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I answered the objection by urging , that the imaginary characters of Shakspeare and Scott are far more true to the principles of nature , and far more real in reference to the circumstances of life , * than the copied characters of history , where the motives of the agents are often very erroneously represented , and the circumstances of the action are generally insufficiently developed;—and , that , besides this , it is an important part of
the plan I suggested , that the reader should pass forward from the plot and moral of the fabulist to whatever is most real and interesting in history , and most true and instructive in philosophy ; with the great advantage of being sure to carry with him the attention and interest of his audience ; which he might not have been able to lay hold of , if he had commenced by addressing their reason before he had awakened their imagination and feelings .
Let it not be said , that we shall be unwise to commence our ttudy of human nature in the best works of fiction , because there is danger of their affecting the imagination and feelings too strongly . We are talking of an initial discipline for the great body of a people which has been so long allowed to sink into insensibility , or been habituated to the use of stimulants , as to require excitements . We are not speaking of the tender and
susceptible mind of childhood , and may therefore be excused discussing the question , whether , even for that more simple and animated age , we can commence better , than by moving the imagination and the feelings by the beautiful fables of Miss Edgeworth , at the same time that we are exercising the observation and judgment by the simpler facts of natural philosophy . Whatever metaphysicians may decide to be useful or dangerous in the case of young
persons , the great body of the people has been too long allowed to sink into the apathy of ignorance , or has been accustomed to be moved by stimulants , to warrant our hesitating to commence with fictitious narratives . Indeed , the propriety of employing fiction as a means of conveying first lessons in the moral sciences , may be shown from the very nature of the case . The teaching of morals differs from the teaching of physics in this more especially , —that experiments to illustrate or confirm moral truths
* It would be to neglect & striking opportunity of illustrating my argument , if I failed to refer the reader to the acute and manly criticism on Coriolanut * in the last Bomber ( January ) of the Monthly Repository , sW an exemplification of the interest and the philosophy or Shakspeare . The able critic had not to waste hia power in creating » d interest in the minds of his readers , or to tax his philosophy in propounding a statement of abstract principles : an abundant interest and a large philosophy was rmbodied to hia hand in the character of Coriolauuu . He had ouly to anatomize this
noble subject with the skill of a critic , in order to command the attention of his readers . Two more delightful or instructive evenings could not be desired than might bo ¦ pent in hearing such a critic read Coriolanim , and after wards fetch out all the force * nd beauty of the character by a series © f such remarks . Though this would be the •*¦* ideal of our plan , every person might do a good deal with such an instrument as Play of ShaluDeare in his hands .
The tHffkrion ofKnomledgt amongst the People . 267
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), April 2, 1834, page 267, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2632/page/35/