The Mirror of Taste, and Dramatic Censor Volume I, Number 1
The advantages of a correct judgment and refined taste in all matters connected with literature, are much greater than men in general imagine. The hateful passions have no greater enemies than a delicate taste and a discerning judgment, which give the possessor an interest in the virtues and perfections of others, and prompt him to admire, to cherish, and make them known to the world. Criticism, the parent of these qualities, therefore, mends the heart, while it improves the understanding. The influence of critical knowledge is felt in every department of social life, as it supplies elegant subjects for conversation, and enlarges the scope, and extends the duration of intellectual enjoyment. Without it, the pleasures we derive from the fine arts would be transient and imperfect; and poetry, painting, music, and that admirable epitome of life, the stage, would afford nothing more than a fugitive, useless, pastime, if not aided by the interposition of the judgment, and sent home, by the delightful process of criticism, to the memory, there to exercise the mind to the last of life, to be the amusement of our declining years, and, when all the other faculties for receiving pleasure are impaired by old age and infirmity, to cast the sunshine of delight over the last moments of our existence.
In no age or country has the improvement of the intellectual powers of man made a larger share of the business of life than in these in which we live. In the promotion of this spirit the stage has been an instrument of considerable efficacy, and, as such, lays claim to a full share of critical examination; yet, owing to some cause, which it seems impossible to discover, that very important subject has been little attended to in this great commonwealth; and in Philadelphia, the principal city of the union, has been almost totally neglected. No apology, therefore, can be thought necessary for offering the present work to the public.
The utility of miscellanies of this kind has been sometimes called in question; nor are those wanting who condemn the whole tribe of light periodical productions, as detrimental to the advancement of solid science and erudition: yet, in the most learned and enlightened nations of Europe, magazines and periodical compilations have, for more than a century, been circulated with vast success, and, within the last twenty years, increased in price as well as number, to an extent that shows how essentially the public opinion, in that quarter of the world differs from that of the persons who condemn them.
Taking that decision as a decree without appeal, in favour of such works, the editors think themselves authorized in offering the present without any formal apology. If the perusal of such productions had a tendency to prevent the youth of the country from aspiring to deep and solid erudition, or to divert men of talents from the prosecution of more important studies, the editors would be among the last to make any addition to the stock already in circulation; but, convinced that, on the contrary, works of that kind promote the advancement of general knowledge, they have no scruple whatever in offering this to the American people; and so firm do they feel in the conviction of its utility, that they let it go into the world, unaided by any of those arts, or specious professions which are sometimes employed, in similar cases, to excite the attention, enlist the partialities, and seduce the judgment of the public....