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nifts * The human letters are become extremely inhumane. Men of literature injure, cabal, calumniate and lampoon each other. It is surprizing that people will take the liberty to write things they dare not speak. For my part, I have learned from you, reverend father, to avoid such meannefles ; you have taught me how to live, as well as how to write.
The Muses sweet, heavenly train,
* A religious fect in France, which, like all other new fects that are perfecuted, is remarkably. rigid, zealous, and passionate.
+ The translator, who has no fort of pretence to poetry, has attempted the above lines, merely to skew that the original is in verse.' The number of verses, length of lines, and return of rhyme, are the same as in the French.
Adieu, my dear reverend father; I shall be ever devoted to you and yours with that tender acknowledgment which is due to you, and which your pupils do not, always preserve.
PREFACE to OEDIPUS.
EDIPUS, of which a new edition is
now published, was represented, for the first time, in the beginning of the year 1718. The public received it with great indulgence, and has often seen it fince, with pleasure: which I attribute, partly, to the advantage this tragedy has always met with of being extremely well acted, and partly, to the folemnity and pathos of the subject. Father Folard a jesuit,. and Mr. de la Motte of the French aca.. demy, have since handled the same sub.. ject, and both have avoided the faults which I have been guilty of. It would not become me to give an account of their performances. My criticisms, and, even my praises, would appear equally fuspicious *
I am still less inclined to attempt, upon, this occasion, laying down rules for the conduct of a dramatic poem. I am per
* Mr. de la Motte published 'two @dipuses in : 1726, one in rhyme, the other in profe. The (Edipus in rhyme appeared on the stage four nights ; the other was never acted. Voltaire.
fuaded that all the subtle reasoning on this subject, which has been so much repeated for fome years past, is not worth one masterly scene, and that there is more to be learned in Polyeuctes * and Cinnat, than in all the precepts of the abbé d'Aubignac I. Severus || and Paulina || are the true masters of the art. So, many wrote on painting by men of taste, do not instruct a disciple fo much as seeing a fingle head by Raphael.
The principles of the arts, which depend on the imagination, are all easy and fimple, all drawn from nature and from reason. Pradon I and Boyer + knew them as perfectly as Corneille or Racine. The
So, many books
* + Two admired tragedies wrote by the elder Corneille.
I A great theatrical critic, but much in the fame situation with our Rymer, who, notwithstanding all his rules, was unable to write a tolerable, play himself.
Il Characters in Corneille's Polieuctes. If Two French dramatic authors of the last age; Pradon was a very correct, but very weak, writer ; he was particularly the rival of Mr. Racine, and not without fome Thew of success; but Racine has
difference always has, and will ever, lie; in the application of them. The authors of Armida * and Illé t, and the very worst composers followed the fame rules of music. Le Poussin worked from the same principles with Vignon. It seems there? fore to as little purpose to talk about rules at the head of a play, as it would be, for a painter to begin by, a dissertation on his food the teft, while Pradon is entirely forgot. Boyer's plays are still less known than those of Pradon.
* Signior Baptifta Lulli, of whom the Spectator thus speaks : “ He found the French mufick extremely defective, and very often barbarous: However, knowing the genius of the people, the Humour of their language, and the prejudicedí ears he had to deal with, he did not pretend to extirpate the French musick, and plant the Italian in its stead; but only to cultivate and civilize it with innumerable graces and modulations, which he borrowed from the Italian. By this means the French musick is now perfect in its kind; and when you say it is not so good as the Italian, you only mean that it does not please you so well; for there is fcarce a Frenchman who would not wonder to hear you give the Italian such a preference."
+ Monsieur Rameau, the present Handel of the French, who now no longer relish the musick of Baptista Lulli: