Monthly Archives: November 2007

Item of the Day: Johnson’s Lives: Swift (1781)

Full Title:

The Lives of the English Poets; and a Criticism of their Works. By Samuel Johnson. Vol. II. Dublin: Printed for Messrs. Whitestone, Williams, Colles, Wilson, Lynch, Jenkin, Walker, Burnet, Hallhead, Flin, Exshaw, Beatty, and White. M,DCC,LXXXI.

SWIFT.

[…] In his academical studies [Jonathan Swift] was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader’s expectation, that, when at the usual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special favour; a term used in that University [Dublin] to denote want of merit.

Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to many men, whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair.

In the course of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the observation and memory of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the first sketch of his Tale of a Tub.

When he was about one and twenty (1688), being by the death of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had supported him, left without subsitence, he went to consult his mother, who then lived in Leicester, about the future course of his life, and by her direction solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift’s relations, and whose father Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had been at that time maintained.

Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his father’s friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together, so much pleased, that he detained him two years in his house. Here he became known to King William, who sometimes visited Temple when he was disabled by the gout, and, being attended by Swift in the garden, shewed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way.

King William’s notions were all military; and he expressed his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse.

When Temple removed to Moor-park, he took Swift with him; and when he was consulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending for making Parliaments triennial, against which King William was strongly prejudiced, after having in vain tried to shew the Earl that the proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal power, he sent Swift for the same purpose to the King. Swift, who probably was proud of his employment, and went with all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments, and his art of displying them, made totally ineffectual by the predetermination of the King; and used to mention this disappointment as his first antidote against vanity.

Before he left Ireland he contracted a disorder, as he thought, by eating too much fruit. The original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can get, without any great inconvenience. The disease of Swift was giddiness with deafness, which attacked him from time to time, began very early, pursued him through life, and at last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason.

Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this grievous malady, he was advised to try his native air, and went to Ireland; but finding no benefit, returned to Sir William, at whose house he continued his studies, and is known to have read, among other books, Cyprian and Irenaeus. He thought exercise of great necessity, and used to run half a mile up and down a hill every two hours.

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Filed under 1780's, Biography, Criticism, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Hogarth Moralized (1768)

Full Title:

Hogarth Moralized. Being a Complete Edition of Hogarth’s Works. Containing near fourscore copper-plates, most elegantly engraved : with an explanation, pointing out the many beauties that may have hitherto escaped notice, and a comment on their moral tendency. Calculated to improve the minds of youth, and, convey instruction, under the mask of entertainment. Now first published, with approbation of Jane Hogarth, widow of the late Mr. Hogarth. London: Sold by S. Hooper, the East Corner of the New Church in the Strandl and, Mrs. Hogarth, at her House in Leicester-Fields. Price One Pound Sixteen Shillings, bound. Where may be also had, the originals complete. Price thirteen guineas bound. MDCCLXVII

The Rake’s Progress.

Of all the follies in human life, there is none greater, than that of extravagance, or, profuseness; it being constant labour, without the least ease, or, relaxation. It bears, indeed, the colour of that, which is commendable, and, would fain be thought to take its rise from laudable motives, searching, indefatigably, after true felicity : now, as there can be no true felicity without content, it is this, which every man is in constant hunt after; the learned, for instance, in his industrious quest after knowledge; the merchant, in his dangerous voyages; the ambitious, in his passionate pursuit of honour; the conqueror, in his earnest desires of victory; the politician, in his deep-laid designs; the wanton, in his pleasing charms of beauty; the covetous, in his unwearied heaping up of treasure; and the prodigal, in his general and extravagant indulgence.–Thus far it may be well;–but, so mistaken are we in our road, as, to run on in the, very opposite, tract, which leads, directly, to our ruin. Whatever else we indulge ourselves in, is attended with some small degree of relish, and, has some trifling satisfaction in the enjoyment; but, in this, the farther we go, the more we are lost; and, when arrived at the mark proposed, we are as far from the object we hunt, as when we first set out. Here, then, we are inexcusable, in not attending to the secret dictates of reason, and, in stopping our ears at the timely admonitions of friendship. Headstrong and ungovernable, we pursue our course withot intermission; thoughtless and unwary, we see not the dangers that lie, immediately, before us; but, hurry on, even, without sight of our object, till we bury ourselves in that gulph of woe, where perishes, at once, health, wealth, and, virtue; and, whose dreadful labyrinths admit of no return.

Struck with the foresight of that misery, attendant on a life of debauchery, which is, in fact, the off-spring of prodigality; our author has, in the scenes before us, attempted the reformation of the worldling, by stopping him, as it were, in his career, and, opening to his view, the many doleful calamities awaiting the prosecution of his proposed scheme of life : he has, I say, in hopes of reforming the prodigal, and, at the same time, deterring the rising generation, whom Providence may have blessed with earthly wealth, from entering, at all, into so iniquitous a course, traced out the life of a young man, hurried on, through a various succession of different pursuits, for the few years nature was able to support itself; and, this from the instant, he might be said to enter into the worl, till the time of his leaving it. But, as the vice of avarice is equal to that of prodigality, and, the ruin of children is, often, owing to the indiscretion of their parents, he has opened the piece with a scene, which at the same time, that it exposes the folly of the youth, shews us the imprudence of the father, who is supposed to have hurt the principles of his son, in depriving him of the necessary use of some of that gold, he had, with the greatest covetousness, been hoarding, to no kind of purpose, in his coffers.

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Filed under 1760's, Art, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

Item of the Day: Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful (1798)

Full Title: A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. With an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste; And Several Other Additions. By Edmund Burke, Esq. A New Edition. London: Printed for Vernor and Hood, F. and C. Rivington, T. N. Longman, Cadell and Davies, J. Cuthell, J. Walker, Lackington, Allen, and Co. Ogilvy and Son, and J. Nunn. MDCCXCVIII. [Originally 1757.]

Sect. XXVII.

THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL COMPARED.

On closing this general view of beauty it naturally occurs, that we should compare it with the sublime; and in this comparison there appears a remarkable contrast. For sublime objects are vast in their dimensions, beautiful ones comparatively small: beauty should be smooth and polished; the great, rugged and negligent: beauty should shun the right line, yet deviate from it insensibly; the great in many cases loves the right line; and when it deviates, it often makes a strong deviation; beauty should not be obscure; the great ought to be dark and gloomy: beauty should be light and delicate; the great ought to be solid, and even massive. They are indeed ideas of a very different nature, one being founded on pain, the other on pleasure; and however they may vary afterwards from the direct nature of their causes, yet these causes keep up an eternal distinction between then, a distinction never to be forgotten by anyone whose business it is to affect the passions. In the infinite variety of natural combinations, we must expect to find the qualities of things the most remote imaginable from each other united in the same object. We must expect also to find combinations of the same kind in works of art. But when we consider the power of an object upon our passions, we must know that when anything is intended to affect the mind by the force of some predominant property, the affection produced is like to be more uniform and perfect, if all the other properties and qualities of the object be of the same nature, and tending to the same design as the principal;

If black and white blend, soften and unite
A thousand ways, are there no black and white?

If the qualities of the sublime and beautiful are sometimes found united, does this prove that they are the same; does it prove that they are any way allied; does it prove that they are not opposite and contradictory? Black and white may soften, may blend; but they are not therefore the same. Nor, when they are so softened and blended with each other, or with different colours, is the power of black as black, or of white as white, so strong as when each stands uniform and distinguished.  

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Filed under 1750's, 1790's, Art, Criticism, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Secret Journals of the Congress of the Confederation (1821)

Full Title: Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress, from the First Meeting thereof to the Dissoluiton of the Confederation, by the Adoption of the Constitution of the United States. . . . Vol. I. Boston: Printed and Published by Thomas B. Wait, 1821.

ADVERTISEMENT.

The Secret Journals of the Congress of the Confederation, directed by the foregoing resolutions to be published, are at the Department of State in five manuscript volumes. The Journals of Proceedings relating to Domestick Affairs, are in one separate volume, and the History of the Confederation in another. Of the latter, the projected articles presented by Dr. Franklin, on the 21st of July, 1775; those reported int he hand-writing of J. Dickinson, on the 12th of July, 1776, and those reported in a new draft on the 20th of August, 1776, by the committee of the whole, were kept secret, and have never before been published. The proceedings subsequent to the 8th of April, 1777, when this report of the committee of the whole was taken up and debated in Congress, were published from time to time in the publick journals; but never having been collected in one compilation, and being scattered through seveal of the volumes of the publick journals, which are now quite out of print, it has been thought most consistent with the intention of the resolutions to publish the whole of this manuscript. The Journal of Foreign Affairs is at the Department in three volumes; the last of which is not entirely filled, the journal closing on the 16th of September, 1788. On the 13th of the same month the resolution had passed for the organization of the new government, and for the meeting of the Congress under the constitution of the United States on the first Wednesday of the ensuing March. The tenth of October, 1788, was the last day upon which the Congress of the confederation met in numbers sufficient to form a quorum.

Department of State, August, 1820.

 

NOVEMBER 9, 1775.

Resolved, That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honour, and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in Congress, before the same shall have been determined, without leave of the Congress; nor any matter or thing determined in Congress, which a majority of the Congress shall order to be kept secret. And that if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled this Congress, and deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such; and that every member signify his consent to this agreement by signing the same.

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Government, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Proceedings on the Trial against John Stockdale (1790)

Full Title: The Whole Proceedings on the Trial of an Information Exhibited Ex Officio, by the King’s Attorney General, against John Stockdale; for a Libel on the House of Commons, Tried in the Court of King’s-Bench Westminster, on Wednesday, the Ninth of December, 1789, before the Right Hon. Lloyed Lord Kenyon, Chief Justice of England. Tanken in Short Hand by Joseph Gurney. To which is subjoined, An Argument in Support of the Rights of Juries. London: Printed for John Stockdale, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M,DCC,XC.

 

PREFACE.

The Pamphlet which gave rise to the following Trial, was written by the Reverend Mr. Logan, some time one of the ministers of Leith, near Edinburgh; — “A gentleman formed to be the ornament and instructor of the age in which he lived: All his writings are distinguished by the segacity of their reasonings, the brilliancy of their imaginations, and the depth of their philosophical principles. Though cut off in the flower of his age, while the prosecution against his publisher was depending, he left behind himseveral respectable productions, and particularly Elements of Lectures upon the Philosophy of Ancient History; which, though imperfect, and unfinished, will afford to the discerning, sufficient reason to regret that his talents did not remain to be matured by age, and expanded by the fostering breath of public applause.”

Such is the character, given of Mr. Logan in the last New Annual Register; but as his Review of the Charges against Mr. Hastings has made so much noise in the world, it may not be uninteresting to state by what means, he became so intimately acquainted, with the politics of India.

For some time previous to his decease, Mr. Logan was the principal author of that part of the English Review, which gives the general state of foreign and domestic politics. The enquiries in the House of Commons, which led to the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, formed very naturally the most material part of that Review for a considerable time; and his Strictures upon the arguments, and the decision on the Benares and the Begum charges, are written with great force and elegance; and contain reflections infinitely more pointed, than any of those which Mr. Fox objected to in his pamphlet.

Having qualified himself by the information that he had acquired, from intense application, to give the world what he conceived to be a fair and impartial account of the administration of Mr. Hastings, he sat down voluntarily, without a wish or prospect of personal advantage, to examine those articles which had been presented to the House of Commons by the Managers, then a Committee of Secresy, and which now form the articles before the Lords. When he had compleated his pamphlet, he submitted it in manuscript to the perusal of a gentleman, who is intimately connected with Mr. Hastings. That gentleman was certainly very ill qualified to advise him, as a lawyer; it never having entered into his imagination, that after the torrent of abuse that had been poured out upon Mr. Hastings, for years, any thing said in reply could be deemed libellous, and therefore he merely examined whether Mr. Logan was correct in his statement of facts, and communicated to him every particular relative to the last thirteen articles. Not satisfied with this communication, Mr. Logan examined the votes and the speeches, as printed and circulated throughout Great Britain. After an accurate investigation, he thought himself justified in inserting in his pamphlet, what a member had said in the House, that the Commons had voted thirteen out of twenty articles, without reading them.

The booksellar to whom Mr. Logan originally presented him pahmphet, offered a sum for it, which he conceived so inadequate to its importance, that he carried it to Mr. Stockdale, to whom he gave it; taking for himself a few copies only, which were sent in his name to men of the first eminence in letters, both in London and Edinburgh.

After it had been some time in circulation, and read with great avidity, it was publicly complained of by Mr. Fox. That gentleman quoted what he conceived to be the libellous passages. The following day he moved an address to his Majesty, to direct his Attorney General to prosecute the authors and publishers, and the motion was carried nemine contradicente; but owing to the sickness of the principal witness, the trial was deferred for nearly two years. This prosecution which has been attended with a very heavy expence to Mr. Stockdale, and has been nearly two years depending, hath excited universal attention.

The acknowledged accuraacy of Mr. Gurney, is too well known to require any particular praise on this occasion; but it never was more remarkable than in the present instance; yet the eloquent and excellent speech of Mr. Erskine, will appear to great disadvantage to those who had the good fortune to hear it, so much, even the best speeches depend upon the power of delivery. It was spoke in as croweded a Court, as ever appeared in the King’s-Bench. The exertions of that gentleman in support of his clients are too well known, to acquire new force from any thing that can be said of him here; but on no occasion, and at no period, did he display those wonderful abilities that he possesses in a higher degree, and Mr. Erskine will be quoted as the steady friend, and supporter of the Constitutional Rights of the people of Great-Britain, as long as the sacred flame of Liberty shall animate the breast of an Englishman.

The result of this Trial proves how dangerous to public liberty it would be, were any body of men, parties and judges in their own cause. No good subject will call into question unnecessarily, any of the privileges claimed by the House of Commons; but if in the instance before us, the House, consulting former prededents, had taken upon itself to state the crime, and to pronounce judgment, a British subject might have been seized and imprisoned some months, probably to the ruin of himself and his family, without the possibility of reparation. It may therefore with the greatest truth be observed, that the exertions of Mr. Erskine, and by the decision of this prosecution, the Freedom of the Press, and the Liberty of the Subject, are fully secured.

January 13th, 1790.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, England, Legal, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Press, Printing, Trials

Item of the Day: Wollstonecraft on the French Revolution (1795)

Full Title: An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution; and the Effect it Has Produced in Europe. By Mary Wollstonecraft. Volume the First. The Second Edition. London: Printed from J. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard. 1795.

PREFACE.

The revolution in France exhibits a scene in the political world, not less novel and interesting than the contrast is striking between the narrow opinions of superstition, and the enlightened sentiments of masculine and improved philosophy.

To mark the prominent features of this revolution, requires a mind, not only unsophisticated by old prejudices, and the inveterate habits of degeneracy; but an amelioration of temper, produced by the exercise of the most enlarged principles of humanity.

The rapid changes, the violent, the base, and nefarious assassinations, which have clouded the vivid prospect that began to spread a ray of joy and gladness over the gloomy horizon of oppression, cannot fail to chill the sympathizing bosom, and palsy intellectual viogour. To sketch these vicissitudes is a talk so arduous and melancholy, that, with a heart trembling to the touches of nature, it becomes necessary to guard against the erroneous inferences of sensibility; and reason beaming on the grand theatre of political changes, can prove the only sure guide to direct us to a favourable or just conclusion.

This important conclusion, involving the happiness and exaltation of the human character, demands serious and mature consideration; as it must ultimately sink the dignity of society into contempt, and its members into greater wretchedness; or elevate it to a degree of grandeur not hitherto anticipated, but by the most enlightened statesmen and philosophers.

Contemplating then these stupendous events with the cool eye of observation, the judgement, difficult to be preserved unwarped under the pressure of the calamitous horrours produced by the desparate and engaged factions, will continually perceive that it is the uncontaminated mass of the french nation, whose minds begin to grasp the sentiments of freedom, that has secured the equilibrium of the state; often tottering on the brink of annihiliation; in spite of the folly, selfishness, madness, treachery, and more fatal mock patriotism, the common result of depraved manners, the concomitant of that servility and voluptuousness which ofr so long a space of time has imbruted the higher orders of this celebrated nation.

By thus attending to circumstances, we shall be able to discern clearly that the revolution was neither produced by the abilities or intrigues of a few individuals; nor was the effect of sudden and short-lived enthusiasm; but the natural consequence of intellectual improvement, gradually proceeding to perfection in the advancement of communities, from a state of barbarism to that of polished society, till not arrived at the point when sincerity of principles seems to be hastening the overthrow of the tremendous empire of superstition and hypocrisy, erected upon the ruins of gothic brutality and ignorance.

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Filed under 1790's, French Revolution, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Congreve’s Way of the World (1761)

Full Title: The Works of Mr. William Congreve. Volume the Second. Containing Love for Love, a Comedy. The Way of the World, a Comedy. Birmingham, Printed by John Baskerville; for J. and R. Tonson, in the Strand, London. MDCCLXI. [First performed in 1700 Lincoln’s-Inns-Fields, London.]

The Way of the World. Act I. Scene I.

A Chocolate-House. Mirabell and Fainall, rising from Cards. Betty waiting.

MIRABELL. You are a fortunate Man, Mr. Fainall.

FAINALL. Have we done?

MIRABELL. What you please. I’ll play on to entertain you.

FAINALL. No, I’ll give you your Revenge another Time, when you are not so indifferent; you are thinking of Something else now, and play too negligently; the Coldness of a losing Gamester lessens the Pleasure of a Winner. I’d no play with a Man that slighted his ill Fortune, than I’d make Love to a Woman who undervalued the Loss of her Reputation.

MIRABELL. You have a Taste extremely delicate, and are for refining your Pleasures.

FAINALL. Prithee, why so reserv’d? Something has put you out of Humor.

MIRABELL. Not at all: I happen to be grave to Day; and you are gay; that’s all.

FAINALL. Confess, Millamant and you quarrell’d last Night, after I left you; my fair Cousin has some Humors that wou’d tempt the Patience of a Stoic. What, some Coxcomb came in, and was well receiv’d by her, while you were by?

MIRABELL. Witwoud and Petulant; and, what was worse, her Aunt, your Wife’s Mother, my evil Genius; or to sum up all in her own Name, my old Lady Wishfort came in.– 

FAINALL. O there it is then–She has a lasting Passion for you, and with Reason.–What, then my Wife was there?

MIRABELL. Yes, and Mrs. Marwood, and there or four more, whom I never saw before; seeing me, they all put on their grave Faces, whisper’d one another; then complain’d aloud of the Vapors, and after fell into a profound Silence.

FAINALL. They had a mind to be rid of you.

MIRABELL. For which Reason I resolv’d not to stir. At last the good old Lady broke thro’ her painful Taciturnity, with an Invective against long Visits. I would not have understood her, but Milamant joining in the Argument, I rose, and with a constrain’d Smile told her, I thought Nothing was so easy as to know when a Visit began to be troublesome; she redden’d, and I withdrew, without expecting her reply.

FAINALL. You were to blame to resent what she spoke only in Compliance with her Aunt.

MIRABELL. She is more Mistress of herself, than to be under the Necessity of such a Resignation.

FAINALL. What, tho’ half her Fortune depends upon her marrying with my Lady’s Approbation?

MIRABELL. I was then in such a Humor, that I shou’d have been better pleas’f if she had been less discreet.

FAINALL. Now I remember, I wonder not they were weary of you; last Night was one of their Cabal-Nights; they have ’em three Times a Week, and meet by Turns, at one another’s Apartments, where they come together like the Coroner’s Inquest, to sit upon the murder’d Reputations of the Week. You and I are excluded; and it was propos’d that all the Male Sex should be excepted; but some Body mov’d, that to avoid Scandal there might be one Man of the Community; upon which Motion Witwoud and Petulant were enroll’d Members.

MIRABELL. And who may have been the Foundress of this Sect? My Lady Wishfort, I warrant, who publishes her Detestation of Mankind; and full of the Vigor of Fifty five, declares for a Friend and Ratafia; and let Posterity shift for itself, she’ll breed no more.

FAINALL. The Discovery of your sham Addresses to her, to conceal your Love to her Niece, has provok’d this Separation: Had you dissembled better, Things might have continu’d in the State of Nature.

MIRABELL. I did as much as Man cou’d with any reasonable Conscience; I proceeded to the very last Act of Flattery with her, and was guilty of a Song in her Commendation. Nay, I got a Friend to put her in to a Lampoon, and compliment her with the Imputation of an Affair with a young Fellow, which I carry’d so far, that I told her the malicious Town took Notice that she was grown fat of a sudden; and when she lay in of a Dropsy, persuaded her she was reported to be in Labor. The Devil’s in’t, if an old Woman is to be flatter’d further, unless a Man shou’d endeavour downright personally to Debauch her; and that my Virtue forbad me. But for the Discovery of this Armour, I am indebted to your Friend, or your Wife’s Friend, Mrs. Marwood.

FAINALL.  What shou’d provoke her to be your Enemy, unless she has made you Advances, which you have slighted? Women do not easily forgive Omissions of that Nature.

MIRABELL. She was always civil to me, ’till of late: I confess I am not one of those Coxcombs who are apt to interpret a Woman’s good Manners to her Prejudice; and think that she who does not refuse ’em every Thing, can refuse ’em Nothing.

FAINALL. You are a gallant Man, Mirabell; and tho’ you may have Cruelty enough, not to satisfy a Lady’s Longing; you have too much Generosity, not to be tender of her Honor. Yet you speak with an Indifference which seems to be affected; and confesses you are conscious of a Negligence.

MIRABELL. You pursue the argument with a Distrust that seems to be unaffected, and confesses that you are conscious of a Concern, for which the Lady is more indebted to you, than is your Wife. 

FAINALL. Fy, fy, Friend, if you grow censorious I must leave you;–I’ll look upon the Gamesters in the next Room.

MIRABELL. Who are they?

FAINALL. Petulant and Witwoud–Bring me some Chocolate.

MIRABELL. Betty, what says your Clock?

BETTY. Turn’d of the last Canonical Hour, Sir.

MIRABELL. How pertinently the Jade answers me! Ha! almost one o’Clock! [Looking on his Watch.] O, y’are come.–

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Filed under 1700's, 1760's, Drama, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams