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hibited on the stage. It is indeed equally improbable that a man should become a highwayman from seeing Macheath, as that a woman should become a prostitute from seeing Jenny Diver. · The mischief consisted, he thought, in arraying vice in agreeable colours, and representing the greatest crimes without exciting the proper detestation ; that there is more pains taken to shew that others are greater villains than thieves and highwaymen, than to teach and induce these to refrain from their villanies. Such a comparison might probably appear to the perspicacious understanding and powerful invention of Burke as of obvious recollection if true, or easy conception if feigned. He might perceive that if, according to the hypothesis of the Beggar's Opera, the principles of a robber are similar to those of a çourtier, it required merely common observation to assimilate the character ; but Burke did not admit the fact. The Beggar's Opera, with its sequel, Polly, represents mankind, in civilized society, as universally vicious; and, in a savage state only as
virtuous. The only good men, by Gay's exhibition, are Maroons. Burke had formed a very different opinion of polished society, and uniformly maintained that, as his experience increased, he had learned to think inore favourably of the civilized world. Gibbon has an observation on the Beggar's Opera, which, whether just or not, is new and ingenious: ' It has," he said, " had a beneficial effect in refining highwaymen, and making them less ferocious, more polite; in short, more like gentlemen. Mr. Courtenay, on hearing this, said, with his usual happiness of witty allusion, " then Gay was the Orpheus of highwaymen.'
Full as the mind of Burke was, it was daily and hourly receiving accessions. Untainted by the contagion of fashionable vice and frivolity, he directed to reading and conversation those hours which were not employed in parliamentary duties, in necessary business, and in salubrious exercise. From whatever he read he derived instruction;, every other metal he transmuted into
that malleable, dućtile, and valuable metal of which his own mind consisted. He generally read with a pen in his hand, to make extracts and observations, especially the latter. A most uncommon memory retained whatever he read; and the quick comprehension of his mind immediately saw its class and tendency. Perhaps no man in Britain had such a facility of acquiring knowledge, with so indefatigable application. He had an exquisite taste for the fine arts ; and was deemed by Sir Joshua Reynolds the best judge of pictures he ever knew. Much of his leisure time was spent in Sir Josliua's house. The amusement in which he most delighted was the theatre. He did not, like Johnson, contemn scenical personation ; he had a high admiration of theatrical excellence ; his taste was gratified by the perfect imitation of human characters and passions, which a Garrick and a Siddons exhibited. Mr. Burke had very great pleasure in beholding, as well as in reading, the dramatic performances of his friend and countryman, Mr. Murphy, that distinguished author, whose powers and knowledge have contributed so agreeable and valuable additions to English literature. He thought that both as a comic and serious writer he shewed a profound insight into man in his general nature, as well as peculiar diversities arising from local and temporary circumstances, prejudices, opinions, fashions, and customs. His genius he thought both strong and versatile. He regarded with great admiration the comedy of - All in the Wrong,' which exhibits so just, natural, and striking a picture of self-tormenting jealousy ; * drawing inferences productive of misery to its votaries from occurrences and circumstances in themselves so totally accidental and indifferent. He thought also very highly of · The Way to Keep Him,' both as to plot, character, and moral tendency; that with great variety and force of humour, with agreeable and interesting scenes, all admirably connected, and tending to one end, it taught, and strongly inculcated, on the one hand, the evils of conjugal infidelity; and on the other, the most prudent and effectual means of securing virtue, and promoting happiness in the marriage state,* Nor was he less pleased with the excellent exhibition of unsteadiness of character in Know Your Own Mind; a play,
* The distinguishing critic will observe that Mr. Murphy takes a different ground here from our tragic bard. The characters in ‘All in the Wrong' are uneasy and unhappy from the perversion of objects by themselves; whereas in • Othello,' the misery proceeds from villainy acting upon credulity. In All in the Wrong' it is jealousy under a different aspect, and arising from a different source; but still the aspect and source are natural, and often found in
* A few years after the publication of his " All in the Wrong' Mr. Murphy received a letter from a bookseller in Vienna, informing him that both his admirable comedies had been translated into the German language; and earnestly urging him to favour the world with other dramatic per. formances. Then Germany borrowed taste and genius, . , wit and humour, from Britain, where they actually did exist; now, Britain condescends, able as are her own sons in dramatic literature, to seek for the swelling, ranting, pompous, extravagant compositions of the German dramatist. Then Germany imported from England works favourable to the marriage vow, and to those virtues by which society is upheld; now England imports from Germany works countenancing transgressions of the marriage vow, unrestrained gratifications of passion, and those vices which tend to the subversion of society,