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How far so ever, MADAM, my Vanity or my Ambition might mislead me into that Tract, I'll oblige myself to govern both by my Duty; and turn all Attempts of Praise and Compliment into Veneration and pious Wishes. That You may long continue to bless the Eyes and Arms of the Prince, Your Illustrious Confort; and that You may continue to bless the Nation with a numerous Succeffion of Princes, to the future Glory and Security of our Establishment, is my ardent Prayer; and
in That I will center the only Merit, by which I would pretend to profess myself,
Your ROYAL HIGHNESS's
most dutiful and most obedient
Τ Η Ε
P R E F A C E.
*HE Attempt to write upon SHAKET SPEARE is like going into a large, a
spacious, and a splendid Dome thro' the
Conveyance of a narrow and obscure Entry. A Glare of Light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the Avenue at first promised: and a thousand Beauties of Genius and Character, like so many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the Mind. The Prospect is too wide to come within the Compass of a single View: 'tis a gay Confusion of pleasing Objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration ; and they must be separated, and eyed distinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.
And as in great Piles of Building, fome Parts are often finished up to hit the Taste of the Gora noisseur ; others more negligently put together, to ftrike the Fancy of a common and unlearned Beholder: Some Parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast Design and Execution of the Architect; others are con tracted, to amuse you with his Neatness and Elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find Traits that will stand the Test of the severeft Judgment; and Strokes as carelesly hit off, to the Level of the more ordinary Capacities: Some Descriptions raised to that Pitch of Grandeur, as to aftonish you with the Compass and Elevation of his Thought: and others copying Nature within so narrow, so confined a Circle, as if the Author's Talent lay only at drawing in Miniature.
In how many points of Light must we be obliged to gaze at this great Poet ! In how many Branches of Excellence to consider, and admire him! Whether we view him on the side of Art or Nature, he ought equally to engage our Attention: Whether we respect the Force and Greatness of his Genius, the Extent of his Knowledge and Reading, the Power and Address with which he throws out and applies either Nature, or Learning, there is ample Scope both for our Wonder and Pleasure. If his Diction, and the cloathing of his Thoughts attract us, how much more must we be charmed with the Richness, and Variety, of his Images and Ideas ! If his Images and Ideas fteal into our Souls, and strike upon our Fancy, how much are they improved in Price, when we come
to reflect with what Propriety and Justness they are applied to Character ! If we look into his Characters, and how they are furnished and proportioned to the Employment he cuts out for them, how are we taken up with the Mastery of his Portraits ! What Draughts of Nature ! What Variety of Originals, and how differing each from the other ! How are they dressed from the Stores of his own luxurious Imagination ; without being the Apes of Mode, or borrowing from any foreign Wardrobe ! Each of them are the standards of Fashion for themselves": like Gentlemen that are above the Direction of their Tailors, and can adorn themselves without the aid of Imitation. If other Poets draw more than one Fool or Coxcomb, there is the same Resemblance in them, as in that Painter's Draughts, who was happy only at forming a Rose: you find them all younger Brothers of the same Family, and all of them have a Pretence to give the same Crest : But Shakespeare's Clowns and Fops come all of a different House: they are no farther allied to one another than as Man to Man, Members of the fame Species : but as different in Features and Lineaments of Character, as we are from one another in Face, or Complexion. But I am unawares lanching into his Character as a Writer, before I have said what I intended of him as a private Member of the Republick.
Mr. Rowe has very justly observed, that People are fond of discovering any little personal Story