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because his Wife furviv'd him feven Years, and as his Favourite Daughter Sufanna furviv'd her twenty-fix Years,'tis very improbable, they fhould fuffer fuch a Treafure to be remov'd, and tranflated into a remoter Branch of the Family, without a Scrutiny first made into the Value of it. This, I fay, inclines me to diftruft the Authority of the Relation: but, notwithstanding fuch an apparent Improbability, if we really loft fuch a Treafure, by whatever Fatality or Caprice of Fortune they came into fuch ignorant and neglectful Hands, I agree with the Relater, the Misfortune is wholly irreparable.


To these Particulars, which regard his Perfon and private Life, fome few more are to be glean'd from Mr. Rowe's Account of his Life and Writings: Let us now take a fhort View of him in his publick Capacity, as a Writer: and, from thence, the Tranfition will be eafy to the State in which his Writings have been handed down to us.

No Age perhaps, can produce an Author more va, rious from himself, than Shakespear has been univerfally acknowledged to be. The Diverty in Stile, and other Parts of Compofition, fo obvious in him, is as variously to be accounted for. His Education, we find, was at best but begun and he started early into a Science from the Force of Genius, unequally affitted by acquir'd Improvements. His Fire, Spirit, and Exuberance of Imagination gave an impetuofity to his Pen His Ideas flow'd from him in a Stream rapid, but not turbulent; copious, but not ever over-bearing its Shores. The Eafe and Sweetne's of his Temper might not a little contribute to his Facility in Writing: as his Employment, as a Player, gave him an Advantage and Habit of fancying himfelf the very Character he meant to delineate. He ufed the Helps of his Function in forming himself to create and exprefs that Sublime, which other Actors can only copy, and throw out, in Action and graceful Attitude. But Nullum

Nullum fine Venia placuit Ingenium, fays Seneca. The Genius, that gives us the greatest Pleasure, fometimes ftands in Need of our Indulgence. Whenever this. happens with regard to Shake pear I would willingly impute it to a Vice of his Times. We fee Complaifance enough, in our Days, paid to a bad Tafie. So that his Clinches, falfe Wit, and defcending beneath himfelf, may have proceeded from a Deference paid to the then reigning Barbarifm.

I have not thought it out of my Province, whenever Occafion offer'd, to take notice of fome of our Poet's grand Touches of Nature: Some, that do not appear fuperficially fuch; but in which he feems the moft deeply inftructed; and to which, no doubt, he has so much ow'd that happy Prefervation of his Characters, for which he is justly celebrated. Great Genius's, like his, naturally unambitious, are fatisfy'd to conceal their Art in thefe Points. 'Tis the Foible of your worfer Poets to make a Parade and Oftentation of that little Science they have; and to throw it out in the moft ambitious Colours. And whenever a Writer of this Clafs fhall attempt to copy thefe artful Concealinents of our Author, and fhall either think the n eafy, or practifed by a Writer for his Eafe, he will foon be convinced of his Miftake by the Difficulty of reaching the Imitation of them.

Speret idem, fudet multùm, fruftráque laboret,
Arfus idem:

Indeed, to point out, and exclaim upon, all the Deauties of Shakespear, as they come fingly in Review, would be as infipid, as endless; as tedious, as unneceffary: But the Explanation of thofe Beauties, that are lefs obvious to common Readers, and whofe Illuftration depends on the Rules of juft Criticism, and an exact knowledge of human Life, fhould defervedly have a Share in a general Critic upon the Author.

Author. But, to pass over at once to another Subject:

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It has been allow'd on all hands, how far our Author was indebted to Nature; it is not fo well agreed, how much he ow'd to Languages and acquired Learning. The Decifions on this Subject were certainly let on Foot by the Hint from Ben Johnson, that he had finall Latin and lefs Greek: And from this Tradition, as it were, Mr. Rowe has thought fit peremptorily to declare, that, "It is without Controversy, he had no "Knowledge of the Writings of the ancient Poets, "for that in his Works we find no Traces of any thing which looks like an imitation of the Ancients. "For the Delicacy of his Tafte (continues He,) and "the natural Bent of his own great Genius, (equal, "if not fuperior, to fome of the Beft of theirs ;) "would certainly have led him to read and study them "with fo much Pleasure, that fome of their fine "Images would naturally have infinuated themfelvesin"to, and been mix'd with his own Writings: and fo his "not copying, at least, fomething from them, may "be an Argument of his never having read them." I fhall leave it to the Determination of my Learned Readers, from the numerous Paffages, which I have occafionally quoted in my Notes, in which our Poet feems closely to have imitated the Claffics, whether Mr. Rowe's Affertion be fo abfolutely to be depended on. The Refult of the Controvefy muft certainly, either way, terminate to our Author's Honour: how happily he could imitate them, if that Point be allowed; or how gloriously he could think like them, without owing any thing to Imitation.

Tho' I fhould be very unwilling to allow ShakeSpear to poor a Scholar, as Many have labour'd to reprefent him, yet I fhall be very cautious of declaring too pofitively on the other fide of the Queftion: that is, with regard to my Opinion of his Knowledge in the dead languages. And therefore the Paffages, that


I occafionally quote from the Claffics, fhall not be urged as Proofs that he knowingly imitated thofe Originals; but brought to fhew how happily he has exprefs'd himfelf upon the fame Topicks. A very learned Critick of our own Nation has declar'd, that a Sameness of Thought and Sameness of Expreffion too, in Two Writers of a different Age, can hardly happen, without a violent Sufpicion of the latter copying from his Predeceffor. I fhall not therefore run any great Rifque of a Cenfure, tho' I should venture to hint, that the Refemblances in Thought and Expreffion, of our Author and an Ancient (which we fhould allow to be Imitation in the One, whofe Learning was not queftion'd) may fometimes take its Rife from Strength of Memory, and those Impreffions which he owed to the School. And if we may allow a Poffibility of This, confidering that, when he quitted the School he gave into his Father's Profeffion and way of Living, and had, 'tis likely, but a flender Library of Claffical Learning; and confidering what a Number of Tranflations, Romances, and Legends, started about his Time, and a little before; (most of which, 'tis very evident, he read;) I think, it may easily be reconciled why he rather schemed his Plots and Characters from these more latter Informations, than went back to those Fountains, for which he might entertain a fincere Veneration, but to which he could not have fo ready a Recourse.

In touching on another Part of his Learning, as it related to the Knowledge of Hiftory, and Books, I fhall advance fomething, that, at first fight, will very much wear the Appearance of a Paradox. For I fhall find it no hard Matter to prove, that, from the groffest Blunders in History, we are not to infer his real Ignorance of it: Nor from a greater Ufe of Latin Words, than ever any other English Author ufed, must we infer his intimate Acquaintance with that Language.


A Reader of Tafte may easily obferve, that tho' Shakespear, almoft in every Scene of his historical Plays, commits the groffeft Offences against Chronology, History, and Ancient Politicks; yet This was not thro' Ignorance, as is generally fuppofed, but thro' the too powerful Blaze of his Imagination; which, when once raifed, made all acquired Knowledge vanish and difappear before it. But this Licence in him, as I have faid, must not be imputed to Ignorance: fince as often we may find him, when Occasion ferves, reatoning up to the Truth of Hiftory; and throwing out Sentiments as jufly adapted to the Circumftances of his Subject, as to the Dignity of his Characters, or Dictates of Nature in general.

Then to come to his Knowledge of the Latin Tongue, 'tis certain, there is a furprifing Effufion of Latin Words made English, far more than in any one Englifh Author I have feen; but we must be cautious to imagine, this was of his own doing. For the English Tongue, in his Age, began extremely to fuffer by an inundation of Latin: And this, to be fure, was occafion'd by the Pedantry of thofe two Monarchs, Elizabeth and James, Both great Latinifts. For it is not to be wonder'd at, if both the Court and Schools, equal Flatterers of Power, fhould adapt themfelves to the Royal Tafe.

But now I am touching on the Question, (which has been fo frequently agitated, yet fo entirely, undecided) of his Learning and Acquaintance with the Languages; an additional Word or two naturally falls in here upon the Genius of our Author, as compared with that of Johnfon his Contemporary. They are confeffedly the greatest Writers our Nation could ever bo ft of in the Drama. The first, we fay, owed all to his prodigious natural Genius; and the other a great deal to his Art and Learning. This, if attended to, will explain a very remarkable Appearance in their Writings. Befides thofe wonderful Masterpieces of


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