Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

perus'd, within a very small number, that were in print in his time or some short time after; the chroniclers his cotemporaries, or that a little preceded him; many original poets of that age, and many translators; with essayists, novelists, and story-mongers in great abundance: every book, in short, has been consulted that it was possible to

[ocr errors]

unless we except their novelists, he does not appear to have had much acquaintance with any of their writers; what he has given us of it is meerly colloquial, flows with great cafe from him, and is reasonably pure: Should it be faid - he had travel'd for't, we know not who can confute us; in his days indeed, and with people of his station, the custom of doing so was rather rarer than in ours; yet we have met with an example, and in his own band of players, in the person of the very famous Mr. Kempe; of whose travels there is mențion in a filly old play, callid – The Return from Parnaffus, printed in 1606, but written much earlier in the time of Queen Elizabeth: add to this -- the exceeding great liveliness and justness that is seen in many defcriptions of the sea and of promontories, which, if examin’d, few another sort of knowledge of them than is to be gotten in books or relations; and if there be lay'd together, this conjecture of his travelling may not be thought void of probability.

One opinion, we are sure, which is advanç'd somewhere or other, is utterly so ; -- that this Latin, and this Italian, and the language that was mention'd, are insertions and thę work of some other hand: there has been started now and then in philological matters a proposition fo ftrange as to carry its own condemnation in it, and this is of the number; it has been honour'd already with more notice than it

any ways intitld to, where the poet's Latin is spoke of a little while before; to which answer it must be left, and wę {hall pass on -- to profess our entire belief of the genuineness of every several part of this work, and that he only was the author of it: he might weite beneath himself at particular times, and certainly does in some places; but is not always without excuse; and it frequently happens that weak scene serves to very good purpose, as will be made procure, with which it could be thought he was acquainted, or that seem'd likely to contribute any thing towards his illustration.

To what degree they illustrate him, and in how new a light they set the character of this great poet himself, can never be conceiv'd as it should be 'till these extra&s come forth to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and properly digested: for besides the various passages that he has either made use of or alluded to, many other matters have been selected and will be found in this work, tending all to the fame end, -- our better knowledge of him and his writings; and one class of them there is, for which we fliall perhaps be censur'd as being too profuse in them, namely -- the almost innumerable examples, drawn from these ancient writers, of words and modes of expression which many have thought peculiar to Shakspeare, and have been too apt to impute to him as a blemiih: but the quotations of this class do effe&ually purge him from such a

appear at one time or other. It may be thoughtibat there is one argument fill unanswer'd, which has been brought against his acquaintance with the Latin and other languages; and that is, – that, had he been so acquainted, it could not have happen'd but that some imitations would have crept into his writings, of which certainly there are none: but this argument has been anfwer'd in ésfcct; when it was said that his knowledge in these languages was but slender, and his conversation with the writers in them slender too of course : but had it been otherwise, and he as deeply read in thein as foine people have thought him, his works (it is probable) had been as little deform'd with imitations as we now see them: Shakspeare was far above such a praca rice; he had the stores in himself, and wanted not the affiftance of a foreign hand to dress him up in things of their lending.

[ocr errors]

charge, which is one reason of their profusion; though another main inducement to it has been, a desire of shewing the true force and meaning of the aforesaid unusual words and expressions; which can no way be better ascertain'd, than by a proper variety of well-chosen examples. Now, - to bring this matter home to the subject for which it has been alledg'd, and upon whose account this affair is now lay'd before the publick somewhat before it's time, who is so short-fighted as not to perceive upon first reflcction, that, without manifest injustice, the notes upon this author could not precede the publication of the work we have been describing; whose choicest materials would unavoidably and certainly have found a place in those notes, and so been twice retail'd upon the world; a practice which the editor has often condemn'd in others, and could therefore not resolve to be guilty of in himself? By postponing these notes a while, things will be as they ought: they will then be confin'd to that which is their proper subject, explanation alone, intermix'd with some little criticism; and instead of long quotations which would otherwise have appear'd in them, the School of Shakspeare will be refer'd to occasionally; and one of the many indexes with which this fame School will be provided, will 'afford an ampler and truer Glossary than can be made out of any other matter. In the mean while, and 'till such time as the whole can be got ready, and their way clear'd for them by publication of the book above-mention’d, the reader will please to take in good part fome few of these notes with which he will be presented by and by; they were written at least four

:

years ago, with an intention of placing them at the head of the several notes that are design’d for each play; but are now detach'd froin their fellows and made parcel of the Introduction, in compliance with some friends opinion; who having given them a perusal, will needs have it, that 'tis expedient the world should be made acquainted forthwith-in what sort of reading the poor poet hinself and his editor after him, have been unfortunately immers’d.

This discourse is run out, we know not how, into greater hcap of leaves than was any ways thought of, and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the penner of it: yet can we not disniiss bim, nor lay down our pen, 'till one article more has been enquir'd into, which seems no less proper for the discussion of this place, than one which we have inserted before, beginning at p. 284; as we there ventur'd to stand up in the behalf of fome of the quarto's and maintain'd their authencity, so mean we to have the hardiness here to defend some certain plays in this collection from the attacks of a number of writers who have thought fit to call in question their genuineness: the plays contested are The Three Parts of Henry VI.; Love's

Labour's Lost; The Taming of the Shrew; and Titus Andronicus; and the sum of what is brought against them, so far at least as is hitherto come to knowledge, may be all ultimately resolv'd into the fole opinion of their unworthiness, exclusive of some weak furmises which do not deserve a notice: it is therefore fair and allowable, by all laws of duelling to oppose opinion to opinion; which if we can strengthen with reasons, and something like proofs, which are totally wanting on the other side, the last opinion may chance to carry the day.

To begin then with the first of them, the Henry VI. in three parts. We are quite in the dark as to when the first part was written; but should be apt to conjecture, that it was some considerable time after the other two; and perhaps, when those two were re-touch'd, and made a little fitter than they are in their first draught to rank with the author's other plays which he has fetch'd from our English history: and those two parts, even with all their re-touchings, being still much inferior to the other plays of that class, he may reasonably be suppos’d to have under-writ himself on purpose in the first, that it might the better match with those it belong'd to:

now that these two plays (the first draughts of them, at least,) are among his early performances, we know certainly from their date; which is further confirm'd by the two concluding lines of his Henry V. fpoken by the Choruş; and (possibly) it were not going too far, to imagine -- that they are his second attempt in history, and near in time to his original King John, which is also in two parts: and, if this be so, we may safely pronounce them his, and even highly worthy of him; it being certain, that there was no English play upon the stage, at that time, which can come at all in competition with them; and this probably it was, which procur'd them the good reception that is mention'd too in the Chorus. The plays we are now speaking of have been inconceivably mangl’d either in the copy of the

« ZurückWeiter »