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had Shakspeare's name on the title, as we may suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Shakspeare any interest in detecting the imposture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the press.
The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakspeare's. If it had been written twenty-five years in 1614, it might have been written when Shakspeare was twenty-five years old. When he left Warwickshire I know not; but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deer-stealing.
Ravenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II. revised this play, and restored it to the stage, tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradition, I suppose, which in his time might be of sufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by Shakspeare, but written by some other poet. I do not find Shakspeare's touches very discernible.
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
This play is more correctly written than most of Shakspeare's compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, he has exerted little invention; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved them with great exactness. His vicious charac
ters sometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for both Cressida and Pandarus are detested and The comic characters seem to have been the favourites of the writer; they are of the superficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature; but they are copiously filled, and powerfully impressed.
Shakspeare has in his story followed for the greater part the old book of Caxton, which was then very popular: but the character of Thersites, of which it makes no mention, is a proof that this play was written after Chapman had published his version of Homer
the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes, the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs, ancient and modern, Eng lish and foreign.
"The Adventurer" very minutely criticised this My learned friend Mr. Warton, who has in play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. too savage and shocking, and the intervention These objections may, I think, be answered, by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series by dialogue and action. But I am not able to apoloGloster's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to gize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of be endured in dramatic exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to relieve its distress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered, that our author well knew what would please
the audience for which he wrote.
The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action, is abundantly recompensed by the addition of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opportunity which he gives the poet of com bining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to imThis play has many just sentiments, some na-press this important moral, that villany is never tural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.
at a stop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate in ruin.
But though this moral be incidentally enforced, Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, what is yet more strange, to the faith of chroni cles. Yet this conduct is justified by "The Spectator," who blames Tate for giving Cordelia success and happiness in his alteration, and declares, that in his opinion the tragedy has lost The tragedy of "Lear" is deservedly cele-half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether brated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There justly or not, that, to secure the favourable reis perhaps no play which keeps the attention so ception of "Cato" the town was poisoned with strongly fixed; which so much agitates our much false and abominable criticism, and that enpassions and interests our curiosity. The art-deavours had been used to discredit and decry ful involutions of distinct interests, the striking opposition of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of
poetical justice. A play in which the wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may doubt less be good, because it is a just representation of the common events of human life: but since all reasonable beings naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded, that the observation
of justice makes a play worse; or that, if other excellencies are equal, the audience will not always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue.
In the present case the public has decided. Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate, I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.
There is another controversy among the critics concerning this play. It is disputed whether the predominant image in Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his kingdom or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a very judicious critic, has evinced by induction of particular passages, that the cruelty of his daughters is the primary source of his distress, and that the loss of royalty affects him only as a secondary and subordinate evil. He observes, with great justness, that Lear would move our compassion but little, did we not rather consider the injured father than the degraded king.
The story of this play, except the episode of Edmund, which is derived, I think, from Sidney, is taken originally from Geoffry of Monmouth, whom Hollinshed generally copied but perhaps immediately from an old historical ballad. My reason for believing that the play was posterior to the ballad, rather than the ballad to the play, is that the ballad has nothing of Shakspeare's nocturnal tempest, which is too striking to have been omitted, and that it follows the chronicle; it has the rudiments of the play, but none of its amplifications: it first hinted Lear's madness, but did not array it in circumstances. The writer of the ballad added something to the history, which is a proof that he would have added more, if more had occurred to his mind,
and more must have occured if he had seen Shakspeare.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
This play is one of the most pleasing of our author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.
Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Mr. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that "he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third act, lest he should have been killed by him." Yet he thinks him "no such formidable person but that he might have lived through the play, and died in his bed," without danger to the poet. Dryden well knew, had he 1 been in quest of truth, that in a pointed sentence, more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gayety, and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated, he has lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play; nor do I doubt
the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humour, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.
The nurse is one of the characters in which the author delighted; he has with great subtility of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest.
His comic scenes are happily wrought, but his pathetic strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations. His persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit.
If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be cha racterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of "Hamlet" the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity; with merriment, that includes judicious and instructive observations; and solemnity, not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparation that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last that exposes affectation to just contempt.
The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual progression, but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the king, he makes no attempt to punish him; and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme night easily have been formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.
The poet is accused of having shown little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose; the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arise from the destruct on of an usurper and a murderer, is abated, by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.
Even the inferior characters of this play would be very conspicuous in any other piece, not only for their justness, but their strength. Cassio is brave, benevolent, and honest, ruined only by his want of stubbornness to resist an insidious invitation. Roderigo's auspicious credulity, and impatient submission to the cheats which he sees practised upon him, and which by persuasion he suffers to be repeated, exhibit a strong picture of a weak mind betrayed by unlawful desires to a false friend; and the virtue of Æmilia is such as we often find worn loosely, but not cast off, easy to commit small crimes, but quickened and alarmed at atrocious villanies.
the character of lago is so conducted, that he The beauties of this play impress themselves is from the first scene to the last hated and so strongly upon the attention of the reader, despised. that they can draw no aid from critical illustration. The fiery openness of Othello, magnanimous, artless, and credulous, boundless in his confidence, ardent in his affection, inflexible in his resolution, and obdurate in his revenge: the cool malignity of Iago, silent in his resentment, subtle in his designs, and studious at once of his interest and his vengeance: the soft simplicity of Desdemona, confident of merit, and conscious of innocence, her artless perseverance in her suit, and her slowness to suspect that she can be suspected, are such proofs of Shakspeare's skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain to seek in any modern writer. The gradual progress which Iago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs to inflame him, are so artfully natural, that, though it will perhaps not be said of him as he says of himself, that he is a man not easily jealous, yet we cannot but pity him, when at last we find him perplexed in the extreme.
There is always danger, lest wickedness, conjoined with abilities, should steal upon es teem, though it misses of approbation; but
The scenes from the beginning to the end are busy, varied by happy interchanges, and regu larly promoting the progression of the story; and the narrative in the end, though it tells but what is known already, yet is necessary to produce the death of Othello.
Had the scene opened in Cyprus, and the preceding incidents been occasionally related, there had been little wanting to a drama of the most exact and scrupulous regularity.
AN ACCOUNT OF
THE HARLEIAN LIBRARY.
To solicit a subscription for a Catalogue of the studious, that it excels any library that was Books exposed to sale, is an attempt for which ever yet offered to public sale in the value as some apology cannot but be necessary; for few well as number of the volumes which it contains; would willingly contribute to the expense of and that therefore this catalogue will not be of volumes, by which neither instruction nor enter-less use to men of letters, than those of the Thu tainment could be afforded, from which only the bookseller could expect advantage, and of which the only use must cease, at the dispersion of the library.
anian, Heinsian, or Barberinian libraries, it may not be improper to exhibit a general account of the different classes, as they are naturally divided by the several sciences.
Nor could the reasonableness of a universal By this method we can indeed exhibit only a rejection of our proposal be denied, if this cata-general idea, at once magnificent and confused; logue were to be compiled with no other view, an idea of the writings of many nations, collectthan that of promoting the sale of the books ed from distant parts of the world, discovered which it enumerates, and drawn up with that sometimes by chance, and sometimes by curiinaccuracy and confusion which may be found osity, amidst the rubbish of forsaken monasteries, in those that are daily published. and the repositories of ancient families, and brought hither from every part, as to the universal receptacle of learning.
But our design, like our proposal, is uncommon, and to be prosecuted at a very uncommon expense; it being intended, that the books shall It will be no unpleasing effect of this account, be distributed into their distinct classes, and if those that shall happen to peruse it, should every class ranged with some regard to the be inclined by it to reflect on the character of age of the writers; that every book shall be accu- the late proprietors, and to pay some tribute of rately described; that the peculiarities of editions veneration to their ardour for literature, to that shall be remarked, and observations from the generous and exalted curiosity which they grati authors of literary history occasionally inter-fied with incessant searches and immense exspersed; that, by this catalogue, we may inform posterity of the excellence and value of this great collection, and promote the knowledge of scarce books, and elegant editions. For this purpose men of letters are engaged, who cannot even be supplied with amanuenses, but at an expense above that of a common catalogue.
To show that this collection deserves a parucular degree of regard from the learned and
pense, and to which they dedicated that time, and that superfluity of fortune, which many others of their rank employ in the pursuit of contemptible amusements, or the gratification of guilty passions. And, surely, every man, who considers learning as ornamental and advantageous to the community, must allow them the honour of public benefactors, who have introduced amongst us authors not hitherto well
known, and added to the literary treasures of their native country.
ceed each other; by what accident the most gloomy nights of ignorance have given way to That our catalogue will excite any other man the dawn of science, and how learning has lanto emulate the collectors of this library, to pre-guished and decayed, for want of patronage and fer books and manuscripts to equipage and lux- regard, or been overborne by the prevalence of ury, and to forsake noise and diversion for the fashionable ignorance, or lost amidst the tumults conversation of the learned, and the satisfaction of invasion and the storms of violence. All of extensive knowledge, we are very far from those who desire any knowledge of the literary presuming to hope; but shall make no scruple transactions of past ages, may find in catalogues, to assert, that, if any man should happen to be like this at least, such an account as is given by seized with such laudable ambition, he may find annalists and chronologers of civil history. in this catalogue hints and informations, which are not easily to be met with; he will discover, that the boasted Bodleian library is very far from a perfect model, and that even the learned Fabricius cannot completely instruct him in the early editions of the classic writers.
But the collectors of libraries cannot be numerous; and, therefore, catalogues cannot very properly be recommended to the public, if they had not a more general and frequent use, a use which every student has experienced, or neglected to his loss. By the means of catalogues only can it be known, what has been written on every part of learning, and the hazard avoided of encountering difficulties which have already been cleared, discussing questions which have already been decided, and digging in mines of literature which former ages have exhausted.
How often this has been the fate of students, every man of letters can declare; and, perhaps, there are very few who have not sometimes valued as new discoveries, made by themselves, those observations which have long since been published, and of which the world therefore will refuse them the praise; nor can the refusal be censured as any enormous violation of justice; for, why should they not forfeit by their ignorance, what they might claim by their sagacity?
How the knowledge of the sacred writings has been diffused, will be observed from the catalogue of the various editions of the Bible, from the first impression by Fust, in 1462, to the present time; in which will be contained the poly glot editions of Spain, France, and England, those of the original Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate with the versions which are now used in the remotest parts of Europe, in the country of the Grisons, in Lithuania, Bohemia, Finland, and Iceland.
With regard to the attempts of the same kind made in our country, there are few whose expectations will not be exceeded by the number of English bibles, of which not one is forgotten, whether valuable for the pomp and beauty of the impression, or for the notes with which the text is accompanied, or for any controversy or persecution that it produced, or for the peculiarity of any single passage. With the same care have the various editions of the book of commonprayer been selected, from which all the alterations which have been made in it may be easily remarked.
Among a great number of Roman missals and breviaries, remarkable for the beauty of their cuts and illuminations, will be found the Mosarabic missal and breviary, that raised such commotions in the kingdom of Spain.
To illustrate this remark, by the mention of The controversial treaties written in England, obscure names, would not much confirm it; and about the time of the Reformation, have been to villify for this purpose the memory of men diligently collected, with a multitude of remarktruly great, would be to deny them the reve-able tracts, single sermons, and small treatises; rence which they may justly claim from those which, however worthy to be preserved, are perwhom their writings have instructed. May the haps to be found in no other place. shade, at least, of one great English critic rest without disturbance; and may no man presume to insult his memory, who wants his learning, his reason, or his wit.
From the vexatious disappointment of meeting reproach, where praise is expected, every man will certainly desire to be secured; and therefore that book will have some claim to his regard, from which he may receive informations of the labours of his predecessors, such as a catalogue of the Harleian library will copiously af
The regard which was always paid by the collectors of this library, to that remarkable riod of time in which the art of printing was invented, determined them to accumulate the ancient impressions of the fathers of the church; to which the later editions are added, lest antiquity should have seemed more worthy of esteem than accuracy.
History has been considered with the regard due to that study by which the manners are most easily formed, and from which the most efficacious instruction is received; nor will the most extensive curiosity fail of gratification in this library; from which no writers have been excluded, that relate either to the religious or civil affairs of any nation.
Nor is the use of catalogues of less importance to those whom curiosity has engaged in the study of literary history, and who think the intellectual revolutions of the world more worthy of their attention than the ravages of tyrants, Not only those authors of ecclesiastical histhe desolation of kingdoms, the rout of armies, tory have been procured that treat of the state and the fall of empires. Those who are pleased of religion in general, or deliver accounts of sects with observing the first birth of new opinions, or nations, but those likewise who have confined their struggles against opposition, their silent themselves to particular orders of men in every progress under persecution, their general re-church; who have related the original, and the ception, and their gradual decline, or sudden rules of every society, or recounted the lives of extinction; those that amuse themselves with its founder and its members; those who have remarking the different periods of human know- deduced in every country the succession of ledge, and observe how darkness and light suc- bishops, and those who have employed their
abilities in celebrating the piety of particular | volumes, pamphlets, and papers which went saints, or martyrs, or monks, or nuns. published by either party; and such is the car, with which they have been preserved.
The civil history of all nations has been amassed together; nor is it easy to determine which has been thought most worthy of curi
Of France, not only the general histories and ancient chronicles, the accounts of celebrated reigns, and narratives of remarkable events, but even the memorials of single families, the lives of private men, the antiquities of particular cities, churches, and monasteries, the topography of provinces, and the accounts of laws, customs, and prescriptions, are here to be found.
The several states of Italy have, in this treasury, their particular historians, whose accounts are, perhaps, generally more exact, by being less extensive; and more interesting, by being more particular.
Nor has less regard been paid to the different nations of the Germanic empire, of which neither the Bohemians, nor Hungarians, nor Austrians, nor Bavarians have been neglected; nor have their antiquities, however generally disregarded, been less studiously searched than their present state.
Nor is history without the necessary preparatives and attendants, geography and chronology: of geography, the best writers and delineators have been procured, and pomp and accuracy have both been regarded: the student of chronology may here find likewise those authors who searched the records of time, and fixed the periods of history.
With the historians and geographers may be ranked the writers of voyages and travels, which may be read here in the Latin, English, Dutch, German, French, Italian, and Spanish languages.
The laws of different countries, as they are in themselves equally worthy of curiosity with their history, have, in this colleetion, been justly regarded; and the rules by which the various communities of the world are governed, may be here examined and compared. Here are the ancient editions of the papal decretals, and the commentators on the civil law, the edicts of Spain and the statutes of Venice.
collected from the most ancient to the present time, from the bodies of the statutes to the minutest treatise; not only the reports, precedents, and readings of our own courts, but even the laws of our West Indian colonies, will be ex
But with particular industry have the various The northern nations have supplied this col-writers on the laws of our own country been lection, not only with history, but poetry, with Gothic antiquities and Runic inscriptions; which at least have this claim to veneration above the remains of the Roman magnificence, that they are the works of those heroes by whom the Roman empire was destroyed; and which may plead, athibited in our catalogue. least in this nation, that they ought not to be neglected by those that owe to the men whose memories they preserve, their constitution, their properties, and their liberties.
The curiosity of these collectors extends equally to all parts of the world; nor did they forget to add to the northern the southern writers, or to adorn their collection with chronicles of Spain, and the conquest of Mexico.
Even of those nations with which we have less intercourse, whose customs are less accurately known, and whose history is less distinctly recounted, there are in this library reposited such accounts as the Europeans have been hitherto able to obtain; nor are the Mogul, the Tartar, the Turk, and the Saracen, without their historians.
But neither history nor law have been so far able to engross this library, as to exclude physic, philosophy, or criticism. Those have been thought, with justice, worthy of a place, who have examined the different species of animals, delineated their forms, or described their properties and instincts; or who have penetrated the bowels of the earth, treated on its different strata, and analyzed its metals; or who have amused themselves with less laborious speculations, and planted trees, or cultivated flowers.
Those that have exalted their thoughts above the minuter parts of the creation, who have observed the motions of the heavenly bodies, and attempted systems of the universe, have not been denied the honour which they deserved by so great an attempt, whatever has been their success. Nor have those mathematicians been rejected, who have applied their science to the common purposes of life; or those that have deviated into the kindred arts of tactics, architecture, and fortification.
That persons so inquisitive with regard to the transactions of other nations, should inquire yet more ardently after the history of their own, may be naturally expected; and indeed, this part of the library is no common instance of diligence and accuracy. Here are to be found, with the ancient chronicles, and larger histories of Britain, the narratives of single reigns, and the accounts of remarkable revolutions, the topographical histories of counties, the pedigrees of families, the antiquities of churches and cities, the proceedings of parliaments, the records of monasteries, and the lives of particular men, whether eminent in the church or in the state, or remarkable in private life; whether exem- The admirer of Greek and Roman literature plary for their virtues, or detestable for their will meet, in this collection, with editions little crimes; whether persecuted for religion, or exe-known to the most inquisitive critics, and which cuted for rebellion.
That memorable period of the English history, which begins with the reign of king Charles the First, and ends with the Restoration, will almost furnish a library alone, such is the number of
Even arts of far less importance have found their authors, nor have these authors been despised by the boundless curiosity of the propri etors of the Harleian library. The writers on horsemanship and fencing are more numerous, and more bulky than could be expected by those who reflect how seldom those excel in either, whom their education has qualified to compose books.
have escaped the observation of those whose great employment has been the collation of copies; nor will he find only the most ancient editions of Faustus, Jenson, Spira, Sweynheim and Pannartz, but the most accurate likewise