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she had three Sons, who all dy'd without children ; and Susannah, who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a physician of good reputation in that country. She left one child only, a daughter, who was marry'd first to Thomas Nash, Esq; and afterwards to Sir John Bernard of Abington, but dy'd likewise without issue.
This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himself or family : The character of the man is best seen in his writings. But since Ben Johnson has made a sort of an essay towards it in his Discoveries, tho', as I have before hinted, he was not very cordial in his friendship, I will venture to give it in his words.
“I remember the Players have often mention'd it as an “honour to Shakespear, that in writing (whatsoever “he penn'd) he never blotted out a line. My answer “ hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand, which they “thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity “this, but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance “to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted: “And to justifie mine own candor (for I lov'd the man, “and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as “ much as any). He was, indeed, honest, and of an open “and free nature, had an excellent fancy, brave notions, “and gentle expressions; wherein he flow'd with that “facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should “ be stopp'd : Suffiaminandus erat, as Augustus said of “ Haterius. His wit was in his own power, would the rule “ of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those “ things could not escape laughter; as when he said “in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
“Cæsar thou dost me wrong. “He reply'd :
“Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause. “and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeem'd “his vices with his virtues : There was ever more in him “to be prais'd than to be pardon'd.”
As for the passage which he mentions out of Shakespear, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæsar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Johnson. Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascrib'd to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise, Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in stanza's, which have been printed in a late collection of Poems. As to the character given of him by Ben Johnson, there is a good deal true in it: But I believe it may be as well express'd by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote Tragedy upon the Greek models (or indeed translated 'em), in his epistle to Augustus.
- Natura sublimis & Acer,
Sed turpem putat in Chartis metuitque Lituram. There is a Book of Poems, publish'd in 1640, under the name of Mr. William Shakespear, but as I have but very lately seen it, without an opportunity of making any judgment upon it, I won't pretend to determine, whether it be his or no.
On the Genius and Writings of Shakespeargh
Feb. 1. 1711 I HERE send you the Tragedy of Coriolanus, which I have alter'd from the Original of Shakespear, and with it a short Account of the Genius and Writings of that Author, both which you desired me to send to you the last time I had the good Fortune to see you. But I send them both upon this condition, that you will with your usual Sincerity tell me your Sentiments both of the Poem and of the Criticism.
Shakespear was one of the greatest Genius's that the . World e'er saw for the Tragick Stage. Tho' he lay
under greater Disadvantages than any of his Successors, yet had he greater and more genuine Beauties than the best and greatest of them. And what makes the brightest Glory of his Character, those Beauties were entirely his own, and owing to the Force of his own Nature ; whereas his Faults were owing to his Education, and to the Age that he liv'd in. One may say of him as they did of Homer, that he had none to imitate, and is himself inimitable. His Imaginations were often as just, as they were bold and strong. He had a natural Discretion which never cou'd have been taught him, and his Judgment was strong and penetrating. He seems to have wanted nothing but Time and Leisure for Thought, to have found out those Rules of which he appears so ignorant. His Characters are always drawn justly, exactly, graphically, except where he fail'd by not knowing History or the Poetical Art. (He has for the most part more fairly distinguish'd them than any of his Successors have done, who have falsified them, or confounded them, by making Love the predominant Quality in all. He had so fine a Talent for touching the Passions, and they are so lively in him, and so truly in Nature, that they often touch us more without their due Preparations, than those of other Tragick Poets, who have all the Beauty of Design and all the Advantage of Incidents., His Master-Passion was Terror, which he has often "moy'd so powerfully and so wonderfully, that we may justly conclude, that if he had had the Advantage of Art and Learning, he wou'd have surpass'd the very best and strongest of the Ancients. His Paintings are often so beautiful and so lively, so graceful and so powerful, especially where her uses them in order to move Terror, that there is nothing perhaps more accomplish'd in our English Poetry. His Sentiments for the most part in his best Tragedies, are noble, generous, easie, and natural, and adapted to the Persons who use them. His Expression is in many places good and pure after a hundred Years ; simple tho' elevated, graceful tho' bold, and easie tho' strong. He seems to have been the very Original of our English Tragical Harmony; that is the Harmony of Blank Verse, diversifyed often by Dissyllable and Trissyllable Terminations. For that Diversity distinguishes it from Heroick Harmony, and, bringing it nearer to common Use, makes it more proper to gain Attention, and more fit for Action and Dialogue. Such Verse we make when we are writing Prose ; we make such Verse in common Conversation.
If Shakespear had these great Qualities by Nature, what would he not have been, if he had join'd to so happy a Genius Learning and the Poetical Art ? For want of the latter, our Author has sometimes made gross Mistakes in the Characters which he has drawn from History, against the Equality and Conveniency of Manners of his Dramatical Persons. Witness Menenius in the following Tragedy, whom he has made an errant Buffoon, which is a great Absurdity. For he might as well have imagin'd a grave majestick Jack-Pudding, as a Buffoon in a Roman Şenator. Aufidius the General of the Volscians is shewn a base and a profligate Villain. He has offended against the Equality of the Manners even in his Hero himself. For Coriolanus who in the first part of the Tragedy is shewn so open, so frank, so violent, and so magnanimous, is represented in the latter part by Aufidius, which is contradicted by no one, a flattering, fawning, cringing, insinuating Traytor.
For want of this Poetical Art, Shakespear has introduced things into his Tragedies, which are against the Dignity of that noble Poem, as the Rabble in Julius Cæsar, and that in Coriolanus ; tho' that in Coriolanus offends not only against the Dignity of Tragedy, but against the Truth of History likewise, and the Customs of Ancient Rome, and the Majesty of the Roman People, as we shall have occasion to shew anon.
For want of this Art, he has made his Incidents less moving, less surprizing, and less wonderful. He has been so far from seeking those fine Occasions to move with which an Action furnish'd according to Art would have furnish'd him, that he seems rather to have industriously avoided them. He makes Coriolanus, upon his Sentence of Banishment, take his leave of his Wife and his Mother out of sight of the Audience, and so has purposely as it were avoided a great occasion to move.
If we are willing to allow that Shakespear, by sticking to the bare Events of History, has mov'd more than any