proposed for disbelief. Such is the method pursued by Euripides practically in the Ion, the Orestes, and elsewhere, but nowhere perhaps so perfectly and with so firm a demarcation as in the Alcestis.
It is in reading the prologue to this play, more than in any other part of it, that we may be moved to feel surprise at the prevalent misunderstanding of the poet's intention. In general neither the existence nor the duration of this misunderstanding is matter for wonder; for the explanation is ready. The modern expositors (and the same applies to those Christian scholars of the 'Lower Empire' who composed the chief part and transmitted the whole of the Greek scholia and hypotheses) approach the Alcestis and other works of Euripides with a fixed prepossession, one of those habitual assumptions which rule the mind all the more absolutely because never stated in words, that the story which the poet handles is by every one known for a fable. It is always hard to suppose effectively, in such a way, I mean, that our thoughts are controlled by the supposition as they would be controlled by the reality, the contrary of constant experience. Nothing is easier than to make such a supposition in words, nothing more difficult than to make it effectively. Now it is a constant experience, fortified by the European literature of twenty centuries at least, that those who speak of Zeus, Apollo, and the like recognize these personages for imaginary types, accepted material of art, in relation to which the question of literal truth or falsehood is idle and irrelevant. Less than two hundred years after the death of Euripides the use of the Greek legends after this fashion was brought into general vogue by the accomplished Hellenists of Alexandria; from that time to this it has never entirely ceased; and on the whole we may say with substantial correctness that it has flourished vigorously in proportion to the general vigour of literature. It results that every lover and student of literature imbibes this habit of mind inevitably as the air which he breathes. Of contrary experience the amount is infinitesimal, too small to affect appreciably the habitual tone of our feelings. Of writers who now have readers or, speaking broadly with reference to the world as a whole, have ever had readers enough to affect the balance, how many are there in whose productions