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Nor is this rule without the strongest foundation in nature, as the distresses of the mean by no means affect us so strongly as the calamities of the great. When tragedy exhibits to us some great man fallen from his height, and struggling with want and adversity, we feel his situation in the same manner as we suppose he himself must feel, and our pity is increased in proportion to the height from which he fell. On the contrary, we do not so strongly sympathize with one born in humbler circum stances, and encountering accidental distress : so that while we melt for Belisarius, we scarcely give halfpence to the beggar who accosts us in the street. The one has our pity; the other our contempt. Distress, therefore, is the proper object of tragedy, since the great excite our pity by their fall; but not equally so of comedy, since the actors employed in it are originally so mean, that they sink but little by their fall.

Since the first origin of the stage, tragedy and comedy have run in distinct channels, and never till of late encroached upon the provinces of each other. Terence, who seems to have made the nearest approaches, always judiciously stops short before he comes to the downright pathetic; and yet he is even reproached by Cæsar for wanting the vis comica. All other comic writers of antiquity aim only at rendering folly or vice ridiculous, but never exalt their characters into buskin pomp, or make what Voltaire humorously calls “ a tradesman's tragedy."

Yet notwithstanding this weight of authority, and the universal practice of former ages, a new species of dramatic composition has been introduced under the name of sentimental comedy, in which the virtues of private life are exhibited, rather than the vices exposed; and the distresses rather than the faults of mankind make our interest in the piece. These comedies have had ‘of late great success, perhaps from their novelty, and also from their flattering every man in his favorite foible. In these plays almost all the characters are good, and exceedingly generous;

they are lavish enough of their tin money on the stage; and though they want humor, have abundance of sentiment and feel. ing. If they happen to have faults or foibles, the spectator is taught not only to pardon, but to applaud them, in consideration of the goodness of their hearts; so that folly, instead of being ridiculed, is commended, and the comedy aims at touching our passions, without the power of being truly pathetic. In this manner we are likely to lose one great source of entertainment on the stage ; for while the comic poet is invading the province of the tragic muse, he leaves her lovely sister quite neglected. Of this, however, he is no way solicitous, as he measures his fame by his profits.

But it will be said, that the theatre is formed to amuse man. kind, and that it matters little, if this end be answered, by what means it is obtained. If mankind find delight in weeping at comedy, it would be cruel to abridge them in that or any other innocent pleasure. If those pieces are denied the name of comedies, yet call them by any other name, and if they are delightful, they are good. Their success, it will be said, is a mark of their merit, and it is only abridging our happiness to deny us an inlet to amusement.

These objections, however, are rather specious than solid. It is true, that amusement is a great object at a theatre; and it will be allowed, that these sentimental pieces do often amuse us; but the question is, whether the true comedy would not amuse us more? The question is, whether a character supported through. out a piece, with its ridicule still attending, would not give us more delight than this species of bastard tragedy, which only is applauded because it is new.

A friend of mine who was sitting unmoved at one of the sentimental pieces, was asked how he could be so indifferent? “Why truly," says he, "as the hero is but a tradesman, it is indifferent to me whether he be turned out of his counting-house on Fishstreet Hill, since he will still have enough left to open shop in St. Giles's."

The other objection is as ill-grounded; for though we should give these pieces another name, it will not mend their efficacy. It will continue a kind of mulish production, with all the defects of its opposite parents, and marked with sterility. If we are permitted to make comedy weep, we have an equal right to make tragedy laugh, and to set down in blank verse the jests and repartees of all the attendants in a funeral procession.

But there is one argument in favor of sentimental comedy which will keep it on the stage, in spite of all that can be said against it. It is of all others the most easily written. Those abilities that can hammer out a novel, are fully sufficient for the production of a sentimental comedy. It is only sufficient to raise the characters a little; to deck out the hero with a riband, or give the heroine a title; then to put an insipid dialogue, without character or humor, into their mouths, give them mighty good hearts, very fine clothes, furnish a new set of scenes, make a pathetic scene or two, with a sprinkling of tender melancholy conversation through the whole, and there is no doubt but all the ladies will cry, and all the gentlemen applaud.

Humor at present seems to be departing from the stage; and it will soon happen that our comic players will have nothing left for it but a fine coat and a song. It depends upon the audience, whether they will actually drive those poor merry creatures from the stage, or sit at a play as gloomy as at the tabernacle. It is not easy to recover an art when once lost; and it will be but a just punishment, that when, by our being too fastidious, we have banished humor from the stage, we should ourselves be deprived of the art of laughing.*

* (This essay, written in January 1773, was doubtless intended as a preparative to the appearance of “ She Stoops to Conquer,” in the March following.)

ESSAY XXXVI.

HISTORY OF A SLEEP-WALKER.

It has often been a question in the schools, whether it be preferable to be a king by day, and a beggar in our dreams by night, or, inverting the question, a beggar by day, and a monarch while sleeping? It has been usually decided, that the sleeping monarch was the happiest man, since he is supposed to enjoy all his happiness without contamination ; while the monarch in reality, feels the various inconveniences that attend his station,

However this may be, there are none surely more miserable than those who enjoy neither situation with any degree of comfort, but feel all the inconveniences of want and poverty by day, while they find a repetition of their misery in a dream.

Of this kind was the famous Cyrillo Padovano, of whom a long life has been written; a man, if I may so express it, of a double character, who acted a very different part by night from what he professed in the day. Cyrillo was a native of Padua in Italy; a little, brown-complexioned man, and while awake, remarkable for his simplicity, probity, piety, and candor; but unfortunately for him, his dreams were of the strongest kind, and seemed to overturn the whole system of waking morality; for be every night walked in his sleep, and upon such occasions was a thief, a robber, and a plunderer of the dead.

The first remarkable exploit we are told of Cyrillo was at the university, where he showed no great marks of learning, though some of assiduity. Upon a certain occasion his master set him a very long and difficult exercise, which Cyrillo found it impossible, as he supposed, to execute. Depressed with this opinion, and in certain expectation of being chastised the next day, he went to bed quite dejected and uneasy; but awaking in the morning, to his great surprise he found his exercise completely and perfectly finished, lying upon his table, and, still more extraordinary, written in his own hand. This information he communicated to his master when he gave up his task, who being equally astonished with him, resolved to try him the next day with a longer and more difficult task, and to watch him at night when he retired to rest. Accordingly, Cyrillo was seen going to bed with great uneasiness, and soon was heard to sleep profoundly; but this did not continue long; for in about an hour after he lay down he got up, lighted his candle, and sat down to study, where he completed his work as before.

A mind like Cyrillo's, not naturally very strong, and never at rest, began, when he arrived at manhood, to become gloomy, solicitous, and desponding. In consequence of this turn of thinking, he resolved to leave the world, and turn Carthusian, which is the most rigorous of all the religious orders. Formed for a severe and abstemious life, he was here seen to set lessons of piety to the whole convent, and to show that he deserved the approbation as well of his fellows in seclusion as of the whole order. But this good fame did not last long; for it was soon found that Cyrillo walked by night, and, as we are told of the fabled Penelope, undid in his sleep all the good actions for which he had been celebrated by day. The first pranks he played were of a light nature, very little more than running about from chamber to chamber, and talking a little more loosely than became one of his professed piety. As it is against the rules of the fraternity to confine any man by force to his cell, he was permitted in this manner to walk about; and though there was nothing very edifying in his sleeping conversation, yet the convent were content to overlook and pity his infirmities.

Being carefully observed upon one of these occasions, the fol. lowing circumstances occurred. One evening, having fallen

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