Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

because his Wife surviv'd him seven Years, and as his Favourite Daughter Susanna surviv'd her twenty-six Years, 'ris very improbable, they should suffer such a Treasure to be remov'd, and translated into a remoter Branch of the Family, without a Scrutiny first made inco the Value of it. This, I say, inclines me to distrust the Authority of the Relation : but, notwithstanding such an apparent Improbability, if we really loft such a Treasure, by whatever Faiality or Caprice of Fortune they came into such ignorant and neglectful Hands, I agree with the Relater, the Mi fortune is wholly irreparable.

To chese Particulars, which regard his Person and private Life, some few more are to be glean'd from Mr. Rowe's Account of his Life and Writings : Let us now take a short View of bin in his publick Capacity, as a Writer : and, from thence, the Transition will be easy to the Sale in which his Wriiings have been handed down to us.

No Age perhaps can produce an Author more various from himself than Shakespear has been universally acknowledged to be. The Diversity in Stile, and othir Parts of Compofition, so obvious in him, is as variously to be accounted for. His Education, we find, was ar beft but begun : and he started early into a Science from the Force of Genius, unequally affifted by acquir'd Improvements. His Fire, Spirit, and Exuberance of Imagination gave an Impetuofity to his Pen: His Ideas fow'd from him in a Stream rapid, but not turbulent; copious, but not ever over-bearing its Shorts. The Ease and Sweetness of his Temper might not a little contribute to his Facility in Writing: a, his Employment, as a Player, gave him an Advantage and Habit of fancying himself the very Character he meant to delineate. He used the Helps of his Funciion in forming himself to create and express that Subl m', which other Actors can only copy, and throw out, in Action and graceful Attitude. But

Nullum

Nullam hine Venie placuit Ingenium, says Seneca. The Genius, that gives us the greatest Pleasure, sometimes ftands in Need of our Indulgence. Whenever this happens with regard to Shakespear I would willingly impute it to a Vice of his Times.

We see Complaisance enough, in our Days, paid to a bad Taste. So that his Clincbes, false Wit, and descending beneath himself, may have proceeded from a Deference paid to the then reigning Barbarism.

I have not thought it out of my Province, whenever Occasion offer'd, to take notice of some of our Poet's grand Touches of Nature : Some, that do not appear superficially such ; but in which he seems the most deeply instructed ; and to which, no doubt, he has so much owd thac happy Preservation of his Charac, ters, for which he is justly celebrated. Great Geni. us's, like his, naturally unambitious, are satisfy'd to conceal their Art in these Points. 'Tis the Foible of your worser Poets to make a Parade and Oftentation of that little Science they have ; and to throw it out in the most ambitious Colours. And whenever a Writer of this Class shall attempt to copy these artful Concealments of our Author, and shall either think them easy, or practised by a Writer for his Ease, he will soon be convinced of his Mistake by the Difficulty of reaching the Imitation of them.

Speret idem, sudet multùm, fruftráque laboret,
Ausus idem :

Indeed, to point out, and exclaim upon, all the Beauties of Shakespear, as they coine singly in Review, would be as insipid, as endless ; as tedious, as unnecessary : But the explanation of those Beauties, that are lifs obvious to common Readers, and whole Illustrarion depends on the Rules of just Criticism, and an exact Knowledge of human Life, should deservedly have a Share in a general Critic upon the

Author.

Author. But, to pass over at once to another Subject :

It has been allow'd on all hands, how far our AU. thor was indebted to Nature; it is not so well agreed, how much he ow'd to Languages and acquired Learning. The Decisions on this Subject were certainly set on Foot by the Hinc from Ben Jobnfon, that he had small Latin and less G:eek: And from this Tradition, as it were, Mr. Rowe has thought fit perempcorily to declare, that, “It is without Controversy, he had no “ Knowledge of the Writings of the ancient Poets, " for that in his works we find no Traces of any “ thing which looks like an Imitation of the Ancients. " For the Delicacy of his Talte (continues He,) and " the natural Bent of his own great Genius, (equal, “ if not superior, to some of the Best of theirs ;) " would certainly have led him to read and study them “ with so much Pleasure, that some of their fine “ Images would naturally have insinuated themselves in“ to, and been mix'd with his own Writings: and so his

not copying, at least, something from them, may be an Argument of his never having read them.” I shall leave it to the Determination of my Learned Readers, from the numerous Passages, which I have occasionally quoted in my. Notes, in which our Poet seems closely to have imitated the Classics, whether Mr. Rowe's Affertion be so absolutely to be depended

The Result of the Controversy must certainly, either way, terminate to our Author's Honour: how happily he could imitate them, if that Point be allowed; or how gloriously he could think like them, without owing any thing to Imitation.

Tho' I should be very unwilling to allow SbakeSpear so poor a Scholar, as Many have labour'd to represent him, yet I shall be very cautious of declaring too positively on the other Gide of the Question : that is, with regard to my Opinion of his Knowledge in the dead Languages. And therefore the Passages, that

on.

I occasionally quote from the Classics, shall not be urged as Proofs that he knowingly imitated those Originals; but brought to shew how happily he has express’d himselt upon the same Topicks. A very learned Critick of our own Nation has declar'd, that a Sameness of Thought and Sameness of Expression too, in Two Writers of a different Age, can hardly happen, without a violenc Sufpicion of the latter copying from his Predeceffor. I shall not therefore run any great Risque of a Censure, cho' I should venture to hint, that the Resemblances in Thought and Expression, of our Author and an Ancient (which we should allow to be -Imitation in the One, whose Learning was not question’d) may, sometimes take its Rise from Strength of Memory, and those Impressions which he owed to the School. And if we may allow a Possibility of This, considering that, when he quitted the School he gave into his Father's Profession and way of Living, and had, 'tis likely, but a Nander Library of Classical Learning; and considering what a Number of Translations, Romances, and Legends, started about his Time, and a litrle before ; (mnost of which, 'tis very evident, he read ;) I think, it may easily be reconcil'd why he rather schemed his Plots and Charakters from these more latter Informations, than went back to these Fountains, for which he might entertain a sincere Veneration, but to which he could not have so ready a Recourse.

In touching on another Part of his Learning, as it related to the Knowledge of History, and Books, I shall advance something, that, at first sight, will very much wear the Appearance of a Paradox. For I shall find it no hard Matter to prove, that, from the groffest Blunders in History, we are not to infer his real Ignorance of it: Nor from a greater Use of Lotin Words, than ever any other English Author used, muft we infer his intimate Acquaintance with chat Language

A

A Reader of Taste may easily observe, that tho' Shakespear, almost in every Scene of his historical Plays, commits the groffest Offences against Chronology, History, and Ancient Politicks; yet This was not thro' Ignorance, as is generally supposed, but thro' the too powerful Blaze of his Imagination; which, when once raised, made all acquired Knowledge vanish and disappear before it. But this Licence in him as I have said, must not be imputed to Ignorance : since as often we may find him, when Occasion serves, reasoning up to the Truth of History; and throwing our Sentiments as justly adapted to the Circumstances of his Şubject, as to the Dignity of his Characters, or Pictates of Nature in general.

Then to come to his Knowledge of the Latin Tongue, 'tis certain, there is a surprising Effufion of Latin Words made English, far more than in any one Englille Author I have seen; but we mult be cautious to imagine, this was of his own doing. For the English Tongue, in his Age, began extremely to suffer by an Inundation of Latin: And this, to be sure, was oce casion'd by the Pedantry of those two Monarchs, Elizabetb and James, Both great Lalinifts. For it is not to be wonder'd at, if both the Court and Schools, equal Flatterers of Power, should adapt themselves to the Royal Taste. ,

But now I am touching on the Question (which has been so frequently agitated, yet so entirely undecided) of his Learning and Acquaintance with the Languages; an additional Word or two naturally falls in here upon the Genius of our Author, as compared with that of Johnson his Contemporary. They are confessedly the greatest Writers our Nation could ever boast of in the Drama. The first, we say, owed all to his prodigious natural Genius; and the other a great deal to his Art and Learning. This, if attended to, will explain a very remarkable App-arance in their Writings. Besides those wonderful Malterpieces of

Art

« AnteriorContinuar »