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to be acquainted with a young gentleman of a fine genius, cultivated with indefatigable study, of a generous and noble disposition, and of ye strictest virtue, a gentleman who deserves ye countenance of ye greatest men and ye charge of ye best parish in the province. But with all these accomplishments, he is despised by some, ridiculed by others, and detested by more, only because he is suspected of Arminianism. And I have ye pain to know more yn one, who has a sleepy stupid soul, who has spent more of his waking hours in darning his stockings, smoaking his pipe, or playing with his fingers yn in reading, conversation, or reflection, cry'd up as promising young men, pious and orthodox youths and admirable preachers. As far as I can observe, people are not disposed to inquire for piety, integrity, good sense, or learning in a young preacher, but for stupidity, (for so I must call the pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces) irresistible grace and original sin. I have not in one expression exceeded ye limits of truth, though you think I am warm.--Could you advise me, then, who you know have not ye highest opinion of what is called orthodoxy, to engage in a profession like this.*.But I have other reasons too numerous to explain fully. This you will think is enough. What I said to you in my last, against ye practitioners in ye law, I cannot recollect. It is not unlikely my expressions were unguarded, as I am apt to speak and write too much at random. But my present sentiments are yt some of those practitioners adorn and others disgrace both ye law yt.ye profess, and ye country ye inhabit. The students in ye law are very numerous, and some of them youths of which no country, no age, would need to be ashamed--and if I can gain ye honour of treading in ye rear, and silently admiring the noble air and gallant achievements of ye fore
rank, I shall think myself worthy of a louder triumph, than if I had headed ye whole army of orthodox preachers.
The difficulties and discouragements I am under, are a full match for all ye resolution I am master of. But I comfort myself with this consideration. The more danger the greater glory. The general who at ye head of a small army, encounters a more nu
* After I had wrote so far, I received yours, for which I return you my thanks, and pray the continuance of your favours.
merous and formidable enemy, is applauded if he strove for the victory and made a skilful retreat, although his army is routed and a considerable extent of territory lost. But if he gains a small advantage over the enemy, he saves ye interest of his country, and returns amidst ye acclamations of the people, bearing the triumphal laurel to the capitol. (I am in a very bellicose temper of inind to night, all my figures are taken from war.) I have cast myself wholly upon fortune, what her ladyship will be pleased to do with me I can't say. But wherever she shall lead me, or whatever she shall do with me, she cannot abate ye sincerity with which I trust I shall always be your friend.
DR. FRANKLIN TO Mazzei.
Philadelphia, 3d Dec. 1775. DEAR SIR,
It was with great pleasure I learned from Mr. Jefferson that you were settled in America; and from the letter, you favoured me with, that you liked the country, and have reason to expect success in your laudable and meritorious endeavours to introduce new products. I heartily wish you all the success you can desire in that, and every other laudable undertaking that may conduce to your comfortable establishment in your present situation. I know not how it has happened that you have not received an answer from the secretary of our society; I suppose they must have written, and that it has miscarried. If you have not yet sent the books which the academy of Turin have done us the honour to present us with, we must, I fear, wait for more quiet times before we can have the pleasure of receiving them, the communication being now very difficult.
All America is obliged to the great Duke for his benevolence to it, and for the protection he afforded you, and his encouragement of your undertaking. We have experienced that silk may be produced to great advantage. While in London, I had some trunks full sent to me from hence, three years successively, and it sold by auction for 198. 60. the small pound, which was not much below the silk of Italy. The congress bave not yet extended their views
ch towards foreign powers. They are nevertheless obliged by your
kind offers of your service, which perhaps in a year or two more may become very useful to them. I am myself much pleased that you have sent a translation of our declaration of independence to the grand Duke; because having a high esteem for the character of that prince, and of the whole imperial family, from the accounts given me of them by my friend Dr. Ingenhouse and yourself, I should be happy to find that we stood well in the opinion of that court. Mr. Tromond of Milan, with whom I had the pleasure of being acquainted in London, spoke to me of a plant much used in Italy, and which he thought might be useful in America. He promised, at my request, to find me some of the seeds, which he has accordingly done. I have unfortunately forgotten the use, and know nothing of the culture. In both these particulars I must beg information and advice from you. It is called Ravizzoni. I send specimens of the seed enclosed. I received from the same Mr. Tromond four copies of a translation of some of my pieces into the fine language of your native country. I beg your acceptance of one of them, and of my best wishes for your health and prosperity.
With great esteem,
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.-FRENCH LITERATURE.
ON THE CHARACTER OF RACINE.
He would undoubtedly be an extraordinary man who should conceive the whole art of tragedy, such as it existed in the brightest days of Athens, and who should exhibit of it, at the same time, the first plan and the first model.
But these efforts are beyond nature: it is not capable of such vast conceptions.
No art exists which has not been developed by degrees, and all are perfected only in the course of time. One man adds to the labours of another; one age increases the brilliancy of those
lights which illuminated its predecessor, and thus, by writing and perpetuating their efforts, generations have made amends for the feebleness of nature, and man, who has but a' momentary existence has prolonged his knowledge and labours through a course of ages.
The invention of dialogue was, no doubt, the first step in the tragic art. He who conceived the idea of adding action to it, made an important improvement. This action was modified in different ways, becoming more or less involved, and more or les probable. Music and dancing lent their aid to embellish this imitation. We studied the illusions of sight and theatrical show. The first man who, from a combination of all the arts united, produced such brilliant effects, deserves to be called the father of tragedy. This title is due to Æschylus, but he taught Euripides and Sophocles to surpass him, and the art was carried to its perfection in Greece. This perfection, however, was relative and, in some respects, national. In fact, if there are to be found in the ancient dramas, beauties of all times and places, it is not less true, that a good Greek tragedy, faithfully translated, would not be a good French tragedy; and if any exception to this general rule can be cited, this exception itself would show that five acts of the Greeks would not give us more than two. We are generally obliged to furnish a longer and more difficult plot. Melpomene, among the ancients, appears upon the stage with the attributes of Terpsicore and Polhymnia. With us she stands alone, without any advantages but those which her own art supplies, and with no aid but what she derives from terror and pity. The songs and the lofty poetry of the Greek chorus relieves the extreme simplicity of their subjects, and prevent us from perceiving the void in the representation. With us, to fill up the measure of five acts,
are obliged to resort to a plot always intricate, and the sources of an eloquence more or less affecting. The harmony of Greek verse enchanted the eager and delicate ear of a poetical people. With us, all the splendours of diction cannot, in representation, excuse faults, fill up chasms, or excite an interest, before an assemblage of men, who are all equally susceptible of emotion, but who are not equal judges of style. Besides, among the Athenians, their exhibitions given at certain times of
the year, were magnificent religious festivals, in which all the rivalry of the arts was displayed: and the senses were seduced into a pleasing delusion which rendered the judgment much less
Here the satiety which arises from a daily enjoyment, makes the spectator fastidious, and desirous of strong and new impresssions. From these considerations we conclude that the art of Corneille and Racine, must be more extensive, more various and more difficult, than that of Euripides and Sophocles.
The latter possessed another advantage over their imitators and rivals: they displayed to their fellow-citizens the important events of their own history, the triumphs of their heroes, the misfortunes of their enemies, the perplexities of their ancestors, the crimes, and the vengeance of their gods. They excited elevated ideas, flattering and affecting remembrances, and spoke, at the same time, to the man and the citizen.
Tragedy, subordinate, like every thing else, to the patriotic character, was, therefore, among the Greeks, their religion and history, in action and exhibition. Corneille reigned by his own genius, and borrowed nothing from the ancients but the principal rules of the art, and without taking their manner for a model, he made tragedy a school for heroism and virtue. But how much still remained to be done! How far was the dramatic art from having caught all those excellencies of which it is composed! How much was still to be achieved, not to perfect, but to create it! For may we not call a creation, that assemblage of new and tragic beauties, which bursts forth in Andromache, the first master-piece of Racine. “ It was by starting from this point that Racine, more profound in the knowledge of his art than any who had preceded him, opened for himself a new path, and tragedy became a history of the passions and a tablet of the human heart.” (Eloge de Racine.)
But we should not omit to throw a glance over the efforts of his early years.
In the midst of all his defects, we shall thus perceive the germ of great poetical talent, and Racine early manisesting one of his peculiar inerits, I mean his versification. He was not past five and twenty when he produced his Rival Brothers, which had been commenced a long lime before, a subject treated in all the ancient theatres, but which had not yet