« PreviousContinue »
gan to doubt the authenticity of the picture from which his first engraving had been made, and was therefore easily perfuaded to expend his art on another portrait, the fpurioufnefs of which (to himself at least) was not quite fo evident as that of its predeceffor,
The publick, for many years paft, has been familiarized to a Vandyckish head of Shakspeare, introduced by Simon's mezzotinto from a painting by Zouft. Hence the countenance of our author's monumental effigy at Westminster was modelled; and a kindred representation of him has been given by Roubiliac. Such is ftill the Shakspeare that decorates our libraries, and feals our letters. But, ætatis cujufque notandi funt tibi mores. On a little reflection it might have occurred, that the cavalier turn of head adopted from the gallant partizans of Charles I. afforded no just resemblance of the fober and chastised countenances predominating in the age of Elizabeth, during which our poet flourished, though he furvived till James, for about thirteen years, had difgraced the throne. The foregoing hint may be pursued by the judicious examiner, who will take the trouble to compare the looks and air of Shakspeare's contemporaries with the modern fculptures, &c. defigned to perpetuate his image. The reader may then draw an obvious inference from thefe premises; and conclude, that the portrait lately exhibited to the publick is not fuppofititious because it presents a lefs fpritely and confident affemblage of features than had ufually been imputed to the modeft and unaffuming parent of the British theatre. It is certain, that neither the Zouftian or Chandofan canvas has difplayed the leaft trait of a quiet and gentle bard of the Elizabethan age.
To afcertain the original owner of the portrait
now Mr. Felton's, is an undertaking difficult enough; and yet conjecture may occafionally be fent out on a more hopeless errand.
The old pictures at Tichfield House, as part of the Wriothesley property, were divided, not many years ago, between the Dukes of Portland and Beaufort. Some of these paintings that were in good condition were removed to Bulftrode, where two portraits3 of Shakspeare's Earl of Southampton are ftill preserved. What became of other heads
hich time or accident had impaired, and at what period the remains of the furniture, &c. of his Lordship's venerable manfion were fold off and difperfed, it may be fruitless to enquire.
Yet, as the likeness of our author lately redeemed from obfcurity was the work of fome eminent Flemish artift, it was probably painted for a perfonage of diftinction, and might therefore have belonged to the celebrated Earl whom Shakspeare had previously complimented by the dedication of his Venus and Adonis. Surely, it is not unreasonable to fuppose, that a resemblance of our excellent dramatick poet might have been found in the house of a nobleman who is reported to have loved him well enough to have presented him with a thousand pounds.
To conclude-the names 4 which have honoured
3 One of these portraits, is on canvas, and therefore the genuinenefs of it is controverted, if not denied.
4 In the numerous Lift of Gentlemen who thoroughly examined this original Picture, were convinced of its authenticity, and immediately became Subscribers to W. Richardson, are the names of Dr. Farmer, Mr. Cracherode, Mr. Bindley, Sir Jofeph Banks, Sir George Shuckburgh, Mr. Chalmers, Mr. Reed, Mr. Ritfon, Mr. Douce, Mr. Markham, Mr. Wefton, Mr. Lyfons, Mr. James, Col. Stanley, Mr. Combe, Mr. Lodge, Meff. Smith, fen. and jun. Mr. Nicol, Mr. Boaden, Mr. Pearce, Mr.
the fubfcription for an engraving from this newfound portrait of Shakspeare, must be allowed to furnish the most decifive eftimate of its value.
[Since the foregoing Paper was received, we have been authorized to inform the Publick, that Messieurs Boydell and Nicol are fo thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of Mr. Felton's Shakspeare, that they are determined to engrave it as a Frontifpiece to their Splendid Edition of our Author, inftead of having recourfe to the exploded Picture inherited by the Chandos Family.]
From the European Magazine, for December, 1794.
Whitefoord, Mr. Thane, Meff. Boydell, Mr. G. Romney, Mr. Lawrence, (Portrait-painter to his Majefty,) Mr. Boywer, (Miniature-painter to his Majefty,) Mr. Barry, R. A. (Profeffor of Painting,) &c. &c. &c.
The following pages, on account of their connection with the fubject of Mr. Richardfon's Remarks, are fuffered to ftand as in our laft edition.
PREFIXED TO EDITION 1793.
THE reader may obferve that, contrary to former ufage, no head of Shakspeare is prefixed to the prefent edition of his plays. The undisguised fact is this. The only portrait of him that even pretends to authenticity, by means of injudicious cleaning, or fome other accident, has become little better than the " fhadow of a fhade."5 The late Sir Joshua Reynolds indeed once fuggested, that whatever perfon it was defigned for, it might have been left, as it now appears, unfinished. Various copies and plates, however, are faid at different times to have been made from it; but a regard for truth obliges us to confefs that they are all unlike each other, and convey no diftinct refemblance of the
Such, we think, were the remarks, that occurred to us feveral years ago, when this portrait was acceffible. We wished indeed to have confirmed them by a fecond view of it; but a late accident in the noble family to which it belongs, has precluded us from that fatisfaction.
Vertue's portraits have been over-praised on account of their fidelity; for we have now before us fix different heads of Shakfpeare engraved by him, and do not fcruple to affert that they have individually a different caft of countenance. Cucullus non facit monachum. The shape of our author's ear-ring and fallingband may correfpond in them all, but where fhall we find an equal conformity in his features?
Few objects indeed are occafionally more difficult to feize, than the flender traits that mark the character of a face; and the
poor remains of their avowed original. Of the drapery and curling hair exhibited in the excellent engravings of Mr. Vertue, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Knight, the painting does not afford a veftige; nor is there a feature or circumftance on the whole canvas, that can with minute precifion be delineated.We must add, that on very vague and dubious authority this head has hitherto been received as a genuine portrait of our author, who probably left behind him no fuch memorial of his face. As he was careless of the future ftate of his works, his folicitude might not have extended to the perpetuation of his looks. Had any portrait of him exifted, we may naturally fuppofe it must have belonged to his family, who (as Mark Antony fays of a hair of Cæfar) would
have mention'd it within their wills,
and were there ground for the report that Shakspeare was the real father of Sir William D'Avenant, and that the picture already spoken of was painted for him, we might be tempted to observe with our author, that the
"Was kinder to his father, than his daughters
But in fupport of either fuppofition fufficient evidence has not been produced. The former of these
eye will often detect the want of them, when the most exact mechanical process cannot decide on the places in which they are omitted.-Vertue, in fhort, though a laborious, was a very indifferent draughtfman, and his beft copies too often exhibit a general instead of a particular refemblance.