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imitate the wit and conversation of the present age, than of the past.

Let us, therefore, admire the beauties and the heights of Shakspeare, without falling after him into a carelessness, and (as I may call it) a lethargy of thought, for whole scenes together. Let us imitate, as we are able, the quickness and easiness of Fletcher, without proposing him as a pattern to us, either in the redundancy of his matter, or the incorrectness of his language. Let us admire his wit and sharpness of conceit; but let us at the same time acknowledge that it was seldom so fixed, and made proper to his character, as that the same things might not be spoken by any person in the play. Let us applaud his scenes of love ; but let us confess, that he understood not either greatness or perfect honour in the parts of any of his women. In fine, let us allow, that he had so much fancy, as when he pleased he could write wit : but that he wanted so much judgment, as seldom to have written humour, or described a pleasant folly. Let us ascribe to Jonson the height and accuracy of judgment, in the ordering of his plots, his choice of characters, and maintaining what he had chosen, to the end. But let us not think him a perfect pattern of imitation, except it be in humour ; for love, which is the foundation of all comedies in other languages, is scarcely mentioned in any of his plays: and for humour itself, the poets of this age will be more wary than to imitate the mean

ness of his persons. Gentlemen will now be entertained with the follies of each other; and though they allow Cob and Tib to speak properly, yet they are not much pleased with their tankard, or with their rags : and, surely their conversation can be no jest to them on the theatre, when they would avoid it in the street.

To conclude all ; let us render to our predecessors what is their due, without confining ourselves to a servile imitation of all they writ ; and, without assuming to ourselves the title of better poets, let us ascribe to the gallantry and civility of our age the advantage which we have above them; and to our knowledge of the customs and manners of it, the happiness we have to please beyond them.






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