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Page:Samuel Johnson (1911).djvu/139

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of things by the light of history, till in re- moter times it had glimmered in fable, and at last sunk into darkness.

If the works of imagination had been less diminished, it is likely that all future times might have been supplied with inexhaustible amusement by the fictions of antiquity. The tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides would have shown all the stronger passions in all their diversities : and the comedies of Menan- der would have furnished all the maxims of domestic life. Nothing would have been necessary to mortal wisdom but to have studied these great masters, whose knowledge would have guided doubt, and whose authority would have silenced cavils.

Such are the thoughts that rise in every student, when his curiosity is eluded, and his searches are frustrated; yet it may perhaps be doubted, whether our complaints are not sometimes inconsiderate, and whether we do not imagine more evil than we feel. Of the ancients, enough remains to excite our emula- tion and direct our endeavours. Many of the works which time has left us we know to have been those that were most esteemed, and which antiquity itself considered as models ; so that, having the originals, we may without much regret lose the imitations. The obscurity

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