Excerpt from Fables, Original and Selected
In pronouncing upon the native land of a Fable from this kind of evidence, however, we must be careful to exclude from the list all those of modern growth not merely because the origin of most of them is known, but because the diffusion of knowledge among Europeans has become so extensive, that scholars have nearly as great facilities for forming an intimate acquaintance with the animals and other peculiar productions, manners, customs, and costume of distant countries, as with those of their own. This, no doubt, will tend more and more, as society advances, and as dates become confused by time, to render intrinsic evidence of less value than it has been, or now is but there will always be considerable utility in this testimony. No one for instance, will ever mistake the well known Fable of the Consultation of Tradesmen, respecting the building of a city wall, to belong to any country, but such as had Municipal Institutions at the date of its composition. It is said to have been derived from the Dutch - the people who first obtained civil freedom in modern times, unless indeed we call the government of the despotic oligarchy of Venice, freedom. - And again, no critic will have the least hesitation in saying that The Elephant and the Bookseller, could not have emanated from India.
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