Imatges de pÓgina
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celled in Tragedy and Comedy; and we may without flattery venture to affim, That you are the only Performer who ever appeared with equal advantage, both in the Sock and Bufkin.

If I had an higher opinion of this Work than I have, I fhould have ftill but an higher inducement for addreffing it to You. From this confideration You are bound to receive it, with all its imperfections on its head, being offered as a tribute of that friendship and efteem with which I have the honour to be,

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PREFACE.

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MONG the many writers of our nation, who have by their talents contributed to entertain, inform, or improve our minds, no one has fo happily or univerfally fucceeded, as he whom we may justly ftile our first, our greatest Poet, Shakespeare. For more than a century and a half, this Author has been the delight of the Ingenious, the text of the Moralist, and the study of the Philofopher. Even his cotemporary writers have ingenuously yielded their plaudit to his fame, as not prefuming it could leffen theirs, fet at fo great a diftance. Such fuperior excellence could never be brought into a comparative light; and jealoufy is dumb, when competition must be vain. For him, then, they chearfully twined the laurel-wreath, and unrepining placed it on his brow; where it will ever bloom, while fenfe, taste, and natural feelings of the heart, fhall remain amongst the characteristics of this, or any other nation, that can be able to conftrue his language. He is a Claffic, and cotemporary with all ages.

True Nature's Drama reprefents all time:
Though old the laft, the first retains its prime.
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But

But amidst all this burft of applaufe, one fingle
difcordant voice is faintly heard. Voltaire has
ftood forth his opponent. One might imagine
fuch a writer to have had tafte enough to relifh
his poetical beauties, at leaft, tho' poffibly fome
doubt might arise about his fympathy with his
inoral ones.
But he unfairly tries him by Pe-
dant laws, which our Author either did not
know, or regarded not. His compofitions are
a distinct fpecies of the Drama; and not being
an imitation of the Greek one, cannot be juftly
faid to have infringed its rules. Shakespeare is
a model, not a copy; he looked into nature, not in-
to books, both for men and works. 'Tis learned
ignorance, therefore, to quote the antient ex-
emplars against him. Is there no fpring inspired,
but Aganippe's font? No raptured vifion, but
on Parnaffus' mount? The Grecian Bards them-
felves had conceived: a more liberal notion, in
this particular, who, by making Phoebus the
God of Poetry, feem to have acknowledged in-
fpiration to be univerfal..

But as it may fhew more, impartiality upon
this fubject, to oppofe one French authority to
another, I fhall here quote against M. Voltaire,
the Abbé Le Blanc's opinion of our Author, in
his Letters on the English Nation, written to his
Friend." He is, fays he, of all. Writers, an-

tient or modern, the most of an original.
"He is truly a great genius, and Nature has
"endowed him with powers to fhew it. His

imagination is rich and ftrong: he paints
"whatever he fees, and embellishes whatever

he defcribes. The Loves in the train of Ve-
nus are not reprefented with more grace, in

"the

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the Pictures of Albanus, than this Poet gives "to thofe that attend on Cleopatra, in his defcription of the pomp with which that Queen "prefents herself to Mark Antony, on the * banks of the Cydnus.

The reputation of this Author is fo great, that I fhall not be furprized if you fufpect me of exaggeration in this account of him.. "Thofe of our nation who have ever mentioned him, have been content to praife, without being capable of judging fufficiently of his

esmerits."

- To the further honour of our Author be it faid, that a Lady* of distinguished merit has lately appeared a champion in his cause, against this minor critic, this minute philofopher, this fly upon a pillar of St. Paul's. It was her example which has stirred up my emulation to this attempt; for I own that I am ambitious of the honour of appearing to think, at least, though I defpair of the fuccefs of writing, like her.

Mr. Pope, in the Preface to his edition of this Author, fays, "Of all the English Poets, "Shakespeare must be confeffed to be the fairest "and fullest fubject for Criticism, and to afford "the most numerous, as well as moft confpi"cuous, inftances, both of beauties and blemishes, "of all forts." And again: "I cannot, however, but mention fome of his principal and characteristic excellencies; for which, not"withstanding his defects, he is justly and "defervedly elevated above all other Dra"matic Writers."

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• Mrs. Montag

He might have added the following obfer vation, from Longinus, to his remarks, who fays, that "In reading Homer, Plato, or any "other of the great geniufes of antiquity; "whenever we happen to meet with paffages " which appear to be unintelligible or abfurd, we ought fairly to conclude, that were they "alive to explain themselves in those places," "we fhould to our confufion be convinced, "that the ignorance or error lay in our own.

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conceptions alone." Horace, too, may be referred to upon this occafion, who indulgently fays, that The blaze of fine writing gilds o'er its blots. Such was the candor, fuch the modefty, and fuch the deference, fhewn by Antient Com mentators to the works of literature or genius. The brightness of the fun concealed its spots from them; but fecond-hand critics, to fpeak in the words of a modern Author, peer through. a fmoked glass to obferve them.

The learned and ingenious Doctor Johnfon has given us a juft and beautiful fimile, on this fubject: "The works of a correct and res

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gular writer, fays he, is a garden accurately "formed, and diligently planted; varied with fhades, and fcented by flowers. The compofition of Shakespeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their branches, and pines tower "in the air, interfperfed fometimes with weeds, " and brambles, and fometimes affording shelter "to myrtles and rofes; filling the eye with "awful pomp, and gratifying the mind with endlefs diverfity."

This laft-mentioned Editor is the only one who has confidered Shakespeare's writings in a

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