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During the same period, only four editions of ginal as an obscure piece, recommended to his his works were published, all in folio ; and notice by a friend; and the author of the Tatperhaps this unwieldy size of volume may be ler, having occasion to quote a few lines out of an additional proof that they were not popu- Macbeth, was content to receive them from lar; nor is it thought that the impressions were D'Avenant's alteration of that celebrated drama, numerous.
in which almost every original beauty is either These circumstances, which attach to our awkwardly disguised, or arbitrarily omitted." author and to his works, must be allowed a In fifty years after his death, Dryden men. plausible weight in accounting for our defi- tions that he was then become “a little obsociencies in his biography and literary career; lete.” In the beginning of the last century, but there were circumstances enough in the Lord Shaftesbury complains of his “rude, unhistory of the times to suspend the progress polished style, and bis antiquated phrase and of that more regular drama of which he had wit.” It is certain, that for nearly a hundred set the example, and may be considered as the years after his death, partly owing to the imfounder. If we wonder why we know so much mediate revolution and rebellion, and partly less of Shakspeare than of his contemporaries, to the licentious taste encouraged in Charles let us recollect that his genius, however highly II.'s time, and perhaps partly to the incorrect and justly we now rate it, took a direction state of his works, he was almost entirely which was not calculated for permanent admi- neglected. Mr. Malone has justly remarked, ration, either in the age in which he lived, or " that if he had been read, admired, studied, in that which followed. Shakspeare was a and imitated, in the same degree as he is now, writer of plays, a promoter of an amusement the enthusiasm of some one or other of his just emerging from barbarism; and an amuse- admirers in the last age would have induced ment which, although it has been classed him to make some inquiries concerning the among the schools of morality, has ever had history of his theatrical career, and the anecsuch a strong tendency to deviate from moral dotes of his private life.” purposes, that the force of law has, in all His admirers, however, if he had admireri ages, been called in to preserve it within the in that age, possessed no portion of such enbounds of common decency. The church has thusiasm. That curiosity which in our days ever been unfriendly to the stage. A part of has raised biography to the rank of an indethe injunctions of Queen Elizabeth is particu- pendent study, was scarcely known, and where larly directed against the printing of plays; known, confined principally to the public transand, according to an entry in the books of the actions of eminent characters. And if, in adStationers' Company, in the forty-first year of dition to the circumstances already stated, we her reign, it is ordered that no plays be printed, consider how little is known of the personal except allowed by persons in authority. Dr. history of Shakspeare's contemporaries, we Farmer also remarks, that in that age, poetry may easily resolve the question, why, of all and novels were destroyed publicly by the men that have ever claimed admiration by gebishops, and privately by the puritans. The nius, wisdom, or valor, who have eminently main transactions, indeed, of that period, could contributed to enlarge the taste, promote the not admit of much attention to matters of happiness, or increase the reputation of their amusement. The Reformation required all the country, we know the least of Shakspeare: circumspection and policy of a long reign to and why, of the few particulars which seem render it so firmly established in popular favor entitled to credit, when simply related, and in as to brave the caprice of any succeeding which there is no manifest violation of probaBovereign. This was effected, in a great mea- bility, or promise of importance, there is sure, by the diffusion of religious controversy, scarcely one which has not swelled into a conwhich was encouraged by the church, and es- troversy. After a careful examination of all pecially by the puritans, who were the imme- that modern research has discovered, we know diate teachers of the lower classes, were lis not how to trust our curiosity beyond the limits tened to with veneration, and usually inveighed of those barren dates which afford no personal against all public amusements, as inconsistent history. The nature of Shakspeare's writings with the Christian profession. These contro- prevents that appeal to internal evidence, versies continued during the reign of James I., which in other cases has been found to throw and were, in a considerable degree, promoted light on character. The purity of his morals, by him, although he, like Elizabeth, was a for example, if sought in his plays, must be favorer of the stage, as an appendage to the measured against the licentiousness of his langrandeur and pleasures of the Court. But the guage, and the question will then be, how commotions which followed in the unhappy much did he write from conviction, and how reign of Charles I., when the stage was totally much to gratify the taste of his hearers ? How abolished, are sufficient to account for the much did he add to the age, and how much oblivion thrown on the history and works of did he borrow from it? Pope says, “ he was our great bard. From this time, no inquiry obliged to please the lowest of the people, and was made, until it was too late to obtain any to keep the worst of company;" and Pope information more satisfactory than the few might have said more: for although we hope hearsay scraps and contested traditions above it was not true, we have no means of proving detailed. “ How little,” says Mr. Steevens, | it was false. ** Sbakspeare was once read, may be understood from Tate, who, in his dedication to the
• Mr. Steevens's Advertisement to the Reader, first
printed in 1773. altered play of King Lear, speaks of the ori- • Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition, 1790.
The only life which has been prefixed to all that could be framed would fail to compel the editions of Shakspeare of the eighteenth readers into their service. Had Shakspeare century, is that drawn up by Mr. Rowe, and produced no other works than these, his name which he modestly calls, “Some Account,” &c. would have reached us with as little celebrity In this we have what Rowe could collect when as time has conferred on that of Thomas Watevery legitimate source of information was son, an older and much more elegant sonnetclosed--a few traditions that were floating teer." nearly a century after the author's death. The elegant preface of Dr. Johnson gives an Some inaccuracies in his account have been account of the attempts made in the early detected in the valuable notes of Mr. Steevens part of the last century to rovive the memory and Mr. Malone, who, in other parts of their and reputation of our post, by Rowe, Pope, respective editions, have scattered a few brief Theobald, Hanmer, and Werburton, whose renotices which we have incorporated in the pre- spective merits he has char.cterized with can. sent sketch. The whole, however, is unsatis- dor, and with singular folicity of expression. factory. Shakspeare, in his private charac- Shakspeare's works may be overloaded with ter, in his friendships, in his amusements, in criticism, for what writer has excited so much his closet, in his family, is nowhere before us; , curiosity, and so many opinions? but Johnand such was the nature of the writings on son's preface is an accompaniment worthy of which his fame depends, and of that employ- the genius it celebrates. His own edition folment in which he was engaged, that being in lowed in 1765; and a second, in conjunction no important respect connected with the his- with Mr. Steevens, in 1773. The third edition tory of his age, it is vain to look into the lat- of the joint editors appeared in 1785, the ter for any information concerning him. fourth in 1793, and the last and most com
Mr. Capell is of opinion that he wrote some plete, in 1803, in twenty-one volumes octavo. prose works, because it can hardly be sup- Mr. Malone's edition was published in 1790, posed that he, who had so considerable a share in ten volumes, crown octavo, and is now bein the confidence of the Earis of Essex and come exceedingly scarce. His original notes Southampton, could be a mute spectator only and improvements, however, are incorporated of controversies in which they were so much in the editions of 1793 and 1803, by Mr. Steeinterested.” This editor, however, appears to
Mr. Malone says, that “from the year have taken for granted a degree of confidence 1716 to the date of his edition in 1790,--that with these two statesmen, which he ought first is, in seventy-four years,-above 30,000 copies to have proved. Shakspeare might have en- of Shakspeare have been dispersed through joyed the confidence of social hours; but it is England." Among the honors paid to his gemere conjecture that they admitted him into nius, we ought not to forget the very magnifithe confidence of their state affairs. Mr. Ma- cent edition undertaken by Messrs. Boydell. lone, whose opinions are entitled to a higher Still less ought it to be forgotten how much degree of credit, thinks that his prose compo- the reputation of Shakspeare was revived by sitions, if they should be discovered, would the unrivalled excellence of Garrick's performexhibit the same perspicuity, the same cadence, ance. His share in directing the public taste the same elegance and vigor, which we find in toward the study of Shakspeare was, perhis plays. It is unfortunate, however, for all haps, greater than that of any individual in wishes and all conjectures, that not a line of his time, and such was his zeal, and such his Shakspeare's manuscript is known to exist, success, in this laudable attempt, that he may and his prose writings are no where hinted at. readily be forgiven the foolish mummery of the We have only printed copies of his plays and Stratford Jubilee. poems, and those so depraved by carelessness When public opinion had begun to assign to or ignorance, that all the labor of all his com- Shakspeare the very high rank he was destined mentators has not yet been able to restore them to hold, he became the promising object of to a probable purity. Many of the greatest fraud and imposture. This, we have already difficulties attending the perusal of them yet observed, he did not wholly escape in his own remain, and will require, what it is scarcely time, and he had the spirit or policy to depossible to expect, greater sagacity and more spise it.' It was reserved for modern imposhappy conjecture than have hitherto been em- tors, however, to avail themselves of the obployed.
scurity in which his history is involved. In Of his Poems, it is perhaps necessary that 1751, a book was published, entitled, “A some notice should be taken, although they Compendious or briefe examination of certayne have never been favorites with the public, and ordinary Complaints of diuers of our Countryhave seldom been reprinted with his plays. men in those our days: which, although they Shortly after his death, Mr. Malone informs are in some Parte unjust and frivolous, yet us, a very incorrect impression of them was are they all by way of dialogue thoroughly issued out, which in every subsequent edition debated and discussed by William Shakspeare, was implicitly followed, until he published a Gentleman." This had been originally pubcorrected edition in 1780, with illustrations, lished in 1581; but Dr. Farmer has clearly &c. But the peremptory decision of Mr. proved that W. S., gent., the only authority Steevens on the merits of these poems must for attributing it to Shakspeare in the reprinted
pology for omitting them in the prebent abridgment of that critic's labors.
1 Mr. Malone has given a list of fourteen plays ascribed have not reprinted the Sonnets, &c., of Shaks
to Shakspeare, either by the editors of the two later folios,
or by the compilers of ancient catalogues. Of these, l'eripeare, because the strongest act of Parliament cles has found alvocates for its admission into his worke.
edition, meant William Stafford, gent. Theobald, I admirers of Shakspeare, but actually performed the same accurate critic informs us, was desir- on Drury Lane stage. It would be unnecessary ous of palming upon the world a play called to expatiate on the merits of this play, which * Double Falsehood," for a posthumous one of Mr. Steevens has very happily characterized Shakspeare. In 1770 was reprinted at Fever- as “the performance of a madman without a sham an old play called “The Tragedy of lucid interval,” or to enter more at large into Arden of Feversham and Black Will,” with a the nature of a fraud so recent, and so soon preface attributing it to Shakspeare, without acknowledged by the authors of it. It prothe smallest foundation. But these were trifles duced, however, a interesting controversytecompared to the atrocious attempt made in tween Mr. Malone and Mr. George Chalmers, 1795-6, when, besides a vast mass of prose which, although mixed with some unpleasant and verse, letters, &c., pretendedly in the hand- asperities, was extended to inquiries into the writing of Shakspeare and his correspondents, history and antiquities of the stage, from which an entire play, entitled Vortigern, was not only future critics and historians may derive consi. brought forward for the astonishment of the derable information.
Alonso, King of Naples.
MIRANDA, Daughter to Prospero
Other Spirits attending on Prospero.
SCENE 1.-On a Ship at Sea.
Gon. Nay, good, be patient.
Boats. When the sea is. Hence! What care A Storm with thunder and lightning. these roarers for the name of king? To cabins :
silence: trouble us not. Enter a Ship-master and a Boatswain.
Gon. Good; yet remember whom thou hast Master. Boatswain,
aboard. Boats. Here, master: what cheer?
Boats. None that I more love than myself.-Master. Good: Speak to the mariners: fall to't You are a counsellor; if you can command these yarely', or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir. elements to silence, and work the peace of the
[Exit. present,' we will not hand a rope more; use your
authority. If you cannot, give thanks you have Enter Mariners.
lived so long, and make yourself ready in your Boats. Heigh, my hearts; cheerly: cheerly, my
cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap.hearts; yare, yare: Take in the top-sail; Tend to Cheerly, good hearts.—Out of our way, I say. the master's whistle. -- Blow till thou burst thy
[Exit. wind, if room enough!
Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow;
methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him; Enter Alonso, SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, FERDI- his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good NAND, Gonzalo, and others.
fate, to his hanging! make the rope of his destiny Alon. Good boatswain, have care. Where's the be not born to be hanged, our case is miserable.
our cable, for our own doth little advantage! If ho master? Play the men.
[Exeunt. Boats. I pray now, keep below. Ant. Where is the master, boatswain?
Re-enter Boatswain. Boats. Do you not hear him? You mar our labor! keep your cabins: you do assist the storm. Boats. Down with the top-mast; yare; lower