« AnteriorContinuar »
WE THEN I faid I would die a bachelor, (cries Benedick,) I did not think I fhould live till I were married." The prefent Editor of ShakSpeare may urge a kindred apology in defence of an opinion hazarded in his Prefatory Advertisement ; for when he declared his disbelief in the existence of a genuine likeness of our great Dramatick Writer, he most certainly did not fuppofe any Portrait of that defcription could have occurred, and much lefs that he himself fhould have been inftrumental in producing it. He is happy, however, to find he was mistaken in both his fuppofitions; and confequently has done his utmoft to promote the appearance of an accurate and finished Engraving, from a Picture which had been unfaithfully as well as poorly imitated by Droefhout and Marshall.
1 See Mr. Richardfon's Propofals, p. 4.
2 Martin Droefhout. One of the indifferent engravers of the last century. He refided in England, and was employed by the bookfellers. His portraits, which are the best part of his works, have nothing but their fcarcity to recommend them. He engraved the head of Shakspeare, John Fox, the martyrologist, John Howfon, Bishop of Durham," &c.
Strutt's Dictionary of Engravers, Vol. I. p. 264.
"William Marshall. He was one of those laborious artists whofe engravings were chiefly confined to the ornamenting of books. And indeed his patience and affiduity is all we can admire when we turn over his prints, which are prodigiously numerous. He worked with the graver only, but in a dry tasteless ftyle; and from the fimilarity which appears in the defign of all his portraits, it is fuppofed that he worked from his own drawings
Of the character repeatedly and deliberately beftowed by the fame Editor on the first of these old engravers, not a fingle word will be retracted; for, if the judgment of experienced artists be of any value, the plate by Droefhout now under confideration has (in one inftance at leaft) established his claim to the title of "a most abominable imitator of humanity."
Mr. Fufeli has pronounced, that the Portraitdefcribed in the Propofals of Mr. Richardfon, was the work of a Flemish hand. It may also be obferved, that the verses in praise of Droefhout's performance, were probably written as foon as they were bespoke, and before their author had found opportunity or inclination to compare the plate with its original. He might previously have known that the picture conveyed a juft refemblance of Shakfpeare; took it for granted that the copy would be exact; and, therefore, rafhly affigned to the engraver a panegyrick which the painter had more immediately deferved. It is lucky indeed for thofe to whom metrical recommendations are neceffary, that cuftom does not require they should be delivered upon oath.
It is likewife probable that Ben Jonson had no intimate acquaintance with the graphick art, and might not have been over-folicitous about the ftyle in which Shakspeare's lineaments were tranfmitted to pofterity.
after the life, though he did not add the words ad vivum, as was common upon fuch occafions. But if we grant this to be the cafe, the artist will acquire very little additional honour upon that account; for there is full as great a want of taste manifest in the defign, as in the execution of his works on copper." &c. Ibid. Vol. II. p. 125.
N. B. The character of Shakspeare as a poet; the condition of the ancient copies of his plays; the merits of his respective editors, &c. &c. have been fo minutely investigated on former occafions, that any fresh advertisement of fimilar tendency might be confidered as a tax on the reader's patience. It may be proper indeed to obferve, that the errors we have difcovered in our last edition are here corrected; and that fome explanations, &c. which feemed to be wanting, have likewife been fupplied.
To these improvements it is now become our duty to add the genuine Portrait of our author. For a particular account of the difcovery of it, we must again refer to the Proposals of Mr. Richardson,3 at whofe expence two engravings from it have been already made.
We are happy to fubjoin, that Meffieurs Boydell, who have refolved to decorate their magnificent edition of Shakspeare with a copy from the fame original picture lately purchased by them from Mr. Felton, have not only favoured us with the ufe of it, but moft obligingly took care, by their own immediate fuperintendance, that as much justice should be done to our engraving, as to their own.
3 See p. 4.
MR. RICHARDSON'S PROPOSALS, &c.
BEFORE the patronage of the publick is foli
cited in favour of a new engraving from the only genuine portrait of Shakspeare, it is proper that every circumftance relative to the discovery of it fhould be faithfully and circumftantially related.
On Friday, Auguft 9, Mr. Richardson, printfeller, of Castle Street, Leicester Square, affured Mr. Steevens that, in the course of business having recently waited on Mr. Felton, of Curzon Street, May Fair, this gentleman fhowed him an ancient head refembling the portrait of Shakspeare as engraved by Martin Droefhout in 1623.
Having frequently been misled by fimilar reports founded on inaccuracy of obfervation or uncertainty of recollection, Mr. Steevens was defirous to fee the Portrait itself, that the authenticity of it might be ascertained by a deliberate comparison with Droefhout's performance. Mr. Felton, in the most obliging and liberal manner, permitted Mr. Richardfon to bring the head, frame and all, away with him; and several unquestionable judges have concurred in pronouncing that the plate of Droefhout conveys not only a general likeness of its original, but an exact and particular one as far as this artist
had ability to execute his undertaking. Droefhout could follow the outlines of a face with tolerable accuracy, but ufually left them as hard as if hewn out of a rock. Thus, in the present inftance, he has fervilely transferred the features of Shakspeare from the painting to the copper, omitting every trait of the mild and benevolent character which his portrait fo decidedly affords. There are, indeed, just such marks of a placid and amiable difpofition in this refemblance of our poet, as his admirers would have wished to find.
This Portrait is not painted on canvas, like the Chandos Head,5 but on wood. Little more of it
• Of fome volunteer infidelities, however, Droefhout may be convicted. It is evident from the picture that Shakspeare was partly bald, and confequently that his forehead appeared unufually high. To remedy, therefore, what seemed a defect to the engraver, he has amplified the brow on the right fide. For the fake of a more picturefque effect, he has alfo incurvated the line in the fore part of the ruff, though in the original it is mathematically straight. See note 9, p. 6.
It may be obferved, however, to thofe who examine trifles with rigour, that our early-engraved portraits were produced in the age when few had fkill or opportunity to ascertain their faithfulness or infidelity. The confident artift therefore afsumed the liberty of altering where he thought he could improve. The rapid workman was in too much hafte to give his outline with correctnefs; and the mere drudge in his profeffion contented himfelf by placing a caput mortuum of his original before the publick. In fhort, the inducements to be licentious or inaccurate, were numerous; and the rewards of exactnefs were feldom attainable, most of our ancient heads of authors being done, at ftated prices, for bookfellers, who were carelefs about the veri fimilitude of engravings which fashion not unfrequently obliged them to infert in the title-pages of works that deserved no fuch expenfive decorations.
A living artift, who was apprentice to Roubiliac, declares that when that elegant ftatuary undertook to execute the figure of Shakspeare for Mr. Garrick, the Chandos picture was borrowed; but that it was, even then, regarded as a performance