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even Athenian exaggeration, to have been “ no less numerous than the sand.” Then, meaning to assure the rulers of Athens, that the intention of Sparta to abide by the conditions of a treaty then concluded between them, was altogether sincere ; he admits in his countrymen, the existence of an evil quality of which even their adversaries were not wont to accuse them, and promises that they will, henceforward * “ refrain from
vulpine craftiness." It may likewise be remarked, that in this particular passage, which seems not only to be very serious, but very solemn, the difference of dialect is as much preserved as in other parts of the dialogue; yet this would not probably have been the case, if by assuming the Laconian mode of expression, there had been any intention of giving a ludicrous representation of Lacedæmonian manners : for if any national character was to be exhibited by peculiarity of speech or of pronunciation, the representation must of course have been ludicrous. In some other instances also, no less than in the Lysistrata of Aristophanes,
it is apprehended that Baotians and others deliver themselves in the dialects that belong to their particular districts. But mere difference of dialect or pronunciation does not amount to the complete delineation of national character: and though a Boeotian might say Otoßar* instead of omen; and a native of Megara shorten the first syllable of Avery, which an Athenian would have lengthened; it only at the utmost shews a tendency in a Greek poet of great original genius, especially in the departments of wit and humour,towards an invention, which probably, without any knowledge of what had been done by him, was carried to its highest limit by an English poet of at least equal pretensions in the same departments. In one of the comedies also of Plautus, we have a soliloquy, as is apprehended, in the Carthagenian language; yet this is
accompanied, in the conduct or sentiments of the speaker, with no feature, so far as it can be known, of national character : nor does it seem to have been intended as humourous, * Aristoph. Brunk, tom iii. p. 91. Not: in Acharnenses.
since it exhibits no such mixture of any other language as might tend to excite laughter. At any rate, the difference of language alone, does not constitute difference of national character: nor does the mere imitation of an irregular or idiomatic dialect constitute the chief or sole merit in the representation of National Manners.
Coming to modern times, we find no imitation of national or provincial manners prior to the age of Shakespeare in any of the modern languages ; for the Gascons of the French theatre belong to a later period. If any such attempt was ever made by an English writer before that time, it must have been executed in such a manner as to have claimed but a cursory notice. * Whatsoever, therefore, may be the merit of such representations, and how much soever we may be indebted for the amusement or interest arising from the dramatic exhibition of national characters, we may attribute the invention to the great poet of Human Nature ; and acknowledge Shakespeare as the real and com
* Malone's Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor.
plete INVENTOR of the dramatic, and
particularly of the humourous imitation of National Manners.
P.S. It may perhaps be objected to a previous part of this essay, that considering the manners of Fluellen as representative of Weloh manners, it does not appear how such love of literature, and how such impérfect attainment of it, yet such self-esteem on account of it, as appear in him, could have constituted at that time any part of the national manners of the Welch. The statement of this circumstance therefore requires to be explained, or to be rendered somewhat more general. An inferior nation, in contact with, that is to say, not only adjoining to, but connected with, and almost subject to, a greater nation; seeing the superior improvements of their powerful friend or neighbour, become desirous of excelling in the same pursuits, if they are not too high for them ; and though they should not immediately attain the height towards which they aspire, and though their proficiency should not have been so great as they apprehend, they value themselves for what they may, or fancy they may have gained. If therefore the distinction be in literature, they will attempt to become literary; and their self-complacency in the attainments they may enjoy, may be somewhat ostentatious. But did literature so distinguish the English in the reign of Henry V. as to excite emulation
their neighbours ? Perhaps not: but literature, and the love of learning very much distinguished the age of Elizabeth ; and might have produced the corresponding effect on the Welch. Shakespeare therefore, by an'anacronism not inexcusable, and not unwarranted by a similar conduct in other poets, particularly in comedy, represents, by means of Fluellen, a feature in Welch manners more peculiar to them in the reign of Elizabeth than in that of Henry.