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charge he had preferred against the author touching his right of citizenship, which was awarded and fecured to him by the fame inftru
Such was Ariftophanes in person, manners and character: As a poet I might refer the learned reader to his works, which speak fo ably for themselves; They are not only valuable as his remains, but when we confider them as the only remains, which give us any complete fpecimens of the Greek comedy, they become ineftimable through the misfortunes of all the reft. We receive them as treasures thrown up from a wreck, or more properly as one paffenger efcaped out of a fleet, whose narrative we liften to with the more eagerness and curiofity, be cause it is from this alone we can gain intelligence of the nature of the expedition, the quality of the armament, and the characters and talents of the commanders, who have perifhed and gone down into the abyfs together. -The comedies of Ariftophanes are univerfally esteemed to be the standard of Attic writing in its greatest purity; if any man would wish to know the language as it was spoken by Pericles, he muft feek it in the scenes of Ariftophanes, where he is not using a foreign or affected diction, for the purpose of accommodating it to
fome particular or extravagant character. The antient authors, both Greek and Roman, who had all the productions of the Athenian stage before them, fpeak of him with fuch rapture and admiration, as to give him a decided preference before all other comic poets, with an exception as I believe of Plutarch only, who brings him into comparison with Menander, and after difcuffing their different pretenfions decides peremptorily for Menander: This criticifm of Plutarch's I fhall referve for future confideration; and when I faid that he is fingle in his preference of Menander, perhaps I ought to recal the expreffion, as that poet has his admirers, but none that I know of, who have deliberately given judgment in his favour upon a critical comparison with Aristophanes, except Plutarch above mentioned,
The drama of Ariftophanes is of a mixed fpecies; fometimes perfonal, at other times inclining to parody, according to the character of the middle comedy: He varies and accommodates his ftile to his fubject and the fpeakers on the scene; on fome occafions it is elevated, grave, fublime and polifhed to a wonderful degree of brilliancy and beauty; on others it finks and defcends into humble dialogue, provincial rufticity, coarfe naked obfcenity, and
even puns and quibbles: The versatility of his genius is admirable; for he gives us every rank and description of men in his scenes, and in every one is ftrictly characteristic. In fome paffages, and frequently in his choruffes, he ftarts out of the ordinary province of comedy into the loftieft flights of poetry, and in these I doubt if Æfchylus or Pindar have furpaffed him: In fentiment and good fenfe he is not inferior to Euripides, and in the acuteness of his criticisms equalled by none: In the general purport of his moral he feldom, if ever, fails; but he works occafionally with unclean tools, and, like Juvenal in the lower ages, chaftifes vice by an open exposure of its turpitude, offending the ear, whilst he aims to mend the heart. This habit of plain fpeaking was the fashion of the times he wrote in, and the audience demanded and would have it; that he may be ftudied by the pureft readers we should conclude, when we are told he was the pillow companion of a Chriftian faint, as the wellknown anecdote of Chryfoftom will testify. If we cannot entirely defend the indelicacy of his muse, we cannot deny but that a great fhare of the blame refts with the spectators: A dramatic poet cannot model his audience, but in a certain degree muft of neceffity con
form to their tafte and humour: It can be proved that Ariftophanes himself laments the hard task impofed upon him of gratifying the public at the expence of decency; but with the example of the poet Cratinus before his eyes, who was driven from the ftage because he fcrupled to amufe the public ear with tawdry jefts, it is not to be wondered at, if an author, emulous of applaufe, fhould fall in with the wishes of the theatre, unbecoming as they were: Let me add in further palliation of this fault, that he never puts obfcenity but in the mouths of obscene characters, and so applies it as to give his hearers a difguft for fuch unfeemly habits. Morality I confefs deserves a purer vehicle, yet I contend that his purpofe was honeft, and I dare believe went farther towards reforming the loose Athenians, than all the indecifive pofitions of the philofophers, who being enlifted into fects and factions scarce agreed in any one point of common morality.
This part of his defence would have been very eafily handled a century or two ago; Ben Jonfon for inftance could have helped his argument out with his own example, if occafion had required; but the task falls very heavy upon an advocate in this age, which is of purer ears than to liften to obfcenity; and though
though my particular difficulties have thereby been encreased, I fhall never repine under the weight of any burthen, which the merit of my contemporaries lays upon me.
. His wit is of various kinds; much is of a general and permanent ftamp; much is local, perfonal and untransferable to posterity: No, author ftill retains fo many brilliant paffages, yet none has fuffered fuch injury by the depredations of time: Of his powers in ridicule and humour, whether of character or dialogue, there might be no end to inftances: If Plautus gives us the model of Epicharmus, he does not equal him; and if Ter nce tranflates Menander, his original does not approach him in thefe particulars: I doubt if the fum total of wit and humour in all their stage-lacqueys would together balance the fingle character of Caria in the Plutus. His fatire, whether levelled against the vices and follies of the people at large, against the corruption of the dæmagogues, the turpitude and chicanery of the philofophers, or the arrogant felf-fufficiency of the tragic poets, cuts with an edge that penetrates the character, and leaves no fhelter for either ignorance or criminality.
Ariftophanes was author of above fixty comedies, though they are erroneously stated under