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have been executed before; for although, as we have already seen, a considerable portion of valuable criticism is connected with the Variorum Editions of the poet, and many separate works, and some of great merit, have been entirely devoted to Shakspeare, yet have there, moreover, appeared at various times, and especially within the last seventy years, numerous disquisitions on Shakspeare and his dramas, scattered through a wide field of miscellaneous and periodical publications, of which several

may
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competition with the most esteemed in the two classes to which I have just alluded.

To select these, which, with but one exception, I have found it necessary to draw from writers only of the present, and the latter half of the past century; to give them a lucid arrangement, and to accompany them, as far as might be deemed requisite, with notes, constitute the chief business of the volume now before my readers. It is, indeed, worthy of remark that, from the time of Ben Jonson to the period of Dryden, whose noble and comprehensive, though brief encomium on Shakspeare in 1668" forms the exception just mentioned, there is no incidental criticism on our great bard worth recording, although three editions of his plays had been then before the public; and from the age of Dryden to the middle of the

Inserted in his “Essay on Dramatick Poesy," which was, in fact, written in 1665, though not published until 1668.Vide Malone's Dryden, vol. 1. part 2d.

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eighteenth century, a somewhat similar deficiency, notwithstanding the editions of Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton had come forth, may be traced.

It is, indeed, from the prevalence or paucity of these casual notices, rather than from the tone of the professed editor and critic, that we may most certainly ascertain the popularity or obscurity of an author, especially of a poet. Shakspeare had been the great favourite of the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and the prior part of that of Charles the First; but the domination of puritanism, and the still more debasing effects of the dissolute manners of the age of Charles the Second, proved highly injurious to all pure taste and just manly feeling; and, as one of the results of this degraded state of the national literature, Shakspeare fell into comparative neglect, and, notwithstanding the incidental criticisms of Dryden dispersed through his prefaces and dedications, to such a degree, that we find Steele, in no. 231 of his Tatler, dated September the 30th, 1710, actually giving the entire story of Catharine and Petruchio as a fact which had lately occurred in a gentleman's family in Lincolnshire. From which we cannot but infer that he either knew not that it formed the fable of a play in Shakspeare, but copied it from some scarce and forgotten pamphlet; or, knowing it to be the property of our bard, was convinced such was the obscurity into which the play had fallen, that he might safely present it to the public as a recent

and original event. The latter was most probably the case, although the edition by Rowe had been published but the year before; and, indeed, if we set aside two or three notices in the Spectator by Hughes and Addison during the years 1711 and 1712,' we shall not find it an easy matter to discover, in the popular and periodical literature of our country, any observations on the bard of Avon worth preserving, until the appearance of the Rambler and Adventurer of Johnson and Hawksworth in the years 1750 and 1753.

From this period, however, not only has Shakspeare been the object of unceasing editorship and formal voluminous criticism, but the periodical and miscellaneous productions of the press, rapidly and even prodigiously as they have encreased of late, have been fertile in casual essays and remarks on his genius and writings, whilst upon the continent too, numerous translations of, and occasional remarks on the poet, have made their appearance.

It is, I trust, scarcely necessary to add that, in culling from so wide a field, I have been almost fastidiously careful in my choice of specimens. Indeed, as a warrant for this, it may be sufficient merely to mention the names of Dryden, Warton, Mackenzie, Cumberland, Beattie, Godwin, Lamb, Coleridge, Campbell, and Sir Walter Scott, as

• Vide Drake's Essays, Biographical, Critical, and Historical, illustrative of the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, vol. 1.

p. 216.

I Vide Spectator, nos. 141 and 419.

those who, from our native stores, with the exception of a few anonymous contributions of great excellence, have furnished me with materials.

And, if we turn to the continent, scarcely a less rich prospect, during a nearly equal period of time, would seem to meet our view. In Germany, for instance, as translators of or occasional critics on Shakspeare, we can enumerate Wieland, Eschenburg, Lessing, Voss, Herder, Goethe, Tieck, and the two Schlegels; in Italy, Michele Leoni; in Spain, Fernandez Moratin ; and in France, Le Mercier, Le Tourneur, Ducis, Madame De Stael Holstein, and Villemain.

I have only farther to remark that, from the abundance of materials, and from the wish of not spreading them beyond the compass of a single volume, I have found it necessary to restrict my selections from foreign sources to a few general

• Eschenburgh continued and completed the translation of Shakspeare commenced by Wieland. It was published between the years 1775 and 1782, and consists of thirteen volumes 8vo. Eschenburg was a man of great learning and considerable laste and genius, and a supplementary volume to his version, which he printed in 1787, contains, for a foreigner, a very extraordinary degree of information concerning Shakspeare and his writings, his editors, commentators, crítics, and translators. It is arranged under ten heads; namely, 1. Of Shakspeare's life ; 2. His learning; 3. His genius ; 4. His defects; 5. State of the English Stage during his time; 6. Order of his plays; 7. English editions of his plays; 8. Criticisms on the author and his editors ; 9. Catalogue of the foreign translations and imitations of Shakspeare; and 10. Of his other poems, with specimens.

portraitures of Shakspeare from the two Schlegels, and to a few extracts from Lessing, Goethe, Madame De Stael Holstein, and, lastly, Villemain, of whose Essay on the Bard, as given in the second edition of his Nouveaur Mélanges Historiques et Littéraires, published but a few months ago, I have ventured to insert an entire translation, containing, as it does, the latest and most interesting exposée of the estimation in which Shakspeare is at present held in the land of Corneille and Voltaire.

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