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AN ESSAY ON TRAGIC INFLUENCE.
In the various discussions concerning tragic composition which occur in public and in private, everybody must have observed, that, after certain vague allusions to the effects of terror and pity, and the excitement and pleasure derived from reading or witnessing the ebullitions of passionate energies, the understanding seemed to advance no further as to the influence which was, or might be, exercised by such compositions and representations. Were the question started as to what are the essential differences between the last scene of an acted tragedy and a public execution—the crime and the punishment being supposed as the same in either case-it may be assumed that there are very few private circles, even of educated people, in which any clear and sufficient grounds of distinction would be elicited. Yet everybody feels that the one is an elevating, the other a degrading influence. The examination of this Question is surely worthy of some pains.
German literature and criticism have done much to destroy our vulgar notions of a moral and the moral;