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seems to be that which is able to produce a series of
It is easy when the thread of a story is once drawn, to diversify it with variety of colours; and when a train of action is presented to the mind, a little acquaintance with life will supply circumstances and reflexions, and a little knowledge of books furnish parellels and illustrations. To tell over again a story that has been told already, and to tell it better than the first author, is no rare qualification ; but to strike out the first hints of a new fable; hence to introduce a set of chasacters so diversified in their several passions and interests, that from the clashing of this variety may result many necessary incidents; to make these incidents surprizing, and yet natural, so as to delight the imagination without fhocking the judgment of a reader ; and finally to wind up the whole in a pleasing catastrophe, produced by those very means which seem most likely to oppose and prevent it, is the utmost effort of the human mind.
To discover how few of those writers, who profess to recount imaginary adventures, have been able to produce any thing by their own imagination, would require too much of that time which your lordship employs in nobler studies. Of all the novels and romances that wit or idleness, vanity or indigence, have pushed into the world, there are very few of which the end cannot be conjectured from the beginning; or where the authors have done more than to transpose the incidents of other tales, or strip the circumstances from one event for the decoration of another. : In the examination of a poet's character, it is therefore first to be enquired what degree of invention has
been exerted by him. With this view I have very diligently read the works of Shakespear, and now presume to lay the result of my searches before your lordship, before that judge whom Pliny himself would have wished for his affefior to hear a literary cause.
How much the translation of the following novels will add to the reputation of Shakespear, or take away from it, you, my lord, and men learned and candid like you,
any such can be found, must now determine. Some danger, as I am informed there is, lest his admirers should think him injured by this attempt, and clamour as at the diminution of the honour of that nation which boasts herself the parent of so great a poet.
That no such enemies may arise against me (though I am unwilling to believe it) I am far from being too confident, for who can fix bounds to bigotry and folly? My sex, my age, have not given me many opportunities of mingling in the world; there may be in it many a species of absurdity which I have never seen, and among them such vanity as pleases itself with faise praise bestowed on another, and such superstition as worships idols, without supposing them to be Gods.
But the truth is, that a very small part of the reputation of this mighty genius depends upon the naked plot or story of his plays. He lived in an age when the books of chivalry were yet popular, and when therefore the minds of his auditors were not accustomed to balance probabilities, or to examine nicely the proportion between causes and effects. It was sufficient to recommend a story, that it was far removed from common
life, that its changes were frequent, and its close pathetic.
This disposition of the age concurred so happily with the imagination of Shakespear, that he had no desire to reform it, and indeed to this he was indebted for the licentious variety, by which he has made his plays more entertaining than those of any other author.
He had looked with great attention on the scenes of nature; but his chief skill was in human actions, palfions, and habits; he was therefore delighted with such tales as afforded numerous incidents, and exhibited many characters in many changes of situation. These characters are so copiously diversified, and some of them so justly pursued, that his works may be considered as a map of life, a faithful miniature of human transactions ; and he that has read Shakespear with attention will perhaps find little new in the crowded world.
Among his other excellencies it ought to be remarked, because it has hitherto been unnoticed, that his beroes are men, that the love and hatred, the hopes and fears of his chief personages are such as are common to other human beings, and not like those which later times have exhibited, peculiar to phantoms that strut upon the stage.
It is not perhaps very necessary to inquire whether the vehicle of so much delight and instruction be a story probable or unlikely, native or foreign. Shakespear's excellence is not the fiation of a tale, but the representation of life; and his reputation is therefore fafe, till human nature shall be changed. Nor can he, who has fo many just claims to praise, suffer by losing that
which ignorant admiration has unreasonably given him. To calumniate the dead is baseness, and to flatter them is surely folly.
From Aartery, my lord, either of the dead or the living I wish to be clear, and have therefore folicited the countenance of a patron, whom, if I knew how to praise him, I could praise with truth, and have the world on my side; whose candour and humanity are universally acknowledged, and whose judgment perhaps was then first to be doubted, when he condescended to admit this addrefs from
Dedication to PAYNE's Introduction to the
GAME at DRAUGHTS, 1756.
To the Right Hon. WILLIAM HENRY; Earl of
ROCHFORD, &c. MY LORD, WHEN I take the liberty of addressing to your lordship A Treatise on the Game of Draughts, I easily foresee that I shall be in danger of suffering ridicule on one part, while I am gaining honour on the other, and
may envy me the distinction of approaching you, will deride the present I presume to offer.
Had I considered this little volume as having no purpose beyond that of teaching a game, I should indeed have left it to take its fate without a patron. Triflers may find or make any thing a trife; but since it is the great characteristic of a wise man to see events in their causes, to obviate consequences, and ascertain contingencies, your lordship will think nothing a trifle by which the mind is inured to caution, foresight, and circumspection. The same skill, and often the same degree of skill, is exerted in great and little things, and your lordship may sometimes exercise, at a harmless game, those abilities which have been so happily employed in the service of your country.
I am, my lord,
and most humble servant,
Dedication to BARETTI's DictIONARY of
the English and Italian Languages, 2 vols.
4to. 1760. To his Excellency Don Felix, Marquis of Abreu and
Bertodano, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from his Catholic Majesty to the King of Great Britain.
My Lord, THAT acuteness of penetration into characters and designs, and that nice discernment of human passions