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Represents SHAKSPEARE seated between the DRAMATICK MUSE and the GENIUS OF PAINTING
who is pointing Him out as the proper Subject for her pencil.
ΤΗΣ ΦΥΣΕΩΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΕΥΣ ΗΝ, ΤΟΝ ΚΑΛΑΜΟΝ
Vet. Aud. apud. Suidam,
MULTA DIES, VARIUSQUE LABOR MUTABILIS EVI
THE reader may obferve that, contrary to former
ufage, no head of Shakspeare is prefixed to the present edition of his plays. The undifguifed fact is this. The only portrait of him that even pretends to authenticity, by means of injudicious cleaning, or fome other accident, has become little better than the "fhadow of a fhade." The late Sir Jofhua Reynolds indeed once fuggefted, that whatever perfon it was defigned for, it might have been left, as it now appears, unfinished. Various copies and plates, however, are faid at different times to have been made from it; buta regard for truth obliges us to confefs that they are all unlike each other, † and convey no diftinct refemblance of the poor remains of their avowed original. Of the drapery and curling hair exhibited in the
Such, we think, were the remarks, that occurred to us feveral years ago, when this portrait was acceffible. We wished indeed to have confirmed them by a fecond view of it; but a late accident in the noble family to which it belongs, has precluded us from that fatisfaction.
+ Vertue's portraits have been over-praised on account of their fidelity; for we have now before us fix different heads of Shakspeare engraved by him, and do not scruple to affert that they have individually á different caft of countenance. Cucullus non facit monachum. The fhape of our author's ear-ring and falling-band may correfpond in them all, but where fhall we find an equal conformity in his features?
Few objects indeed are occasionally more difficult to feize, than the flender traits that mark the character of a face; and the eye will often VOL. I.
excellent engravings of Mr. Vertue, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Knight, the painting does not afford a veftige; nor is there a feature or circumftance on the whole canvas, that can with minute precifion be delineated. -We must add, that on very vague and dubious authority this head has hitherto been received as a genuine portrait of our author, who probably left behind him no fuch memorial of his face. As he was careless of the future ftate of his works, his folicitude might not have extended to the perpetuation of his looks. Had any portrait of him exifted, we may naturally fuppofe it must have belonged to his family, who (as Mark Antony fays of a hair of Cæfar) would
have mention'd it within their wills, Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their iffue;"
and were there ground for the report that Shakspeare was the real father of Sir William D'Avenant, and that the picture already fpoken of was painted for him, we might be tempted to obferve with our author, that the
Was kinder to his father, than his daughters "Got 'twixt the natural sheets. "
But in fupport of either fuppofition fufficient evidence has not been produced. The former of
detect the want of them, when the most exa&t mechanical procefs cannot decide on the places in which they are omitted.-Vertue, in short, though a laborious, was a very indifferent draughtfman, and his best copies too often exhibit a general inftead of a particular refemblance.