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Of what consequence or importance to mankind are the passions or misfortunes of any of the heroes of antiquity, if they do not convey some instruction to us? Why may we not go back to the histories of those ancient ruffians, the illustrious founders of superstition and fanaticism, who first carried the sword to the altar to sacrifice all those who refused to embrace their doctrines? They who tell us that these days of wickedness are past, that we shall never see any more Barcochebas, Mahomets, Johns of Leyden, etc.

The action I have described is terrible; I do not know whether horror was ever carried farther on any stage. A young man born with virtuous inclinations, seduced by fanaticism, assassinates an old man who loves him; and whilst he imagines he is serving God, is, without knowing it, guilty of parricide: the murder is committed by the order of an impostor, who promises him a reward, which proves to be incest.

This, I acknowledge, is full of horror; but your majesty is thoroughly sensible, that tragedy should not consist merely of love, jealousy, and marriage: even our histories abound in actions much more horrible than that which I have invented. The story of the two brothers Diaz is well known; one of them was at Rome and the other in Germany, in the beginning of the commotions raised by Luther: Bartholomew Diaz, hearing that his brother embraced the opinion of Luther at Frankfort, left Rome on purpose to assassinate him, and accordingly did so.

Herrera, a Spanish author, tells us, that Bartholomew Diaz ran a great hazard in doing this, but nothing intimidates a man of honor guided by honesty. Herrera, we see, brought up in that holy religion which is an enemy to cruelty, a religion which teaches long-suffering and not revenge, was persuaded that honesty might make a man an assassin and a parricide: Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] ought we not to rise up on all sides against such infernal maxims? These put the poniard into the hand of that monster who deprived France of Henry the Great: these placed the picture of James Clement on the altar, and his name amongst the saints: these took away the life of William, prince of Orange, founder of the liberty and prosperity of his country.

Salcede shot at and wounded him in the forehead with a pistol; and Strada tells us, that Salcede would not dare to undertake that enterprise till he had purified his soul by confession at the feet of a Dominican, and fortified it by the holy sacrament. Herrera has something more horrible, and more ridiculous concerning it. I have remarked, that all those who voluntarily committed such crimes were young men like Seid. Balthasar Girard was about twenty years old, and the four Spaniards who had bound themselves by oath with him to kill the prince, were of the same age.

The monster who killed Henry III. In England I was once a witness to how far the power of fanaticism could work on a weak and youthful imagination: a boy of sixteen, whose name was Shepherd, engaged to assassinate King George I. What could prompt him to such madness? They took pity on his youth, offered him his Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] pardon, and for a long time endeavored to bring him to repentance; but he always persisted in saying, it was better to obey God than man; and if they let him go, the first use he made of his liberty should be to kill the king: so that they were obliged at last to execute him as a monster, whom they despaired of bringing to any sense of reason.

I will venture to affirm that all who have seen anything of mankind must have remarked how easily nature is sometimes sacrificed to superstition: how many fathers have detested and disinherited their children! I have myself seen instances of it in more than one family. If superstition does not always signalize itself in those glaring crimes which history transmits to us, in society it does every day all the mischief it possibly can: disunites friends, separates kindred and relations, destroys the wise and worthy by the hands of fools and enthusiasts: it does not indeed every day poison a Socrates, but it banishes Descartes from a city which ought to be the asylum of liberty, and gives Jurieu, who acted the part of a prophet, credit enough to impoverish the wise philosopher Bayle: it banished the successor of the great Leibnitz, and deprives a noble assembly of young men that crowded to his lectures, of pleasure and improvement: and to re-establish him heaven must raise up amongst us a royal philosopher, that true miracle which is so rarely to be seen.

In vain does human reason advance towards perfection, by means of that philosophy which of late has made so great a progress in Europe: in vain do you, most noble prince, both inspire and practise this humane philosophy: whilst in the same age wherein reason Edition: current; Page: [ 10 ] raises her throne on one side, the most absurd fanaticism adorns her altars on the other. It may perhaps be objected to me, that, out of my too abundant zeal, I have made Mahomet in this tragedy guilty of a crime which in reality he was not capable of committing.

The count de Boulainvilliers, some time since, wrote the life of this prophet, whom he endeavored to represent as a great man, appointed by Providence to punish the Christian world, and change the face of at least one-half of the globe. Sale likewise, who has given us an excellent translation of the Koran into English, would persuade us to look upon Mahomet as a Numa or a Theseus.

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I will readily acknowledge, that we ought to respect him, if born a legitimate prince, or called to government by the voice of the people, he had instituted useful and peaceful laws like Numa, or like Theseus defended his countrymen: but for a driver of camels to stir up a faction in his village; to associate himself with a set of wretched Koreish, and persuade them that he had an interview with the angel Gabriel; to boast that he was carried up to heaven, and there received part of that unintelligible book which contradicts common sense in every page; that in order to procure respect for this ridiculous performance he should carry fire and sword into his country, murder fathers, and ravish their daughters, and after all give those whom he conquered the choice of his religion or death; this is surely what no man will pretend to vindicate, unless he was born a Turk, and superstition had totally extinguished in him the light of nature.

Mahomet, I know, did not actually commit that particular crime which is the subject of this tragedy: Edition: current; Page: [ 11 ] history only informs us, that he took away the wife of Seid, one of his followers, and persecuted Abusophan, whom I call Zopir; but what is not that man capable of, who, in the name of God, makes war against his country? It was not my design merely to represent a real fact, but real manners and characters, to make men think as they naturally must in their circumstances; but above all it was my intention to show the horrid schemes which villainy can invent, and fanaticism put in practice.

Mahomet is here no more than Tartuffe in arms. A spirit of indulgence would make us all brothers; a spirit of persecution can create nothing but monsters. Your holiness will pardon the liberty taken by one of the lowest of the faithful, though a zealous admirer of virtue, of submitting to the head of the true religion this performance, written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect. To whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet, than to the vicar and representative of a God of truth and mercy?


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Your holiness will therefore give me leave to lay at your feet both the piece and the author of it, and humbly to request your protection of the one, and your benediction upon the other; in hopes of which, with the profoundest reverence, I kiss your sacred feet. This day sevennight I was favored with your Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] excellent tragedy of Mahomet, which I have read with great pleasure: Cardinal Passionei has likewise presented me with your fine poem of Fontenoy. Signor Leprotti this day repeated to me your distich made on my retreat.

Yesterday morning Cardinal Valenti gave me your letter of the 17th of August. Many are the obligations which you have conferred on me, for which I am greatly indebted to you, for all and every one of them; and I assure you that I have the highest esteem for your merit, which is so universally acknowledged. The distich has been published at Rome, and objected to by one of the literati, who, in a public conversation, affirmed that there was a mistake in it with regard to the word hic, which is made short, whereas it ought to be always long.

To which I replied, that it may be either long or short; Virgil having made it short in this verse,. Solus hic inflexit sensus, animumque labantem. The answer I think was pretty full and convincing, considering that I have not looked into Virgil these fifty years. The cause, however, is properly yours; to your honor and sincerity, therefore, of which I have the highest opinion, I shall leave it to be defended against your opposers and mine, and here give you my apostolical benediction.

Pontificatus nostri anno sexto. The features of your excellency are not better Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] expressed on the medal you were so kind as to send me, than are the features of your mind in the letter which you honored me with: permit me to lay at your feet my sincerest acknowledgments: in points of literature, as well as in matters of more importance, your infallibility is not to be disputed: your excellency is much better versed in the Latin tongue than the Frenchman whom you condescended to correct: I am indeed astonished how you could so readily appeal to Virgil: the popes were always ranked amongst the most learned sovereigns, but amongst them I believe there never was one in whom so much learning and taste united.

If the Frenchman who found fault with the word hic had known as much of Virgil as your excellency, he might have recollected a verse where hic is both long and short.

I cannot help considering this verse as a happy presage of the favors conferred on me by your excellency. Scene, Mecca. End of the Fifth and Last Act.

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This tragedy is founded on historical truth. A duke of Brittany, in the year , commanded the lord of Bavalan to assassinate the constable of Clisson: Bavalan, the day after, told the duke it was done: the duke becoming sensible of the horror of his crime, and apprehensive of the fatal consequences of it, abandoned himself to the most violent despair: Bavalan, after giving him time to repent, at length told him that he had loved him well enough to disobey his orders, etc. The action is transported to another age and country for particular reasons.

Henry A. Fleming and an Introduction by Oliver H. Copyright, , By E. DuMont Owned by The St. Hubert Guild New York. Poliphontes, Tyrant of Messene.

Narbas, an old Man. Erox, Favorite of Poliphontes. Marquis Scipio Maffei. ACT I. ACT II.

End of the Second Act. End of the Third Act. ACT IV. End of the Fourth Act. ACT V. End of the first Act. The Temple is shut. End of the third Act.

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Genghis Khan, Emperor of the Tartars. O cruel destiny! Were we made, alas! But to be foes! My friend, I beg thee stop The tide of grief and rage. Thou tremblest too. Pope Benedict XIV. Zopir, Sheik of Mecca. The Duke of Foix. Vamir, Brother to the Duke of Foix. Thais, Confidante of Amelia.

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The rabbis, in making some of these images, killed a man who was a first-born son, wrung off his head, seasoned it with salt, spices, etc. The images were consulted as oracles concerning things accomplished but unknown, and regarding events in the future. Among the Jews there were observers of times who laid great stress on certain seasons and critical moments, which they supposed depended on particular positions of the heavenly bodies.

A learned rabbi expressed the [Pg 9] opinion that the celestial bodies rewarded persons who put confidence in them, and that consequently men acted wisely to reverence the stars and implore their assistance. Guesses at futurities were made from the falling of a crumb of bread out of one's mouth or a staff from a man's hand, from a person sneezing, or the breaking of a shoe-latchet.

The Hebrew witches were supposed to possess the power of doing mischief to man and beast by their occult science, and of changing the form of things.

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Witches used their wicked skill to allure maidens. Through magical operations, a Jew endeavoured long ago to procure the love of a Christian woman, but she was preserved from the power of his craft by sealing herself with the sign of the cross. It was an ancient way of enchantment, to bring, by the power of magic, various kinds of beasts together into one place, which were designated as the "great congregation" and the "little congregation.

Wizards were famous fortune tellers; they pretended to be the interpreters of all the most important occurrences of the world.