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queen, daughter to Henry the fourth of Bronce, were passionately fond of them.
One Mr. Prynne, a man of most furiously Ecrupulous principles, who would have thought himself damn'd had he wore a cassock instead of a short cloak, and have been glad to see one half of mankind cut the other to pieces for the glory of God, and the propaganda fide; took it into his head to write a most wretched fatire against fome
pretty good comedies, which were exhibited very innocently every night before their Majesties. He quoted the authority of the Rabbies, and some passages from St. Bonaventure, to prove that the (Edipus of Sophocles was the work of the evil spirit; thatTerence was excommunicated ipfo fa&to; and added, that doubtless Brutus, who was a very severe Janfenist, assassinated Julius Cæfar, for no other reason, but be. cause he, who was pontifex maximus, prefumed to write a tragedy, the subject of which was Edipus. Lastly, he declared, that all who frequented the theatre were excommunicated, as they thereby renounced their baptifm. This was casting the highest insult on the King and all the royal family; and, as the English loved their prince at that time, they could not bear to hear a writer talk of excommunicating him, though they themselves afterwards cut his head off. Prynne was
fummoned to appear before the Star-chamber; his wonderful book, from which father Le Brun stole his, was sentenced to be burnt by the common hangman, and himfelf to lose his ears. His trial is now extant.
The Italians are far from attempting to cast a blemish on the opera, or to ex. communicate Signior Senesino or Signora Cuzzoni. With regard to myself, I could presume to wish that the magistrates would fuppress I know not what contemptible pieces, written against the stage. For when the English and Italians hear, that we brand with the greatest mark of infamy an art in which we excel; that we excommunicate persons who receive fallaries from the king ; that we condemn as impious a spectacle exhibited in convents and monasteries; that we dishonour sports in which Lewis the fourteenth, and Lewis the fifteenth performed as actors; that we give the title of the devil's works, to pieces which are received by magistrates of the most severe, character, and represented before a virtuous queen; when, I say, foreigners are told of this infolent conduct, this contempt for the royal authority, and this Gothic rustis city, which fome presume to call Christian feverity, what an idea must they entertain of our nation ? And how will it be possible for 'em to conceive, either that our laws give a fanction to an art which is declared
infamous, or that some persons dare to stamp with infamy an art which receives a fanction from the laws, is rewarded by kings, cultivated and encouraged by the greatest men, and admired by whole nations? And that father Le Brun's impertinent libel against the stage, is teen in a bookseller's shop, standing the very next to the immortal labours of Racine, of Corneille, of Molliere, &c.
HE English had an Academy of Sci
ences many years before us; but then it is not under such prudent regulations as ours : The only reason of which very porsibly is, because it was founded before the Academy of Paris; for had it been founded after, it would very probably have adopted some of the fage laws of the former, and improved upon others.
Two things, and those the most effential to man, are wanting in the Royal Society of London, I mean rewards and laws. A seat in the Academy at Paris is a small but fecure fortune to a Geometrician or a Chemist; but this is so far from being the case at London, that the several members
of the Royal Society are at a continual, tho' indeed small expence. Any man in England who declares himself a lover of the mathematicks and natural philofophy, and expresses an inclination to be a member of the Royal Society, is immediately elected into it*. But in France 'tis not enough that a man who aspires to the honour of being a member of the academy, and of receiving the royal ftipend, has a love for the sciences; he must at the same time be deeply skill'd in them; and is obligd to dispute the seat with competitors who are so much the more formidable as they are fir'd by a principle of glory, by interest, by the difficulty itself, and by that inflexibility of mind, which is generally found in those who devote themselves to that pertinacious study, the mathematicks.
The Academy of Sciences is prudently confin’d to the study of nature, and, indeed, this is a field spacious enough for fifty or threescore persons to range in. That of London mixes indiscriminately literature with physicks: but methinks the founding
The Reader will call to mind that these letters were written about 1728 or 30, since which time the names of the several candidates are, by a law of the Royal Society, posted up in it, in order that a choice may be made of fuch persons only as are qualified to be members. The celebrated Mr. de Fontenelle had the honour to pass thro’ this Ordeal.