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THE

BRITISH DRAMA.

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PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MILLER, OLD BON D-STREET.

PRINTED BY JAMES BALLANTYNE,

EDINBURGH.

1804.

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PREFACE.

OF

THE EDITOR,

It is not easy, at the present day, to determine, whether the ancients were acquainted with that species of dramatic writing, which we call Farce. By some the Satiric Drama of antiquity is considered as corresponding to this style; while others are of opinion, that the Middle Comedy of the Greeks, is the true original of the English Farce.

Instead of entering into a learned and tedious discussion of this question, it will be sufficient at present to observe, that Farce cannot be deemed an exact and legitimate species of the Drama. It delights in exaggeration; and, in every portrait, it enlarges the features of the individual beyond their true proportion : so that, instead of real éharacter, it exhibits to the view of the beholder an overcharged carieature. Its objeot is not so much to promote morality, as mirth ; and, while Coinedy aims, by a series of agreeable incidents, to inculcate a precept, the only end of Farce is to excite a laugh. Nor is this a matter of so small importance as might at first be imagined. For Sterne (see the Dedication to Mr Pitt in Tristram Shandy) has observed," that

every time a man sipiles, but much more so when he laughs, it adds some“ thing to this fragment of life.” If this doctrine be true, the contents of this volume will certainly contribute something towards the longevity of the age.

From this description it will be obvious how much the writers of Farce must be indebted to the scenic art, for the full effect and success of their pieces. Tragedy is able to support itself by the elevation of its language and the dignity of its sentiments. The well-drawn characters, and delicate strokes of

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