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allowed his talent for delicate humour, and pointed fatire t. We observed, nevertheless, that we thought, in some instances he kept the manner of Sterne, the English Rabelais, in view ; and we ftill consider him as in some measure a disciple of that eminent master : yet he follows no leader with so much fervility as to incur the reproach of being an imitator.
It keems to be the peculiar fancy of this Writer, to spirit his readers back into the remote ages of ancient Greece, when Greece was in the zenith of her glory; when Plato, Socrates, Xenophon, and other venerable fages Aourished : to walk with them in the academic grove, to converse with them in the scientific portico, to tread over again the steps of Time, and to join the wisdom and the manners of antiquity with the knowledge and the improvements of later ages. Nor is the assemblage at all unnatural. The art of the Writer, in a great measure, prevents us from seeing where the mixture takes place; so that it is not every ordinary reader who can mark the point where Attic science unites with German wit; and where the Grecian moralift deviates into the hero of a feigned history.
Nor is it only the wisdom and the virtue of ancient Greece that are here revived and produced as objects of our contemplation and esteem. This various Writer introduces us, likewilea to the luxurious scenes, the convivial banquets, of the polite and elegant, as well as the sage and philosophic, Athenians; who were equally disposed to the enjoyment of mental and corporeal pleafures. We are with them the gratifications of the table, the raptures of music, and all the delights of the most refined and voluptuous love.
But here the graver part of Mr. Wi's readers may be apt to raise some objections to the morality of his present performance.
+ • The learned and ingenious Author of Agathon has been well known, for some time paft, in the literary world, as a man of genius and erudition. He has distinguished bimself as a poet, a saty. mift, a moral, and a dramatic writer. Though the fingularity of fome of his productions has exposed him to the severe cenfure of the German critics, yet his writings, in general, have been well received by most of his countrymen.' TRANSLATOR'S Pref. p. x.
| The notion of German wit may extort a smile from those EngJith readers who are unacquainted with the change of complexion which the muses of that empire have undergone, within the present century. The lighter French have been used to sneer at the Germans for their supposed want of that play of imagination for which they think themselves fo eminently diftinguished above other mortals; but the judicious Translator of this work has, in his Preface, very properly exposed the futility of this notion, and done justice to the inerit of the most diftinguished German writers; whose names it is here tunnecessary to repeat. Rey, Mar. 1774.
They may enquire whether he has not painted sensual enjoy. ments in colours that are too feductive to young minds, and perfons of warm feelings; and whether his work will not, therefore, prove dangerous to those readers who do not always sufficiently discriminate the luxurious description and the moral inference.
Our Author is, indeed, aware of this objection; to which, however, he does not admit that his work is juftly amenable. He seems to think that if we would give virtue a real advantage over vice, the encounter should be strictly conformable to the laws of honour; that each side should have fair play; that both parties should be allowed room to exert their full strength, in order to render the superiority of the conqueror the more conspicuous, and the victory more complete and decisive. And here let the Author defend his own cause.
: In several places of this work, says he, we have given our reafons why we have not made Agathon the model of a perfectly virtuous character. The world is already suficiently ftocked with copious treatises of morality, and every one may freely indulge his fancy (for nothing is easier) in forming a hero, who shall from his cradle to his grave, in every circumstance and relation of life, always perceive, think, and act as a perfect moralist. But as Agathon was intended to represent a real character, in which others might disco. ver their own likeness, we maintain that the author could not, conGiftently with this design, make him more virtuous than he is; buc if others are of a contrary opinion (for it is certain that the best character is that which has the greatest qualities with the fewest faults) we only desire that they would, among all mankind, fix upon any one, who, in a similar fituation, would have been more virtuous than Agathon.
A young libertine, possibly upon finding that an Agathon was overcome by the insinuating allurements of love and of a Danae, may be ready to draw the same conclufion that Chærea does in Terence, upon viewing a picture which represented an amorous intrigue of Jupiter. After having read with secret joy that such a man had fallen, he might exclaim in the words of Chærea in the poet ; Ego homuncio hoc non facerem? Ego vero illud faciam, ac lubens. A man too of a vicious turn of mind, or of a profligate character, may, perhaps, upon reading the argument of the sophist Hippias, imagine that they will plead an excuse for his vices, and justify his infidelity; but every honelt man must be convinced, that the immorality of the one, and the licentious freedom of the other, would have been just the same, had the history of Agathon never appeared.
• This last infance naturally leads us to an explanation, which we think ourselves obliged to make, to obviate the scruples of certain ignorant though well meaning persons, and to prevent them from taking offence hastily, or forming any rath judgment.
· This relates to the introduction of the fophif Hippias in this hilory, and to that particular discourse, in which he flatters himself he fall get the better cf Agathon's virtuous and amiable enthuhasm, and inspire him with such a turn of thought, as the fophift with good reason believed to be more fit for his advancement in the world. People who see things in a proper light, will readily perceive, both from the whole plan of this work, and from the manner in which we speak of this sophift and his principles, how little we approve either the man or his fyftem. But though it is neither agreeable to our manner of thinking, or consistent with the cast and design of our work, to inveigh against him with the furious zeal which transports a young divine, when he enters the field of polemical controversy against
a Tindal or a Bolingbroke, in order the better to recommend himself to the favour of his patron, for a good living : yet we hope we have left the sensible and well-disposed reader no room to doubt, that we look upon Hippias as a bad and dangerous man, and consider his fyftem (as far as it opposes the essential prin ciples of religion and justice) as a piece of fophiftry, which would destroy human society, if it were morally probable that the greater part of mankind should be influenced by it. We flatter ourselves, that we are entirely free from fufpicion upon this head ; but among our readers some good people may be found, who may at least tax us with imprudence, and think that we either ought not to have introduced such a man as Hippias, or, if the plan of our work required it, that we should have fully refuted his principles; we think it but reasonable to lay before them the motives which induced us to do the ore and not the other.
• Our plan required that our hero hould be represented under a variety of trials, which might make his turn of thought and his vir. tues conspicuous, and gradually separate every thing false or extravagant from his mind. It was therefore necessary to make him undergo these trials, as Hippias is a well-known historical character, who with the ocher fophifts of his time, had greatly contributed to corrupt the manners of the Greeks: the contrast also between there two characters is extremely proper to fet that of Agathon with his principles in the most advantageous, ligbt. Besides, as it is but too evident that the greater part of those, who form what is called the polite world, have the same sentiments as Hippias, or act agreeably to his principles, fo it was a part of the moral plan of this work, to thew the effect of these principles, when reduced to a proper system. These are the chief reasons which occafioned the introduction of this fophift in our history, though we have not represented him worse than he really was, or than his followers are at present.
• A full refutation of what was either false or dangerous in his opi. nious (for he is not always in the wrong) would have been, according to our defign, entirely misplaced, and we cannot but think it would have been also superfluous to our readers.. Agathon's answer to him is the best that can be given, but the whole work, to any one who considers it altogether, will appear to be a complete refutation of it. Agathon bafies Hippias nearly in the same manner as Diogenes did the fophiit, who denied that there was any such thing as motion : Diogenes permitted him to talk on as long as he would, and when he had done, he contented himself only with walking carelessly about before him. This, undoubtedly, was the only answer the fophift deserved.
It would be difficult to enlarge farther on the plan and chas racter of this pleasing performance, without seening to have borrowed from the sketch of the work given in the Tran. flator's preface ; we shall therefore content ourselves with an abstract of what is there laid on the merit of this very singular romance; viz.
• The History of Agathon is considered as the Author's masterpiece; and indeed he discovers throughout the whole of this work much original genius, and very extensive reading of modern as well as ancient writers. In the first volume we find a learned and curious account of the sophists of Greece, which seems conformable to what we read of them in the dialogues of Plato and Lucian. There is much good metaphysical reasoning in the conferences between Hippias and Agathon; and though it has been juftly imputed to the writers of controversial dialogues, that they are cautious of representing in their full force the arguments they mean to refute, yet Mr. WIELAND has been particularly attentive not to incur this censure. The arguments the fophift Hippias uses in support of his fyftem, appear to be set in their strongest light, so that it may sometimes be a matter of doubt, whether the reply is sufficiently convincing. In general, however, Agathon has the best of the dispute; and if even there should be room to doubt, it may be owing to the Author's accuracy in endeavouring to make the answers consistent with his hero's character, which in his younger days was that of an enthufiaft.
• The behaviour of Agathon at Athens in the second volume is remarkably striking; and the description of the manners and dispofition of that republic very just and entertaining. The account of the court of Dionyfius is extremely pleasing; and the court-intrigues are displayed with a degree of penetration and fagacity, which indicate a thorough knowledge of the human heart. The extracts from Agathon's speech in favour of a monarchical government, are masterpieces of elegance as well as of sound reasoning. These parts of the work are so excellent that they may be read with pleasure, perhaps with advantage ; by statesmen and politicians.
• The character of Archytas in the last volume is highly finished; and may be looked upon as one of the most amiable and confiftent characters ever drawn.
But it would be endless to particularize all the beauties of this work. Let it fuffice to say, that Mr. WIELAND's ftile is nervous and Atrong, his descriptions poetical and pi&turesque, though on some oc. casions they may be too wild. His reafoning, upon the whole, is just, and in many parts we meet with that noble simplicity, which is the characteristic mark of the ancient manner of writing, and the test of true genius.
• Among such a variety of excellencies, we could wish there were blemishes of confequence to be found, especially as those which do occur might have been so easily avoided. We must do the Author the justice to declare, that these faults seem chiefly to have arisen from hurry and want of attention, evident marks of which manifeft themselves in this otherwise superior and capital performance. 2
"A vein of pointed fatire runs through the whole work; and thaugh it is often judiciously applied, and with much wit, particularly against modern writers of novels and romances, yet it seems tọ be so much the Author's favourite turn, that three or four different Irokes of it are frequently complicated and thrown together in the same sentence. This unavoidably creates confufion, and periods of an immoderate length, a defect, which we have taken the liberty to correct as much as possible in the translation.
• Although the story is profesedly borrowed from a Greek manu. script, yet there are many allusions in it to modern cuftoms, manners, and writings, which take off in a great measure from the antique cast that ought to have been uniformly preserved through the whole. The Author indeed apologizes for these in the preface ; but the necellity of such an apology had better been avoided; for we appre. hend that he either wished to save himself the trouble of correcting those passages, or that his turn for fatire induced him rather to lesen the dignity of his subject, than to omit any opportunity of indulging this propensity. ; As the Translator's impartiality has led him to take notice of the flight imperfection pointed out in the last paragraph of the foregoing extract, he very honestly proceeds to centure his Author for certain careless expresions, and an indelicacy in some of his allusions, which, as he observes, we should not have exo pected in so elegant a Writer ; but we think there is, in this work, a defeet of more importance than any of those which he has noticed. A romance, or a novel, like other fables, usually ends with a moral dedu&tion, and it is proper ihat this should always be the case, not only because the moral is the main objeet and end of the piece, but because the farewell impression left on the Reader's mind when he closes the book, is generally that which strikes the deepest, and lasts the longest. Now, although the balance obviously inclines in favour of morality, throughout the whole of Agathon's history, there is no exemplary inference of this kind at the conclufion of the work; for, there, the hero of the tale relapses (after his return to virtue, in the third 'volume) into his misplaced love for a beautiful and highly accomplished courtezan, who had deluded and fascia nated him in the early part of his youth, and of his adventures, This, in the Author, is criminal ; but he has also grossly violated the laws of female delicacy and decorum, by introducing this courtezan to the acquaintance and friendship of an amiable and virtuous lady, who certainly could not, confiftently, at leaft, with our modern notions of honour, attach herself to such a person, without relinquishing all pretensions to reputation.
In justice to Mr. W. we must not, however, omit to acquaint our Readers, that he does not, in fact, appear to have intended the close of the fourth volume for the final completion of his design. On the contrary, he there talks of certain fupplements and additions to the History; which may not be un