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THE

BRITISH DRAMA.

1

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LONDON,
PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MILLER, OLD BOND-STREET.

PRINTED BY JAMES BALLANTYNE,

EDINBURGH.

1804.

THE NEW YORK FUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOX AND TILCCN FCUNDATIONS.

19:3

PREFACE

OF

THE EDITO R.

As Tragedy sprung from the Dithyrambic Hymns, so did Comedy from the Phallic Songs, of early Greece. But the history of its infancy is not so well preserved, nor its progressive improvements so distinctly marked, as those of the sister art. This obscurity may perhaps be attributed to the greater difficulty attendant on comic writings; which rendered them slower in arriving at perfection, and, consequently, later in attracting the notice of critics, and historians. For, while the tragedian borrowed the ground-work of his plot from the chronicles of kings, or the legends of warriors, the comic poet is constrained to draw on fancy for the fable of his piece, and to inculcate his moral through the medium of fictitious characters and created incidents. Nor is this the only difference. To exhibit the operation of the Passions, is the aim of Tragedy, while Manners are the great object of Conreda. Thus, the tragic writer has only to look within himself for matural description, and to adjust the sentiments of the speakers by the emotions of his own heart: but it is the more arduous province of the comic:poet to look abroad, amid the boundless diversity of human manners, for features, appropriate to the personages of his drama; to delineate numerous traits of character, not visible to vulgar eyes; to seize the evanescent forms of fashion; and to give to the “airy nothings” of whim and caprice, " a local habitation, and a name.”

In the operation of these causes we see an ample reason, why the comic poets of antiquity are fewer, and of much less celebrity, than the early tragedians. Indeed, history does not enable us to mention, with certainly, any writers of this class before the time of Aristophanes, who may be considered

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