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means ?” *
himself is not to be distinguished from the making love the predominant quality in all
. most worthless pretenders, who have often | He had so fine a talent for touching the met with an undeserved applause, and chal- passions, they are so lively in him, and so lenge the title of great poets from their truly in nature, that they often touch us success." We will only anticipate for a more without their due preparations than moment the philosophical wisdom of a later those of other tragic poets who have all the school of criticism, to supply an answer to beauty of design and all the advantage of Gildon : "The spirit of poetry, like all other incidents. His master-passion was terror, living powers, must of necessity circumscribe which he has often moved so powerfully and itself by rules, were it only to unite power so wonderfully, that we may justly conclude with beauty. It must embody in order to that, if he had had the advantage of art reveal itself; but a living body is of necessity and learning, he would have surpassed the an organized one; and what is organization very best and strongest of the ancients. His but the connection of parts in and for a paintings are often so beautiful and so lively, whole, so that each part is at once end and so graceful and so powerful, especially where
he uses them in order to move terror, that The redoubted John DENNIS was another there is nothing perhaps more accomplished of the antagonists of Rymer. He carried in our English poetry. His sentiments, for heavier metal than Gildon ; but he never the most part, in his best tragedies, are theless belonged to the cuckoo school of noble, generous, easy and natural, and “rules of art.” He had a just appreciation adapted to the persons who use them. His of Shakspere as far as he went; and a few expression is in many places good and pure of his judgments certainly here deserve a after a hundred years ; simple, though place :-“Shakespear was one of the greatest elevated—graceful, though bold—and easy, geniuses that the world ever saw for the though strong. He seems to have been the tragic stage. Though he lay under greater very original of our English tragical hardisadvantages than any of his successors, mony; that is
, the harmony of blank verse, yet had he greater and more genuine diversified often by dissyllable and trisylbeauties than the best and greatest of them. lable terminations. For that diversity disAnd what makes the brightest glory of his tinguishes it from heroic harmony, and, character, those beauties were entirely his bringing it nearer to common use, makes it own, and owing to the force of his own more proper to gain attention, and more fit nature ; whereas his faults were owing to for action and dialogue. Such verse we his education, and to the age that he lived make when we are writing prose; we make in. One may say of him as they did of such verse in common conversation.
If Homer—that he had none to imitate, and is Shakespear had these great qualities by himself inimitable. His imaginations were nature, what would he not have been if he often as just as they were bold and strong. had joined to so happy a genius learning He had a natural discretion which never and the poetical art !” could have been taught him, and his judg It was this eternal gabble about rules of ment was strong and penetrating. He seems art,--this blindness to the truth that the to have wanted nothing but time and leisure living power of Shakspere had its own orfor thought, to have found out those rules of ganization,—that set the metre-mongers of which he appears so ignorant. His charac- that day upon the task of improving Shakters are always drawn justly, exactly, graphi- spere. Dennis was himself one of the great cally, except where he failed by not know- improvers. Poetical justice was one of the ing history or the poetical art. He has for rules for which they clamoured. Duncan and the most part more fairly distinguished them Banquo ought not to perish in ‘Macbeth,' than any of his successors have done, who nor Desdemona in ‘Othello,' nor Cordelia and have falsified them, or confounded them, by her father in ‘Lear,' nor Brutus in 'Julius * Coleridge.
Cæsar, nor young Hamlet in 'Hamlet.' So
Dennis argues :-“The good and the bad For every pelting, petty officer perishing promiscuously in the best of Shake Would use his heaven for thunder: nothing spear's tragedies, there can be either none but thunder.
Merciful heaven ! or very weak instruction in them.” In this spirit Dennis himself sets to work to remodel
Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous Coriolanus:'_“Not only Aufidius, but the
bolt, Roman tribunes Sicinius and Brutus, appear
Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak,
Than the soft myrtle.” to me to cry aloud for poetic vengeance ; for they are guilty of two faults, neither of This is Davenant's :which ought to go unpunished.” Dennis is not only a mender of Shakspere’s cata “If men could thunder strophes, but he applies himself to make As great Jove does, Jove ne'er would quiet Shakspere's verses all smooth and proper,
be; according to the rules of art. One example
For every choleric petty officer, will be sufficient. He was no common man
Would use his magazine in heaven for
thunder: who attempted to reduce the following lines
We nothing should but thunder hear. Sweet to classical regularity:
Heaven ! “Boy ! False hound ! Thou rather with thy stiff and sulph'rous If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there,
bolt That, like an eagle in a dovecote, I
Dost split the knotty and obdurate oak, Flutter'd your Volsces in Corioli.
Than the soft myrtle.” Alone I did it-Boy!"
“The Law against Lovers' was in prinJohn Dennis has accomplished the feat :
ciple one of the worst of these alterations; “ This boy, that, like an eagle in a dovecote,
for it was a hash of two plays—of 'Measure Flutter'd a thousand Volsces in Corioli,
for Measure,' and of ‘Much Ado about NoAnd did it without second or acquittance,
thing.' This was indeed to destroy the orThus sends their mighty chief to mourn in ganic life of the author. But it is one of hell.”
the manifestations of the vitality of Shak
spere that, going about their alterations in The alteration of "The Tempest' by the regular way, according to the rules of Davenant and Dryden was, as we have men
art, the most stupid and prosaic of his imtioned, an attempt to meet the taste of the
provers have been unable to deprive the town by music and spectacle. Shadwell natural man of his vigour, even by their went farther, and turned it into a regular most violent depletions. His robustness was opera ; and an opera it remained even in too great even for the poetical doctors to Garrick's time, who tried his hand upon the destroy it. Lord Lansdowne actually stripped same experiment. Dennis was a reformer the Aesh off Shylock, but the anatomy both in comedy and tragedy. He metamor-walked about vigorously for sixty years, till phosed “The Merry Wives of Windsor' into Macklin put the muscles on again. Colley “The Comical Gallant,' and prefixed an
Cibber turned 'King John' into 'Papal Tyessay to it on the degeneracy of the taste ranny,' and the stage ‘King John' was made for poetry. Davenant changed ‘Measure for
to denounce the Pope and Guy Faux for a Measure' into “ The Law against Lovers.' It century, till Mr. Macready gave us back is difficult to understand how a clever man
again the weak and crafty king in his oriand something of a poet should have set ginal truth of character. Nahum Tate de about his work after this fashion. This is posed the ‘Richard II.' of Shakspere wholly Shakspere's Isabella :
and irredeemably, turning him into The “ Could great men thunder
Sicilian Usurper.' How Cibber manufacAs Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be tured Richard III.' is known to all men. quiet,
Durfey melted down Cymbeline' with no
slight portion of alloy. Tate remodelled In 'The Spectator,' 419, amongst the pa-
any reference to Shakspear." No. 160 bears the signature * Mr. De Quincey is certainly mistaken when he says, of C., and immediately follows · The Vision of Mirza,' that “ Addison has never in one instance quoted or made bearing the same signature.
The commencement of the eighteenth cen- , 'Worthies,' "The Cabbala, or Collections of tury produced the first of the critical Letters of State,' and a little book, “Delices editions of Shakspere. In 1709 appeared de Hollande, with another little book or ‘Shakespeare's Plays Revised and Corrected, two, all of good use or serious pleasure ; with an Account of his Life and Writings, and 'Hudibras, both parts, the book now by N. Rowe.' We should mention that the in greatest fashion for drollery, though I third edition of Shakspere's Comedies, His- cannot, I confess, see enough where the wit tories, and Tragedies, in folio, appeared in lies.” These two folio editions supplied the 1664. It has been said that the greater readers of Shakspere for more than forty number of the copies of this edition were years, but we are not hence to conclude that destroyed in the fire of London; and a he was neglected. Of Ben Jonson during writer whom we must once more quote says, the same period there was only one edi“During a whole century, only four editions tion; of Beaumont and Fletcher only one; of his complete works, and these small, were of Spenser only one. Rowe's edition of published; and there would only have been Shakspere, we doubt not, supplied a general three, but for the destructive Fire of London want. Its critical merits were but small. in 1666."*
The destruction by the fire is the facts of the 'Life' which he prefixes just as much proved as the smallness of the have been sufficiently noticed by us in edition. One of our best bibliographers, Mr. another place. The opinions expressed in Lowndes, whose ‘Bibliographer's Manual' is that 'Life' are few, and are put forth with a model of accuracy, doubts the statement little pretension. As might be expected, they of the destruction by the fire, “though it has fully admit the excellence of Shakspere, but been frequently repeated." Upon the face of they somewhat fall into the besetting sin it the statement is improbable. If it were a of attempting to elevate his genius by degood speculation to print the book two years preciating his knowledge :—“It is without before the fire, and the stock so printed had controversy that in his works we scarce find been destroyed in the fire, it would have any traces of anything that looks like an been an equally good speculation to have re imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of printed it immediately after the fire; and yet his taste, and the natural bent of his own the fourth edition did not appear till 1685. great genius (equal, if not superior, to some Some of the copies of the third edition bear of the best of theirs), would certainly have the date of 1663; and we have no doubt led him to read and study them with so that the book was then generally published; much pleasure that some of their fine images for Pepys, under the date of December 10th, would naturally have insinuated themselves 1663, has a curious bibliographical entry :- into, and been mixed with, his own writings; "To St. Paul's Churchyard, to my bookseller's, so that his not copying at least something and could not tell whether to lay out my from them may be an argument of his never money for books of pleasure, as plays, which having read them. Whether his ignorance my nature was most earnest in; but at last, of the ancients were a disadvantage to him after seeing Chaucer, Dugdale's 'History of or no, may admit of a dispute: for, though Paul's, Stow's 'London, Gesner, ‘History the knowledge of them might have made of Trent,' besides Shakespeare, Jonson, and him more correct, yet it is not improbable Beaumont's plays, I at last chose Dr. Fuller's but that the regularity and deference for
• Life of Shakespear in ‘Lardner's Cyclopædia.' them, which would have attended that cor
rectness, might have restrained some of that be no very hard task to find a great many fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful ex faults; but, as Shakspeare lived under a travagance, which we admire in Shakspere: kind of mere light of nature, and had never and I believe we are better pleased with been made acquainted with the regularity of those thoughts, altogether new and uncom those written precepts, so it would be hard mon, which his own imagination supplied to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. him so abundantly with, than if he had | We are to consider him as a man that lived given us the most beautiful passages out of in a state of almost universal licence and the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the ignorance: there was no established judge, most agreeable manner that it was possible but every one took the liberty to write acfor a master of the English language to cording to the dictates of his own fancy. deliver them.” Rowe also falls into the When one considers that there is not one notion that Shakspere did not arrive at his play before him of a reputation good enough perfection by repeated experiment and as to entitle it to an appearance on the presiduous labour,-a theory which still has its sent stage, it cannot but be matter of believers :-“ It would be without doubt a great wonder that he should advance drapleasure to any man, curious in things of matic poetry so far as he did.” A second
is kind, to see and know what was the edition of Rowe’s ‘Shakespeare' appeared first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. in 1714. Perhaps we are not to look for his be In 1725 Pope produced his edition, magniginnings, like those of other authors, among ficent as far as printing went, in six volumes their least perfect writings; art had so little quarto. Of its editorial merits we may say a and nature so large a share in what he did, few words when we have to speak of Theobald. that, for aught I know, the performances of His Preface is a masterly composition, conhis youth, as they were the most vigorous, taining many just views elegantly expressed. and had the most fire and strength of ima- The criticism is neither profound nor original; gination in them, were the best. I would but there is a tone of quiet sense about it not be thought by this to mean that his which shows that Pope properly appreciated fancy was so loose and extravagant as to Shakspere's general excellence. He believes, be independent on the rule and government in common with most of his time, that this exof judgment; but that what he thought was cellence was attained by intuition, and that commonly so great, so justly and rightly the finest results were produced by felicitous conceived in itself, that it wanted little or accidents :no correction, and was immediately approved “If ever any author deserved the name of by an impartial judgment at the first sight." | an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himHe then enters into a brief criticism of some self drew not his art so immediately from of the leading plays. In speaking of “The the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Tempest,' he mentions the observation upor Egyptian strainers and channels, and came to the character of Caliban “which three very him not without some tincture of the learngreat men concurred in making”—telling us ing, or some cast of the models, of those in a note that these were Lord Falkland, before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, and Mr. Selden inspiration indeed : he is not so much an
-“That Shakspeare had not only found out imitator as an instrument of Nature; and it a new character in his Caliban, but had is not so just to say that he speaks from her also devised and adapted a new manner of as that she speaks through him. language for that character.” Of Shakspere’s “ His characters are so much Nature herplays, with reference to their art, he thus self, that it is a sort of injury to call them speaks :-“If one undertook to examine the by so distant a name as copies of her. Those greatest part of these by those rules which of other poets have a constant resemblance, are established by Aristotle and taken from which shows that they received them from the model of the Grecian stage, it would one another, and were but multipliers of