Page images

was almost as great as his honefty; had it ftretch'd fo far, it would have made nature immortal, and death fhould have play'd for lack of work. 'Would, for the king's fake, he were living! I think, it would be the death of the king's disease.

Laf. How call'd you the man you speak of, madam?

Count. He was famous, fir, in his profeffion, and it was his great right to be fo: Gerard de Narbon.

Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke of him, admiringly, and mourn

ufing the word bad, which implied his death, she stops in the middle of her fentence, and makes a reflection upon it, which, according to the prefent reading, is unintelligible. We must therefore believe Shakespeare wrote (O that had! how fad a prefage 'tis) i. e. a prefage that the king muft now expect no cure, fince so skilful a perfon was himself forced to fubmit to a malignant diftemper. WARBURTON.

This emendation is ingenious, perhaps preferable to the prefent reading, yet fince paffage may be fairly enough explained, I have left it in the text. Paffage is any thing that passes, fo we now fay, a passage of an author, and we faid about a century ago, the paffages of a reign. When the countess mentions Helena's lofs of a father, fhe recollects her own lofs of a husband, and stops to obferve how heavily that word had paffes through her mind.

JOHNSON. Thus Shakespeare himself. See The Comedy of Errors, act III. fc. i:

"Now in the ftirring passage of the day."

So, in The Gamefter, by Shirley, 1637: "I'll not be witness your paffages myfelf." i. e. of what paffes between you. Again, in A Woman's a Weathercock, 1612:



[ocr errors]

-never lov'd these prying liftening "That ask of other's ftates and paffages.

[ocr errors]

"I knew the paffages 'twixt her and Scudamore." Again, in the Dumb Knight, 1633:

[ocr errors]

-have beheld

"Your vile and moft lafcivious paffages."

Again, in the English Intelligencer, a tragi-comedy, 1641: "-two philofophers that jeer and weep at the paffages of the world."

B 3



ingly he was fkilful enough to have liv'd ftill, if knowledge could have been fet up against mortality. Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king languithes of?

Laf. A fiftula, my lord.

Ber. I heard not of it before.

Was this

Laf. I would, it were not notorious. gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon? Count. His fole child, my lord, and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have thofe hopes of her good, that her education promifes: her difpofitions the inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer for 9 where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with pity, they are virtues and traitors too;

-where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there com mendations go with pity, they are virtues and traitors too; in her they are the better for their fimpleness; he derives her honefty, and atchieves her goodness.] This obfcure encomium is made ftill more obfcure by a flight corruption of the text. Let us explain the paffage as it lies. By virtuous qualities are meant qualities of good breeding and erudition; in the fame sense that the Italians fay, qualità virtuofa; and not moral ones. On this account it is, fhè Tays, that, in an ill mind, thefe virtuous qualities are virtues and traitors too: i. e. the advantages of education enable an ill mind to go further in wickedness than it could have done without them. But, fays the countefs, in her they are the better for their fimpleness. But fimpleness is the fame with what is called bonefty, immediately after; which cannot be predicated of the qualities of education. We must certainly read-HER fimplenefs, and then the fentence is properly concluded. The countess had faid, that virtuous qualities are the worse for an unclean mind, but concludes that Helen's are the better for her fimpleness, i. e. her clean, pure mind. She then fums up the character, he had before given in detail, in thefe words, he derives her honefly, and atchieves her goodness, i. e. fhe derives her honefty, her fimplencfs, her moral character, from her father and her ancestors; but the atchieves or wins her goodness, her virtue, or her qualities of good breeding and erudition, by her own pains and labour. WARBURTON.


This is likewife a plaufible but unneceffary alteration. Her virtaes are the better for their fimpleness, that is, her excellencies are the better because they are artless and open, without fraud, withput defign. The learned commentator has well explained virtues,


too; in her they are the better for their fimplenefs; the derives her honefty, and atchieves her goodness. Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her


Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can feason her praise in. The remembrance of her father never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her forrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena, go to, no more; left it be rather thought you affect a forrow, than to have.


Hel. I do affect a forrow, indeed, but I have it too. Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, exceffive grief the enemy to the living.

[ocr errors]

Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excefs makes it foon mortal.


but has not, I think, reached the force of the word traitors, and therefore has not fhewn the full extent of Shakespeare's masterly obfervation. Virtues in an unclean mind are virtues and traitors too. Eftimable and useful qualities, joined with evil difpofition, give that evil difpofition power over others, who, by admiring the virtue, are betrayed to the malevolence. The Tatler, mentioning the sharpers of his time, obferves, that fome of them are men of fuch elegance and knowledge, that a young man who falls into their way, is betrayed as much by his judgment as his paffions.


Virtue, and virtuous, as I am told, ftill keep this fignification in the north, and mean ingenuity and ingenious. Of this fenfe perhaps an inftance occurs in the eighth book of Chapman's Verfion of the Iliad:

"Then will I to Olympus' top our vertuous engine bind, "And by it every thing fhall hang, &c."

Again, in Marlowe's Tamburlaine, p. 1. 1590

If these had made one poem's period,
"And all combin'd in beauties worthyneffe,

Yet fhould there hover in their reftleffe heads. "One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least, "Which into words no vertue can digeft." STEEVENS. all livelihood-] i. e. all appearance of life. STEEVENS. 2 If the living be enemy to the grief, the excefs makes it foon mortal.] This feems very obfcure; but the addition of a negative perfectly difpels all the mift. If the living be not enemy, &c. exceffive grief is an enemy to the living, fays Lafeu: Yes, replies the

B 4


Ber. Madam, I defire your holy wishes.
Laf. How understand we that?

Count. Be thou bleft, Bertram! and fucceed thy father

In manners, as in fhape! thy blood, and virtue,
Contend for empire in thee; and thy goodness
Share with thy birth-right! Love all, truft a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power, than ufe; and keep thy friend
Under thy own life's key: be check'd for filence,
But never tax'd for fpeech. What heaven more will,
3 That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell. My lord,

'Tis an unfeafon'd courtier, good my lord,
Advise him.

Laf. He cannot want the best,

That fhall attend his love.

Count. Heaven blefs him! Farewell, Bertram. [Exit Countess

Ber. [To Helena.] The best wishes, that can be forg'd in your thoughts, be fervants to you! Be comfortable to my mother, your miftrefs, and make much of her.

Laf. Farewell, pretty lady: You must hold the credit of your father, [Exeunt Bertram and Lafeu.

countefs; and if the living be not enemy to the grief, [i. e. ftrive to conquer it,] the excess makes it foon mortal. WARBURTON.

This emendation I had once admitted into the text, but restored the old reading, because I think it capable of an eafy explication. Lafeu fays, exceffive grief is the enemy of the living: the countefs replies, If the living be an enemy to grief, the excess foon makes it mortal: that is, if the living do not indulge grief, grief deftroys itself by its own excefs. By the word mortal I understand that which dies, and Dr. Warburton, that which deftroys. I think that my interpretation gives a fentence more acute and more refined, Let the reader judge. JOHNSON.

3 That thee may furnish,- -] That may help thee with more and better qualifications. JOHNSON.

+ The best wishes, &c.] That is, may you be mistress of your wifhes, and have power to bring them to effect, JOHNSON.


Hel. Oh, were that all!-I think not on my father; * And these great tears grace his remembrance more, Than those I shed for him. What was he like?

[ocr errors]

I have forgot him: my imagination
Carries no favour in it, but Bertram's.
I am undone; there is no living, none,
If Bertram be away. It were all one,
That I fhould love a bright particular star,
And think to wed it, he is fo above me:
In his bright radiance and collateral light
Muft I be comforted, not in his sphere.
The ambition in my love thus plagues itself:
The hind, that would be mated by the lion,
Muft die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague,
To fee him every hour; to fit and draw
His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls,
In our heart's table; heart, too capable
Of every line and 7 trick of his fweet favour,
But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy
Muft fanctify his relicks. Who comes here?

Enter Parolles.

One that goes with him: I love him for his fake;
And yet I know him a notorious liar,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

tefs fhed for him. JOHNSON.

In bis bright radiance &c.] I cannot be united with him and move in the fame fphere, but must be comforted at a distance by the radiance that fhoots on all fides from him. JOHNSON,

Milton, b, x;

from his radiant feat he rose

"Of high collateral glory." STEEVENS,

7-trick of his fweet favour,] So, in King John: "he hath a trick of Cœur de Lion's face." Trick feems to be fome peculiarity or feature. JOHNSON.

Trick is an expreflion taken from drawing, and is fo explained in another place. The prefent inftance explains itself;

to fit and draw

His arched brows, &c.

and trick of his fweet favour.

Trick, however, may mean peculiarity. STEEVENS.



« PreviousContinue »