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HE Attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like going into a large, a fpacious, and a fplendid Dome thro' the Conveyance of a narrow and obfcure Entry. A Glare of Light fuddenly breaks upon you, beyond what the Avenue at firft promis'd: and a thoufand Beauties of Genius and Character, like fo many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffufe and throw themselves out to the Mind. The Profpect is too wide to come within the Compafs of a fingle View: 'tis a gay Confufion of pleafing Objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration; and they must be feparated, and ey'd diftinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.
And as in great Piles of Building, fome Parts are often finish'd up to hit the Taste of the Connoiffeur; others more negligently put together, to ftrike the Fancy of a common
and unlearned Beholder: Some Parts are made ftupendiously magnificent and grand, to furprize with the vast Design and Execution of the Architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his Neatness and Elegance in A Sketch little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find Traits of Shake that will stand the Teft of the feverest Judgspeare's general ment; and Strokes as carelefly hit off, to the Character. Level of the more ordinary Capacities: Some !! Defcriptions rais'd to that Pitch of Grandeur, as to aftonish you with the Compafs and Elevation of his Thought and others copying Nature within fo narrow, fo confined a Circle, as if the Author's Talent lay only at drawing in Miniature.
In how many Points of Light must we be oblig'd to gaze at this great Poet! In how many Branches of Excellence to confider, and admire him! Whether we view him on the Side of Art or Nature, he ought equally to engage our Attention: Whether we refpect the Force and Greatness of his Genius, the Extent of his Knowledge and Reading, the Power and Addrefs with which he throws out and applies either Nature, or Learning, there is ample Scope both for our Wonder and Pleasure. If his Diction, and the cloathing of his Thoughts attract us, how much more muft we be charm'd with the Richnefs, and Variety, of his Images and Ideas! If his Images and Ideas fteal into our Souls, and ftrike upon our Fancy, how much are they improv'd
Sare in Price, when we come to reflect with what nd, to Propriety and Juftnefs they are apply'd to cution, Character! If we look into his Characters, d, to and how they are furnish'd and proportion'd
to the Employment he cuts out for them, Traits how are we taken up with the Mastery of his Judg. Portraits! What Draughts of Nature! What Fo the Variety of Originals, and how differing each Some from the other! How are they drefs'd from deur, the Stores of his own luxurious Imagination; Ele without being the Apes of Mode, or borrowying ing from any foreign Wardrobe! Each of Them are the Standards of Fashion for themfelves like Gentlemen that are above the Direction of their Tailors, and can adorn themselves without the Aid of Imitation. If other Poets draw more than one Fool or Coxand comb, there is the fame Refemblance in them, as in that Painter's Draughts, who was happy only at forming a Rofe: you find them all younger Brothers of the fame Family, and all of them have a Pretence to give the fame Creft: But Shakespeare's Clowns and Fops come all of a different Houfe: they are no farther allied to one another than as Man to Man, Members of the fame Species: but as different in Features and Lineaments of Character, as we are from one another in Face, or Complexion. But I am unawares launching into his Character as a Writer, before I have faid what I intended of him as a private Member of the Republick.
Mr. Rowe has very juftly obferv'd, that ticulars of People are fond of difcovering any little vate Life. fonal Story of the Great Men of Antiquity: and that the common Accidents of their Lives 10 naturally become the Subject of our critical H Enquiries: That however trifling fuch a Curiofity at the firft View may appear, yet, as for what relates to Men of Letters, the Know- 10 ledge of an Author may, perhaps, fometimes conduce to the better understanding his Works: And, indeed, this Author's Works, from the bad Treatment he has met with from his Editors, have fo long wanted a Comment, that one would zealously embrace every Method of Information, that could contribute to recover them from the Injuries with which they have fo long lain o'erwhelm'd.
'Tis certain, that if we have firft admir'd the Man in his Writings, his Cafe is fo circumstanc'd, that we must naturally admire the Writings in the Man: That if we go back to take a View of his Education, and the Employment in Life which Fortune had cut out for him, we fhall retain the stronger Ideas of his extenfive Genius.
His Father, we are told, was a confiderable Dealer in Wool; but having no fewer than ten Children, of whom our Shakespeare was the eldeft, the beft Education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for his own Business and Employment. I cannot affirm with any Certainty how long his