Imágenes de páginas

superiority. But the accomplishment in which | end of every distich, is an art as mechanical Addison excelled his contemporaries was then, as that of mending a kettle, or shoeing a horse; as it is now, highly valued and assiduously and may be learned by any human being who cultivated at all English seats of learning. has sense enough to learn any thing. But, like Everybody who had been at a public school other mechanical arts, it was gradually imhad written Latin verses; many had written proved by means of many experiments and such verses with tolerable success; and were many failures. It was reserved for Pope to quite able to appreciate, though by no means discover the trick, to make himself complete able to rival, the skill with which Addison master of it, and to teach it to everybody else. imitated Virgil. His lines on the Barometer, From the time when his "Pastorals" appeared, and the Bowling-Green, were applauded by heroic versification became matter of rule and hundreds to whom the "Dissertation on the compass; and, before long, all artists were on Epistles of Phalaris" was as unintelligible as a level. Hundreds of dunces who never Funthe hieroglyphics on an obelisk. dered on one happy thought or expression were able to write reams of couplets which, as far as euphony was concerned, could not be distinguished from those of Pope himself, and which very clever writers of the reign of Charles the Second-Rochester, for example, or Marvel, or Oldham-would have contemplated with admiring despair.

Purity of style, and an easy flow of numbers, are common to all Addison's Latin poems. Our favourite piece is the Battle of the Cranes and Pygmies; for in that piece we discern a gleam of the fancy and humour which many years later enlivened thousands of breakfast tables. Swift boasted that he was never known to steal a hint: and he certainly owed as little to his predecessors as any modern writer. Yet we cannot help suspecting that he borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, one of the happiest touches in his Voyage to Lilliput from Addison's verses. Let our readers judge.

"The Emperor," says Gulliver, "is taller by about the breadth of my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders."

About thirty years before Gulliver's Travels appeared, Addison wrote these lines:

"Jamque acies inter medias sese arduus infert Pyqueadum ductor, qui, majestate verendus, Incessuque gravis, reliquos supereminet omnes Mole gigantea, mediamque exsurgit in ulnam." The Latin poems of Addison were greatly and justly admired both at Oxford and Cambridge before his name had ever been heard by the wits who thronged the coffee-houses round Drury-Lane theatre. In his twenty-second year, he ventured to appear before the public as a writer of English verse. He addressed some complimentary lines to Dryden, who, after many triumphs and many reverses, had at length reached a secure and lonely eminence among the literary men of that age. Dryden appears to have been much gratified by the young scholar's praise; and an interchange of civilities and good offices followed. Addison was probably introduced by Dryden to Congreve, and was certainly presented by Congreve to Charles Montagu, who was then chancellor of the exchequer, and leader of the whig party in the House of Commons.

At this time Addison seemed inclined to devote himself to poetry. He published a translation of part of the fourth Georgic, Lines to King William, and other performances of equal value; that is to say, of no value at all. But in those days the public were in the habit of receiving with applause pieces which would now have little chance of obtaining the Newdigate prize, or the Seatonian prize. And the reason is obvious. The heroic couplet was then the favourite measure. The art of arranging words in that measure, so that the lines may flow smoothly, that the accents may fall correctly, that the rhymes may strike the ear strongly, and that there may be a pause at the

Ben Jonson was a great man, Hoole a very small man. But Hoole, coming after Pope, had learned how to manufacture decasyllable verses; and poured them forth by thousands and tens of thousands, all as well turned, as smooth, and as like each other as the blocks which have passed through Mr. Brunell's mill, in the dockyard at Portsmouth. Ben's heroic couplets resemble blocks rudely hewn out by an unpractised hand, with a blunt hatchet. Take as a specimen his translation of a celebrated passage in the Eneid :

"This child our parent earth, stirred up with spite
Of all the gods, brought forth, and, as some write,
She was last sister of that giant race
That sought to scale Jove's court, right swift of pace,
And swifter far of wing, a monster vast
And dreadful. Look, how many plumes are placed
On her huge corpse, so many waking eyes
Stick underneath, and, which may stranger rise
In the report, as many tongues she wears."

Compare with these jagged misshapen distichs the neat fabric which Hoole's machine produces in unlimited abundance. We take the first lines on which we open in his version of Tasso. They are neither better nor worse than the rest:

"O thou, whoe'er thou art, whose steps are led
By choice or fate, these lonely shores to tread,
No greater wonders east or west can boast
Than yon small island on the pleasing coast.
If e'er thy sight would blissful scenes explore,
The current pass, and seek the further shore."

Ever since the time of Pope there has been a glut of lines of this sort; and we are now as little disposed to admire a man for being able to write them as for being able to write his name. But in the days of William the Third such versification was rare; and a rhymer who had any skill in it passed for a great poet; just as in the dark ages a person who could write his name passed for a great clerk. Accordingly, Duke, Stepney, Granville, Walsh, and others, whose only title to fame was that they said in tolerable metre what might have been as well said in prose, or what was not worth saying at all, were honoured with marks of distinction which ought to be reserved for gɩnius. With these Addison must have ranked, if he had not earned true and lasting glory by performances which very little resembled his juvenile poems.

Dryden was now busied with Virgil, and ob- | had sat only two months in eight years. Now tained from Addison a oritical preface to the Georgics. In return for this service, and for other services of the same kind, the veteran poet, in the postscript to the translation of the Eneid, complimented his young friend with great liberality, and indeed with more liberality than sincerity. He affected to be afraid that his own performance would not sustain a comparison with the version of the fourth Georgic, by "the most ingenious Mr. Addison of Oxford." "After his bees," added Dryden, "my latter swarm is scarcely worth the hiving."

The time had now arrived when it was necessary for Addison to chose a calling. Every thing seemed to point his course toward the clerical profession. His habits were regular, his opinions orthodox. His college had large ecclesiastical preferment in its gift, and boasts that it has given at least one bishop to almost every see in England. Dr. Lancelot Addison held an honourable place in the church, and had set his heart on seeing his son a clergyman. It is clear, from some expressions in the young man's rhymes, that his intention was to take orders. But Charles Montagu interfered. Montagu first brought himself into notice by verses, well-timed and not contemptibly written, but never, we think, rising above mediocrity. Fortunately for himself and for his country, he early quitted poetry, in which he could never have obtained a rank as high as that of Dorset or Roscommon, and turned his mind to official and parliamentary business. It is written that the ingenious person who undertook to instruct Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia, in the art of flying, ascended an eminence, waved his wings, sprang into the air, and instantly dropped into the lake. But it is added that the wings which were unable to support him through the sky, bore him up effectually as soon as he was in the water. This is no bad type of the fate of Charles Montagu, and of men like him. When he attempted to soar into the regions of poetical invention, he altogether failed; but as soon as he had descended from his ethereal elevation into a lower and grosser element, his talents instantly raised him above the mass. He became a distinguished financier, debater, courtier, and party leader. He still retained his fondness for the pursuits of his early days; but he showed that fondness, not by wearying the public with his own feeble performances, but by discovering and encouraging literary excellence in others. A crowd of wits and poets, who would easily have vanquished him as a competitor, revered him as a judge and a patron. In his plans for the encouragement of learning, he was cordially supported by the ablest and most virtuous of his colleagues, the lord keeper Somers. Though both these great statesinen had a sincere love of ietters, it was not solely from a love of letters that they were desirous to enlist youths of high intellectual qualifications in the public service. The Revolution had altered the whole system of government. Before that event, the press had been controlled by censors, and the Parliament

Miss Aikin makes this compliment altogether unmeaning, by saying that it was paid to a translation of the second Georgic, (i. 30.)

the press was free, and had begun to exercise unprecedented influence on the public mind. Parliament met annually and sat long. The chief power in the state had passed to the House of Commons. At such a conjuncture, it was natural that literary and oratorical talents should rise in value. There was dan. ger that a government which neglected such talents might be subverted by them. It was, therefore, a profound and enlightened policy which led Montagu and Somers to attach such talents to the whig party, by the strongest ties both of interest and of gratitude.

It is remarkable that, in a neighbouring country, we have recently seen similar effects from similar causes. The Revolution of July, 1830, established representative government in France. The men of letters instantly rose to the highest importance in the state. At the present moment, most of the persons whom we see at the head both of the administration and of the opposition have been professors, historians, journalists, poets. The influence of the literary class in England, during the generation which followed the Revolution was great, but by no means so great as it has lately been in France. For, in England, the aristocracy of intellect had to contend with a powerful and deeply rooted aristocracy of a very different kind. France has no Somersets and Shrewsburies to keep down her Addisons and Priors.

It was in the year 1699, when Addison had just completed his twenty-seventh year, that the course of his life was finally determined. Both the great chiefs of the ministry were kindly disposed towards him. In political opinions he already was, what he continued to be through life, a firm, though moderate whig. He had addressed the most polished and vigorous of his early English lines to Somers; and bad dedicated to Montagu a Latin poem, truly Virgilian, both in style and rhythm, on the peace of Ryswick. The wish of the young poet's great friends was, it should seem, to employ him in the service of the crown abroad. But an intimate knowledge of the French language was a qualification indispensable to a diplo matist; and this qualification Addison had set acquired. It was, therefore, thought desirable that he should pass some time on the Continent in preparing himself for official employment. His own means were not such as would enable him to travel; but a pension of £300 a year was procured for him by the interest of the lord keeper. It seems to have been appre hended that some difficulty might be started by the rulers of Magdalene College. But the chancellor of the exchequer wrote in the strong. est terms to Hough. The state-such was the purport of Montagu's letter-could not, at that time, spare to the church such a man as Addison. Too many high posts were already occu pied by adventurers, who, destitute of every liberal art and sentiment, at once pillaged and disgraced the country which they pretended to serve. It had become necessary to recruit for the public service from a very different class, from that class of which Addison was the representative. The close of the minister's letter was re

markable. "I am called," he said, "an enemy | Hobbes was mentioned, and was indeed so

of the church. But I will never do it any other injury than keeping Mr. Addison out of it." This interference was successful; and in the summer of 1699, Addison, made a rich man by his pension, and still retaining his fellowship, quitted his beloved Oxford, and set out on his travels. He crossed from Dover to Calais, proceeded to Paris, and was received there with great kindness and politeness by a kinsman of his friend Montagu, Charles Earl of Manchester, who had just been appointed ambassador to the court of France. The countess, a whig and a toast, was probably as gracious as her lord; for Addison long retained an agreeable recollection of the impression which she at this time made on him, and, in some lively lines written on the glasses of the Kit-Cat club, described the envy which her cheeks, glowing with the genuine bloom of England, had excited among the painted beauties of Versailles.

unjust as to call the author of the "Leviathan" a poor silly creature. Addison's modesty restrained him from fully relating, in his letter, the circumstances of his introduction to Boileau. Boileau, having survived the friends and rivals of his youth, old, deaf, and melancholy, lived in retirement, seldom went either to court or to the academy, and was almost in accessible to strangers. Of the English and of English literature he knew nothing. He had hardly heard the name of Dryden. Some of our countrymen, in the warmth of their patriotism, have asserted that this ignorance must have been affected. We own that we see no ground for such a supposition. English literature was to the French of the age of Louis XIV. what German literature was to our own grandfathers. Very few, we suspect, of the accomplished men who, sixty or seventy years ago, used to dine in Leicester Square with Sir Joshua, or at Streatham with Mrs. Thrale, had the slightest notion that Wieland was one of the first wits and poets, and Lessing, beyond all dispute, the first critic in Europe. Boileau knew just as little about the "Paradise Lost," and about "Absalom and Ahitophel;" but he had read Addison's Latin poems, and admired them greatly. They had given him, he said, quite a new notion of the state of learning and taste among the English. Johnson will have it that these praises were insincere. "Nothing," says he, "is better known of Boileau than that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin; and therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of his civility rather than approbation." Now, nothing is better known of Boileau than that he was singularly sparing of compliments. We do not remember that either friendship or fear ever induced him to bestow praise on any composition which he did not approve. On literary questions, his caustic, disdainful, and self-confident spirit rebelled against that authority to which every thing else in France bowed down. He had the spirit to tell Louis XIV. firmly, and even rudely, that his majesty knew nothing about poetry, and admired verses which were detestable. What was there in Addison's position that could induce the satirist, whose stern and fastidious temper had been the dread of two generations, to turn sy.

Louis XIV. was at this time expiating the vices of his youth by a devotion which had no root in reason, and bore no fruit in charity. The servile literature of France had changed its character to suit the changed character of the prince. No book appeared that had not an air of sanctity. Racine, who was just dead, had passed the close of his life in writing sacred dramas; and Dacier was seeking for the Athanasian mysteries of Plato. Addison described this state of things in a short but lively and graceful letter to Montagu. Another letter, written about the same time to the lord keeper, conveyed the strongest assurances of gratitude and attachment. "The only return I can make to your lordship," said Addison, "will be to apply myself entirely to my business." With this view he quitted Paris and repaired to Blois; a place where it was supposed that the French language was spoken in its highest purity, and where not a single Englishman could be found. Here he passed some months pleasantly and profitably. Of his way of life at Blois, one of his associates, an abbé named Philippeaux, gave an account to Joseph Spence. If this account is to be trusted, Addison studied much, mused much, talked little, had fits of absence, and either had no love affairs, or was too discreet to confide them to the abbé. A man who, even when surrounded by fellow-countrymen and fellow-students, had always been remark-cophant for the first and last time? Nor was ably shy and silent, was not likely to be loquacious in a foreign tongue, and among foreign companions. But it is clear from Addison's letters, some of which were long after published in the "Guardian," that while he appeared to be absorbed in his own meditations, he was really observing French society with that keen and sly, yet not ill-natured side-glance which was peculiarly his own.

From Blois he returned to Paris; and having now mastered the French language, found great pleasure in the society of French philosophers and poets. He gave an account, in a letter to Bishop Hough, of two highly interesting conversations, one with Malebranche, the other with Boileau. Malebranche expressed great partiality for the English, and extolled the genius of Newton, but shook his head when

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Boileau's contempt of modern Latin either .njudicious or peevish. He thought, indeed, that no poem of the first order would ever be written in a dead language. And did he think amiss? Has not the experience of centuries confirmed his opinion? Boileau also thought it probable that, in the best modern Latin, a writer of the Augustan age would have de tected ludicrous improprieties. And who cau think otherwise? What modern scholar can honestly declare that he sees the smallest impurity in the style of Livy? Yet is it not cer tain that, in the style of Livy, Pollio, whose taste had been formed on the banks of the Tiber, detected the inelegant idiom of the Po? Has any modern scholar understood Latin better than Frederick the Great understood French! Yet is it not notorious that Frederick the Great,

after reading, speaking, writing French, and Charles, second of the name, King of Spain, nothing but French, during more than half a died; and bequeathed his dominions to Philip, century-after unlearning his mother tongue Duke of Anjou, a younger son of the dauphin. in order to learn French, after living familiarly The King of France, in direct violation of his during many years with French associates-engagements both with Great Britain and with could not, to the last, compose in French, with- the states-general, accepted the bequest on be. out imminent risk of committing some mistake | half of his grandson. The house of Bourbon which would have moved a smile in the literary was at the summit of human grandeur. Eng circles of Paris? Do we believe that Erasmus land had been outwitted, and found herself in and Fracastorius wrote Latin as well as Dr. a situation at once degrading and perilous. Robertson and Sir Walter Scott wrote English? The people of France, not presaging the cala. And are there not in the Dissertation on India, mities by which they were destined to expiate (the last of Dr. Robertson's works,) in Waver- the perfidy of their sovereign, went mad with ley, in Marmion, Scotticisms at which a Lon- pride and delight. Every man looked as if a don apprentice would laugh? But does it great estate had just been left him. The follow, because we think thus, that we can find French conversation," said Addison, “begins nothing to admire in the noble alcaics of Gray, to grow insupportable; that which was before or in the playful elegiacs of Vincent Bourne ? the vainest nation in the world, is now worse Surely not. Nor was Boileau so ignorant or than ever." Sick of the arrogant exultation of tasteless as to be incapable of appreciating the Parisians, and probably foreseeing that the good modern Latin. In the very letter to which peace between France and England could not Johnson alludes, Boileau says "Ne croyez be of long duration, he set off for Italy. pas pourtant que je veuille par là blâmer les vers Latins que vous m'avez envoyés d'un de vos ilustres académiciens. Je les ai trouvés fort beaux, et dignes de Vida et de Sannazar, mais non pas d'Horace et de Virgile." Several poems, in modern Latin, have been praised by Boileau quite as liberally as it was his habit to praise any thing. He says, for example, of Père Fraguier's epigrams, that Catullus seems to have come to life again. But the best proof that Boileau did not feel the undiscerning contempt for modern Latin verses which has been imputed to him, is, that he wrote and published Latin verses in several metres. Indeed, it happens, curiously enough, that the most severe | censure ever pronounced by him on moden Latin, is conveyed in Latin hexameters. We allude to the fragment which begins

"Quid numeris iterum me balbutire Latinis, Longe Alpes citra natum de patre Sicambro, Musa, jubes ?"

For these reasons we feel assured that the praise which Boileau bestowed on the Machine Gesticulantes, and the Gerano-Pygmæomachiu, was sincere. He certainly opened himself to Addison with a freedom which was a sure indication of esteem. Literature was the chief subject | of conversation. The old man talked on his favourite theme much and well; indeed, as his young hearer thought, incomparably well. Boileau had undoubtedly some of the qualities of a great critic. He wanted imagination; but he had strong sense. His literary code was formed on narrow principles; but in applying it, he showed great judgment and penetration. In mere style, abstracted from the ideas of which style is the garb, his taste was excellent. He was well acquainted with the great Greek writers; and, though unable fully to appreciate their creative genius, admired the majestic simplicity of their manner, and had learned from them to despise bombast and tinsel. It is easy, we think, to discover, in the "Spectator" and the "Guardian," traces of the influence, in part salutary and in part pernicious, which the mind of Boileau had on the mind of Addison.

While Addison was at Paris, an event took place which made that capital a disagreeable residence for an Englishman and a whig.

In December, 1700,* he embarked at Marseilles. As he glided along the Ligurian coast, he was delighted by the sight of myrtles and olive-trees, which retained their verdure under the winter solstice. Soon, however, he encountered one of the black storms of the Me diterranean. The captain of the ship gave up all for lost, and confessed himself to a capuchin who happened to be on board. The English heretic, in the mean time, fortified himself against the terrors of death with devotions of a very different kind. How strong an impres sion this perilous voyage made on him, appears from the ode-"How are thy servants blest, O Lord!" which was long after published in the Spectator. After some days of discomfort and danger, Addison was glad to land at Savena, and to make his way, over mountains where no road had yet been hewn out by art, to the city of Genoa.

At Genoa, still ruled by her own doge, and by the nobles whose names were inscribed on her book of gold, Addison made a short stay. He admired the narrow streets overhung by long lines of towering palaces, the walls rich with frescoes, the gorgeous temple of the An nunciation, and the tapestries whereon were recorded the long glories of the house of Doria. Thence he hastened to Milan, where he contemplated the Gothic magnificence of the rathe dral with more wonder than pleasure. He passed lake Benacus while a gale was blow ing, and saw the waves raging as they raged when Virgil looked upon them. At Venice, then the gayest spot in Europe, the traveller spent the carnival, the gayest season of the year, in the midst of masques, dances, and se renades. Here he was at once diverted and provoked by the absurd dramatic pieces which then disgraced the Italian stage. To one of those pieces, however, he was indebted for a valuable hint. He was present when a ridi culous play on the death of Cato was perform ed. Cato, it seems, was in love with a daughter

*It is strange that Addison should, in the first line of bi travels, have misdated his departure from Marseilles by a whole year, and still more strange that this slip of the pen, which throws the whole narrative into inextricable confusion, should have been repeated in a succession of editions, and never detected by Tickell or by Hurd.

of Scipio. The lady had given her heart to Cæsar. The rejected lover determined to destroy himself. He appeared seated in his library, a dagger in his hand, a Plutarch and a Tasso before him; and, in this position he pronounced a soliloquy before he struck the blow. We are surprised that so remarkable a circumstance as this should have escaped the notice of all Addison's biographers. There cannot, we conceive, be the smallest doubt that this scene, in spite of its absurdities and anachronisms, struck the traveller's imagination, and suggested to him the thought of bringing Cato on the English stage. It is well known that about this time he began his tragedy, and that he finished the first four acts before he returned to England.

those noble remains were as litt.e known to Europe as the ruined cities overgrown by the forests of Yucatan. What was to be seen at Naples, Addison saw. He climbed Vesuvius, explored the tunnel of Posilipo, and wandered among the vines and almond-trees of Capreæ. But neither the wonders of nature nor those of art could so occupy his attention as to pre vent him from noticing, though cursorily, the abuses of the government and the misery of the people. The great kingdom which had just descended to Philip V. was in a state of paralytic dotage. Even Castile and Arragon were sunk in wretchedness. Yet, compared with the Italian dependencies of the Spanish crown, Castile and Arragon might be called prosperous. It is clear that all the observaOn his way from Venice to Rome, he was tions which Addison made in Italy tended to drawn some miles out of the beaten road, by a confirm him in the political opinions which he wish to see the smallest independent state in had adopted at home. To the last he always Europe. On a rock where the snow still lay, spoke of foreign travel as the best cure for though the Italian spring was now far ad- Jacobitism. In his Freeholder, the tory fox vanced, was perched the little fortress of Sanhunter asks what travelling is good for, except Marino. The roads which led to the secluded to teach a man to jabber French, and to talk town were so bad that few travellers had ever against passive obedience. visited it, and none had ever published an account of it. Addison could not suppress a good-natured smile at the simple manners and institutions of this singular community. But he observed, with the exultation of a whig, that the rude mountain tract which formed the territory of the republic, swarmed with an honest, healthy, contented peasantry: while the rich plain which surrounded the metropolis of civil and spiritual tyranny, was scarcely less desolate than the uncleared wilds of America.

At Rome, Addison remained on his first visit only long enough to catch a glimpse of St. Peter's, and of the Pantheon. His haste is the more extraordinary, because the holy week was close at hand. He has given no hint which can enable us to pronounce why he chose to fly from a spectacle which every year allures from distant regions persons of far less taste and sensibility than his. Possibly, travelling, as he did, at the charge of a government distinguished by its enmity to the church of Rome, he may have thought that it would be imprudent in him to assist at the most magnificent rite of that church. Many eyes would be upon him; and he might find it difficult to behave in such a manner as to give offence neither to his patrons in England, nor to those among whom he resided. Whatever his motives may have been, he turned his back on the most august and affecting ceremony which is known among men, and posted along the Appian way to Naples.

From Naples Addison returned to Rome by sea, along the coast which his favourite Virgil had celebrated. The felucca passed the headland where the oar and trumpet were placed by the Trojan adventurers on the tomb of Misenus, and anchored at night under the shelter of the fabled promontory of Circe. The voy. age ended in the Tiber, still overhung with dark verdure, and still turbid with yellow sand, as when it met the eyes of Eneas. From the ruined port of Ostia, the stranger hurried to Rome; and at Rome he remained during those hot and sickly months when, even in the Augustan age, all who could make their escape fled from mad dogs and from streets black with funerals, to gather the first figs of the season in the country. It is probable that when he, long after, poured forth in verse his gratitude to the Providence which had enabled him to breathe unhurt in tainted air, he was thinking of the August and September which he passed at Rome.

It was not till the latter end of October that he tore himself away from the masterpieces of ancient and modern art, which are collected in the city so long the mistress of the world. He then journeyed northward, passed through Sienna, and for a moment forgot his prejudices in favour of classic architecture as he looked on the magnificent cathedral. At Florence he spent some days with the Duke of Shrewsbury, who, cloyed with the pleasures of ambition, and impatient of its pains, fearing both parties, Naples was then destitute of what are now, and loving neither, had determined to hide in perhaps, its chief attractions. The lovely bay an Italian retreat, talents and accomplishments and the awful mountain were indeed there. which, if they had been united with fixed prinBut a farm house stood on the theatre of Her-ciples and civil courage, might have made him culaneum, and rows of vines grew over the streets of Pompeii. The temples of Pæstum had not indeed been hidden from the eye of man by any great convulsion of nature; but, strange to say, their existence was a secret even to artists and antiquaries. Though situated within a few hours' journey of a great capital, where Salvator had not long before painted, and where Vico was then lecturing, VOL. V.-76

the foremost man of his age. These days, we are told, passed pleasantly; and we can easily believe it. For Addison was a delightful com panion when he was at his ease; and the duke, though he seldom forgot that he was a Talbot, had the invaluable art of putting at ease al who came near him.

Addison gave some time to Florence, and especially to the sculptures in the Museum, 3 E

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