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O solicit a subscription for a catalogue of books
exposed to sale, is an attempt for which some apology cannot but be necessary; for few would willingly contribute to the expence of volumes, by which neither instruction nor entertainment 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.
Nor could the reasonableness of an universal rejection of our proposal be denied, if this catalogue were to be compiled with no other view, than that of promoting the sale of the books wþich it enumerates, and drawn up with that inaccuracy and confusion which may be found in those that are daily published.
But our design, like our proposal, is uncommon, and to be prosecuted at a very uncommon expence; it being intended, that the books shall be distributed into their distinct classes, and every class ranged with some regard to the age of the writers; that every book shall be accurately described; that the Vol. IX.
peculiarities of editions shall be remarked, and observations from the authors of literary history occasionally interspersed ; that, by this catalogue, we may inform pofterity 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 arnanuenses, but at an expence above that of a common catalogue.
To thew that this collection deserves a particular degree of regard from the learned and the studious, that it excels any library that was ever yet offered to publick sale in the value as well as number of the volumes which it contains; and that therefore this catalogue will not be of less use to men of letters, than chofe of the Thuanian, Heinfian, or Barberinian libraries, it may not be improper to exhibit a general account of the different claffes, as they are naturally divided by the several sciences.
By this method we can indeed exhibit only a ge. neral idea, at once magnificent and confused; an idea of the writings of many nations, collected from distant parts of the world, discovered sometimes by chance, and sometimes by curiosity, amidst the rubbith of forsaken monasteries, and the repositories of ancient sumilies, and brought hither from every part, as to the universal receptacle of learning.
It will be no unpleasing effect of this account, if those, that shall happen to peruse it, should be inclined by it to reflect on the character of the late proprietors, and to pay fome tribute of veneration to their ardour for literature, to that generous and exalted curiosity which they gratified with inceffant
searches and immense expence, and to which they dedicated that time, and that superfuity of fortune, which many others of their rank employ in the purJuit of contemptible amusements, or the gratification of guilty pasions. And, surely, every man, who considers learning as ornamental and advantageous to the community, must allow them the honour of publick benefactors, who have introduced amongst us authors not hitherto well known, and added to the literary treasures of their native country.
That our catalogue will excite any other man to emulate the collectors of this library, to prefer books and manuscripts to equipage and luxury, and to forfake noise and diversion for the conversation of the learned, and the satisfaction of extensive knowledge, we are very far from presuming to hope ; but shall make no scruple to assert, that, if any man should happen to be seized with such laudable ambition, he may find 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 publick, if they had not a more general and frequent use, an 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
MERCHANT OF VENICE. It has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Giovani Fiorentino, a novelist, who wrote in 1378. The story has been published in English, and I have epitomized the tranflation. The translator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, which I have likewise abridged, though I believe that Shakespeare muf have had some other novel in view,
Of the MERCHANT of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own address in connecting the two plors of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play.
AS YOU LIKE IT. Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I know not how the ladies will approve the facility with which both Rosalind and Celia give away their hearts. To Celia much may be forgiven for the heroifin of her friendship. The character of Jaques is natural and well preserved. The comick dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays; and the graver part is ciegant and harmonious. By hastening to the end of his work, Shakespeare suppressed the dialogue 5
between the usurper and the hermit, and lost an opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson in which he might have found matter worthy of his highest powers,
TAMING OF THE SHREW.
Of this play the two plots are so well united, that they can hardly be called two without injury to the art with which they are interwoven. The attention is entertained with all the variety of a double plot, yet is not distracted by unconnected incidents.
The part between Katharine and Petruchio is emi. nently spritely and diverting. At the marriage of Bianca the arrival of the real father, perhaps, produces more perplexity than pleasure. The whole play is very popular and diverting,
ALL's WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
This play has many delightful scenes, though not fufficiently probable, and some happy characters, though not new, nor produced by any deep knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the ftage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakespeare.
I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram ; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate : when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a