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from Mr. Rowe's account of his Life and Write ings: Let us now take a short view of him in his publick capacity, as a Writer: and, from thence, the transition will be easy to the State in which his Writings have been handed down to us.
No age, perhaps, can produce an author more various from himself, than Shakespeare has been universally acknowledged to be. The diversity in stile, and other parts of composition, so 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 assisted by acquir'd improvements. His fire, spirit, and exuberance of imagination gave an impetuosity to his pen : His ideas flowed from him in a stream rapid, but not turbu. lent; copious, but not ever over bearing its shores. The ease and sweetness 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 himself the very character he meant to delineate. He used the helps of his function in forming himself to create and express that Sublime, which other actors can only copy, and throw out, in action and graceful attitude. But nullum fine veniâ placuit ingenium, says Seneca. The genius, that gives us the greatest pleasure, sometimes stands in need of our indulgence. Whenever this happens with regard to Shakespeare, I would willingly impute it to a vice of his times. We see complaisance enough, in our own days, a 2
paid to a bad taste. His clinches, false wit, and descending beneath himself, seem to be a deference paid to reigning barbarism. He was a Sampson in strength, but he suffer'd some such Dalilah to give him up to the Philistines.
As I have mention'd the sweetness of his difposition, I am tempted to make a reflection or two on a sentiment of his, which, I am persuaded, came from the heart.
The man, that hath no music in himself,
Shakespeare was all openness, candour, and complacence; and had such a share of harmony in his frame and temperature, that we have no reason to doubt from a number of fine passages, allufions, fimilies, &c. fetched from mufick, but that he was a paslionate lover of it. And to this, perhaps, we may owe that great number of sonnets, which are sprinkled thro' his plays. I have found, that the stanza's sung by the Grave-digger in Hamlet, are not of Shakespeare's own composition, but owe their original to the old Earl of Surrey's poems. Many other of his occasional little fongs, I doubt nct, but he purposely copied from his contemporary writers; sometimes, out of banter; fometimes, to do them honour, The manner of their introduction, and the uses to which he has afligned them, will easily determine for which of the reasons they are respectively employed. In As you like it, there are several little copies of verses on Rosalind, which are said to be the right Butterwoman's rank to market, and the very false gallop of verses. Dr. Thomas Lodge, a physician who flourished early in Queen Elizabeth's reign, and was a great Writer of the Pastoral Songs and Madrigals, which were so much the strain of those times, composed a whole volume of poems in praise of his mistress, whom he calls Rosalinde. I never yet could meet with this collection; but whenever I do, I am persuaded, I shall find many of our Author's Canzonet's on this subject to be scraps of the Doctor's amorous Muse: as, perhaps, those by Biron too, and the other lovers in Love's Labour's loft, may prove to be.
It has been remarked in the course of my notes, that mufick in our author's time had a very different use from what it has now. At this time, it is only employed to raise and inflame the parfions ; it, then, was applyed to calm and allay all kinds of perturbations. And, agreeable to this observation, throughout all Shakespeare's plays, where mufick is either actually used, or its powers described, it is chiefly said to be for these ends, His Twelfth-Night, particularly, begins with a fine reflection that admirably marksits soothing properties.
That itrain again ;-It had a dying fall.
That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour ! This fimilitude is remarkable not only for the beauty of the image that it presents, but likewise for the exactness to the thing compared. This is a way of teaching peculiar to the Poets; that, when they would describe the nature of any thing, they do it not by a direct enumeration of its attributes or qualities, but by bringing something into comparison, and describing those qualities of it that are of the kind with those in the thing compared. So, here for instance, the Poet willing to instruet in the properties of musick, in which the fame strains have a power to excite pleasure, or pain, according to that state of mind the hearer is then in, does it by presenting the image of a sweet South wind blowing o'er a violet-bank; which wafts away the odour of the violets, and at the same time communicates to it its own sweetness: by this infinuating, that affecting musick, tho' it takes away the natural sweet tranquillity of the mind, yet, at the same time, communicates a pleasure the mind felt not before. This knowledge, of the same objects being capable of raising two contrary affections, is a proof of no ordinary progress in the study of human nature. The general beauties of those two poems of MILTON, intitled, L'Allegro and Il Penforofo, are obvious to all readers, because the descriptions are the most poetical in the world; yet there is a peculiar beauty in those two excellent pieces, that will
much enhance the value of them to the more capable readers; which has never, I think, been observed. The images, in each poem, which he raises to excite mirth and melancholy, are exactly the same, only shewn in different attitudes. Had a writer, less acquainted with nature, given us two poems on these subjects, he would have been sure to have fought out the most contrary images to raise these contrary passions. And, particularly, as Shakespeare, in the passage I am now commenting, speaks of these different effects in musick; fo Milton has brought it into each poem as the exciter of each affection: and left we should mistake him, as meaning that different airs had this different power, (which every fidler is proud to have you understand,) he gives the image of those self-fame strains that Orpheus used to regain Eurydice, as proper both to excite mirch and melancholy. But Milton most industriously copied the conduct of our Shakespeare, in passages that shewed an intimate acquaintance with nature and science.
I have not thought it out of my province, whenever occasion offered, to take notice of some of our Poet's grand touches of nature: Some, that do not appear superficially such; but in which he seems the most deeply instructed; and to which, no doubt, he has so much owed that happy preservation of his Characters, for which he is juftly celebrated. If he was not acquainted with the rule as delivered by Horace, his own