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of Shakspeare. But two others, if not more, contend with it for the
* An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Pictures and Prints offered as Portraits or Shakspeare, p. 67-80
as a genuine portrait of Shakspeare. We are now assured that it was from the Chandos portrait Sir Godfrey Kneller copied the painting which he presented to Dryden, a poet inferior only to him whose portrait constituted the gift. The beautiful verses, with which the poet requited the kind attention of the painter, are very generally known; but many may require to be informed that the present, made on this occasion by the great master of the pencil to the greater master of the pen, is still in existence, preserved, no doubt, by the respect felt to be due to the united names of Kneller, Dryden, and Shakspeare; and is now in the collection of Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Castle.* The original painting, from which Droeshout drew the copy for his engraving, prefixed to the first folio edition of our Poet's dramas, has not yet been discovered ; and I feel persuaded that no original painting ever existed for his imitation; but that the artist worked in this instance from his own recollection, assisted probably by the suggestions of the Poet's theatric friends. We are, indeed, strongly of opinion that Shakspeare, remarkable, as he seems to have been, for a lowly estimate of himself, and for a carelessness of all personal distinction, would not readily submit his face to be a painter's study, to the loss of hours, which he might more usefully or more pleasurably assign to reading, to composition, or to conviviality. If any sketch of his features was made during his life, it was most probably taken by some rapid and unprofessional pencil, when the Poet was unaware of it, or, taken by surprise, and exposed by it to no inconvenience, was not disposed to resist it. We are convinced that no authentic portrait of this great man has yet been produced, or is likely to be discovered; and that we must not therefore hope to be gratified with any thing which we can contemplate with confidence as a faithful representation of his countenance. The head of the statue, executed by Scheemaker, and erected, in 1741, to the honor of our Poet in Westminster Abbey, was sculptured after a mezzotinto, scraped by Simon nearly twenty years before, and said to be copied from an original portrait by Zoust. But as this artist was not
• 1 derive my knowledge on this topic from Malone ; for till I saw the fact asserted in his page, I was not aware that the picture in question had been preserved amid the wreck of poor Dryden's property. On the authority also of Malone and of Mr. Boaden, I speak of Sir Godfrey's present to Dryden as of a copy from the Chandos portrait.
known by any of his productions in England till the year 1657, no original portrait of Shakspeare could be drawn by his pencil; and, consequently, the marble chiselled by Scheemaker, under the direction of Lord Burlington, Pope, and Mead, cannot lay any claim to an authorized resemblance to the man for whom it was wrought. We must be satisfied, therefore, with knowing, on the authority of Aubrey, that our Poet " was a handsome, well-shaped man;" and our imagination must supply the expansion of his forehead, the sparkle and flash of his eyes, the sense and good-temper playing round his mouth, the intellectuality and the benevolence mantling over his whole countenance.
It is well that we are better acquainted with the rectitude of his morals than with the symmetry of his features. To the integrity of his heart—the gentleness and benignity of his manners—we have the positive testimony of Chettle and Ben Jonson; the former of whom seems to have been drawn, by our Poet's good and amiable qualities, from the faction of his dramatic enemies; and the latter, in his love and admiration of the man, to have lost all his natural. jealousy of the successful competitor for the poetic palm. I have already cited Chettle : let me now cite Jonson, from whose pages much more of a similar nature might be adduced. “I loved,” he says in his · Discoveries,' “I loved the man, and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave potions, and gentle expressions,” &c. &c. When Jonson apostrophizes his deceased friend, he calls him “My gentle Shakspeare;” and the title of “the sweet swan of Avon," so generally given to him, after the example of Jonson, by his contemporaries, seems to have been given with reference as much to the suavity of his temper as to the harmony of his verse. In their dedication of his works to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, his fellows, Heminge and Condell, profess that their great object in their publication was, “only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive as was our Shakspeare;” and their Preface to the public appears evidently to have been dictated by their personal and affectionate attachment to their departed friend. If we wish for any further evidence in the support of the moral character of Shakspeare, we may find it in the friendship of Southampton; we may extract it
from the pages of his immortal works Dr. Johnson, in his much overpraised Preface, seems to have taken a view very different from ours of the morality of our author's scenes. He says, “ His (Shakspeare's) first defect is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose. From his writings, indeed, a system of moral duty may be selected,” (indeed!) “ but his precepts and axioms drop casually from him;" (Would the preface-writer have wished the Dramatist to give a connected treatise on ethics, like the Offices of Cicero?)“ he makes no just distribution of good or evil, nor is always careful to show in the virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked: he carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong; and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of the age cannot extenuate; for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time or place.” Why this common-place on justice should be compelled into the station in which we here most strangely find it, I cannot for my life conjecture. But absurd as it is made by its association in this place, it may not form an improper conclusion to a paragraph which means little, and which, intending censure, confers dramatic praise on a dramatic writer. It is evident, however, that Dr. Johnson, though he says that a system of moral duty may be selected from Shakspeare's writings, wished to inculcate that his scenes were not of a moral tendency. On this topic, the first and the greater Jonson seems to have entertained very different sentiments :
- "Look, how the father's face
(says this great man)
Lives in his issue ; even so the race
We think, indeed, that his scenes are rich in sterling morality, and that they must have been the effusions of a moral mind. The only crimination of his morals must be drawn from a few of his sonnets; and from a story first suggested by Anthony Wood, and afterwards
told by Oldys on the authority of Betterton and Pope. From the Sonnets * we can collect nothing more than that their writer was blindly attached to an unprincipled woman, who preferred a young and beautiful friend of his to himself. But the story told by Oldys presents something to us of a more tangible nature; and as it possesses some intrinsic merit as a story, and rests, as to its principal facts, on the authority of Wood, who was a native of Oxford, and a veracious man, we shall not hesitate, after the example of most of the recent biographers of our Poet, to relate it, and in the very words of Oldys :—“If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, on his journey to and from London. The landlady was a beautiful woman, and of a sprightly wit; and her husband, Mr. John Davenant (afterwards mayor of that city), a grave, melancholy man, who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their son, young Will Davenant (afterwards Sir William Davenant), was then a little schoolboy, in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and so fond also of Shakspeare, that, whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day, an old townsman, observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father, Shakspeare. There is a good boy, said the other; but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain! This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of some discourse which arose about Shakspeare's monument, then newly erected in Westminster Abbey."
The will of Shakspeare, giving to his youngest daughter, Judith, not more than three hundred pounds, and a piece of plate, which probably was valuable, as it is called by the testator, “ My broad silver and gilt bowl,” assigns almost the whole of his property to his eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, and her husband, whom he appoints to be his executors. The cause of this evident partiality in the father appears to be discoverable in the higher mental accomplishments of the elder daughter, who is reported to have resembled him in her intellectual endowments, and to have been eminently distinguished by the piety and the Christian benevolence which actuated her conduct. Having survived her estimable husband
* See Son. 141, 144, 147, 151, 152.