« PreviousContinue »
the readers of the present day the absurdity of such a preference, would be an insult to their understandings. When we endeavour to trace any thing like a ground for this preposterous taste, we are told of Fletcher's ease, and Jonson's learning. Of how little use his learning was to him, an ingenious writer of our own time has fhewn with that vigour and animation for which he was distinguished. “ Jonson, in the serious drama, is as much an imitator, as Shakspeare is an original. He was very learned, as Sampfon was very strong. to his own hurt. Blind to the nature of tragedy, he pulled down all antiquity on his head, and buried himself under it. We see nothing of Jonson, nor indeed of his admired (but also murdered). ancients; for what shone in the historian is a cloud on the poet, and Catiline might have been a good play, if Sallust had never written.
is Who knows whether Shakspeare might not Have thought less, if he had read more? Who knows if he might not have laboured under the load of Jonson's learning, as Enceladus under ditna ? His mighty genius, indeed, through the
Was fram'd and finish'd at a lucky hit, “ The pride of nature, and the shame of schools, “ Born to create, and not to learn from, rules, " Must please no more: his bastards now deride " Their father's nakedness they ought to hide.” Prologue by Sir Charles Sedley, to the Mary Widow,
1693. To the honour of Margaret Duchess of Newcasle be it remembered, that however fantastick in other respects, she had talle enough to be fully fenfible of our poet's merit, and was one of the first who after the Restoration published a very high eulogy on him. See her Sociable Lellers, folio, 1664, p. 244.
most mountainous oppression would have breathed out some of his inextinguishable fire; yet possibly he might not have risen up into that giant, that much more than common man, at which we now gaze with amazement and delight. Perhaps he was as learned at his dramatick province required; for whatever other learning he wanted, he was master of two books unknown to many of the profoundly, read, though books which the last conflagration alone can destroy; the book of nature, and that of man.
To this and the other encomiums on our great poet which will be found in the following pages, I shall not attempt to make any addition. He has jusly observed, that
- To guard a title that was rich before,
Let me, however, be permitted to remark, that beside all his other transcendent merits, he was the great refiner and polither of our language. His compound epithets, his bold metaphors, the energy of his expressions, the harmony of his numbers, all these render the language of Shakspeare one of his principal beauties. Unfortunately none of his letters, or other prose compositions, not in a dramatick form, have reached posterity; but if any of them ever shall be discovered, they *03 Conje Elures on Original Composition, by Dr. Edsvard Young.
will, I am confident, exhibit the same perspicuity,
who come after him.
tlie diocese of Worcester, who with equal liberality, at my request, made many searches in his office for the wills of various persons. I am also in a particular manner indebted to the kindness and attention of the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratford-uponAvon, who most obligingly made every enquiry in that town and the neighbourhood, which í fuggested as likely to throw any light on the Life of Shakspeare.
I deliver my book to the world not without anxiety; conscious, however, that I have strenuously endeavoured to render it noť unworthy the attention of the publick. If the researches which have been made for the illustration of our poet's works, and for the differtations which accompany the present edition, shall afford as inuch entertainment to others, as I have derived from them, I shall consider the time expended on it as well employed. Of the dangerous ground on which I tread, I am fully sensible. * Multa funt in his fludiis (to use the words of a venerable fellow-labourer * in the mines of Antiquity) cineri fuppofila dolosa. Errata poffint eile multa à memoria. Quis enim in memoriæ thesauro omnia fimul fic complectatur, ut pro arbitratu fuo poflit expromere? Errata poffint effe plura ab imperitia. Quis enim tam peritus, ut in cæco hoc antiquitatis mari, cum tempore coliucatus, fcopulis non allidatur? Hæc tamen à te, humaniffime lector, tua humanitas, mea induftria, patriæ charitas, & SHAKSPEARI dignitas, mihi exorent, ut quid mei fit judicii, fine aliorum præjudicio libere proferam; ut eâdem
via qua alii in his ftudiis folent, 'infiftam; & ut erratis, fi ego agnoscam, tu ignofcas." Those who are the warmest admirers of our great poet, and most conversant with his writings, best know the difficulty of such a work, and will be most ready to pardon its defects; remembering, that in all arduous undertakings it is easier to conceive than to accomplish ; that “the will is infinite, and the execution confined; that the desire is boundless, and the act a slave to limit." MALONE.