HotFreeBooks.com
Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare
by D. Nichol Smith
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"If we helde our peace (my sonne) and determined not to speake, the state of our poore bodies, and present sight of our rayment, would easely bewray to thee what life we haue led at home, since thy exile and abode abroad. But thinke now with thy selfe, howe much more unfortunately then all the women liuinge we are come hether, considering that the sight which should be most pleasaunt to all other to beholde, spitefull fortune hath made most fearfull to us: making my selfe to see my sonne, and my daughter here, her husband, besieging the walles of his natiue countrie. So as that which is the only comfort to all other in their adversitie and miserie, to pray unto the goddes, and to call to them for aide, is the onely thinge which plongeth us into most deepe perplexitie. For we cannot (alas) together pray, both for victorie, for our countrie, and for safety of thy life also: but a worlde of grievous curses, yea more than any mortall enemie can heappe uppon us, are forcibly wrapt up in our prayers. For the bitter soppe of most harde choyce is offered thy wife and children, to foregoe the one of the two: either to lose the persone of thy selfe, or the nurse of their natiue contrie. For my selfe (my sonne) I am determined not to tarrie, till fortune in my life time doe make an ende of this warre. For if I cannot persuade thee, rather to doe good unto both parties, then to ouerthrowe and destroye the one, preferring loue and nature before the malice and calamitie of warres: thou shalt see, my sonne, and trust unto it, thou shalt no soner marche forward to assault thy countrie, but thy foote shall tread upon thy mother's wombe, that brought thee first into this world."

The length of this quotation will be excused for its curiosity; and it happily wants not the assistance of a Comment. But matters may not always be so easily managed:—a plagiarism from Anacreon hath been detected:

The Sun's a thief, and with his great attraction Robs the vast Sea. The Moon's an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the Sun. The Sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves The Moon into salt tears. The Earth's a thief, That feeds and breeds by a composture stol'n From gen'ral excrements: each thing's a thief.

"This," says Dr. Dodd, "is a good deal in the manner of the celebrated drinking Ode, too well known to be inserted." Yet it may be alleged by those who imagine Shakespeare to have been generally able to think for himself, that the topicks are obvious, and their application is different.—But for argument's sake, let the Parody be granted; and "our Author," says some one, "may be puzzled to prove that there was a Latin translation of Anacreon at the time Shakespeare wrote his Timon of Athens." This challenge is peculiarly unhappy: for I do not at present recollect any other Classick (if indeed, with great deference to Mynheer De Pauw, Anacreon may be numbered amongst them) that was originally published with two Latin translations.

But this is not all. Puttenham in his Arte of English Poesie, 1589, quotes some one of a "reasonable good facilitie in translation, who finding certaine of Anacreon's Odes very well translated by Ronsard the French poet—comes our Minion, and translates the same out of French into English": and his strictures upon him evince the publication. Now this identical Ode is to be met with in Ronsard! and as his works are in few hands, I will take the liberty of transcribing it:

La terre les eaux va boivant, L'arbre la boit par sa racine, La mer salee boit le vent, Et le Soleil boit la marine. Le Soleil est beu de la Lune, Tout boit soit en haut ou en bas: Suivant ceste reigle commune, Pourquoy donc ne boirons-nous pas?—Edit. Fol. p. 507.

I know not whether an observation or two relative to our Author's acquaintance with Homer be worth our investigation. The ingenious Mrs. Lenox observes on a passage of Troilus and Cressida, where Achilles is roused to battle by the death of Patroclus, that Shakespeare must here have had the Iliad in view, as "the old Story, which in many places he hath faithfully copied, is absolutely silent with respect to this circumstance."

And Mr. Upton is positive that the sweet oblivious Antidote, inquired after by Macbeth, could be nothing but the Nepenthe described in the Odyssey,

Νηπενθές τ᾽ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.

I will not insist upon the Translations by Chapman; as the first Editions are without date, and it may be difficult to ascertain the exact time of their publication. But the former circumstance might have been learned from Alexander Barclay; and the latter more fully from Spenser than from Homer himself.

"But Shakespeare," persists Mr. Upton, "hath some Greek Expressions." Indeed!—"We have one in Coriolanus,

——It is held That valour is the chiefest Virtue, and Most dignifies the Haver;——

and another in Macbeth, where Banquo addresses the Weird-Sisters,

——My noble Partner You greet with present grace, and great prediction Of noble Having.——

Gr. Ἔχεια,—and πρὸς τὸν Ἔχοντα, to the Haver.

This was the common language of Shakespeare's time. "Lye in a water-bearer's house!" says Master Mathew of Bobadil, "a Gentleman of his Havings!"

Thus likewise John Davies in his Pleasant Descant upon English Proverbs, printed with his Scourge of Folly, about 1612:

Do well and have well!—neyther so still: For some are good Doers, whose Havings are ill;

and Daniel the Historian uses it frequently. Having seems to be synonymous with Behaviour in Gawin Douglas and the elder Scotch writers.

Haver, in the sense of Possessor, is every where met with: tho' unfortunately the πρὸς τὸν Ἔχοντα of Sophocles, produced as an authority for it, is suspected by Kuster, as good a critick in these matters, to have absolutely a different meaning.

But what shall we say to the learning of the Clown in Hamlet, "Ay, tell me that, and unyoke"? alluding to the Βουλυτὸς of the Greeks: and Homer and his Scholiast are quoted accordingly!

If it be not sufficient to say, with Dr. Warburton, that the phrase might be taken from Husbandry, without much depth of reading; we may produce it from a Dittie of the workmen of Dover, preserved in the additions to Holingshed, p. 1546.

My bow is broke, I would unyoke, My foot is sore, I can worke no more.

An expression of my Dame Quickly is next fastened upon, which you may look for in vain in the modern text; she calls some of the pretended Fairies in the Merry Wives of Windsor,

——Orphan Heirs of fixed Destiny;

"and how elegant is this!" quoth Mr. Upton, supposing the word to be used, as a Grecian would have used it, "ὀρφανὸς ab ὀρφνὸς—acting in darkness and obscurity."

Mr. Heath assures us that the bare mention of such an interpretation is a sufficient refutation of it: and his critical word will be rather taken in Greek than in English: in the same hands therefore I will venture to leave all our author's knowledge of the Old Comedy, and his etymological learning in the word, Desdemona.

Surely poor Mr. Upton was very little acquainted with Fairies, notwithstanding his laborious study of Spenser. The last authentick account of them is from our countryman William Lilly; and it by no means agrees with the learned interpretation: for the angelical Creatures appeared in his Hurst wood in a most illustrious Glory,—"and indeed," says the Sage, "it is not given to very many persons to endure their glorious aspects."

The only use of transcribing these things is to shew what absurdities men for ever run into, when they lay down an Hypothesis, and afterward seek for arguments in the support of it. What else could induce this man, by no means a bad scholar, to doubt whether Truepenny might not be derived from Τρύπανον; and quote upon us with much parade an old Scholiast on Aristophanes?—I will not stop to confute him: nor take any notice of two or three more Expressions, in which he was pleased to suppose some learned meaning or other; all which he might have found in every Writer of the time, or still more easily in the vulgar Translation of the Bible, by consulting the Concordance of Alexander Cruden.

But whence have we the Plot of Timon, except from the Greek of Lucian?—The Editors and Criticks have been never at a greater loss than in their inquiries of this sort; and the source of a Tale hath been often in vain sought abroad, which might easily have been found at home: My good friend, the very ingenious Editor of the Reliques of ancient English Poetry, hath shewn our Author to have been sometimes contented with a legendary Ballad.

The Story of the Misanthrope is told in almost every Collection of the time; and particularly in two books, with which Shakespeare was intimately acquainted; the Palace of Pleasure, and the English Plutarch. Indeed from a passage in an old Play, called Jack Drum's Entertainment, I conjecture that he had before made his appearance on the Stage.

Were this a proper place for such a disquisition, I could give you many cases of this kind. We are sent for instance to Cinthio for the Plot of Measure for Measure, and Shakespeare's judgement hath been attacked for some deviations from him in the conduct of it: when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Isabella in the Heptameron of Whetstone. Ariosto is continually quoted for the Fable of Much ado about Nothing; but I suspect our Poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville. As you like it was certainly borrowed, if we believe Dr. Grey, and Mr. Upton, from the Coke's Tale of Gamelyn; which by the way was not printed 'till a century afterward: when in truth the old Bard, who was no hunter of MSS., contented himself solely with Lodge's Rosalynd or Euphues' Golden Legacye. 4to. 1590. The Story of All's well that ends well, or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called, Love's labour wonne, is originally indeed the property of Boccace, but it came immediately to Shakespeare from Painter's Giletta of Narbon. Mr. Langbaine could not conceive whence the Story of Pericles could be taken, "not meeting in History with any such Prince of Tyre"; yet his legend may be found at large in old Gower, under the name of Appolynus.

Pericles is one of the Plays omitted in the later Editions, as well as the early Folios, and not improperly; tho' it was published many years before the death of Shakespeare, with his name in the Title-page. Aulus Gellius informs us that some Plays are ascribed absolutely to Plautus, which he only re-touched and polished; and this is undoubtedly the case with our Author likewise. The revival of this performance, which Ben Jonson calls stale and mouldy, was probably his earliest attempt in the Drama. I know that another of these discarded pieces, the Yorkshire Tragedy, had been frequently called so; but most certainly it was not written by our Poet at all: nor indeed was it printed in his life-time. The Fact on which it is built was perpetrated no sooner than 1604: much too late for so mean a performance from the hand of Shakespeare.

Sometimes a very little matter detects a forgery. You may remember a Play called the Double Falshood, which Mr. Theobald was desirous of palming upon the world for a posthumous one of Shakespeare: and I see it is classed as such in the last Edition of the Bodleian Catalogue. Mr. Pope himself, after all the strictures of Scriblerus, in a Letter to Aaron Hill, supposes it of that age; but a mistaken accent determines it to have been written since the middle of the last century:

——This late example Of base Henriquez, bleeding in me now, From each good Aspect takes away my trust.

And in another place,

You have an Aspect, Sir, of wondrous wisdom.

The word Aspect, you perceive, is here accented on the first Syllable, which, I am confident, in any sense of it, was never the case in the time of Shakespeare; though it may sometimes appear to be so, when we do not observe a preceding Elision.

Some of the professed Imitators of our old Poets have not attended to this and many other Minutiae: I could point out to you several performances in the respective Styles of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare, which the imitated Bard could not possibly have either read or construed.

This very accent hath troubled the Annotators on Milton. Dr. Bentley observes it to be "a tone different from the present use." Mr. Manwaring, in his Treatise of Harmony and Numbers, very solemnly informs us that "this Verse is defective both in Accent and Quantity, B. 3. V. 266.

His words here ended, but his meek Aspect Silent yet spake.——

Here," says he, "a syllable is acuted and long, whereas it should be short and graved"!

And a still more extraordinary Gentleman, one Green, who published a Specimen of a new Version of the Paradise Lost, into BLANK verse, "by which that amazing Work is brought somewhat nearer the Summit of Perfection," begins with correcting a blunder in the fourth book, V. 540:

——The setting Sun Slowly descended, and with right Aspect— Levell'd his evening rays.——

Not so in the New Version:

Meanwhile the setting Sun descending slow— Level'd with aspect right his ev'ning rays.

Enough of such Commentators.—The celebrated Dr. Dee had a Spirit, who would sometimes condescend to correct him, when peccant in Quantity: and it had been kind of him to have a little assisted the Wights above-mentioned.—Milton affected the Antique; but it may seem more extraordinary that the old Accent should be adopted in Hudibras.

After all, the Double Falshood is superior to Theobald. One passage, and one only in the whole Play, he pretended to have written:

——Strike up, my Masters; But touch the Strings with a religious softness: Teach sound to languish thro' the Night's dull Ear, Till Melancholy start from her lazy Couch, And Carelessness grow Convert to Attention.

These lines were particularly admired; and his vanity could not resist the opportunity of claiming them: but his claim had been more easily allowed to any other part of 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 Kings 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 name. 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 Uriel glides backward and forward to Heaven on a Sunbeam. Dr. Newton informs us that this might possibly be hinted by a Picture of Annibal Caracci in the King of France's Cabinet: but I am apt to believe that Milton had been struck with a Portrait in Shirley. Fernando, in the Comedy of the Brothers, 1652, describes Jacinta at Vespers:

Her eye did seem to labour with a tear, Which suddenly took birth, but overweigh'd With it's own swelling, drop'd upon her bosome; Which, by reflexion of her light, appear'd As nature meant her sorrow for an ornament: After, her looks grew chearfull, and I saw A smile shoot gracefull upward from her eyes, As if they had gain'd a victory o'er grief, And with it many beams twisted themselves, Upon whose golden threads the Angels walk To and again from Heaven.——

You must not think me infected with the spirit of Lauder, if I give you another of Milton's Imitations:

——The Swan with arched neck Between her white wings mantling proudly, rows Her state with oary feet.—B. 7. V. 438, &c.

"The ancient Poets," says Mr. Richardson, "have not hit upon this beauty; so lavish as they have been in their descriptions of the Swan. Homer calls the Swan long-necked, δουλιχοδείρον; but how much more pittoresque, if he had arched this length of neck?"

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, A Swan, so white that you may unto him Compare all whitenesse, but himselfe to none, Glided along, and as he glided watch'd, And with his arched neck this poore fish catch'd.—Progresse of the Soul, St. 24.

Those highly finished Landscapes, the Seasons, are indeed copied from Nature: but Thomson sometimes recollected the hand of his Master:

——The stately-sailing Swan Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale; And, arching proud his neck, with oary feet Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier Isle, Protective of his young.——

But to return, as we say on other occasions—Perhaps the Advocates for Shakespeare's knowledge of the Latin language may be more successful. Mr. Gildon takes the Van. "It is plain that He was acquainted with the Fables of antiquity very well: that some of the Arrows of Cupid are pointed with Lead, and others with Gold, he found in Ovid; and what he speaks of Dido, in Virgil: nor do I know any translation of these Poets so ancient as Shakespeare's time." The passages on which these sagacious remarks are made occur in the Midsummer Night's Dream; and exhibit, we see, a clear proof of acquaintance with the Latin Classicks. But we are not answerable for Mr. Gildon's ignorance; he might have been told of Caxton and Douglas, of Surrey and Stanyhurst, of Phaer and Twyne, of Fleming and Golding, of Turberville and Churchyard! but these Fables were easily known without the help of either the originals or the translations. The Fate of Dido had been sung very early by Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate; Marloe had even already introduced her to the Stage: and Cupid's arrows appear with their characteristick differences in Surrey, in Sidney, in Spenser, and every Sonnetteer of the time. Nay, their very names were exhibited long before in the Romaunt of the Rose: a work you may venture to look into, notwithstanding Master Prynne hath so positively assured us, on the word of John Gerson, that the Author is most certainly damned, if he did not care for a serious repentance.

Mr. Whalley argues in the same manner, and with the same success. 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 braine-bred Girle, and the Feature of Cytherea, have their domestical habitation."

In the Merchant of Venice, we have an oath "By two-headed 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 compassed 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! Hyperion's curls: the front of Jove himself: An eye like Mars to threaten and command: A station like the herald Mercury, 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, all this and much more Mythology might as perfectly have been learned from the Testament of Creseide, and the Fairy Queen, as from a regular Pantheon, or Polymetis himself.

Mr. Upton, not contented with Heathen learning, when he finds it in the text, must necessarily superadd it, when it appears to be wanting; because Shakespeare most certainly hath lost it by accident!

In Much ado about Nothing, Don Pedro says of the insensible Benedict, "He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid's bow-string, and the little Hangman dare not shoot at him."

This mythology is not recollected in the Ancients, and therefore the critick hath no doubt but his Author wrote "Henchman,—a Page, Pusio: and this word seeming too hard for the Printer, he translated the little Urchin into a Hangman, a character no way belonging to him."

But this character was not borrowed from the Ancients;—it came from the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney:

Millions of yeares this old drivell Cupid lives; While still more wretch, more wicked he doth prove: Till now at length that Jove an office gives, (At Juno's suite who much did Argus love) In this our world a Hangman for to be Of all those fooles that will have all they see.—B. 2. Ch. 14.

I know it may be objected on the authority of such Biographers as Theophilus Cibber, and the Writer of the Life of Sir Philip, prefixed to the modern Editions, that the Arcadia was not published before 1613, and consequently too late for this imitation: but I have a Copy in my own possession, printed for W. Ponsonbie, 1590, 4to. which hath escaped the notice of the industrious Ames, and the rest of our typographical Antiquaries.

Thus likewise every word of antiquity is to be cut down to the classical standard.

In a Note on the Prologue to Troilus and Cressida (which, by the way, is not met with in the Quarto), Mr. Theobald informs us that the very names of the gates of Troy have been barbarously demolished by the Editors: and a deal of learned dust he makes in setting them right again; much however to Mr. Heath's satisfaction. Indeed the learning is modestly withdrawn from the later Editions, and we are quietly instructed to read,

Dardan, and Thymbria, Ilia, Scaea, Troian, And Antenorides.

But had he looked into the Troy boke of Lydgate, instead of puzzling himself with Dares Phrygius, he would have found the horrid demolition to have been neither the work of Shakespeare nor his Editors.

Therto his cyte compassed enuyrowne Hadde gates VI to entre into the towne: The firste of all and strengest eke with all, Largest also and moste pryncypall, Of myghty byldyng alone pereless, Was by the kynge called Dardanydes; And in storye lyke as it is founde, Tymbria was named the seconde; And the thyrde called Helyas, The fourthe gate hyghte also Cetheas; The fyfthe Trojana, the syxth Anthonydes, Stronge and myghty both in werre and pes. Lond. empr. by R. Pynson, 1513. Fol. B. 2. Ch. 11.

Our excellent friend Mr. Hurd hath born a noble testimony on our side of the question. "Shakespeare," says this true Critick, "owed the felicity of freedom from the bondage of classical superstition to the want of what is called the advantage of a learned Education.—This, as well as a vast superiority of Genius, hath contributed to lift this astonishing man to the glory of being esteemed the most original thinker and speaker, since the times of Homer." And hence indisputably the amazing Variety of Style and Manner, unknown to all other Writers: an argument of itself sufficient to emancipate Shakespeare from the supposition of a Classical training. Yet, to be honest, one Imitation is fastened on our Poet: which hath been insisted upon likewise by Mr. Upton and Mr. Whalley. You remember it in the famous Speech of Claudio in Measure for Measure:

Ay, but to die and go we know not where! &c.

Most certainly the Ideas of a "Spirit bathing in fiery floods," of residing "in thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice," or of being "imprisoned in the viewless winds," are not original in our Author; but I am not sure that they came from the Platonick Hell of Virgil. The Monks also had their hot and their cold Hell, "The fyrste is fyre that ever brenneth, and never gyveth lighte," says an old Homily:—"The seconde is passyng colde, that yf a grete hylle of fyre were casten therin, it sholde torne to yce." One of their Legends, well remembered in the time of Shakespeare, gives us a Dialogue between a Bishop and a Soul tormented in a piece of ice, which was brought to cure a grete brenning heate in his foot: take care you do not interpret this the Gout, for I remember M. Menage quotes a Canon upon us,

Si quis dixerit Episcopum PODAGRA laborare, Anathema sit.

Another tells us of the Soul of a Monk fastened to a Rock, which the winds were to blow about for a twelve-month, and purge of it's Enormities. Indeed this doctrine was before now introduced into poetick fiction, as you may see in a Poem, "where the Lover declareth his pains to exceed far the pains of Hell," among the many miscellaneous ones subjoined to the Works of Surrey. Nay, a very learned and inquisitive Brother-Antiquary, our Greek Professor, hath observed to me on the authority of Blefkenius, that this was the ancient opinion of the inhabitants of Iceland; who were certainly very little read either in the Poet or the Philosopher.

After all, Shakespeare's curiosity might lead him to Translations. Gawin Douglas really changes the Platonick Hell into the "punytion of Saulis in Purgatory": and it is observable that when the Ghost informs Hamlet of his Doom there,

Till the foul crimes done in his days of nature Are burnt and purg'd away,——

the Expression is very similar to the Bishop's: I will give you his Version as concisely as I can; "It is a nedeful thyng to suffer panis and torment—Sum in the wyndis, Sum under the watter, and in the fire uthir Sum:—thus the mony Vices—

Contrakkit in the corpis be done away And purgit.——Sixte Booke of Eneados. Fol. p. 191.

It seems, however, "that Shakespeare himself in the Tempest hath translated some expressions of Virgil: witness the O Dea certe." I presume we are here directed to the passage where Ferdinand says of Miranda, after hearing the Songs of Ariel,

——Most sure, the Goddess On whom these airs attend;

and so very small Latin is sufficient for this formidable translation, that if it be thought any honour to our Poet, I am loth to deprive him of it; but his honour is not built on such a sandy foundation. Let us turn to a real Translator, and examine whether the Idea might not be fully comprehended by an English reader; supposing it necessarily borrowed from Virgil. Hexameters in our own language are almost forgotten; we will quote therefore this time from Stanyhurst:

O to thee, fayre Virgin, what terme may rightly be fitted? Thy tongue, thy visage no mortal frayltie resembleth. ——No doubt, a Godesse!—Edit. 1583.

Gabriel Harvey desired only to be "Epitaph'd, the Inventor of the English Hexameter," and for a while every one would be halting on Roman feet; but the ridicule of our Fellow-Collegian Hall, in one of his Satires, and the reasoning of Daniel, in his Defence of Rhyme against Campion, presently reduced us to our original Gothic.

But to come nearer the purpose, what will you say if I can shew you that Shakespeare, when, in the favourite phrase, he had a Latin Poet in his Eye, most assuredly made use of a Translation?

Prospero in the Tempest begins the Address to his attendant Spirits,

Ye Elves of Hills, of standing Lakes, and Groves.

This speech Dr. Warburton rightly observes to be borrowed from Medea in Ovid: and "it proves," says Mr. Holt, "beyond contradiction, that Shakespeare was perfectly acquainted with the Sentiments of the Ancients on the Subject of Inchantments." The original lines are these,

Auraeque, & venti, montesque, amnesque, lacusque, Diique omnes nemorum, diique omnes noctis adeste.

It happens, however, that the translation by Arthur Golding is by no means literal, and Shakespeare hath closely followed it;

Ye Ayres and Winds; Ye Elves of Hills, of Brookes, of Woods alone, Of standing Lakes, and of the Night, approche ye everych one.

I think it is unnecessary to pursue this any further; especially as more powerful arguments await us.

In the Merchant of Venice, the Jew, as an apology for his cruelty to Anthonio, rehearses many Sympathies and Antipathies for which no reason can be rendered,

Some love not a gaping Pig—— And others when a Bagpipe sings i' th' nose Cannot contain their urine for affection.

This incident Dr. Warburton supposes to be taken from a passage in Scaliger's Exercitations against Cardan, "Narrabo tibi jocosam Sympathiam Reguli Vasconis Equitis: Is dum viveret, audito Phormingis sono, urinam illico facere cogebatur." "And," proceeds the Doctor, "to make this jocular story still more ridiculous, Shakespeare, I suppose, translated Phorminx by Bagpipes."

Here we seem fairly caught;—for Scaliger's work was never, as the term goes, done into English. But luckily in an old translation from the French of Peter le Loier, entitled, A treatise of Specters, or straunge Sights, Visions and Apparitions appearing sensibly unto men, we have this identical Story from Scaliger: and what is still more, a marginal Note gives us in all probability the very fact alluded to, as well as the word of Shakespeare, "Another Gentleman of this quality liued of late in Deuon neere Excester, who could not endure the playing on a Bagpipe."

We may just add, as some observation hath been made upon it, that Affection in the sense of Sympathy was formerly technical; and so used by Lord Bacon, Sir Kenelm Digby, and many other Writers.

A single word in Queen Catherine's Character of Wolsey, in Henry the eighth, is brought by the Doctor as another argument for the learning of Shakespeare:

——He was a man Of an unbounded Stomach, ever ranking Himself with Princes; one that by Suggestion Ty'd all the kingdom. Simony was fair play. His own opinion was his law, i' th' presence He would say untruths, and be ever double Both in his words and meaning. He was never, But where he meant to ruin, pitiful. His promises were, as he then was, mighty; But his performance, as he now is, nothing. Of his own body he was ill, and gave The Clergy ill example.

"The word Suggestion," says the Critick, "is here used with great propriety, and seeming knowledge of the Latin tongue": and he proceeds to settle the sense of it from the late Roman writers and their glossers. But Shakespeare's knowledge was from Holingshed, whom he follows verbatim:

"This Cardinal was of a great stomach, for he compted himself equal with princes, and by craftie Suggestion got into his hands innumerable treasure: he forced little on simonie, and was not pitifull, and stood affectionate in his own opinion: in open presence he would lie and saie untruth, and was double both in speech and meaning: he would promise much and performe little: he was vicious of his bodie, and gaue the clergie euil example." Edit. 1587. p. 922.

Perhaps after this quotation you may not think that Sir Thomas Hanmer, who reads Tyth'd instead of Ty'd all the kingdom, deserves quite so much of Dr. Warburton's severity.—Indisputably the passage, like every other in the Speech, is intended to express the meaning of the parallel one in the Chronicle: it cannot therefore be credited that any man, when the Original was produced, should still chuse to defend a cant acceptation; and inform us, perhaps, seriously, that in gaming language, from I know not what practice, to tye is to equal! A sense of the word, as far as I have yet found, unknown to our old Writers; and, if known, would not surely have been used in this place by our Author.

But let us turn from conjecture to Shakespeare's authorities. Hall, from whom the above description is copied by Holingshed, is very explicit in the demands of the Cardinal: who, having insolently told the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, "For sothe I thinke that halfe your substaunce were to litle," assures them by way of comfort at the end of his harangue, that upon an average the tythe should be sufficient; "Sers, speake not to breake that thyng that is concluded, for some shal not paie the tenth parte, and some more."—And again; "Thei saied, the Cardinall by Visitacions, makyng of Abbottes, probates of testamentes, graunting of faculties, licences, and other pollyngs in his Courtes legantines, had made his threasore egall with the kynges." Edit. 1548. p. 138. and 143.

Skelton, in his Why come ye not to Court, gives us, after his rambling manner, a curious character of Wolsey:

——By and by He will drynke us so dry And sucke us so nye That men shall scantly Haue penny or halpennye God saue hys noble grace And graunt him a place Endlesse to dwel With the deuill of hel For and he were there We nead neuer feare Of the feendes blacke For I undertake He wold so brag and crake That he wold than make The deuils to quake To shudder and to shake Lyke a fier drake And with a cole rake Bruse them on a brake And binde them to a stake And set hel on fyre At his own desire He is such a grym syre!—Edit. 1568.

Mr. Upton and some other Criticks have thought it very scholar-like in Hamlet to swear the Centinels on a Sword: but this is for ever met with. For instance, in the Passus primus of Pierce Plowman,

Dauid in his daies dubbed knightes, And did hem swere on her sword to serue truth euer.

And in Hieronymo, the common Butt of our Author, and the Wits of the time, says Lorenzo to Pedringano,

Swear on this cross, that what thou sayst is true— But if I prove thee perjured and unjust, This very sword, whereon thou took'st thine oath, Shall be the worker of thy Tragedy!

We have therefore no occasion to go with Mr. Garrick as far as the French of Brantome to illustrate this ceremony: a Gentleman who will be always allowed the first Commentator on Shakespeare, when he does not carry us beyond himself.

Mr. Upton, however, in the next place, produces a passage from Henry the sixth, whence he argues it to be very plain that our Author had not only read Cicero's Offices, but even more critically than many of the Editors:

——This Villain here, Being Captain of a Pinnace, threatens more Than Bargulus, the strong Illyrian Pirate.

So the Wight, he observes with great exultation, is named by Cicero in the Editions of Shakespeare's time, "Bargulus Illyrius latro"; tho' the modern Editors have chosen to call him Bardylis:—"and thus I found it in two MSS."—And thus he might have found it in two Translations, before Shakespeare was born. Robert Whytinton, 1533, calls him, "Bargulus a Pirate upon the see of Illiry"; and Nicholas Grimald, about twenty years afterward, "Bargulus the Illyrian Robber."

But it had been easy to have checked Mr. Upton's exultation, by observing that Bargulus does not appear in the Quarto.—Which also is the case with some fragments of Latin verses, in the different Parts of this doubtful performance.

It is scarcely worth mentioning that two or three more Latin passages, which are met with in our Author, are immediately transcribed from the Story or Chronicle before him. Thus in Henry the fifth, whose right to the kingdom of France is copiously demonstrated by the Archbishop:

——There is no bar To make against your Highness' claim to France, But this which they produce from Pharamond: In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant; No Woman shall succeed in Salike land: Which Salike land the French unjustly gloze To be the realm of France, and Pharamond The founder of this law and female bar. Yet their own authors faithfully affirm That the land Salike lies in Germany, Between the floods of Sala and of Elve, &c.

Archbishop Chichelie, says Holingshed, "did much inueie against the surmised and false fained law Salike, which the Frenchmen alledge euer against the kings of England in barre of their just title to the crowne of France. The very words of that supposed law are these, In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant, that is to saie, Into the Salike land let not women succeed; which the French glossers expound to be the realm of France, and that this law was made by King Pharamond: whereas yet their owne authors affirme that the land Salike is in Germanie, between the rivers of Elbe and Sala," &c. p. 545.

It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Essay upon English Tragedy, that the Portrait of Macbeth's Wife is copied from Buchanan, "whose spirit, as well as words, is translated into the Play of Shakespeare: and it had signified nothing to have pored only on Holingshed for Facts."—"Animus etiam, per se ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis uxoris (quae omnium consiliorum ei erat conscia) stimulabatur."—This is the whole that Buchanan says of the Lady; and truly I see no more spirit in the Scotch than in the English Chronicler. "The wordes of the three weird Sisters also greatly encouraged him [to the Murder of Duncan], but specially his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the thing, as she that was very ambitious, brenning in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a Queene." Edit. 1577. p. 244.

This part of Holingshed is an Abridgment of Johne Bellenden's translation of the noble clerk, Hector Boece, imprinted at Edinburgh, in Fol. 1541. I will give the passage as it is found there. "His wyfe impacient of lang tary (as all wemen are) specially quhare they ar desirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret artation to pursew the thrid weird, that sche micht be ane quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht desyrus of honouris, sen he durst not assailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit sindry otheris hes assailzeit sic thinges afore with maist terribyl jeopardyis, quhen they had not sic sickernes to succeid in the end of thair laubouris as he had." p. 173.

But we can demonstrate that Shakespeare had not the Story from Buchanan. According to him, the Weird-Sisters salute Macbeth, "Una Angusiae Thamum, altera Moraviae, tertia Regem."—Thane of Angus, and of Murray, &c., but according to Holingshed, immediately from Bellenden, as it stands in Shakespeare: "The first of them spake and sayde, All hayle Makbeth, Thane of Glammis,—the second of them said, Hayle Makbeth, Thane of Cawder; but the third sayde, All hayle Makbeth, that hereafter shall be king of Scotland." p. 243.

1 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!

2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be King hereafter!

Here too our Poet found the equivocal Predictions, on which his Hero so fatally depended. "He had learned of certain wysards, how that he ought to take heede of Macduffe;—and surely hereupon had he put Macduffe to death, but a certaine witch, whom he had in great trust, had tolde that he should neuer be slain with man borne of any woman, nor vanquished till the Wood of Bernane came to the Castell of Dunsinane." p. 244. And the Scene between Malcolm and Macduff in the fourth act is almost literally taken from the Chronicle.

Macbeth was certainly one of Shakespeare's latest Productions, and it might possibly have been suggested to him by a little performance on the same subject at Oxford, before King James, 1605. I will transcribe my notice of it from Wake's Rex Platonicus: "Fabulae ansam dedit antiqua de Regia prosapia historiola apud Scoto-Britannos celebrata, quae narrat tres olim Sibyllas occurrisse duobus Scotiae proceribus, Macbetho & Banchoni, & illum praedixisse Regem futurum, sed Regem nullum geniturum; hunc Regem non futurum, sed Reges geniturum multos. Vaticinii veritatem rerum eventus comprobavit. Banchonis enim e stirpe Potentissimus Jacobus oriundus." p. 29.

A stronger argument hath been brought from the Plot of Hamlet. Dr. Grey and Mr. Whalley assure us that for this Shakespeare must have read Saxo Grammaticus in Latin, for no translation hath been made into any modern Language. But the truth is, he did not take it from Saxo at all; a Novel called the Hystorie of Hamblet was his original: a fragment of which, in black Letter, I have been favoured with by a very curious and intelligent Gentleman, to whom the lovers of Shakespeare will some time or other owe great obligations.

It hath indeed been said that, "IF such an history exists, it is almost impossible that any poet unacquainted with the Latin language (supposing his perceptive faculties to have been ever so acute) could have caught the characteristical madness of Hamlet, described by Saxo Grammaticus, so happily as it is delineated by Shakespeare."

Very luckily, our Fragment gives us a part of Hamlet's Speech to his Mother, which sufficiently replies to this observation:—"It was not without cause, and juste occasion, that my gestures, countenances, and words seeme to proceed from a madman, and that I desire to haue all men esteeme mee wholy depriued of sence and, reasonable understanding, bycause I am well assured that he that hath made no conscience to kill his owne brother (accustomed to murthers, and allured with desire of gouernement without controll in his treasons) will not spare to saue himselfe with the like crueltie, in the blood and flesh of the loyns of his brother, by him massacred: and therefore it is better for me to fayne madnesse then to use my right sences as nature hath bestowed them upon me. The bright shining clearnes therof I am forced to hide vnder this shadow of dissimulation, as the sun doth hir beams vnder some great cloud, when the wether in summer time ouercasteth: the face of a mad man serueth to couer my gallant countenance, and the gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that, guiding my self wisely therin, I may preserue my life for the Danes and the memory of my late deceased father, for that the desire of reuenging his death is so ingrauen in my heart, that if I dye not shortly, I hope to take such and so great vengeance, that these Countryes shall for euer speake thereof. Neuerthelesse I must stay the time, meanes, and occasion, lest by making ouer great hast I be now the cause of mine owne sodaine ruine and ouerthrow, and by that meanes end, before I beginne to effect my hearts desire: hee that hath to doe with a wicked, disloyall, cruell, and discourteous man, must vse craft, and politike inuentions, such as a fine witte can best imagine, not to discouer his interprise: for seeing that by force I cannot effect my desire, reason alloweth me by dissimulation, subtiltie, and secret practises to proceed therein."

But to put the matter out of all question, my communicative Friend above-mentioned, Mr. Capell (for why should I not give myself the credit of his name?), hath been fortunate enough to procure from the Collection of the Duke of Newcastle a complete Copy of the Hystorie of Hamblet, which proves to be a translation from the French of Belleforest; and he tells me that "all the chief incidents of the Play, and all the capital Characters, are there in embryo, after a rude and barbarous manner: sentiments indeed there are none that Shakespeare could borrow; nor any expression but one, which is, where Hamlet kills Polonius behind the arras: in doing which he is made to cry out, as in the Play, 'a rat, a rat!' "—So much for Saxo Grammaticus!

It is scarcely conceivable how industriously the puritanical Zeal of the last age exerted itself in destroying, amongst better things, the innocent amusements of the former. Numberless Tales and Poems are alluded to in old Books, which are now perhaps no where to be found. Mr. Capell informs me (and he is in these matters the most able of all men to give information) that our Author appears to have been beholden to some Novels which he hath yet only seen in French or Italian: but he adds, "to say they are not in some English dress, prosaic or metrical, and perhaps with circumstances nearer to his stories, is what I will not take upon me to do: nor indeed is it what I believe; but rather the contrary, and that time and accident will bring some of them to light, if not all."——

W. Painter, at the conclusion of the second Tome of his Palace of Pleasure, 1567, advertises the Reader, "bicause sodaynly (contrary to expectation) this Volume is risen to greater heape of leaues, I doe omit for this present time sundry Nouels of mery deuise, reseruing the same to be joyned with the rest of an other part, wherein shall succeede the remnant of Bandello, specially sutch (suffrable) as the learned French man Francois de Belleforrest hath selected, and the choysest done in the Italian. Some also out of Erizzo, Ser Giouanni Florentino, Parabosco, Cynthio, Straparole, Sansouino, and the best liked out of the Queene of Nauarre, and other Authors. Take these in good part, with those that haue and shall come forth."—But I am not able to find that a third Tome was ever published: and it is very probable that the Interest of his Booksellers, and more especially the prevailing Mode of the time, might lead him afterward to print his sundry Novels separately. If this were the case, it is no wonder that such fugitive Pieces are recovered with difficulty; when the two Tomes, which Tom. Rawlinson would have called justa Volumina, are almost annihilated. Mr. Ames, who searched after books of this sort with the utmost avidity, most certainly had not seen them when he published his Typographical Antiquities; as appears from his blunders about them: and possibly I myself might have remained in the same predicament, had I not been favoured with a Copy by my generous Friend, Mr. Lort.

Mr. Colman, in the Preface to his elegant Translation of Terence, hath offered some arguments for the Learning of Shakespeare, which have been retailed with much confidence, since the appearance of Mr. Johnson's Edition.

"Besides the resemblance of particular passages scattered up and down in different plays, it is well known that the Comedy of Errors is in great measure founded on the Menaechmi of Plautus; but I do not recollect ever to have seen it observed that the disguise of the Pedant in the Taming of the Shrew, and his assuming the name and character of Vincentio, seem to be evidently taken from the disguise of the Sycophanta in the Trinummus of the said Author; and there is a quotation from the Eunuch of Terence also, so familiarly introduced into the Dialogue of the Taming of the Shrew, that I think it puts the question of Shakespeare's having read the Roman Comick Poets in the original language out of all doubt,

Redime te captum, quam queas, minimo."

With respect to resemblances, I shall not trouble you any further.—That the Comedy of Errors is founded on the Menaechmi, it is notorious: nor is it less so, that a Translation of it by W. W., perhaps William Warner, the Author of Albion's England, was extant in the time of Shakespeare; tho' Mr. Upton, and some other advocates for his learning, have cautiously dropt the mention of it. Besides this (if indeed it were different), in the Gesta Grayorum, the Christmas Revels of the Gray's-Inn Gentlemen, 1594, "a Comedy of Errors like to Plautus his Menechmus was played by the Players." And the same hath been suspected to be the Subject of the goodlie Comedie of Plautus acted at Greenwich before the King and Queen in 1520; as we learn from Hall and Holingshed:—Riccoboni highly compliments the English on opening their stage so well; but unfortunately Cavendish, in his Life of Wolsey, calls it an excellent Interlude in Latine. About the same time it was exhibited in German at Nuremburgh, by the celebrated Hanssach, the Shoemaker.

"But a character in the Taming of the Shrew is borrowed from the Trinummus, and no translation of that was extant."

Mr. Colman indeed hath been better employ'd: but if he had met with an old Comedy, called Supposes, translated from Ariosto by George Gascoigne, he certainly would not have appealed to Plautus. Thence Shakespeare borrowed this part of the Plot (as well as some of the phraseology), though Theobald pronounces it his own invention: there likewise he found the quaint name of Petruchio. My young Master and his Man exchange habits and characters, and persuade a Scenaese, as he is called, to personate the Father, exactly as in the Taming of the Shrew, by the pretended danger of his coming from Sienna to Ferrara, contrary to the order of the government.

Still, Shakespeare quotes a line from the Eunuch of Terence: by memory too, and, what is more, "purposely alters it, in order to bring the sense within the compass of one line."—This remark was previous to Mr. Johnson's; or indisputably it would not have been made at all.—"Our Authour had this line from Lilly; which I mention that it may not be brought as an argument of his learning."

But how, cries an unprovoked Antagonist, can you take upon you to say that he had it from Lilly, and not from Terence? I will answer for Mr. Johnson, who is above answering for himself.—Because it is quoted as it appears in the Grammarian, and not as it appears in the Poet.—And thus we have done with the purposed alteration. Udall likewise in his Floures for Latine speakyng, gathered oute of Terence, 1560, reduces the passage to a single line, and subjoins a Translation.

We have hitherto supposed Shakespeare the Author of the Taming of the Shrew, but his property in it is extremely disputable. I will give you my opinion, and the reasons on which it is founded. I suppose then the present Play not originally the work of Shakespeare, but restored by him to the Stage, with the whole Induction of the Tinker, and some other occasional improvements; especially in the Character of Petruchio. It is very obvious that the Induction and the Play were either the works of different hands, or written at a great interval of time: the former is in our Author's best manner, and the greater part of the latter in his worst, or even below it. Dr. Warburton declares it to be certainly spurious: and without doubt, supposing it to have been written by Shakespeare, it must have been one of his earliest productions; yet it is not mentioned in the List of his Works by Meres in 1598.

I have met with a facetious piece of Sir John Harrington, printed in 1596 (and possibly there may be an earlier Edition), called, The Metamorphosis of Ajax, where I suspect an allusion to the old Play: "Read the booke of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect, that now every one can rule a Shrew in our Countrey, save he that hath hir."—I am aware, a modern Linguist may object that the word Book does not at present seem dramatick, but it was once almost technically so: Gosson in his Schoole of Abuse, contayning a pleasaunt inuective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like Caterpillars of a Common-wealth, 1579, mentions "twoo prose Bookes plaied at the Belsauage"; and Hearne tells us, in a Note at the end of William of Worcester, that he had seen "a MS. in the nature of a Play or Interlude, intitled, the Booke of Sir Thomas Moore."

And in fact there is such an old anonymous Play in Mr. Pope's List: "A pleasant conceited History, called, The Taming of a Shrew—sundry times acted by the Earl of Pembroke his Servants." Which seems to have been republished by the Remains of that Company in 1607, when Shakespeare's copy appeared at the Black-Friars or the Globe.—Nor let this seem derogatory from the character of our Poet. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to claim the Play as his own; it was not even printed 'till some years after his death: but he merely revived it on his Stage as a Manager.—Ravenscroft assures us that this was really the case with Titus Andronicus; which, it may be observed, hath not Shakespeare's name on the Title-page of the only Edition published in his life-time. Indeed, from every internal mark, I have not the least doubt but this horrible Piece was originally written by the Author of the Lines thrown into the mouth of the Player in Hamlet, and of the Tragedy of Locrine: which likewise, from some assistance perhaps given to his Friend, hath been unjustly and ignorantly charged upon Shakespeare.

But the sheet-anchor holds fast: Shakespeare himself hath left some Translations from Ovid. The Epistles, says One, of Paris and Helen give a sufficient proof of his acquaintance with that poet; and it may be concluded, says Another, that he was a competent judge of other Authors who wrote in the same language.

This hath been the universal cry, from Mr. Pope himself to the Criticks of yesterday. Possibly, however, the Gentlemen will hesitate a moment, if we tell them that Shakespeare was not the Author of these Translations. Let them turn to a forgotten book, by Thomas Heywood, called Britaines Troy, printed by W. Jaggard in 1609, Fol. and they will find these identical Epistles, "which being so pertinent to our Historie," says Heywood, "I thought necessarie to translate."—How then came they ascribed to Shakespeare? We will tell them that likewise. The same voluminous Writer published an Apology for Actors, 4to. 1612, and in an Appendix directed to his new Printer, Nic. Okes, he accuses his old One, Jaggard, of "taking the two Epistles of Paris to Helen and Helen to Paris, and printing them in a less volume and under the name of Another:—but he was much offended with Master Jaggard, that, altogether unknowne to him, he had presumed to make so bold with his Name." In the same work of Heywood are all the other Translations which have been printed in the modern Editions of the Poems of Shakespeare.

You now hope for land: We have seen through little matters, but what must be done with a whole book?—In 1751 was reprinted "A compendious or briefe examination of certayne ordinary complaints of diuers of our Countrymen in these our days: which although they are in some parte unjust and friuolous, yet are they all by way of Dialogue throughly debated and discussed by William Shakespeare, Gentleman." 8vo.

This extraordinary piece was originally published in 4to. 1581, and dedicated by the Author, "To the most vertuous and learned Lady, his most deare and soveraigne Princesse, Elizabeth; being inforced by her Majesties late and singular clemency in pardoning certayne his unduetifull misdemeanour." And by the modern Editors, to the late King; as "a Treatise composed by the most extensive and fertile Genius that ever any age or nation produced."

Here we join issue with the Writers of that excellent tho' very unequal work, the Biographia Britannica: "If," say they, "this piece could be written by our Poet, it would be absolutely decisive in the dispute about his learning; for many quotations appear in it from the Greek and Latin Classicks."

The concurring circumstances of the Name and the Misdemeanor, which is supposed to be the old Story of Deer-stealing, seem fairly to challenge our Poet for the Author: but they hesitate.—His claim may appear to be confuted by the date 1581, when Shakespeare was only Seventeen, and the long experience which the Writer talks of.—But I will not keep you in suspense: the book was not written by Shakespeare.

Strype, in his Annals, calls the Author SOME learned Man, and this gave me the first suspicion. I knew very well that honest John (to use the language of Sir Thomas Bodley) did not waste his time with such baggage books as Plays and Poems; yet I must suppose that he had heard of the name of Shakespeare. After a while I met with the original Edition. Here in the Title-page, and at the end of the Dedication, appear only the Initials, W. S. Gent., and presently I was informed by Anthony Wood, that the book in question was written, not by William Shakespeare, but by William Stafford, Gentleman: which at once accounted for the Misdemeanour in the Dedication. For Stafford had been concerned at that time, and was indeed afterward, as Camden and the other Annalists inform us, with some of the conspirators against Elizabeth; which he properly calls his unduetifull behaviour.

I hope by this time that any One open to conviction may be nearly satisfied; and I will promise to give you on this head very little more trouble.

The justly celebrated Mr. Warton hath favoured us, in his Life of Dr. Bathurst, with some hearsay particulars concerning Shakespeare from the papers of Aubrey, which had been in the hands of Wood; and I ought not to suppress them, as the last seems to make against my doctrine. They came originally, I find, on consulting the MS., from one Mr. Beeston: and I am sure Mr. Warton, whom I have the honour to call my Friend, and an Associate in the question, will be in no pain about their credit.

"William Shakespeare's Father was a Butcher,—while he was a Boy he exercised his Father's trade, but when he killed a Calf, he would do it in a high stile, and make a speech. This William being inclined naturally to Poetry and Acting, came to London, I guess, about eighteen, and was an Actor in one of the Playhouses, and did act exceedingly well. He began early to make Essays in dramatique Poetry.—The humour of the Constable in the Midsummer Night's Dream he happened to take at Crendon in Bucks.—I think I have been told that he left near three hundred pounds to a Sister.—He understood Latin pretty well, FOR he had been in his younger yeares a Schoolmaster in the Country."

I will be short in my animadversions; and take them in their order.

The account of the Trade of the Family is not only contrary to all other Tradition, but, as it may seem, to the instrument from the Herald's office, so frequently reprinted.—Shakespeare most certainly went to London, and commenced Actor thro' necessity, not natural inclination.—Nor have we any reason to suppose that he did act exceedingly well. Rowe tells us from the information of Betterton, who was inquisitive into this point, and had very early opportunities of Inquiry from Sir W. Davenant, that he was no extraordinary Actor; and that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. Yet this Chef d'Oeuvre did not please: I will give you an original stroke at it. Dr. Lodge, who was for ever pestering the town with Pamphlets, published in the year 1596 Wits miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, discovering the Devils incarnat of this Age. 4to. One of these Devils is Hate-virtue, or Sorrow for another mans good successe, who, says the Doctor, is "a foule lubber, and looks as pale as the Visard of the Ghost, which cried so miserably at the Theatre, like an Oister-wife, Hamlet revenge." Thus you see Mr. Holt's supposed proof, in the Appendix to the late Edition, that Hamlet was written after 1597, or perhaps 1602, will by no means hold good; whatever might be the case of the particular passage on which it is founded.

Nor does it appear that Shakespeare did begin early to make Essays in Dramatique Poetry: the Arraignment of Paris, 1584, which hath so often been ascribed to him on the credit of Kirkman and Winstanley, was written by George Peele; and Shakespeare is not met with, even as an Assistant, 'till at least seven years afterward.—Nash, in his Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities, prefixed to Greene's Arcadia, 4to. black Letter, recommends his Friend, Peele, "as the chiefe supporter of pleasance now living, the Atlas of Poetrie, and primus Verborum Artifex: whose first increase, the Arraignment of Paris, might plead to their opinions his pregnant dexteritie of wit, and manifold varietie of inuention."

In the next place, unfortunately, there is neither such a Character as a Constable in the Midsummer Night's Dream: nor was the three hundred pounds Legacy to a Sister, but a Daughter.

And to close the whole, it is not possible, according to Aubrey himself, that Shakespeare could have been some years a Schoolmaster in the Country: on which circumstance only the supposition of his learning is professedly founded. He was not surely very young, when he was employed to kill Calves, and he commenced Player about Eighteen!—The truth is that he left his Father, for a Wife, a year sooner; and had at least two Children born at Stratford before he retired from thence to London. It is therefore sufficiently clear that poor Anthony had too much reason for his character of Aubrey: You will find it in his own Account of his Life, published by Hearne, which I would earnestly recommend to any Hypochondriack;

"A pretender to Antiquities, roving, magotie-headed, and sometimes little better than crased: and being exceedingly credulous, would stuff his many Letters sent to A.W. with folliries and misinformations." p. 577.

Thus much for the Learning of Shakespeare with respect to the ancient languages: indulge me with an observation or two on his supposed knowledge of the modern ones, and I will promise to release you.

"It is evident" we have been told, "that he was not unacquainted with the Italian": but let us inquire into the Evidence.

Certainly some Italian words and phrases appear in the Works of Shakespeare; yet if we had nothing else to observe, their Orthography might lead us to suspect them to be not of the Writer's importation. But we can go further, and prove this.

When Pistol "cheers up himself with ends of verse," he is only a copy of Hanniball Gonsaga, who ranted on yielding himself a Prisoner to an English Captain in the Low Countries, as you may read in an old Collection of Tales, called Wits, Fits, and Fancies,

Si Fortuna me tormenta, Il speranza me contenta.

And Sir Richard Hawkins, in his Voyage to the South-Sea, 1593, throws out the same jingling Distich on the loss of his Pinnace.

"Master Page, sit; good Master Page, sit; Proface. What you want in meat, we'll have in drink," says Justice Shallow's Fac totum, Davy, in the 2d Part of Henry the fourth.

Proface, Sir Thomas Hanmer observes to be Italian, from profaccia, much good may it do you. Mr. Johnson rather thinks it a mistake for perforce. Sir Thomas however is right; yet it is no argument for his Author's Italian knowledge.

Old Heywood, the Epigrammatist, addressed his Readers long before,

Readers, reade this thus: for Preface, Proface, Much good do it you, the poore repast here, &c.—Woorkes. Lond. 4to. 1562.

And Dekker in his Play, If it be not good, the Diuel is in it (which is certainly true, for it is full of Devils), makes Shackle-soule, in the character of Friar Rush, tempt his Brethren with "choice of dishes,"

To which proface; with blythe lookes sit yee.

Nor hath it escaped the quibbling manner of the Water-poet, in the title of a Poem prefixed to his Praise of Hempseed: "A Preamble, Preatrot, Preagallop, Preapace, or Preface; and Proface, my Masters, if your Stomacks serve."

But the Editors are not contented without coining Italian. "Rivo, says the Drunkard," is an Expression of the madcap Prince of Wales; which Sir Thomas Hanmer corrects to Ribi, Drink away, or again, as it should rather be translated. Dr. Warburton accedes to this; and Mr. Johnson hath admitted it into his Text; but with an observation, that Rivo might possibly be the cant of English Taverns. And so indeed it was: it occurs frequently in Marston. Take a quotation from his Comedy of What you will, 1607:

Musicke, Tobacco, Sacke, and Sleepe, The Tide of Sorrow backward keep: If thou art sad at others fate, Rivo drink deep, give care the mate.

In Love's Labour Lost, Boyet calls Don Armado,

——A Spaniard that keeps here in Court, A Phantasme, a Monarcho.——

Here too Sir Thomas is willing to palm Italian upon us. We should read, it seems, Mammuccio, a Mammet, or Puppet: Ital. Mammuccia. But the allusion is to a fantastical Character of the time.—"Popular applause," says Meres, "dooth nourish some, neither do they gape after any other thing, but vaine praise and glorie,—as in our age Peter Shakerlye of Paules, and MONARCHO that liued about the Court." p. 178.

I fancy you will be satisfied with one more instance.

"Baccare, You are marvellous forward," quoth Gremio to Petruchio in the Taming of the Shrew.

"But not so forward," says Mr. Theobald, "as our Editors are indolent. This is a stupid corruption of the press, that none of them have dived into. We must read Baccalare, as Mr. Warburton acutely observed to me, by which the Italians mean, Thou ignorant, presumptuous Man."—"Properly indeed," adds Mr. Heath, "a graduated Scholar, but ironically and sarcastically a pretender to Scholarship."

This is admitted by the Editors and Criticks of every Denomination. Yet the word is neither wrong, nor Italian: it was an old proverbial one, used frequently by John Heywood; who hath made, what he pleases to call, Epigrams upon it.

Take two of them, such as they are,

Backare, quoth Mortimer to his Sow: Went that Sow backe at that biddyng trowe you?

Backare, quoth Mortimer to his sow: se Mortimers sow speakth as good latin as he.

Howel takes this from Heywood, in his Old Sawes and Adages: and Philpot introduces it into the Proverbs collected by Camden.

We have but few observations concerning Shakespeare's knowledge of the Spanish tongue. Dr. Grey indeed is willing to suppose that the plot of Romeo and Juliet may be borrowed from a COMEDY of Lopes de Vega. But the Spaniard, who was certainly acquainted with Bandello, hath not only changed the Catastrophe, but the names of the Characters. Neither Romeo nor Juliet, neither Montague nor Capulet, appears in this performance: and how came they to the knowledge of Shakespeare?—Nothing is more certain than that he chiefly followed the Translation by Painter from the French of Boisteau, and hence arise the Deviations from Bandello's original Italian. It seems, however, from a passage in Ames's Typographical Antiquities, that Painter was not the only Translator of this popular Story: and it is possible, therefore, that Shakespeare might have other assistance.

In the Induction to the Taming of the Shrew, the Tinker attempts to talk Spanish: and consequently the Author himself was acquainted with it.

Paucas pallabris, let the World slide, Sessa.

But this is a burlesque on Hieronymo; the piece of Bombast that I have mentioned to you before:

What new device have they devised, trow? Pocas pallabras, &c.——

Mr. Whalley tells us, "the Author of this piece hath the happiness to be at this time unknown, the remembrance of him having perished with himself": Philips and others ascribe it to one William Smith: but I take this opportunity of informing him that it was written by Thomas Kyd; if he will accept the authority of his Contemporary, Heywood.

More hath been said concerning Shakespeare's acquaintance with the French language. In the Play of Henry the fifth, we have a whole Scene in it, and in other places it occurs familiarly in the Dialogue.

We may observe in general, that the early Editions have not half the quantity; and every sentence, or rather every word, most ridiculously blundered. These, for several reasons, could not possibly be published by the Author; and it is extremely probable that the French ribaldry was at first inserted by a different hand, as the many additions most certainly were after he had left the Stage.—Indeed, every friend to his memory will not easily believe that he was acquainted with the Scene between Catharine and the old Gentlewoman; or surely he would not have admitted such obscenity and nonsense.

Mr. Hawkins, in the Appendix to Mr. Johnson's Edition, hath an ingenious observation to prove that Shakespeare, supposing the French to be his, had very little knowledge of the language.

"Est-il impossible d'eschapper la force de ton Bras?" says a Frenchman.—"Brass, cur?" replies Pistol.

"Almost any one knows that the French word Bras is pronounced Brau; and what resemblance of sound does this bear to Brass?"

Mr. Johnson makes a doubt whether the pronunciation of the French language may not be changed since Shakespeare's time; "if not," says he, "it may be suspected that some other man wrote the French scenes": but this does not appear to be the case, at least in this termination, from the rules of the Grammarians, or the practice of the Poets. I am certain of the former from the French Alphabet of De la Mothe, and the Orthoepia Gallica of John Eliot; and of the latter from the Rhymes of Marot, Ronsard, and Du Bartas.—Connections of this kind were very common. Shakespeare himself assisted Ben. Jonson in his Sejanus, as it was originally written; and Fletcher in his Two noble Kinsmen.

But what if the French scene were occasionally introduced into every Play on this Subject? and perhaps there were more than one before our Poet's.—In _Pierce _ Penilesse his Supplication to the Diuell_, 4to. 1592 (which, it seems, from the Epistle to the Printer, was not the first Edition), the Author, Nash, exclaims, "What a glorious thing it is to have _Henry the fifth_ represented on the Stage leading the French King prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin to sweare fealty!"—And it appears from the Jests of the famous Comedian, Tarlton, 4to. 1611, that he had been particularly celebrated in the Part of the Clown in _Henry the fifth_; but no such Character exists in the Play of Shakespeare.—_Henry the sixth_ hath ever been doubted; and a passage in the above-quoted piece of Nash may give us reason to believe it was previous to our Author. "How would it have joyed braue Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyen two hundred yeare in his Toomb, he should triumph again on the Stage; and haue his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least (at severall times) who, in the Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding."—I have no doubt but _Henry the sixth_ had the same Author with _Edward the third_, which hath been recovered to the world in Mr. Capell's _Prolusions_.

It hath been observed that the Giant of Rabelais is sometimes alluded to by Shakespeare: and in his time no translation was extant.—But the Story was in every one's hand.

In a Letter by one Laneham, or Langham, for the name is written differently, concerning the Entertainment at Killingwoorth Castle, printed 1575, we have a list of the vulgar Romances of the age, "King Arthurz book, Huon of Burdeaus, Friar Rous, Howleglass, and GARGANTUA." Meres mentions him as equally hurtful to young minds with the Four Sons of Aymon, and the Seven Champions. And John Taylor hath him likewise in his catalogue of Authors, prefixed to Sir Gregory Nonsence.

But to come to a conclusion, I will give you an irrefragable argument that Shakespeare did not understand two very common words in the French and Latin languages.

According to the Articles of agreement between the Conqueror Henry and the King of France, the latter was to stile the former (in the corrected French of the modern Editions) "Nostre tres cher filz Henry Roy d'Angleterre; and in Latin, Praeclarissimus Filius, &c." "What," says Dr. Warburton, "is tres cher in French praeclarissimus in Latin! we should read praecarissimus."—This appears to be exceedingly true; but how came the blunder? It is a typographical one in Holingshed, which Shakespeare copied; but must indisputably have corrected, had he been acquainted with the languages.—"Our said Father, during his life, shall name, call, and write us in French in this maner: Nostre tres chier filz, Henry Roy d'Engleterre—and in Latine in this maner: Praeclarissimus filius noster." Edit. 1587, p. 574.

To corroborate this instance, let me observe to you, though it be nothing further to the purpose, that another error of the same kind hath been the source of a mistake in an historical passage of our Author; which hath ridiculously troubled the Criticks.

Richard the third harangues his army before the Battle of Bosworth:

Remember whom ye are to cope withal, A sort of vagabonds, of rascals, runaways— And who doth lead them but a paltry fellow, Long kept in Britaine at our Mother's cost, A milksop, &c.—

"Our Mother," Mr. Theobald perceives to be wrong, and Henry was somewhere secreted on the Continent: he reads therefore, and all the Editors after him,

Long kept in Bretagne at his mother's cost.

But give me leave to transcribe a few more lines from Holingshed, and you will find at once that Shakespeare had been there before me:—"Ye see further, how a companie of traitors, theeves, outlaws, and runnagates be aiders and partakers of his feat and enterprise.—And to begin with the erle of Richmond, captaine of this rebellion, he is a Welsh milksop—brought up by my Moother's meanes and mine, like a captive in a close cage, in the court of Francis duke of Britaine." p. 756.

Holingshed copies this verbatim from his brother chronicler Hall, Edit. 1548, fol. 54; but his Printer hath given us by accident the word Moother instead of Brother; as it is in the Original, and ought to be in Shakespeare.

I hope, my good Friend, you have by this time acquitted our great Poet of all piratical depredations on the Ancients, and are ready to receive my Conclusion.—He remembered perhaps enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans; and might pick up in the Writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his Studies were most demonstratively confined to Nature and his own Language.

In the course of this disquisition, you have often smiled at "all such reading as was never read": and possibly I may have indulged it too far: but it is the reading necessary for a Comment on Shakespeare. Those who apply solely to the Ancients for this purpose, may with equal wisdom study the TALMUD for an Exposition of TRISTRAM SHANDY. Nothing but an intimate acquaintance with the Writers of the time, who are frequently of no other value, can point out his allusions, and ascertain his Phraseology. The Reformers of his Text are for ever equally positive, and equally wrong. The Cant of the Age, a provincial Expression, an obscure Proverb, an obsolete Custom, a Hint at a Person or a Fact no longer remembered, hath continually defeated the best of our Guessers: You must not suppose me to speak at random, when I assure you that, from some forgotten book or other, I can demonstrate this to you in many hundred Places; and I almost wish that I had not been persuaded into a different Employment.

Tho' I have as much of the Natale Solum about me as any man whatsoever; yet, I own, the Primrose Path is still more pleasing than the Fosse or the Watling Street:

Age cannot wither it, nor custom stale It's infinite variety.——

And when I am fairly rid of the Dust of topographical Antiquity, which hath continued much longer about me than I expected, you may very probably be troubled again with the ever fruitful Subject of SHAKESPEARE and his COMMENTATORS.



MAURICE MORGANN: AN ESSAY ON THE DRAMATIC CHARACTER OF SIR JOHN FALSTAFF. 1777.



Preface.

The following sheets were written in consequence of a friendly conversation, turning by some chance upon the Character of FALSTAFF, wherein the Writer, maintaining, contrary to the general Opinion, that this Character was not intended to be shewn as a Coward, he was challenged to deliver and support that Opinion from the Press, with an engagement, now he fears forgotten, for it was three years ago, that he should be answered thro' the same channel: Thus stimulated, these papers were almost wholly written in a very short time, but not without those attentions, whether successful or not, which seemed necessary to carry them beyond the Press into the hands of the Public. From the influence of the foregoing circumstances it is, that the Writer has generally assumed rather the character and tone of an Advocate than of an Inquirer;—though if he had not first inquired and been convinced, he should never have attempted to have amused either himself or others with the subject.—The impulse of the occasion, however, being passed, the papers were thrown by, and almost forgotten: But having been looked into of late by some friends, who, observing that the Writer had not enlarged so far for the sake of FALSTAFF alone, but that the Argument was made subservient to Critical amusement, persuaded him to revise and convey it to the Press. This has been accordingly done, though he fears something too hastily, as he found it proper to add, while the papers were in the course of printing, some considerations on the Whole Character of FALSTAFF; which ought to have been accompanied by a slight reform of a few preceding passages, which may seem, in consequence of this addition, to contain too favourable a representation of his Morals.

The vindication of FALSTAFF'S Courage is truly no otherwise the object than some old fantastic Oak, or grotesque Rock, may be the object of a morning's ride; yet being proposed as such, may serve to limit the distance, and shape the course: The real object is Exercise, and the Delight which a rich, beautiful, picturesque, and perhaps unknown Country, may excite from every side. Such an Exercise may admit of some little excursion, keeping however the Road in view; but seems to exclude every appearance of labour and of toil.—Under the impression of such Feelings, the Writer has endeavoured to preserve to his Text a certain lightness of air, and chearfulness of tone; but is sensible, however, that the manner of discussion does not every where, particularly near the commencement, sufficiently correspond with his design.—If the Book shall be fortunate enough to obtain another Impression, a separation may be made; and such of the heavier parts as cannot be wholly dispensed with, sink to their more proper station,—a Note.

He is fearful likewise that he may have erred in the other extreme; and that having thought himself intitled, even in argument, to a certain degree of playful discussion, may have pushed it, in a few places, even to levity. This error might be yet more easily reformed than the other.—The Book is perhaps, as it stands, too bulky for the subject; but if the Reader knew how many pressing considerations, as it grew into size, the Author resisted, which yet seemed intitled to be heard, he would the more readily excuse him.

The whole is a mere Experiment, and the Writer considers it as such: It may have the advantages, but it is likewise attended with all the difficulties and dangers, of Novelty.



On The Dramatic Character Of Sir John Falstaff.

The ideas which I have formed concerning the Courage and Military Character of the Dramatic Sir John Falstaff are so different from those which I find generally to prevail in the world, that I shall take the liberty of stating my sentiments on the subject; in hope that some person, as unengaged as myself, will either correct and reform my error in this respect; or, joining himself to my opinion, redeem me from, what I may call, the reproach of singularity.

I am to avow, then, that I do not clearly discern that Sir John Falstaff deserves to bear the character so generally given him of an absolute Coward; or, in other words, that I do not conceive Shakespeare ever meant to make Cowardice an essential part of his constitution.

I know how universally the contrary opinion prevails; and I know what respect and deference are due to the public voice. But if to the avowal of this singularity I add all the reasons that have led me to it, and acknowledge myself to be wholly in the judgment of the public, I shall hope to avoid the censure of too much forwardness or indecorum.

It must, in the first place, be admitted that the appearances in this case are singularly strong and striking; and so they had need be, to become the ground of so general a censure. We see this extraordinary Character, almost in the first moment of our acquaintance with him, involved in circumstances of apparent dishonour; and we hear him familiarly called Coward by his most intimate companions. We see him, on occasion of the robbery at Gads-Hill, in the very act of running away from the Prince and Poins; and we behold him, on another of more honourable obligation, in open day light, in battle, and acting in his profession as a Soldier, escaping from Douglas even out of the world as it were; counterfeiting death, and deserting his very existence; and we find him, on the former occasion, betrayed into those lies and braggadocioes which are the usual concomitants of Cowardice in Military men, and pretenders to valour. These are not only in themselves strong circumstances, but they are moreover thrust forward, prest upon our notice as the subject of our mirth, as the great business of the scene: No wonder, therefore, that the word should go forth that Falstaff exhibited as a character of Cowardice and dishonour.

What there is to the contrary of this, it is my business to discover. Much, I think, will presently appear; but it lies so dispersed, is so latent, and so purposely obscured, that the reader must have some patience whilst I collect it into one body, and make it the object of a steady and regular contemplation.

But what have we to do, may my readers exclaim, with principles so latent, so obscured? In Dramatic composition the Impression is the Fact; and the Writer, who, meaning to impress one thing, has impressed another, is unworthy of observation.

It is a very unpleasant thing to have, in the first setting out, so many and so strong prejudices to contend with. All that one can do in such case, is, to pray the reader to have a little patience in the commencement; and to reserve his censure, if it must pass, for the conclusion. Under his gracious allowance, therefore, I presume to declare it as my opinion, that Cowardice is not the Impression which the whole character of Falstaff is calculated to make on the minds of an unprejudiced audience; tho' there be, I confess, a great deal of something in the composition likely enough to puzzle, and consequently to mislead the Understanding.—The reader will perceive that I distinguish between mental Impressions and the Understanding.—I wish to avoid every thing that looks like subtlety and refinement; but this is a distinction which we all comprehend.—There are none of us unconscious of certain feelings or sensations of mind which do not seem to have passed thro' the Understanding; the effects, I suppose, of some secret influences from without, acting upon a certain mental sense, and producing feelings and passions in just correspondence to the force and variety of those influences on the one hand, and to the quickness of our sensibility on the other. Be the cause, however, what it may, the fact is undoubtedly so; which is all I am concerned in. And it is equally a fact, which every man's experience may avouch, that the Understanding and those feelings are frequently at variance. The latter often arise from the most minute circumstances, and frequently from such as the Understanding cannot estimate, or even recognize; whereas the Understanding delights in abstraction, and in general propositions; which, however true considered as such, are very seldom, I had like to have said never, perfectly applicable to any particular case. And hence, among other causes, it is, that we often condemn or applaud characters and actions on the credit of some logical process, while our hearts revolt, and would fain lead us to a very different conclusion.

The Understanding seems for the most part to take cognizance of actions only, and from these to infer motives and character; but the sense we have been speaking of proceeds in a contrary course; and determines of actions from certain first principles of character, which seem wholly out of the reach of the Understanding. We cannot indeed do otherwise than admit that there must be distinct principles of character in every distinct individual: The manifest variety even in the minds of infants will oblige us to this. But what are these first principles of character? Not the objects, I am persuaded, of the Understanding; and yet we take as strong Impressions of them as if we could compare and assort them in a syllogism. We often love or hate at first sight; and indeed, in general, dislike or approve by some secret reference to these principles; and we judge even of conduct, not from any idea of abstract good or evil in the nature of actions, but by referring those actions to a supposed original character in the man himself. I do not mean that we talk thus; we could not indeed, if we would, explain ourselves in detail on this head; we can neither account for Impressions and passions, nor communicate them to others by words: Tones and looks will sometimes convey the passion strangely, but the Impression is incommunicable. The same causes may produce it indeed at the same time in many, but it is the separate possession of each, and not in its nature transferable: It is an imperfect sort of instinct, and proportionably dumb.—We might indeed, if we chose it, candidly confess to one another that we are greatly swayed by these feelings, and are by no means so rational in all points as we could wish; but this would be a betraying of the interests of that high faculty, the Understanding, which we so value ourselves upon, and which we more peculiarly call our own. This, we think, must not be; and so we huddle up the matter, concealing it as much as possible, both from ourselves and others. In Books indeed, wherein character, motive, and action, are all alike subjected to the Understanding, it is generally a very clear case; and we make decisions compounded of them all: And thus we are willing to approve of Candide, tho' he kills my Lord the Inquisitor, and runs thro' the body the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, the son of his patron, and the brother of his beloved Cunegonde: But in real life, I believe, my Lords the Judges would be apt to inform the Gentlemen of the Jury that my Lord the Inquisitor was ill killed; as Candide did not proceed on the urgency of the moment, but on the speculation only of future evil. And indeed this clear perception, in Novels and Plays, of the union of character and action not seen in nature, is the principal defect of such compositions, and what renders them but ill pictures of human life, and wretched guides of conduct.

But if there was one man in the world who could make a more perfect draught of real nature, and steal such Impressions on his audience, without their special notice, as should keep their hold in spite of any error of their Understanding, and should thereupon venture to introduce an apparent incongruity of character and action, for ends which I shall presently endeavour to explain; such an imitation would be worth our nicest curiosity and attention. But in such a case as this, the reader might expect that he should find us all talking the language of the Understanding only; that is, censuring the action with very little conscientious investigation even of that; and transferring the censure, in every odious colour, to the actor himself; how much soever our hearts and affections might secretly revolt: For as to the Impression, we have already observed that it has no tongue; nor is its operation and influence likely to be made the subject of conference and communication.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse