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stage in the year 1627, did not always understand him.' The very books which are necessary to our
7" The tongue in general is fo much refined funce Shakspeare's time, that many of his words, and more of his phrafes, are scarce intelligible." Preface to Dryden's Troilus and Crellida. The various changes made by Dryden in particular passages in that play, and by him and D'Avenant in The Tempeft, prove decisively that they frequently did not understand our poet's language.
In his defence of the Epilogue to The Conquest of Granada, Dryden arraigns Ben Jonfon for using the personal, instead of the neutral, pronoun, and unfear'd for unafraid:
ugh heaven should ípeak with all his wrath at once, • We should stand upright, and unfear'd." “ His (says he) is ill fyntax with heaven, and by unsear'! he means unafraid; words of a quite contrary signification. He perpetually uses ports for gates, which is an assected error in him, to introduce Latin by the loss of the English idiom."
Now his for its, however ill the syntax may be, was the common language of the time; and 10 fear, in the sense of to terrify, is found not only in all the poets, but in every di&tionary of that age. With refpea to ports, Shakspeare who will not be suspected of alle ating Latinisins, frequently employs that word 'in the same fense aś Jonson has done, and as probably the whole kingdom did; for the word is still so used in Scotland.
D'Avenant's alteration of Macbeth, and Measure for Measure, furnish many proofs of the same kind." In The Law against Lovers, which he formed on Much Ado about Nothing, and Measure for Measure, are these lines:
nor do I think, The prince has true discretion who afies it. The paffage imitated is in Nieasure for Measure:
" Nor do I think the man of safe discretion,
" That does affect it." If our poet's language had been well understood, the epithet Safe would not have been rejected. See Othello :
" My blood begins my Safer guides to rule;
" And passion, having my be it judgment collied." &c. So also Edgar, in hing Lear :
“ The safer Jense will ne'er accommodate
author's illustration, were of fo little account in their time, that what now we can scarce procure at any price, was then the furniture of the nursery or stall. In fifty years after our poet's death, Dryden mentions that he was then become “a little obsolete.” In the beginning of the present century Lord Shaftesbury complains of his “ rude unpolised stile, and his ANTIQUATED phrase and wit;" and not long afterwards Gildon informs us that he
8. The price of books at different periods may serve in fome measure to ascertain the taste and particular study of the age.
At the sale of Dr. Francis Bernard's library in 1698, the following books were sold at the annexed prices :
F OLI O. Gower de Confeflione Amantis.
0 2 6 Now fold for two guineas. Caxton's Recueyll of the histories of Troy, 150%. O 3 Chronicle of England.
4 Hall's Chronicle.
6 4 Grafton's Chronicle. Holinshed's Chronicle, 1587.
1 10 6 This book is now frequently fold for ten guineas.
QUARTO. Turberville on hawking and hunting.
6 Copley's Wits, Fits, and Fancies,
4 Puttenham's Art of English Poesie.
4 This book is now usually fold for a guinea. Powell's History of Wales.
0 1 5 Painter's second tome of the Palace of Pleasure.
0 4 The two volumes of Painter's Palace of Pleasure are now
usually fold for three guineas.
OCTA V 0.
Metamorphosis of Ajax, by Sir John Harrington. 0 0 4
had been rejected from some modern colledions of poetry on accunt of his obsolete language. Whence could these representations have proceeded, but because our poet, not being diligently studied, not being compared with the contemporary writers, was not understood ? If he had been " read, admired, studied, and imitated,” in the same degree as he is now, the enthusiasm of some one or other of his admirers in the last age would have induced him to make some enquiries concerning the history of his-theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private life. But no such person was found; no anxiety in the publick fought out any particulars concerning him after the Restoration, (if we except the few which were collected by Mr. Aubry,) though at that time the history of his life must have been known to many; for his fister Joan Hart, who must have known much of his early years, did not die till 1646 : his favourite daughter, Mrs. Hall, lived till 1649; and his second daughter, Judith, · was living at Stratford-upon-Avon in the beginning of the year 1662. His grand-daughter, Lady Barnard, did not die till 1670. Mr. Thomas Combe, to whom Shakspeare bequeathed his sword, survived our poet above forty years, having died at Stratford in 1657. His elder brother William Combe lived till 1667. Sir Richard Bishop, who was born in 1585, lived at Bridgetown near Stratford till 1672; and his son Sir William Bishop, who was born in 1626, died there in 1700. From all these persons without doubt, many circumstances relative to Shakspeare might have been obtained; but that was an age as deficient in literary curiosity as in taste.
It is remarkable that in a century after our poet's death, five editions only of his plays were published; which probably consisted of not more than three thousand copies. During the same period three editions of the plays of Fletcher, and four of those of Jonson, had appeared. On the other hand, from the year 17 16 to the present time, that is, in seventy-four years, but two editions of the former writer, and one of the latter, have been issued from the press; while above thirty thousand copies of Shakspeare have been dispersed through England.' That ncarly as many editions of the works of Jonson as of Shakspeare should have been demanded in the last century, will not appear surprising, when we recollect what Dryden has related soon after the Restoration: that “ others were then
• generally preferred before him.”. By others Jonson
9 Notwithstanding our high admiration of Shakspeare, we are yet without a splendid edition of his works, with the illustrations which the united efforts of various commentators have contributed; while in other countries the most brilliant decorations have been lavished on their distinguished poets. The editions of Pope and Hanmer, may, with almost as much propriety, be called their works, as those of Shakspeare; and therefore can have no claim to be admitted into any elegant library. Nor will the promised edition, with engravings, undertaken by Mr. Alderman Boydell, remedy this defect, for it is not to be accompanied with notes. At some future, and no very diftant, time, I mean to furnish the publick with an elegant edition in quarto (without engrayings,) in which the text of the present edition shall be followed, with the illustrations subjoined in the same page.
* In the year 1642, whether from fome capricious viciffitude in the publick taite, or from a general inattention to the drama, we find Shirley complaining that few came to fcc our author's performances :
and Fletcher were meant.
To attempt to shew to
You fee • What audience we have : Ithat company " To Shakspeare comes? whose mirth did once beguile " Dull hours, and bulkin'd made even forrow smile; " So lovely were the wounds, that men would say “ They could endure the bleeding a whole day; " He has but few friends lately.
Prologue to The Sisters. Shakspeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lies " I'th' lady's questions, and the fool's replies; " Old fashion’d wit, which walk'd from town to town, " In trunk-hose, which our fathers call’d the clown ; " Whose wit our nicer times would obsceneness call, " And which made bawdry pass for comical. so Nature was all his art; thy vein was free " As his, but without his fcurrility.
Verles on Fletcher, by William Cartwright, 1647. After the Restoration, on the revival of the theatres, the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher were esteemed so much fuperior to those of our author, that we are told by Dryden,
two of their pieces were acted through the year,
" In our old plays, the humour, love, and passion,
Prologue to Shirley's Love Tricks, 1667. " At every shop, while Shakspeare's lofty file
Neglected lies, lo mice and worms a spoil, “ Gilt on the back, just smoking from the press, “ The apprentice shews you D'Urfey's Hudibras, 5 Crown's Mask, bound up with Settle's choicest labours, " And promises fome new eslay of Babor's. '
SATIRE, published in 1680. against old as well as new to rage, "s Is the peculiar frenzy of this age.
Shakspeare must down, and you must praise no more, " Soft Desdemona, nor the jealous Moor : Shakspeare, whose fruitful genius, happy wit,