« السابقةمتابعة »
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
A little nearer Spenser; to make room
At the distance of two centuries, while posterity is looking towards them as the “delight and wonder of their age," and the “ admiration of all time,” it is grateful (to me at least) to trace these incontrovertible proofs of their friendly connexion. It were to be wished that further circumstances could be added, for who can ever know too much of Shakspeare? It is not, however, of little moment, that whatever is known of them jointly is in proof of their attachment. With these unsophisticated evidences of their generous disposition to each other, without any mixture or alloy, it might have been hoped and expected that their names would have descended to posterity, as another proof of the possibility of rival merit exciting praise instead of envy; as Horace had before borne testimony to the merit of Virgil, and Juvenal to the worth of Quintilian. But those who are acquainted with the criticisms and commentaries of the many writers on Shakspeare, know that Jonson is by them transmitted to us as an example of ingratitude, envy, and malignity, jealous of all contemporary merit, and a libeller of the friend to whom he owed his elevation. If this strong case could be made out, his writings ought to be condemned to the hands of the hangman, and his name be consigned to perpetual infamy. If, however,
it shall appear that his fair fame has been blackened, his memory traduced, and his writings perverted, for the unworthy purpose of raising a rival poet on the ruins of his reputation; and that malevolent critics may display their sagacity and acuteness in tracing passages applicable to their favourite poet; the voice of public justice, it is to be hoped, will restore to the brow of the poet his violated honours, committing to merited shame and obloquy the “viperous critics by whom they were bereaved.”*
In the notes and prefaces of Theobald, Warburton, and Johnson, we find no traces of this supposed malignity:
They bear no semblance of these sable streams. The palm of precedence must, I believe, be consigned to Rowe, who, however, soon retracted his assertions. In the first edition of his Life of Shakspeare, he had represented Jonson as naturally proud and insolent, looking with an evil eye upon any one that seemed to stand in competition with him. Further inquiry caused him to withdraw these charges, which are unsupported by contemporary proof, by his
* Some vip'rous critic may bercave
Daniel's Musophilus, fol. 1601, sign. A jiji.
torical evidence, or (to borrow a phrase from the elegant Mr. Chalmers) by “ babbling tradition.” · For the various and extraordinary merits of George Steevens, I find it difficult to express the respect which I feel : he was indeed a genuine wit; an elegant, if not a profound, scholar; an acute and judicious critic; who has done more towards explaining his author than the whole herd of commentators, among whom he towers
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi. That he should lend the weight of his name to this belief, is matter of regret; and the proofs by which he justified it, show that he had not bestowed much pains in examining its truth.
In the edition of Shakspeare before me, the first object of our notice is the verses “ to the memory of his beloved, Mr. William Shakspeare, and what he has left us :” and on the subject of this tribute to the memory of Shakspeare, Dryden and Pope are at issue :* the former terms it a
* The sentiments entertained by Jonson's contemporaries of his verses to Shakspeare, may be gathered from the following lines; prefixed to the poems of the latter, Svo. 16-10 :
It is not fit each humble muse should have