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ances, and a thousand to one, it is stolen. Suppose it to be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop: “A good wife makes the cares of the world sit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures; she is a man's best companion in prosperity, and his only friend in ad. versity; the carefullest preserver of his health, and the kindest attendant in his sickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a com. forter in affliction, and a prudent manager in all his domestick affairs." Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobeus:

“Γυνή γαρ εν κακoίσι και νόσοις ποσει
«Ηδισόν έσι, δώματ' ήν οίκή καλώς,
«'Οργήν τε πραυνεσα, και δυσθυμίας
“ tugine pestisão”!??

-Par. 4to. 1623. Malvolio in the Twelfth Night of Shakspeare hath some expressions very similar to Alnaschar in the Arabian Tales: which perhaps may be sufficient for some criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic!

It seems, however, at last, that “ Taste should determine the matter." This, as Bardolph expresses it, is a word of exceeding good command: but I am willing, that the standard itself be somewhat better ascertained before it be opposed to demonstrate evidence.Upon the whole, I may consider myself as the pioneer of the commentators: I have removed a deal of learned rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakspeare's track in the ever-pleasing paths of nature. This was necessarily a previous inquiry; and I hope I may assume with some confidence, what one of the first criticks of the age was pleased to declare on reading the former edition, that “The question is now for ever decided."



IT may be necessary to apologize for the republication of this pamphlet. The fact is, it has been for a good while extremely scarce, and some mercenary publishers were induced by the ex. travagant price, which it has occasionally borne, to project a new edition without the consent of the author.

A few corrections might probably be made, and many addi. tional proofs of the argument have necessarily occurred in more than twenty years: some of which may be found in the late ad. mirable editions of our Poet, by Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed.

But, perhaps enough is already said on so light a subject:A subject, however, which had for a long time pretty warmly divided the criticks upon Shakspeare.






“SHAKSPEARE,” says a brother of the craft,* “is a vast garden of criticism:" and certainly no one can be favoured with more weeders gratis.

But how often, my dear sir, are weeds and flowers torn up in. discriminately?-the ravaged spot is replanted in a moment, and a profusion of critical thorns thrown over it for security.

“A prudent man, therefore, would not venture his fingers amongst them.”

Be however in little pain for your friend, who regards him. self sufficiently to be cautious:-yet he asserts with confidence, that no improvement can be expected, whilst the natural soil is mistaken for a hot-bed, and the natives of the banks of Avon are scientifically choked with the culture of exoticks.

Thus much for metaphor; it is contrary to the statute to fly out so early: but who can tell, whether it may not be demonstrated by some critick or other, that a deviation from rule is peculiarly happy in an Essay on Shakspeare!

You have long known my opinion concerning the literary acquisitions of our immortal dramatist; and remember how I congratulated myself on my coincidence with the last and best of his editors. I told you, however, that his small Latin and less Greekt would still be litigated, and you see very assuredly that I was not mistaken. The trumpet hath been sounded against “the darling project of representing Shakspeare as one of the illiterate vulgar;" and indeed to so good purpose, that I would by all means recommend the performer to the army of the bray.. ing faction, recorded by Cervantes. The testimony of his contemporaries is again disputed; constant tradition is opposed by

* Mr. Seward, in his Preface to Beaumont and Fletcher, 10 Vols. 8vo. 1750.

+ This passage of Ben Jonson, so often quoted, is given us in the admirable preface to the late edition, with a various reading, “small Latin and no Greek,” which hath been held up to the publick for a modern sophistication: yet whether an error or not, it was adopted above a century ago by W. Towers, in a panegyrick on Cartwright. His eulogy, with more than fifty others, on this now forgotten poet, was prefixed to the edit. 1651.

flimsy arguments; and nothing is heard, but confusion and non. sense. One could scarcely imagine this a topick very likely to inflame the passions: it is asserted by Dryden, that “those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greatest commendation;" yet an attack upon an article of faith bath been usually received with more temper and complacence, than the unfortunate opinion which I am about to defend.

But let us previously lament with every lover of Shakspeare, that the question was not fully discussed by Mr. Johnson himself: what he sees intuitively, others must arrive at by a series of proofs; and I have not time to teach with precision: be contented therefore with a few cursory observations, as they may happen to arise from the chaos of papers, you have so often laughed at, “a stock sufficient to set up an editor in form.I am convinced of the strength of my cause, and superior to any little advantage from sophistical arrangements.

General positions without proofs will probably have no great weight on either side, yet it may not seem fair to suppress them: take them therefore as their authors occur to me, and we will afterward proceed to particulars.

The testimony of Ben. stands foremost; and some have held it sufficient to decide the controversy: in the warmest panegy; rick, that ever was written, he apologizes* for what he supposed the only defect in his " beloved friend,

Soul of the age! 'Th' applause! delight! the wonder of our stagewhose memory he honoured almost to idolatry:” and conscious of the worth of ancient literature, like any other man on the same occasion, he rather carries his acquirements above, than below the truth. “ Jealousy!” cries Mr. Upton; “people will allow others any qualities, but those upon which they highly value themselves.Yes, where there is a competition, and the compe. titor formidable: but, I think, this critick himself hath scarcely set in opposition the learning of Shakspeare and Jonson. When a superiority is universally granted, it by no means appears a man's literary interest to depress the reputation of his antagonist.

In truth the received opinion of the pride and malignity of Jonson, at least in the earlier part of life, is absolutely groundless: at this time, scarce a play or a poem appeared without Ben's encomium, from the original Shakspeare to the translator of Du Bartas.

But Jonson is by no means our only authority. Drayton, the countryman and acquaintance of Shakspeare, determines his excellence to the naturall brainet only. Digges, a wit of the town, before our poet left the stage, is very strong to the purpose,

· Nature only helpt him, for looke thorow “This whole book, thou shalt find he doth not borow,

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*Though thou hadst small Latin," &c.
| In his Elegie on Poets and Poesie, p. 206. Folio, 1627.

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“One phrase from Greekes, not Latines imitate,

“Nor once from vulgar languages translate.' Suckling opposed his easier strain to the sweat of the learned Jonson. Denham assures us, that all he had was from old mother. wit. His native wood-notes wild, every one remembers to be cele. brated by Milton. Dryden observes, prettily enough, that “he wanted not the spectacles of books to read nature.” He came out of her hand, as some one else expresses it, like Pallas out of Jove's head, at full growth and mature.

The ever memorable Hales of Eton, (who, notwithstanding his epithet, is, I fear, almost forgotten,) had too great a knowledge both of Shakspeare and the ancients to allow much ac. quaintance between them: and urged very justly on the part of genius in opposition to pedantry, that “if he had not read the classicks, he bad likewise not stolen from them; and if any topick was produced from a poet of antiquity he would undertake to show somewhat on the same subject, at least as well written by Sbakspeare."

Fuller a diligent and equal searcher after truth and quibbles, declares positively, that “his learning was very little,-nature was all the art used upon him, as he himself, if alive, would confess.” And may we not say, he did confess it, when he apo. logized for his untutored lines to his noble patron the Earl of Southampton ?—this list of witnesses might be easily enlarged; but I flatter myself, I shall stand in no need of such evidence.

One of the first and most vehement assertors of the learning of Shakspeare, was the editor of his poems, the well-known Mr. Gildon;t and his steps were most punctually taken by a subsequent labourer in the same department, Dr. Sewell.


From his Poem upon Master William Shakspeare, intended to have been prefixed, with the other of his composition, to the folio of 1623: and afterward printed in several miscellaneous collections: particularly the spurious edition of Shakspeare's Poems, 1640. Some account of him may be met with in Wood's Athene.

Hence perhaps the ill-starr'd rage between this critick and his elder brother, John Dennis, so pathetically lamented in the Dunciad. Whilst the former was persuaded, that “the man who doubts of the learning of Shakspeare, hath none of his own;" the latter, above regarding the attack in his private capacity, declares with great patriotick vehemence, that “he who allows Shakspeare had learning, and a familiar acquaintance with the ancients, ought to be looked upon as a detractor from the glory of Great Britain." Dennis was expelled his college for attempt. ing to stab a man in the dark: Pope would have been glad of this anecdote.s

See this fact established against the doubts and objections of Dr. Kippis in the Biographia Britannica, in Dr. Farmer's Letter to me, printed in the European Magazine, June 1794, p. 412. Reed.

Mr. Pope supposed "little ground for the common opinion of his want of learning:” once indeed he made a proper distinction between learning and languages, as I would be under. stood to do in my title-page; but unfortunately he forgot it in the course of his disquisition, and endeavoured to persuade him. self that Shakspeare's acquaintance with the ancients might be actually proved by the same medium as Jonson's.

Mr. Theobald is “very unwilling to allow him so poor a scho. lar, as many have laboured to represent him ;” and yet is cautious of declaring too positively on the other side of the question.”

Dr. Warburton hath exposed the weakness of some arguments from suspected imitations; and yet offers others, which, I doubt not, he could as easily have refuted.

Mr. Upton wonders “with what kind of reasoning any one could be so far imposed upon, as to imagine that Shakspeare had no learning;” and lashes with much zeal and satisfaction “the pride and pertness of dunces, who, under such a name would gladly shelter their own idleness and ignorance.”

He, like the learned knight, at every anomaly in grammar or metre,

“ Hath hard words ready to show why,

“ And tell what rule he did it by." How would the old bard have been astonished to have found, that he had very skilfully given the trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic, coMMONLY called the ithyphallic measure to the Witches in Macbeth! and that now and then a balting verse afforded a most beautiful instance of the pes proceleusmuticus.

“ But," continues Mr. Upton, “ it was a learned age; Roger Ascham assures us, that Queen Elizabeth read more Greek every day, than some dignitaries of the church did Latin in a whole week.” This appears very probable; and a pleasant proof it is of the general learning of the times, and of Shakspeare in particular. wonder, he did not corroborate it with an extract from her injunctions to her clergy, that “ such as were but mean readers should peruse over before, once or twice, the chapters and homilies, to the intent they might read to the better understanding of the people.”

Dr. Grey declares, that Shakspeare's knowledge in the Greek and Latin tongues cannot reasonably be called in question. Dr. Dodd supposes it proved, that he was not such a novice in learning and antiquity as some people would pretend. And to close the whole, for I suspect you to be tired of quotation, Mr. Whalley, the ingenious editor of Jonson, hath written a piece expressly on this side the question: perhaps from a very excusable partiality, he was willing to draw Shakspeare from the field of nature to classick ground, where alone, he knew, his author could possibly cope with him.

These criticks, and many others, their coadjutors, have supposed themselves able to trace Shakspeare in the writings of the ancients; and have sometimes persuaded us of their own

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