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his claim had been more easily allowed to any other the performance.
To whom then shall we ascribe it ?—Somebody hath told us, who should seem to be a Nostrum-monger by his argument, that, let Accents be how they will, it is called an original Play of William Shakespeare in the King's Patent, prefixed to Mr. Theobald's Edition, 1728, and consequently there could be no fraud in the matter. Whilst, on the contrary, the Irish Laureat, Mr. Victor, remarks (and were it true, it would be certainly decisive) that the Plot is borrowed from a Novel of Cervantes, not published 'till the year after Shakespeare's death. But unluckily the same Novel appears in a part of Don Quixote, which was printed in Spanish, 1605, and in English by Shelton, 1612.—The same reasoning, however, which exculpated our Author from the Yorkshire Tragedy, may be applied on the present occasion.
But you want my opinion :-and from every mark of Style and Manner, I make no doubt of ascribing it to Shirley. Mr. Langbaine informs us that he left some Plays in MS.—These were written about the time of the Restoration, when the Accent in question was more generally altered. Perhaps the mistake arose from an abbreviation of the
Mr. Dodsley knew not that the Tragedy of Andromana was Shirley's, from the very same cause. Thus a whole stream of Biographers tell us that Marston's Plays were printed at London, 1633, “by the care of William Shakespeare, the famous Comedian.”—Here again I suppose, in some Transcript, the real Publisher's name, William Sheares, was abbreviated. No one hath protracted the life of Shakespeare beyond 1616, except Mr. Hume; who is pleased to add a year to it, in contradiction to all manner of evidence.
Shirley is spoken of with contempt in Mac Flecknoe ; but his Imagination is sometimes fine to an extraordinary degree. I recollect a passage in the fourth book of the Paradise Lost, which hath been suspected of Imitation, as
a prettiness below the Genius of Milton : I mean, where
Her eye did seem to labour with a tear,
To and again from Heaven.-
The Swan with arched neck
Her state with oary feet.-B. 7. V. 438, &c.
For this beauty, however, Milton was beholden to Donne; whose name, I believe, at present is better known than his writings:
Like a Ship in her full trim,
Compare all whitenesse, but himselfe to none,
Progresse of the Soul, St. 24.
indeed copied from Nature: but Thomson sometimes
The stately-sailing Swan
Protective of his young.
He thinks a passage in the Tempest,
High Queen of State, Great Juno comes ; I know her by her Gait,
a remarkable instance of Shakespeare's knowledge of ancient Poetick story; and that the hint was furnished by the Divum incedo Regina of Virgil.
You know, honest John Taylor, the Water-poet, declares that he never learned his Accidence, and that Latin and French were to him Heathen-Greek; yet, by the help of Mr. Whalley's argument, I will prove him a learned Man, in spite of every thing he may say to the contrary : for thus he makes a Gallant address his Lady,
“ Most inestimable Magazine of Beauty—in whom the Port and Majesty of Juno, the Wisdom of Jove's brainebred Girle, and the Feature of Cytherea, have their domestical habitation.'
In the Merchant of Venice, we have an oath “By twoheaded Janus”; and here, says Dr. Warburton, Shakespeare shews his knowledge in the Antique : and so again does the Water-poet, who describes Fortune,
Like a Janus with a double-face. But Shakespeare hath somewhere a Latin Motto, quoth Dr. Sewel ; and so hath John Taylor, and a whole Poem upon
it into the bargain. You perceive, my dear Sir, how vague and indeterminate such arguments must be : for in fact this sweet Swan of Thames, as Mr. Pope calls him, hath more scraps of Latin, and allusions to antiquity, than are any where to be met with in the writings of Shakespeare. I am sorry to trouble you with trifles, yet what must be done, when grave men insist upon them?
It should seem to be the opinion of some modern criticks, that the personages of classick land began only to be known in England in the time of Shakespeare ; or rather, that he particularly had the honour of introducing them to the notice of his countrymen.
For instance,~Rumour painted full of tongues gives us a Prologue to one of the parts of Henry the fourth ; and, says Dr. Dodd, Shakespeare had doubtless a view to either Virgil or Ovid in their description of Fame.
But why so? Stephen Hawes, in his Pastime of Pleasure, had long before exhibited her in the same manner,
A goodly Lady envyroned about
With tongues of fyre ;and so had Sir Thomas More in one of his Pageants,
Fame I am called, mervayle you nothing
Though with tonges I am com passed all rounde ; not to mention her elaborate Portrait by Chaucer, in the Boke of Fame ; and by John Higgins, one of the Assistants in the Mirour for Magistrates, in his Legend of King Albanacte.
A very liberal Writer on the Beauties of Poetry, who hath been more conversant in the ancient Literature of other Countries than his own, “cannot but wonder that a Poet, whose classical Images are composed of the finest parts, and breath the very spirit of ancient Mythology, should
pass for being illiterate :
See, what a grace was seated on his brow!
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill. Hamlet." Illiterate is an ambiguous term : the question is, whether Poetick History could be only known by an Adept in Languages. It is no reflection on this ingenious Gentleman, when I say that I use on this occasion the words of a better Critick, who yet was not willing to carry the illiteracy of our Poet too far :—“They who are in such astonishment at the learning of Shakespeare, forget that the Pagan Imagery was familiar to all the Poets of his time; and that abundance of this sort of learning was to be picked up from almost every English book that he could take into his hands.” For not to insist upon Stephen Bateman's Golden booke of the leaden Goddes, 1577, and several other laborious compilations on the subject,