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the seeming peculiarities of his language: to furnish out these materials, all the plays have been
might be inclin❜d to carry further, by sending him to a university; but was prevented in this design (if he had it) by his son's early marriage, which, from monuments, and other like evidence, it appears with no less certainty, must have happen'd before he was seventeen, or very soon after the displeasure of his father, which was the consequence of this marriage, or else some excesses which he is said to have been guilty of, it is probable, drove him up to town; where he engag'd early in some of the theatres, and was honour'd with the patronage of the Earl of Southampton: his Venus and Adonis is address'd to the Earl in a very pretty and modest dedication, in which he calls it" the first heire of his invention;" and ushers it to the world with this singular motto,
"Vilia miretur vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo
"Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua;" and the whole poem, as well as his Lucrece, which follow'd it soon after, together with his choice of those subjects, are plain marks of his acquaintance with some of the Latin classicks, at least at that time: The dissipation of youth, and, when that was over, the busy scene in which he instantly plung'd himself, may very well be suppos'd to have hinder'd his making any great progress in them; but that such a mind as his should quite lose the tincture of any knowledge it had once been imbu'd with, can not be imagin'd: accordingly we see, that this school-learning (for it was no more) stuck with him to the last; and it was the recordations, as we may call it, of that learning which produc'd the Latin that is in many of his plays, and most plentifully in those that are most early: every several piece of it is aptly introduc'd, given to a proper character, and utter'd upon some proper occasion; and so well cemented, as it were, and join'd to the passage it stands in, as to deal conviction to the judicious that the whole was wrought up together, and fetch'd from his own little store, upon the sudden and without study.
The other languages, which he has sometimes made use of, that is the Italian and French, are not of such difficult conquest that we should think them beyond his reach: an acquaintance with the first of them was a sort of fashion in his time; Surrey and the sonnet-writers set it on foot, and it was continu'd by Sidney and Spenser: all our poetry issu'd from that school; and it would be wonderful, indeed, if he, whom we saw a little before putting himself with so much zeal under the banner of
perus'd, within a very small number, that were in print in his time or some short time after; the
the muses, should not have been tempted to taste at least of that fountain to which of all his other brethren there was such continual resort let us conclude then, that he did taste of it; but, happily for himself, and more happy for the world that enjoys him now, he did not find it to his relish, and threw away the cup: metaphor apart, it is evident-that he had some little knowledge of the Italian: perhaps, just as much as enabl❜d him to read a novel or a poem; and to put some few fragments of it, with which his memory furnish'd him, into the mouth of a pedant, or fine gentleman.
How or when he acquir'd it we must be content to be ignorant, but of the French language he was somewhat a greater master than of the two that have gone before; yet, unless we except their novelists, he does not appear to have had much acquaintance with any of their writers; what he has given us of it is meerly colloquial, flows with great ease from him, and is reasonably pure: Should it be said he had travel'd for't, we know not who can confute us: in his days indeed, and with people of his station, the custom of doing so was rather rarer than in ours; yet we have met with an example, and in his own band of players, in the person of the very famous Mr. Kempe; of whose travels there is mention in a silly old play, call'd-The Return from Parnassus, printed in 1606, but written much earlier in the time of Queen Elizabeth: add to this-the exceeding great liveliness and justness that is seen in many descriptions of the sea and of promontories, which, if examin'd, shew another sort of knowledge of them than is to be gotten in books or relations; and if these be lay'd together, this conjecture of his travelling may not be thought void of probability.
One opinion, we are sure, which is advanc'd somewhere or other, is utterly so;-that this Latin, and this Italian, and the language that was last mention'd, are insertions and the work of some other hand: there has been started now and then in philological matters a proposition so strange as to carry its own condemnation in it, and this is of the number; it has been honour'd already with more notice than it is any ways intitl❜d to, where the poet's Latin is spoke of a little while before; to which answer it must be left, and we shall pass on-to profess our entire belief of the genuineness of every several part of this work, and that he only was the author of it: he might write beneath himself at particular times, and certainly does in some places; but
chroniclers his contemporaries, or that a little preceded him; many original poets of that age, and many translators; with essayists, novellists, and story-mongers in great abundance: every book, in short, has been consulted that it was possible to procure, with which it could be thought he was acquainted, or that seem'd likely to contribute any thing towards his illustration. To what degree they illustrate him, and in how new a light they set the character of this great poet himself can never be conceiv'd as it should be, 'till these extracts come forth to the publick view, in their just magnitude, and properly digested for besides the various passages that he has either made use of or alluded to, many other matters have been selected and will be found in this work, tending all to the same end, our better knowledge of him and his writings; and one class of them there is, for which we shall perhaps be censur'd as being too profuse in them, namely the almost innumerable examples, drawn from these ancient writers, of words and modes of expression which many have thought
he is not always without excuse; and it frequently happens that a weak scene serves to very good purpose, as will be made appear at one time or other. It may be thought that there is one argument still unanswer'd, which has been brought against his acquaintance with the Latin and other languages; and that is,that, had he been so acquainted, it could not have happen'd but that some imitations would have crept into his writings, of which certainly there are none: but this argument has been answer'd in effect; when it was said that his knowledge in these languages was but slender, and his conversation with the writers in them slender too of course: but had it been otherwise, and he as deeply read in them as some people have thought him, works (it is probable) had been as little deform'd with imitations as we now see them: Shakspeare was far above such a practice; he had the stores in himself, and wanted not the assistance of a foreign hand to dress him up in things of their lending.
peculiar to Shakspeare, and have been too apt to impute to him as a blemish: but the quotations of this class do effectually purge him from such a charge, which is one reason of their profusion; though another main inducement to it has been, a desire of shewing the true force and meaning of the aforesaid unusual words and expressions; which can no way be better ascertain'd, than by a proper variety of well-chosen examples. Now, to bring this matter home to the subject for which it has been alledg'd, and upon whose account this affair is now lay'd before the publick somewhat before it's time, who is so short-sighted as not to perceive, upon first reflection, that, without manifest injustice, the notes upon this author could not precede the publication of the work we have been describing; whose choicest materials would unavoidably and certainly have found a place in those notes, and so been twice retail'd upon the world; a practice which the editor has often condemn'd in others, and could therefore not resolve to be guilty of in himself? By postponing these notes a while, things will be as they ought: they will then be confin'd to that which is their proper subject, explanation alone, intermix'd with some little criticism; and instead of long quotations, which would otherwise have appear'd in them, the School of Shakspeare will be referr❜d to occasionally; and one of the many indexes with which this same School will be provided, will afford an ampler and truer Glossary than can be made out of any other matter. In the mean while, and 'till such time as the whole can be got ready, and their way clear'd for them by publication of the book above mention'd, the reader will please to take in good part some few of these notes with which he will be pre
sented by and by: they were written at least four years ago, with intention of placing them at the head of the several notes that are design'd for each play; but are now detach'd from their fellows, and made parcel of the Introduction, in compliance with some friends' opinion; who having given them a perusal, will needs have it, that 'tis expedient the world should be made acquainted forthwith-in what sort of reading the poor poet himself, and his editor after him, have been unfortunately immers❜d.
This discourse is run out, we know not how, into greater heap of leaves than was any ways thought of, and has perhaps fatigu'd the reader equally with the penner of it: yet can we not dismiss him, nor lay down our pen, 'till one article more has been enquir'd into, which seems no less proper for the discussion of this place, than one which we have inserted before, beginning at p. 333; as we there ventur'd to stand up in the behalf of some of the quarto's and maintain their authenticity, so mean we to have the hardiness here to defend some certain plays in this collection from the attacks of a number of writers who have thought fit to call in question their genuineness: the plays contested are-The Three Parts of Henry VI.; Love's Labour's Lost; The Taming of the Shrew; and Titus Andronicus; and the sum of what is brought against them, so far at least as is hitherto come to knowledge, may be all ultimately resolv'd into the sole opinion of their unworthiness, exclusive of some weak surmises which do not deserve a notice: it is therefore fair and allowable, by all laws of duelling, to oppose opinion to opinion; which if we can strengthen with reasons, and something