Page images

before: a very little analogy will do the business. I shall therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further ; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against sermons on the thirtieth of January, "an answer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the subject."

[ocr errors]

But this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when translations were extant." -Shade of Burgersdicius!-does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a course of education-whose contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually called literature-whose mistakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise, that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek?-I suspect, Rollin's opinion of our philosopher was not founded on this argument.

Shakspeare wanted not the stilts of languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in The Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, "got only from possum to posset," and yet will throw out a line occasionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.If, however, the old editions be trusted in this passage, our author's memory somewhat failed him in point of concord.

The rage of parallelisms is almost over, and in truth nothing can be more absurd. "This was stolen from one classick,-That from another;"-and had I not stept into his rescue, poor Shakspeare had been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first held horses at the door of the playhouse.

The late ingenious and modest Mr. Dodsley declared himself

"Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome."

yet let us take a passage at a venture from any of his performances, and a thousand to one, it is stolen. Suppose it to be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop: "A good wife makes

the cares of the world sit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures; she is a man's best companion in prosperity, and his only friend in adversity; the carefullest preserver of his health, and the kindest attendant, in his sickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a comforter in affliction, and prudent manager in all his domestick affairs." Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobæus: {

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Malvolio, in the Twelfth-Night of Shakspeare, hath some expressions very similar to Alnaschar in the Arabian Tales: which perhaps may be sufficient for some criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic!

[ocr errors]

It seems, however, at last, that "Taste should determine the matter." This, as Bardolph expresses it, is a word of exceeding good command: but I am willing, that the standard itself be somewhat better ascertained before it be opposed to demonstrative evidence.Upon the whole, I may consider myself as the pioneer of the commentators: I have removed a deal of learned rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakspeare's track in the everpleasing paths of nature. This was necessarily a previous inquiry and I hope I may assume with some confidence, what one of the first criticks of the age was pleased to declare on reading the former edition, that "The question is now for ever decided."


[ocr errors]

** I may just remark, lest they be mistaken for Errata, that the word Catherine in the 329th page is written, according to the old Orthography for Catharine; and that the passage in the 332d page is copied from Upton, who improperly calls Horatio and Marcellus in Hamlet, "the Centinels."

[ocr errors]




IT may be necessary to apologize for the republication. of this pamphlet. The fact is, it has been for a good while extremely scarce, and some mercenary publishers were induced by the extravagant price which it has occasionally borne, to project a new edition without the consent of the author.

A few corrections might probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have necessarily occurred in more than twenty years: some of which may be found in the late admirable editions of our Poet, by Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed.

[ocr errors]

But, perhaps enough is already said on so light a subject: A subject, however, which had for a long time pretty warmly divided the criticks upon Shakspeare.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]





THE reverend and ingenious Mr. Farmer, in his curious and entertaining" Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare," having done me the honour to animadvert on some passages in the preface to this translation, I cannot dismiss this edition without declaring how far I coincide with that gentleman; although what I then threw out carelessly on the subject of this pamphlet was merely inci dental, nor did I mean to enter the lists as a champion to Interfibbs defend either side of the question.


It is most true, as Mr. Farmer takes for granted, that I had never met with the old comedy called The Supposes, nor has it ever yet fallen into my hands; yet I am willing to grant, on Mr. Farmer's authority, that Shakspeare borrowed part of the plot of The Taming of the Shrew, from that old translation of Ariosto's play by George Gascoign, and had no obligations to Plautus. I will accede also to the truth of Dr. Johnson's and Mr. Farmer's observation, that the line from Terence, exactly as it stands in Shakspeare, is extant in Lilly, and Udall's "Floures for Latin Speaking." Still, however, Shakspeare's total ignorance of the learned languages remains to be proved; for it must be granted, that such books are put into the hands of those who are learning those languages, in which class we must necessarily rank Shakspeare, or he could not even have quoted Terence from Udall or Lilly; nor is it likely, that so rapid a genius should not have made some further progress. author," says Dr. Johnson, as quoted by Mr. Farmer, "had this line from Lilly; which I mention, that it may not be brought as an argument of his learning." It is, however, an argument that he read Lilly; and a few pages



further it seems pretty certain, that the author of The Taming of the Shrew had at least read Ovid; from whose Epistle we find these lines:

Hàc ibat Simois; hic est Sigeïa tellus;

Hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis.

[ocr errors]

And what does Dr. Johnson say on this occasion? Nothing. And what does Mr. Farmer say on this occasion? Nothing*.

In Love's Labour's Lost, which, bad as it is, is ascribed by Dr. Johnson himself to Shakspeare, there occurs the word thrasonical; another argument which seems to show that he was not unacquainted with the comedies of Terence; not to mention, that the character of the schoolmaster in the same play could not possibly be written by a man who had travelled no further in Latin than hic, hæc, hoc.

In Henry the Sixth we meet with a quotation from Virgil:

Tantæne animis cœlestibus iræ ?

But this, it seems, proves nothing, any more than the lines from Terence and Ovid, in The Taming of the Shrew; for Mr. Farmer looks on Shakspeare's property in the comedy to be extremely disputable; and he has no doubt but Henry the Sixth had the same author with Edward the Third, which had been recovered to the world in Mr. Capell's Prolusions.

If any play in the collection bears internal evidence of Shakspeare's hand, we may fairly give him Timon of Athens. In this play we have a familiar quotation from Horace :

"Ira furor brevis est."

I will not maintain but this hemistich may be found in Lilly or Udall; or that it is not in the " Palace of Plea→ snre," or the "English Plutarch;" or that it was not originally foisted in by the players; it stands, however, in the play of Timon of Athens.

[ocr errors]

* "Colman, in a note on his Translation of Terence, talking of Shakspeare's Learning, asks, What says Farmer to this? What says Johnson?' Upon this he observed, Sir, let Farmer answer for himself: I never engaged in this controversy. I always said Shakspeare had Latin enough to grammaticise his English." Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, vol. iii. 264.

« PreviousContinue »