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BEAUTIES should be so obscured, and that he himself should be made a kind of stage, for bungling critics to show their clumsy activity upon.
It was my first intention to have considered each play critically and regularly through all its parts; but as this would have swelled the work beyond proper bounds, I was obliged to confine myself solely to a collection of his Poetical Beauties: and I doubt not, every reader will find so large a fund for observation, so much excellent and refined morality, that he will prize the work as it deserves, and pay, with me, all due adoration to the manes of Shakspeare.
Longinus* tells us, that the most infallible test of the true sublime, is the impression a performance makes upon our minds when read or recited. “ If,” says he, “a person finds, that a performance transports not his soul, nor exalts his thoughts; that it calls not up into his mind ideas more enlarged than the mere sounds of the words convey, but on attentive examination its dignity lessens and declines, he may conclude, that whatever pierces no deeper than the ears, can never be the true sublime That, on the contrary, is grand and lofty, which the more we consider, the greater ideas we conceive of it: whose force we cannot possibly withstand; which immediately sinks deep, and makes such impression on the mind as cannot easily be worn out or effaced: in a word, you may pronounce that sublime, beautiful, and genuine, which always pleases and takes equally with all sorts of men. For when persons of different humours, ages, professions, and inclinations, agree in the same joint approbation of any performance, then this union of assent, this conibination of so many different judgments, stamps a high and indisputable value on that performance, which meets with such general applause.” This fine observation of Longinus is most remarkably verified in Shakspeare; for all humours, ages, and inclinations, jointly proclaim their approbation and esteem of him; and will, Í hope, be found true in most of the passages which are here collected from him: I say, most, because there are some which I am convinced will not stand this test: the old, the grave, and the severe, will disapprove, perhaps, the more soft (and as they may call them) trifling love-tales, so elegantly breathed forth, and so emphatically extolled by the
and the passionate; while these will esteem as dull and languid, the sober saws of morality, and the home-felt observations of experience. However, as it was my business to collect for readers of all tastes, and all complexions, let me desire none to disapprove what hits not their own humour, but to turn over the page, and they will surely find something acceptable and engaging. But I have yet another apology to make, for some passages introduced merely on account
* See Longinus on the Sublime, Sect. 7. The translation in the text is from the learned Mr. Sraith.
of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention, as indicating the vast stretch, and sometimes particular turn of the poet's imagination.
There are many passages in Shakspeare so closely connected with the plot and characters, and on which their beauties so wholly depend, that it would have been absurd and idle to have produced them here: hence the reader will find little of the inimitable Falstaff in this work, and not one line extracted from the Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakspeare's best, and most justly admired comedies: whoever reads that play, will immediately see, there was nothing either proper or possible for this work; which, such as it is, I most sincerely and cordially recommended to the candour and benevolence of the world: and wish every one that peruses it, may feel the satisfaction I have frequently felt in composing it, and receive such instructions and advantages from it, as it is well calculated and well able to bestow. For my own part, better and more important things henceforth demanded my attention, and I here, with no small pleasure, take leave of Shakspeare and the critics; as this work was begun and finished, before I entered upon the sacred function, in which I am now happily employed, let me trust, this juvenile performance will prove no objection, since graver, and some very eminent members of the church, have thought it no improper employ, to comment, explain, and publish the works of their own country poets.
ADVICE. BE thou blest Bertram! and succeed tby father In manners, as in shape! Thy blood, and virtue, Contend for empire in thee; and thy goodness Share with thy birthright! 'Love all, trust a few, Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy Rather in power, than use; and keep thy friend Under thy own life's key: be check'd for silence, But never tax'd for speech.
TOO AMBITIOUS LOVE.
I am undone; there is no living, none, If Bertram be away. It were all one, That I should love a bright particular star, And think to wed it, he is so above me: In his bright radiance and collateral light Must I be comforted, not in his sphere. The ambition in my love thus plagues itself: The hind that would be mated by the lion, Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague To see him every hour; to sit and draw His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls,
In our heart's fable;* heart, too capable
I know him a notorious liar, Think him a great way fool, solely a coward; Yet these fix'd evils sit so fit in him, That they take place, when virtue's steely bones Look bleak in the cold wind.
THE REMEDY OF EVILS GENERALLY IN
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
CHARACTER OF A NOBLE COURTIER.
* Helena considers her heart as the tablet on which his resemblance was pourtrayed. + Peculiarity of feature.
Countenance. $ His is put for its.