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Did fignify: and how all order'd thus
That could be with'd, so that methought
I could have studied is.' This passage is compared with that well known description which is given in Shakespear of the melancholy Jacques,
as he lay along Under an oak,' &c. &c. and moralized in a strain of the most exquisite fenfibility on the fate of the hunted deer. Seward, indeed, gives the preference to Shake. spear in this instance, just as he would give it to a Raphael when compared to a Guido. A man pitying and lamenting over the misfortunes of a timorous and forlorn brute, news a degree of tenderness and sensibility of spirit vastly superior to that of a human creature melted only by the feelings of his own distresses. It couches the heart, and interests every gentle pallion in a very high degree. The reflections which the penfive moralilt makes, when he sees the poor animal left and abandon'd of his velvet friends,' are beautiful and affecting.
'Tis right, quoth he ; thus misery doth part
'Tis jult the falhion!' This is a natural, rural scene. That of Fletcher's is a scene of the fame rural character: but it is a scene more artificially laid out: it is a scene in a picture heightened by a better disposition and arrange. ment of the objects; but lessened by a weaker and less interesting representation of the original.
It would extend this article beyond its proper length, if we entered into a particular examination of the most diitinguished characters in these plays. But we cannot avoid remarking, that in the ' King and no King,' two characters are introduced (viz. Arbaces and Bellus), which have been by some critics exalted into a rivalhip, at lealt, with the Hotspur and Falstaff of Shakespear. We think that this drama is a most excellent one, and that the poets discovered great ingenuity in those two characters in particular. But Arbaces is not equal to Hotspur; nor can Bessus rival Falstaff with any success. In the former character we perceive the same fault that generally marks the language of these plays. Beauties are heaped on beauties with a prodigality that (as one of his encomiasts says, by way of compli. ment as he imagined) 'surfeits with good things. Arbaces, instead of being a fiery and impatient hero, is a petulant, and on the whole rather a puerile than manly character. Hotspur, the Achilles of the English ftage, is fierce and violent-impatient of controul or contradiccion-impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer. But he is not ridiculoully whirled about by every blait of passion. In short, by making Are baces too violent and headstrong, the poets have divest
him of all dignity, and destroyed those parts of Shakespear's character that make Hotspur respectable. The same fault is committed in Bessus, Falftaff is always laughable: but seldom despicable, He fets bi
E e 3
self in the true point of ridicule; and being the first to raise a laugh at his own expence, we are ready to forgive him the occasion of it. Beffus is a greater coward than Falliaff, and he is not possefled of such truly laughable qualities as are fufficient to compensate for his want of courage, and the absurdities and irregularities of his conduct. Theobald, who considered the character of Bestus as a fine copy from Shakespear's inimitable Faltaff,' very juftly observes, that as to his wit and humour, the precedence mult certainly be adjudged to Falstaff, the great original.'
The present edition is introduced by the original dedication of the players to the folio of 1647. That is succeeded by Shirley's preface to the fame edition : and that by the stationer's address. Next follows the address of the booksellers who published another folio edi. tion in 1679. The preface to the octavo edition 1711 is here reprinted, in which we have a short account of the Authors and their writings. Though Beaumont was the son of a judge, and Fletcher of a bishop, and both authors of distinguished fame, yet all we know of them is so very inconsiderable, that scarce any memorials are left of thein, except in their writings. Mr. Seward's preface to the edirion in octavo 1750 is in part reprinted. A long and impertinent criticism on some scriptural topics is very properly omitted : some mistakes are rectified by the present Editor ; and a few of his observations confirmed and illatirated. The commendatory poems, with notes and illustrations, follow Seward's preface; to which are added, some verses by · Fletcher"upon an honest inan's fortune,' and a poetical letter from Beaumont to Ben Jonson. After a general table of contents, we are presented with a new preface, and a curious exa tract from Mr. Capell's notes on Anthony and Cleopatra, relating to fome theatrical customs in Shakespear's age.
The new preface to this edition is evidently the production of a very ingenious writer, and bears some friking marks of Mr. Col. man's pen. We shall, we are perfuaded, gratify our Readers, by presenting them with one or two extracts from it.
• To the popularity of a dramatic writer, nothing more immediately contributes than the frequency of theatrical representation, Common readers, like barren spectators, know little more of an auihor, than what the actor, not always his happiest commentator, presents to them. Mutilations of Shakespear have been recited and even quoted as his genuine text; and many of his dramas, not in the course of exhibition, are by the multitude not honoured with a perufal. On the flage, indeed, our Authors formerly took the lead, Dryden having informed us, that in his day two of their plays were performed to one of Shakespear. The flage, however, owes its attraction to the actor as well as author ; and if the able performer will not contribute to give a polith and brilliancy to the work, it will lie like the rough diamond, obscured and disregarded. The artists of former days worked che rich mine of Beaumont and Fletcher : and Beta terton, the Rofcius of his age, enriched his catalogue of characters from their dramas as well as those of Shakespear. Unfortunately for our Authors, the Roscius of our day copfined his round of characters in old plays too closely to Shakespear. We may almost say of him indeed in this respect, as Dryden says of Shakespear's scenes of magic,
. Within " Within that circle none durft walk but he.” But surely we mult lament, that those extraordinary powers which have been so successfully exerted in the illuftration of Shakespear, and sometimes prostituted to the support of the meanest writers, should not more frequently have been employed to throw a light on Beaumont and Fletcher. These illustrious followers of the glorious father of our drama, ought not surely to be cast so far behind him, as to fall into a contemptuous neglect, whilst the moft careless works of Shakespear are ftudiously brought forward. The Maid's Tragedy, King and no King, Love's Pilgrimage, Monsieur Thomas, &c. &c. &c. would hardly disgrace that stage which hath exhibited The two Gentlemen of Verona.'
With respect to the various editions of Beaumont and Fletcher, our ingenious Prefacer observes, that the old copies of their dramatic works have come down to us exactly in the same state with the old quarro's of Shakespear. The printers of those times not only copied, but mutilated the errors of transcribers. An editor, nay even a corrector of the press, seems to have been a character of which they had not the smallest conception. Even the title-pages appear to exhibit the very names of the authors at random: lomctimes announcing the play as the work of one poet, sometimes of another, and sometimes as the joint production of both. A bookfeller is somewhere introduced as reprehending the saving ways of an Ode Writer, who, he supposed, merely to lengthen his work, would often put no more than three or four words into a line. The old printers feem to have conceived the same idea of the parfimony of poets, and therefore often without scruple run verse into prose, noc adverting to measure or harmony, but solely governed by the dimenfions of the page, whether divided into columns or carried all across from one scanty margin to another. Their orthography is so sally vicious and unsettled, and their punctuation so totally defective, that the regulation of either rarely merits the triumphs that have been so ofien derived from it. On the whole, however, these old copies of our Poets may by an intelligent Reader be perused with fatisfa&tion. The typographical errors are indeed gross and numerous; but their very number and grossness keeps the Reader awake to the genuine text, and commonly renders such palpable inaccuracies not prejudicial. The genuine work of the Author is there ex. tant, though the lines are often, like a confused multitude, huddled on one another, and not marshalled and arrayed by the discipline of a modern editor.
• The first folio, containing thirty-four of our Authors pieces, never till then collected or printed, was published by the players, obviously transcribed from the prompter's books, commonly the most inaccurate and barbarous of all manuscripts, or made out piecemeal from the detached parts copied for the use of the performers. Hence it happens, that the stage direction has sometimes crept into the text, and che name of the actor is now and then substituted for that of the character. The transcribers, knowing perhaps no language perfealy, corrupted all languages, and vitiated the dialogue with falle Latin, false French, false Italian, and false Spanish ; nay, as Pope says of the old copies of Shakespear, " their very Welch is false."
• The second folio contained the first complete collection of the Works of Beaumont and Fletcher. Concerning that edition we have nothing to add to what hath been said by other editors, whose prefaces we have annexed to our own.
• The O&avo editors of 1711 seemed to aim at little more than reprinting our Author's plays, and giving a collection of them more portable and convenient ihan the folios. Their text, however, is more corrupt than that of either the quartos or folios ; the errors of which they religiously preserved, adding many vicious readings of their own, some of which have been combated in very long noies by their successors.
. In the year 1742, Theobald, on the success and reputation of his Shakespear, projected an edition of Ben Jonson. What he had executed of it fell into the hands of Mr. Whalley, and is inserted in that learned and ingenious gentleman's edition. At the same time he exhibited proposals for a publication of the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, in which he was afterwards allifted by Mr. Seward and Mr. Sympson: but Theobald dying before he had committed more than the first and about half the second volume to the press, the undertaking was continued by the two last mentioned gentlemen; and the edition thus jointly, or rather severally, executed by Theobald, Se. ward and Sympson, at length appeared in the year 1750. These gentlemen were the first editors of our poets who professed to collate the old copies, to reform the punctuation, and to amend the corrop. tions of che text. Some attempts were also made to elucidate the obscurities and enforce the excellencies of their authors. How far we disagree or coincide with them, will appear on inspection of the particular passages to which their several observations refer. Such of their notes as appeared inconteitible, or even plausible, we have adopied without remark: to those more dubious we have subjoined additional annotations, thofe of less confequence we have abridged, and those of no importance we have omitted.
• In the present edition, it hath been our chief aim to give the old text as it lies in the old books, with no other variations, but such as the writers themselves, had they superintended an impression of their works, or even a corrector of the press, would have made. Yet even these variations, if at all important, kave not been made in filence. Notes, however, have been subjoined to the text as briefly and spare ingly as posible; but the lapse of time, the fluctuation of language, have rendered some notes necessary for the purpose of explaining obsolete words, unusual phrases, old cuftoms, and obscure or distant allusions. Critical remarks and conjectural emendations have been feldom bazarded, nor has any ridicule been wantonly thrown on former editors, who have only sometimes been reprehended for pompous affe&tation, and more frequently for want of care and 6delity. Every material comment on these plays hath been retained in this edition, though often without the long and oftentatious notes that first introduced those comments to the Public. At the same time, we have religiously attributed every observation critical or phiJological to its due Author, not wishing to claim any praise as Editors, but by indultriously endeavouring, as an act of duty, to collect from all quarters every thing that might contribute to illustrate the Works of Beaumont and Fletcher.'
* Of which Mr. Seward is often guilty to a degree chat must nau. seate and disgult every Reader of talte and judgmente
The Editors of these Works have, we think, discharged their duty with great fidelity and exactness in the volumes now before us. The old Bards never appeared to so great an advantage, nor were they ever introduced to the Public in so elegant a dress. The cuts, which are happily designed and well executed, will undoubtedly be deemed a very agreeable addition to the work; and to use the words of the Editors, we may with truth assert, that no authors in the English language, published at the same price, have so many and so valuable engravings.'
ART. II. Four Sermons on the Divinity of Christ. By the late Rer,
James Hervey, A M. Rector of Weiton Favell and Collingtree, in the County of Northampton, and Author of Meditations, &c. To which are added, four other Sermons, faithfully transcribed from the original Short hand of the Author. Small 8vo.
Is. 6d. Printed for the Editor, and sold by Keith, &c. 1779.
HE Preface informs us, that these Sermons were tran
scribed from the short-hand MS. of the Rev. Mr. J. Hervey, by the desire of his brother, the late Mr. William Hervey, Wine-merchant in London. That they are the genuine productions of the Author of the Meditations among
the Tombs, and the Contemplations, Dialogues, and Letters, no man of sense and taste (when he hath read them) can possibly doubt.'
We think these pofthumous Sermons little calculated to make their way to the closets of men of sense and taste—who, after all, would think it a point of the utmost insignificance whether they were the genuine productions of Mr. Hervey or the imposition of some catchpenny cditor.
From strong internal evidence, however, we are led to give some credit to the declaration of the Prefacer. These Sermons abound with many of the peculiarities of Mr. Hervey's stile and sentiment. A profufion of metaphors was the chief characterittic of his language ; and the Shibboleth of Puritanism was the capital distinction of his theology. His object was to soften the harsh features of a Calvinistic creed, by mixing it with the gay and splendid colours of eloquence. This he effected in a very high degree among persons who were no great critics, nor profound judges of sense and eloquence. The middle class of readers, who had a fufficient share of understanding to revolt at naked absurdities, were not proof against them when decked out