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And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses;
I mean, with great but disproportion'd muses:
For, if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers;
And tell--- how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin, and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
For names; but call forth thund’ring Æschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles, to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordoua dead,
To life again, to hear thy buskin tread
And shake a stage; or, when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone; for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece, or haughty Rome,
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come,
Triumph, my Britain! thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time;
And all the muses still were in their prime,
When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm.
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines ;
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit:
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ;

A little nearer Spenser; to make room
For Shakspeare, in your three-fold four-fold tomb.
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part:--
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion : and that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the muses' apvil ; turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or, for the laurel, he may gain a scorn, -
For a good poet's made, as well as born :
And such wert thou. Look, how the father's face
Lives in his issue ; even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shiners
In his well-torned and true-filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were,
To see thee in our waters yet appear;
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !
But stay; I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a constellation there :-
Shine forth, thou star of poets; and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer, the drooping stage ;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like

And despairs day, but for thy volume's light!


At the distance of two centuries, while posterity is looking towards them as the “ delight and wonder of their age,” and the “ admiration of all time,” it is grateful (to me at least) to trace these incontrovertible proofs of their friendly connexion. It were to be wished that further circumstances could be added, for who can ever know too much of Shakspeare? It is not, however, of little moment, that whatever is known of them jointly is in proof of their attachment. With these unsophisticated evidences of their generous disposition to each other, without any mixture or alloy, it might have been hoped and expected that their names would have descended to posterity, as another proof of the possibility of rival merit exciting praise instead of envy; as Horace had before borne testimony to the merit of Virgil, and Juvenal to the worth of Quintilian. But those who are acquainted with the criticisms and commentaries of the many writers on Shakspeare, know that Jonson is by them transmitted to us as an example of ingratitude, envy, and malignity, jealous of all contemporary merit, and a libeller of the friend to whom he owed his elevation. If this strong case could be made out, his writings ought to be condemned to the hands of the hangman, and his name be consigned to perpetual infamy. If, however,

it shall appear

that his fair fame has been blackened, his memory traduced, and his writings perverted, for the unworthy purpose of raising a rival poet on the ruins of his reputation; and that malevolent critics may display their sagacity and acuteness in tracing passages applicable to their favourite poet; the voice of public justice, it is to be hoped, will restore to the brow of the poet his violated honours, committing to merited shame and obloquy the “viperous critics by whom they were bereaved."*

In the notes and prefaces of Theobald, Warburton, and Johnson, we find no traces of this supposed malignity:

They bear no semblance of these sable streams.

The palm of precedence must, I believe, be consigned to Rowe, who, however, soon retracted his assertions. In the first edition of his Life of Shakspeare, he had represented Jonson as naturally proud and insolent, looking with an evil eye upon any one that seemed to stand in competition with him.

Further inquiry caused him to withdraw these charges, which are unsupported by contemporary proof, by historical evidence, or (to borrow a phrase from the elegant Mr. Chalmers) by “ babbling tradition.”

* Some vip'rous critic may

bereave Th' opinion of thy worth, for some defect.

Daniel's Musophilus, fol. 1601, sign. A iii.

For the various and extraordinary merits of George Steevens, I find it difficult to express the respect which I feel : he was indeed a genuine wit; an elegant, if not a profound, scholar; an acute and judicious critic; who has done more towards explaining his author than the whole herd of commentators, among

whom he towers

Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.

That he should lend the weight of his name to this belief, is matter of regret; and the proofs by which he justified it, show that he had not bestowed much pains in examining its truth.

In the edition of Shakspeare before me, the first object of our notice is the verses “ to the memory of his beloved, Mr. William Shakspeare, and what he has left us :" and on the subject of this tribute to the memory of Shakspeare, Dryden and Pope are at issue :* the former terms it a

* The sentiments entertained by Jonson's contemporaries of his verses to Shakspeare, may be gathered from the following lines; prefixed to the poems of the latter, Svo. 16-10:

It is not fit each humble muse should have
Thy worth his subject now thou art laid in grave;

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