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there is not a word of the author altered :-it may not be amiis, however, to observe, in case of a second edition, that the word gate, as printed in the book, is wrong, it should be gait.'
In his animadversions on the following passage, we apprehend our Author, who is a very enthusiast in veneration for Shakespeare *, hath been very successful in vindicating the memory of the good old Bard,' from a charge which, if proved upon him, would greatly affect the moral character of his writings. The passage is in Measure for Meafure : Duke.
Reason thus with life;
That none but fools would keep : Dr. Warburton is here again brought into the fame indiete ment with the last editor. The reverend critic is supposed, by Mr. Kenrick, to have brought the charge of suicide against this passage, in order to lay hold of an occasion for altering the text. i The absurdity,' says our Reviewer,' of fupposing that the Speaker 'intended it as such, is obvious, fince he is endeavouring to instil into a condemned prisoner a refignation to his sentence, Dr. Johnson observes, that the meaning seems plainly this, that “ none but fools would wish to keep life ; or, none but fools would keep it, if choice were allowed.” . A sense which, whether true or not, is perfectly innocent. But though our editor is graciously pleased to exculpate Shakespeare in this particular, it appears to be only that he may fall upon him with the greater violence in a page or two after; where 'Dr. Warbuston vouchsafes to pay the poet a compliment. This passage is in the same Speech as the foregoing; .
- Thy best of rest is sleep,
Thy death, which is no more. This passage, says Dr. Warburton, « is evidently taken from the following, of Cicero: Habes fomnum imaginem mortis, eamque quotidie induis, dubitas quin sensus in morte nullus fit, cum in ejus simulachro viieas esse nullun sensum. But the Epicurean infinuation is with great judgment omitted in the imitation.” On this note Dr. Johnson hath made the following remark: “ Here Dr. Warburton might have found a sentiment worthy of his animadversion. I cannot, without indignation, find Shakespeare laying, that death is only sleep, lengthening out his exhortation by a sentence which in the friar is impious, in the reasoner is foolish, and in the poet is trite and vulgar." Nor can I, Dr. Johnson, says Mr. K. without equal indignation, find you misrepre
• We hay, heard Shakespeare's writings ftyled Gnorick's Bible.' If our English Roscius fhould not chufe to have his favourite Bard beheld in this light, we dase say our. Author will have no objection to having Juis own name fand here, in the place of Mr. Garrick's.'
raciously ples is perfecutione allowed life; or,
with us in the man, as one the way
Jenting Shakespeare, and thence taking 'occasion to condemn him where he is not culpable; lengthening out your censure with imputations that, being false in themselves, appear as invidious in the man, as they are contemptible in the critic. Would not one imagine, from the warmth with which Dr. Johnson speaks of this passage, that it militates against the doctrine of the immortality of the foul; insinuating that in death we close our eyes, and sleep for ever?- Nothing, however, can be more foreign from the plain intent of the speaker, and the obvious meaning of the passage. The duke, in the assumed character of a friar, is endeavouring to persuade Claudio to acquiesce in the sentence of death passed on him, and to prepare himself for launching into eternity. To this end he advises him to think altogether on death ; and to excite hiin to do so, he enumerates the several foibles of humanity, and the calamities incident to human life ; evidently intending by this means to wean his affections from the world, and render him less averse to part with it, and less apprehensive of the pain of dying. Thou oft provokejt Sleep, says he, yet absurdly fearest to die; which, with regard to the painful and perplexing vigil of life, is only to go to sleep. For that he only speaks of the mere sense of death, the parting of the soul from the body, and that Claudio understood him so, is very evident, by the reply which the latter makes to his harangue; notwithstanding the very last words of it seem to be full as exceptionable as those objected to. . . Duke.
in this life
That makes there odds all even.
To sue to live, I find, I seek to die ;
And, seeking death, find life: let it come on. If any thing farther is necessary to corroborate what is here ad vanced, we might instance the duke's exhorting him, in scene III. of the same act, to go to his knees and prepare for death. It is highly inconfiftent to think such a piece of advice should come from one who conccived death to be a perpetual Reep. Prayers must seem as superfluous to him, as the advice must appear impertinent to the prisoner. But that Claudio had the ftrongest-notions of a future state after death is not to be doubted, since, speaking of the fin of debauching his sister, and Angelo's design to commit it, he says,
If it were damnatle, he being so wise,
Be perdurably fin'd?
Death is a fearful thing, it is plain, he doth not confine the meaning of the word, as
hand, seekinecessary duke's exhorepare forice to
the duke did, to the mere act or circumstance of dying : for when she retorts upon him,
And Mamed life a hateful, he goes on,
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where, As if he had said, I do not mean the mere pain of dying; it is what is to come after death that I fear, when we are to :
go we know not where; *
Imagine howling ; 'tis too horrible ! Can we think that Shakespeare could so far forget himself, as to be bere so very explicit regarding the notion of a future state, if but two or three pages before he had been inculcating a contrary doctrine !-What then must we think of his commentator, who affects to be moved with indignation, and in effect presumes to charge him on this account with vulgarity, folly and impiety! Shakespeare appears to have had 'such a regard, even for his mortal part, as to bestow a curse on the person who should difturb his afhes ; what a severe nialedi&tion, then, would he not have bestowed on that sacrilegious hand, which had thus mangled his immortal reputation, could he have penetrated the womb of time, or anticipated the temerity of a modern critic!!
The next specimen we shall select, shall be, the remarks on a passage in The Merchant of Venice: ".. . : it's DUKE. Upon my pow's I may dismiss the court,
Unless-Bellario, a learned Doctor,
Come here to day. I
The doctor and court are herc fomewhat unskilfully brought together. That the duke would, on such an occasion, consult a doctor of great reputation, is not unlikely; but how should this be foreknown by Pórtia ?”.. · Here our author grows still warmer ; and he thus expoftulates with the learned editor::Why will you, Dr. Johnson, be thus constantly seeking occasion to find fault with Shakespeare, for misconduct in his dranja; the business of which you are evidently much too unskilled in to have a right to take upon you the authority of censuring the foremost man of all this world? You admit it to be right that Dr. Bellario, whom we may very
well well suppose to be a civilian of the first rank, should be sent for, to advise in this cause. You know too, I imaginé (or at least you might have known, if you had read the plày) that this Tame Dr. Bellario (for he was a doctor too; we are all doctors, Dr. Johnson) was a relation, a cousin, to Portia. This being premised, is it not very natural to suppose that, after Bassanio was called away in loch hafte to Venice, on account of the proYecütion carried on against his friend Anthonio, his bride Portia would send a messenger to her cousin Bellario, in order to ask *his opinion of so extraordinary a case, or 'to interest him in Anthonio's behalf? And can any thing be more probable than that he thould inform her, on receiving such a message, that he was actually fent for to Venice on that very account? For it is to be observed, that the duke speaks as if he had fent for him fome considerable time before : for he fays, unless Bellario, &c. come here to DAY. His power of dismissing the court also, on his not coming, seems founded on some physical or moral impediment, that might very naturally occur, to prevent his arrival within *the time: fo that he must be supposed either at such a distance as made it necessary to give him a considerable timely warning, or that the extraordinary nature of the cause might make him require fo much the more time to prepare himself equitably to determine it.—This being the fate of the case, was not here a very apt foundation on which to build Portia's plot of officiating for the doctor? which design she no doubt concerted with him by letter, before she sent for the notes and clothes mentioned 'scene V. act III.--And that this was really the case seems evident, from what Portia fays to Jessica, during the absence of Balfanio, and before she sends Balthazar to Bellario for the notes and clothes. Jessica compliments her on
L a noble and a true conceit : . Of god-like amity; which appears molt Atrongly
In bearing thus the absence of her lord.
From out the state of bellish cruelty? Here we find Portia speaking very peremptorily and certainly of Anthonio's deliverance; and of the cost already bestowed to effect it. Is it reasonable to think she would express herself thus confidently on a mere suggestion of her own? Besides, what cost could she have bestowed ? Her having bid her husband pay
the bond three times over, was nothing ; because she could not be sure the money would be taken. Nay, she evidently does not intend to trust to that acceptance. It is therefore, I think, very evident that she had even at this time concerted the scheme with her cousin Bellario. How far Belmont might be from either Venice or Padua, I cannot exactly say: but it appears .from circumstances that it could not be very far. From Belmont to Venice, it seems, there was a common traject, or ferry; so that the distance of both from Padua could not be too great for transacting the business in question. It is true, that the formality with which Portia introduces her charge to Bal. thazar, when she sends him for the notes and cloaths, seems to favour the supposition, that this was the first time she had sent to Bellario, in which case there would be some grounds for Dr. Johnson's remark; but we must observe, that Balthazar is now to be intrusted with a more important charge than he had before
been, in merely carrying and bringing back a letter ; or, it is : not unlikely, that Portia entrusted that business with a servant
of less importance. All these things duly considered, it is plain, · I think, that Dr. Johnson has very rashly and unadvisedly presumed to call Shakespeare unskilful, because he wanted skill himself. I shall dismiss this note, therefore, with advising our editor never to wade so far out of his depth for the future. It is a trite adage, but it is a very good one, and worthy to be obServed ; Ne futor ultra crepidam. I do not say that Dr. Johnson may not probably be well skilled in some things. Not that I know that he is well skilled in any *; for, though I have read all his works, I declare he does not appear to me (at least so far as I myself am able to judge) to be master of any one science, or any one language, so that he must not plume himself on my suffrage. Not that I deny him to be master of the whole circle of sciences, and of all languages ancient and modern. But, if it be fo; if it be seally true, as his friends inform me, that he is poffesfed of such amazing stores of literary and scientific knowledge, I cannot help thinking him extremely culpable, not to say very ungrateful, io keep them all avariciously to himself, and fob off the public with mere shreds and patches. How dare Dr. Johnson treat that public with so much contempt, which hath done him such extravagant honour ? How dare he behave to that public with such unparalell’d ingratitude, which hath given him such unparalellid, such
• • • I will except indeed the article af literary composition ; in which,
fo far as the merit of a speech, an essay, a life, or a novel, gocs, he is undoubtedly the best writer in Christendon. But his merit even here is in a great measure mechanical, and may be juftly accounted for in 'a mauner that will do little honor either.io bis boasted genius or learning. :