« AnteriorContinuar »
of rectilineal ruffs are familiar ; but where will be found such another as the German has placed under the chin of his metamorphosed poet? From its pointed corners, resembling the wings of a bat, which are constant indications of mischievous agency, the engraver's ruff would have accorded better with the pursuits of his necromantick countryman, the celebrated Doctor Faustus.
In the mean while it is asserted by every adequate judge, that the coincidences between the picture and the print under consideration, are too strong and too numerous to have been the effects of chance. And yet the period at which this likeness of our author must have been produced, affords no evidence that any one of our early limners had condescended to borrow the general outline and disposition of his portraits from the tasteless heads prefixed to volumes issued out by booksellers. The artist, indeed, who could have filched from Droeshout, like Bardolph, might have“ stolen a lute-case, carried it twelve leagues, and sold it for three halfpence."
But were the print allowed to be the original, and the painting a mere copy from it, the admission of this fact would militate in full force against the authenticity of every other anonymous and undated portrait from which a wretched old engraving had been made; as it would always enable cavillers to assert, that the painting was subsequent to the print, and not the print to the painting. True judges, however, would seldom fail to determine, (as they have in the present instance,) whether a painting was coldly imitated from a lumpish copper-plate, or taken warm from animated nature.
For the discussion of subjects like these, an eye habituated to minute comparison, and attentive to peculiarities that elude the notice of unqualified observers, is also required. Shakspeare's countenance deformed by Droeshout, resembles the sign of Sir Roger de Coverley, when it had been changed into a Saracen's head; on which occasion the Spectator observes, that the features of the gentle knight were still apparent through the lineaments of the ferocious Mussulman.
That the leading thought in the verses annexed to the plate by Droeshout is hacknied and common, will most readily be allowed; and this observation would have carried weight with it, had the lines in question been anony
But the subscription of Ben Jonson's name was
a circumstance that rendered him immediately responsible for the propriety of an encomium which, however open to dispute, appears to have escaped contradiction, either metrical or prosaick, from the surviving friends of Shakspeare.
But, another misrepresentation, though an involuntary one, and of more recent date, should not be overlooked.
In the matter prefatory to W. Richardson's Proposals, the plate by Vertue from Mr. Keck's (now the Chandos) picture, is said to have succeeded the engraving before Mr. Pope's edition of Shakspeare, in six volumes quarto *. But the contrary is the fact; and how is this circumstance to be accounted for? If in 1719 Vertue supposed the head which he afterwards admitted into his Set of Poets, was a genuine representation, how happened it that his next engraving of the same author, in 1725, was taken from quite a different painting, in the collection of the Earl of Oxford ? Did the artist, in this instance, direct the judgment of his Lordship and Mr. Pope? or did their joint opinion over-rule that of the artist? These portraits, being wholly unlike each other, could not (were the slightest degree of respect due to either of them) be both received as legitimate representations of Shakspeare. Perhaps, Vertue (who is described by Lord Orford as a lover of truth,) began to doubt the authenticity of the picture from which his first engraving had been made, and was therefore easily persuaded to expend his art on another portrait, the spuriousness of which (to himself at least) was not quite so evident as that of its predecessor.
The publick, for many years past, has been familiarized to a Vandyckish head of Shakspeare, introduced by Simon's mezzotinto from a painting by Zoust. Hence the countenance of our author's monumental effigy at Westminster was modelled ; and a kindred representation of him has been given by Roubiliac. Such is still the Shak, speare
that decorates our libraries, and seals our letters, But, “ætatis cujusque notandi sunt tibi mores.". On a little reflection it might have occurred, that the cavalier
* This mistake originated from a passage in Lord Orford's Anecdotes, &c. 8vo. vol. v. p. 258, where it is said, and truly, that Vertue's Set of Poets appeared in 1730. The particular plate of Shakspeare, however, as is proved by a date at the bottom of it, was engraved in 1719.
turn of head adopted from the gallant partizans of Charles I. afforded no just resemblance of the sober and chastised countenances predominating in the age of Elizabeth, during which our poet flourished, though he survived till James, for about thirteen years, had disgraced the throne.—The foregoing hint may be pursued by the judicious examiner, who will take the trouble to compare the looks and air of Shakspeare's contemporaries with the modern sculptures, &c. designed to perpetuate his image. The reader may then draw an obvious inference from these premises ; and conclude that the portrait lately exhibited to the publick is not supposititious because it presents a less spritely and confident assemblage of features than had usually been imputed to the modest and unassuming parent of the British theatre.-It is certain, that neither the Zoustian or Chandosan canvas has displayed the least, trait of a quiet and gentle bard of the Elizabethan age.
To ascertain the original owner of the portrait now Mr. Felton's, is an undertaking difficult enough; and yet conjecture may occasionally be sent out on a more hopeless errand.
The old pictures at Tichfield House, as part of the Wriothesley property, were divided, not many years ago, between the Dukes of Portland and Beaufort. Some of these paintings that were in good condition were removed to Bulstrode, where two portraits * of Shakspeare's Earl of Southampton are still preserved. What became of other heads which time or accident had impaired, and at what period the remains of the furniture, &c. of his Lordship’s venerable mansion were sold off and dispersed, it may be fruitless to enquire.
Yet, as the likeness of our author lately redeemed from obscurity was the work of some eminent Flemish artist, it was probably painted for a personage of distinction, and might therefore have belonged to the celebrated Earl whom Shakspeare had previously complimented by the dedication of his Venus and Adonis. Surely, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that a resemblance of our excellent dramatick poet might have been found in the house of a nobleman who is reported to have loved him well enough to have presented him with a thousand pounds.
* One of these portraits is on canvas, and therefore the genuineness of it is controverted, if not denied.
To conclude the names * which have honoured the subscription for an engraving from this new-found portrait of Shakspeare, must be allowed to furnish the most decisive estimate of its value.
[Since the foregoing paper was received, we have been authorized to inform the publick, that Messieurs Boydell and Nicol are so thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of Mr. Felton's Shakspeare, that they are determined to engrave it as a frontispiece to their splendid edition of our author, instead of having recourse to the exploded picture inherited by the Chandos family.]
From the European Magazine, for December, 1794.
The following pages t, on account of their connection with the subject of Mr. Richardson’s Remarks, are suffered to stand as in our last edition.
* In the numerous List of Gentleinen who thoroughly exam mined this original Picture, were convinced of its authenticity, and immediately became Subscribers to W. Richardson, are the names of—Dr. Farmer, Mr. Cracherode, Mr. Bindley, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir George Shuckburgh, Mr. Chalmers, Mr. Reed, Mr. Ritson, Mr. Douce, Mr. Markham, Mr. Weston, Mr. Lysons, Mr. James, Col. Stanley, Mr. Coombe, Mr. Lodge, Mess, Smith, sen. and jun. Mr. Nicol, Mr. Boaden, Mr. Pearce, Mr. Whitefoord, Mr. Thane, Mess. Boydell, Mr. G. Romney, Mr. Lawrence, (Portrait-painter to his Majesty,) Mr. Bowyer, (Miniature-painter to his Majesty,) Mr. Barry, R. A. (Professor of Painting,) &c. &c. &c.
+ Mr. Steevens's Advertisement, prefixed to edition 1793, which, being now printed in its chronological order, will be found in a former part of this volume. BoSWELL.
LEARNING OF SHAKSPEARE:
JOSEPH CRADOCK, ESQ.
SHAKSPEARE,” says a brother of the craft*, “ is a vast garden of criticism:" and certainly no one can be favoured with more weeders gratis.
But how often, my dear sir, are weeds and flowers torn up
indiscriminately ?--the ravaged spot is replanted in a moment, and a profusion of critical thorns thrown over it for security.
* A prudent man, therefore, would not venture his fingers amongst them.”
Be however in little pain for your friend, who regards himself sufficiently to be cautious :-yet he asserts with confidence, that no improvement can be expected, whilst the natural soil is mistaken for a hot-bed, and the natives of the banks of Avon are scientifically choked with the culture of exoticks.
Thus much for metaphor; it is contrary to the statute to fly out so early: but who can tell, whether it may not be demonstrated by some critick or other, that a deviation from rule is peculiarly happy in an Essay on Shakspeare!
You have long known my opinion concerning the literary acquisitions of our immortal dramatist; and remem
* Mr. Seward, in his Preface to Beaumont and Fietcher, 10 vols. 8vo. 1750.