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our Shakspeare,) were carclefsly fcattered and thrown about as garret lumber and litter, to the particular knowledge of the late Sir William Bifhop, till they were all confumed in the general fire and deftruction of that town. I cannot help being a little apt to distrust the authority of this tradition, because his wife furvived him feven years; and, as his favourite daughter Susanna furvived her twenty-fix years, it is very improbable they should suffer fuch a treasure to be removed, and tranflated into a remoter branch of the family, without a fcrutiny firft made into the value of it. This, I fay, inclines me to diftruft the authority of the relation: but notwithstanding fuch an apparent improbability, if we really loft fuch a treafure, by whatever fatality or caprice of fortune they came into fuch ignorant and negle&fui hands, I agree with the relater, the misfortune is wholly irreparable.

To thefe particulars, which regard his perfon and private life, fome few more are to be gleaned from Mr. Rowe's Account of his Life and Writings: let us now take a fhort view of him in his publick capacity as a writer: and, from thence, the tranfition will be easy to the state in which his writings have been handed down to us.

No age, perhaps, can produce an author more various from himself, than Shakspeare has been univerfally acknowledged to be. The diverfity in ftyle, and other parts of compofition, fo obvious in him, is as varioufly to be accounted for. His education, we find, was at best but begun: and he ftarted early into a fcience from the force of genius, unequally affifted by acquired improvements.

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His fire, fpirit, and exuberance of imagination, gave an impetuofity to his pen: his ideas flowed from him in a fream rapid, but not turbulent: copious, but not ever overbearing its flores. The eafe and sweetnefs of his temper might not a little contribute to his facility in writing; as his employment as a player, gave him an advantage and habit of fancying himself the very character he meant to delineate. He used the helps of his function in forming himself to create and express that fublime, which other actors can only copy, and throw out, in action and graceful attitude. But, Nullum fine veniâ placuit ingenium, fays Seneca. The genius, that gives us the greatest pleasure, fometimes ftands in need of our indulgence. Whenever this happens with regard to Shakspeare, I would willingly impute it to a vice of his times. We fee complaifance enough, in our days, paid to a bad taste. So that his clinches, falfe wit, and defcending beneath himfelf, may have proceeded from a deference paid to the then reigning barbarifm.

I have not thought it out of my province, whenever occafion offered, to take notice of fome of our poet's grand touches of nature, fome, that do not appear fufficiently fuch, but in which he feems the moft deeply inftructed; and to which, no doubt, he has fo much owed that happy prefervation of his characters, for which he is juftly celebrated. Great geniuses, like his, naturally unambitious, are fatisfied to conceal their art in thefe points. It is the foible of your worfer poets to make a parade and oftentation of that little fcience they have; and to throw it out in the moft ambitious colours. And whenever a writer of this clafs fhall attempt to copy thefe artful concealments of our author,

and fhall either think them eafy, or practifed by a writer for his eafe, he will foon be convinced of his mistake by the difficulty of reaching the imitation of them.

"Speret idem, fudet multum fruftraque laboret,

"Aufus idem:

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Indeed to point out and exclaim upon all the beauties of Shakspeare, as they come fingly in review, would be as infipid, as endlefs; as tedious, as unneceffary: but the explanation of thofe beauties that are lefs obvious to common readers, and whofe illuftration depends on the rules of juft criticifm, and an exact knowledge of human life, fhould defervedly have a fhare in a general critique upon the author. But to pals over at once to an

other fubject:

It has been allowed on all hands, how far our author was indebted to nature; it is not so well agreed, how much he owed to languages and acquired learning. The decifions on this fubject were cer

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3 It has been allowed &c.] On this fubject an eminent writer has given his opinion which fhould not be fuppreffed. "You will ask me, perhaps, now I am on this fubject, how it happened that Shakspeare's language is every where fo much his own as to fecure his imitations, if they were fuch, from discovery; when I pronounce with fuch affurance of thofe of our other poets. The anfwer is given for me in the preface to Mr. Theobald's Shakspeare; though the obfervation, I think, is too good to come from that critick. It is, that, though his words, agreeably to the ftate of the English tongue at that time, be generally Latin, his phrafeology is perfectly English: an advantage, he owed to his flender acquaintance with the Latin idiom. Whereas the other writers of his age and fuch others of an older date as were likely to fall in his hands, had not only the moft familiar acquaintance with the Latin idiom, but affected on all occafions to make ufe of it. Hence it comes to pafs, that though he might draw

tainly fet on foot by the hint from Ben Jonfon, that he had fmall Latin, and lefs Greek: and from this tradition, as it were, Mr. Rowe has thought fit peremptorily to declare, that, "It is without controverly, he had no knowledge of the writings of the ancient poets, for that in his works we find no traces of any thing which looks like an imitation of the ancients. For the delicacy of his tafte (continues he) and the natural bent of his own great genius (equal if not fuperior, to fome of the best of theirs,) would certainly have led him to read and fludy them with fo much pleasure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed with, his own writings and fo his not copying, at least, fomething from them, may be an argument of his never having read them." I fhall leave it to the determination of my learned readers, from thẹ numerous paffages which I have occafionally quoted in my notes, in which our poet feems clofely to have imitated the clafficks, whether Mr. Rowe's affertion be fo abfolutely to be depended on. refult of the controversy muft certainly, either way, terminate to our outhor's honour: how happily he could imitate them, if that point be allowed; or how gloriously he could think like them, without owing any thing to imitation.


Though I fhould be very unwilling to allow Shakspeare fo poor a fcholar, as many have laboured

fometimes from the Latin (Ben Jonfon you know tells us He had lefs Greek) and the learned English writers, he takes nothing but the fentiments; the expreffion comes of itself and is purely English. Bishop Hurd's Letter to Mr. Mafon, on the Marks of Imitation, 8vo. 1758. REED.

to represent him, yet I fhall be very cautious of declaring too pofitively on the other fide of the question; that is, with regard to my opinion of his knowledge in the dead languages. And therefore the paffages, that I occafionally quote from the clafficks, fhall not be urged as proofs that hẹ knowingly imitated thofe originals; but brought to fhew how happily he has expreffed himself upon the fame topicks. A very learned critick of our own nation has declared, that a fameness of thought and fameness of expreffion too, in two writers of a different age, can hardly happen, without a violent suspicion of the latter copying from his predeceffor. I fhall not therefore run any great risque of a cen fure, though I fhould venture to hint, that the refemblances in thought and expreffion of our author and an ancient (which we fhould allow to be imitation in the one whofe learning was not queftioned) may fometimes take its rife from ftrength of memory, and thofe impreffions which he owed to the school. And if we may allow a poffibility of this, confidering that, when he quitted the school, he gave into his father's profeffion and way of living, and had, it is likely, but a flender library of claffical learning; and confidering what a number of translations, romances, and legends, ftarted about his time, and a little before (moft of which, it is very evident, he read); I think it may eafily be reconciled why he rather schemed his plots and characters from these more latter informations, than went back to thofe fountains, for which he might entertain a fincere veneration, but to which he could not have fo ready a recourse,

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