for preferring him; but as far as he has entered into strictures and objections in his examination of Ariftophanes, fo far we can follow him; this part at leaft of his criticifin is ftill open to be controverted, and if it fhall appear that he has condemned one party without reafon, it may be prefumed he has preferred the other without juftice.

"Plutarch afferts that Ariftophanes is a punfter, a quibler upon words, and ridiculoufly given to parody. It is unfortunate for this charge that he follows it up with quotations, in every one of which Aristophanes is not only to be defended but applauded; he could not have felected paffiges lefs to the purpofe; and the accufation has accordingly been turned against him by Frifchlinus and other advocates of the poet.

"He arraigns the style of Arifto. phanes on account of its inequali ties and variations, obferving that it is fometimes high and fometimes low, now turgid and inflated, now grovelling and depreffed as if he had not been aware that the great variety of characters, which his comedy exhibits, naturally demands as great a variety of ftile: he applauds Menander for the uniform and equal tenor of his ftile, not feeming to recollect that his comedy on the contrary had one uniform complexion, contained no choruffes and introduced no living characters; whereas Ariftophanes, according to the fpirit of the old comedy, makes ufe of choruffes, many of which are of fo fanciful and imaginary a nature, that it is neceffary to employ all the powers of poetry in their difplay, and in fome cafes even to create a new file (and al-. moft language) for the occafion He alfo introduces gods, heroes, poets, orators, philofophers, ambaffadors, priefts on his fcene; fome of thefe profeffedly demand a fwelling tragic pomp of words, for instance

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chylus, Sophocles, and Euripides: in fhort, the very excellence of Ariftophanes is difcrimination of ftile and character. Should Socrates and a flave fpeak in the fame phrate? Should Lamachus (a mere miles gloriofus) talk in the tone of a beggarly Megarenfian pedlar? Certainly not; nor is there any need to dwell longer on this criticism of Plutarch's, in which the ingenious author has fhewn little of his usual candour or judgment. That he fhould be prepofleffed in favour of the new comedy is very natural; elegant and moral fictions are both


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