« AnteriorContinuar »
Farmer's Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare was published at Cambridge early in January, 1767. In the Preface to the second and enlarged edition, which appeared in the same year, Farmer says that “the few who have been pleased to controvert any part of his doctrine have favoured him with better manners than arguments.” This remark, like most of the Preface, appears to be directed chiefly at the prejudiced notice which appeared in the Critical Review for January, 1767. The writer of it was well versed in the controversy, for he had expressed his opinion unhesitatingly in an earlier number, and he lost no time in advancing new evidence in opposition to Farmer's doctrine ; but he only provided Farmer with new proofs, which were at once incorporated in the text of the Essay. The third edition, which was called for in 1789, differs from the second only by the inclusion of a short advertisement' and a final note explaining that Farmer had abandoned his intention of publishing the Antiquities of Leicester. In the · Advertisement' he admits that “a few corrections might probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have necessarily occurred in more than twenty years ” ; but he did not think it necessary to make any changes. He was content to leave the book in the hands of the printers, and accordingly he is still described on the titlepage as “ Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge,” though he had succeeded to the mastership of his college in 1775.
Farmer had, however, already supplemented his Essay by a letter to Steevens, who printed it as an appendix to his edition of Johnson's Shakespeare in 1773. “The track of reading,” says Farmer, “which I sometime ago endeavoured to prove more immediately necessary to a commentator on Shakespeare, you have very successfully followed, and have consequently superseded some remarks
which I might otherwise have troubled you with. Those I now send you are such as I marked on the margin of the copy you were so kind to communicate to me, and bear a very small proportion to the miscellaneous collections of this sort which I may probably put together some time or other." Farmer did not carry out this intention, and the Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare remains his only independent publication.
MAURICE MORGANN Morgann has himself told us in his Preface all that we know about the composition of his Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff. The result of a challenge arising out of a friendly conversation, it was written “in a very short time” in 1774, and then laid aside and almost forgotten. But for the advice of friends it would probably have remained in manuscript, and been destroyed, like his other critical works, at his death. On their suggestion he revised and enlarged it, as hastily as he had written it; and it appeared anonymously in the spring of 1777. The original purpose of the Essay is indicated by the motto on the title-page : “I am not John of Gaunt your grandfather, but yet no Coward, Hal” ; but as Morgann wrote he passed from Falstaff to the greater theme of Falstaff's creator. He was persuaded to publish his Essay because, though it dealt nominally with one character, its main subject was the art of Shakespeare. For the same reason it finds a place in this volume.
In 1744 Corbyn Morris had briefly analysed the character of Falstaff in his Essay towards fixing the true standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule ; Mrs. Montagu had expressed the common opinion of his çowardice in her Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare ; the Biographia Britannica had declared him to be Shakespeare's masterpiece ; while his popularity had
led Kenrick to produce in 1766 Falstaff's Wedding as a
The Essay on Falstaff was republished, with a short
Mr. William Shakespear
It seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of themselves, as well as their works, to Posterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of Antiquity, their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features have been the subject of critical enquiries. How trilling soever this Curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural ; and we are hardly satisfy'd with an account of any remarkable person, 'till we have heard him describ'd even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an Author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book : And tho' the Works of Mr. Shakespear may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy some little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the son of Mr. John Shakespear, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the Register and publick Writings relating to that Town, were of good figure and fashion