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Pieces, that will much enhance the Value of the
RC'Ted se od
whenever Occasion offer’dy to take notice of Knowledge some of our Poet's grand Touches of Nature: of Nature,
Some, that do not appear superficially fuch; but in which he seems the most deeply instructed, and to which, no doubt, he has so much ow'd that happy Preservation of his
Characters, for which he is juftly celebrated. If he was not acquainted with the Rule as deliver'd by Horace, his own admirable Genius pierc'd into the Neccfsity of fuch a Rule.
Servetur ad imum Qualis ab incæpto processerit, & fibi conftet,
For what can be more ridiculous, than, in our modern Writers, to make a debauch'd young Man,oimmers'd in all the Vices of his Age and Time, in a few hours take up, confine himfelf in the way of Honour to one Woman, and moralize in good earnest on the Follies of this paft Behaviour? Nor can, that great Examplar of Comic Writing, Terence be alcogether excused in this Regard; who, in his Adelphi, has left Demea in the last Scenes fo unlike himself: whom, as Shakespeare expresles it, he has turn'd with the seamy Side of bis Wit outward. This Conduct, as Errors are dmore readily imitated than Perfections, Beaumont and Fletcher seem to have follow'd in a Character in their Scornful Lady. It may be objected, perhaps, by some who do not go to the Bottom of our Poet's Conduct, that he has likcwise transgress'd against the Rule himself, by making Prince Harry at once upon coming to the Crown, throw off his former Diffoluteness, and take up the Practice of a sober Moralicy and all the kingly Virtues. But this would be a mistaken Objection. The Prince's Reformation is not
so fudden, as not to be prepar'd and expected by the Audience. He gives, indeed, a Loose to Vanity, and a light unweigh'd Behaviour, when he is trilling among his dissolute Companions; but the Sparks of innate Honour and true Nobleness break from him upon every proper Occasion, where we would hope to see him awake to Sentiments suiting his Birth and Dignity. And our Poet has so well, and artfully, guarded his Character from the Sufpicions of habitual and unreformable Profiigateness; that even from the first thewing him upon the Stage, in the firft Part of Henry IV, when he made him consent to join with Falstaffe in a Robbery on the Highway, he has taken care not to carry him off the Scene, without an Intimation that he knows them all, and their unyok'd Humour; and that, like the Sun, he will permit them only for a while to obscure and cloud his Brightness; then break thro' the Mist, when he pleases to be himself again; that his Luf-. tre,
when wanted, may be the more wonder'd at.
Another of Shakejpeare's grand Touches of Nature, and which lies ftill deeper from the Ken of common Observation, has been taken notice of in a Note upon The Tempeft; where Prospero at once interrupts the Masque of Spirits, and starts into a sudden Paffion and Disorder of Mind. As the latent Cause of his Emotion is there fully inquir’d into, I shall no farther dwell upon ic here.
this way The P R E FACE. Such a Conduct in a Poet (as Shakespeare has manifested on many like Occasions ;) where the Turn of Action arises from Reflexions of his Characters, where the Reason of ic is not express'd in Words, but drawn from the inmort Resources of Nature, Thews him truly capable of that Art, which is more in Rule 'than Practice: Ars est celare Artem. Tis the Foible of your worser Poets to make a Parade and Oftentation of that little Science they have ; and to throw it out in the most ambitious Colours. And whenever a Writer of this Clasș shall attempt to copy these artful Concealments of our Author, and fall either think them eafy, or practised by, a Writer for his Ease, he will soon be convinced of his Mistake by the Difficulty of reaching the Imication of them., bua lir saule
11: 2013 Sperét idem, fudet multùm, frufträg; taboret, 31 Aufas idem : aloe op sli?
STA - Another grand Touch of Nature in our Aushono (not less difficult to imitate, tho' mora obvious to the Remark of a common Reader) is, when he brings down at once any Chara&ter from the Ferment and Height of Paffion,
makes bim correct himself for the unruly Difpofition, and fall into Reflexions of a faber, and moral Tenour." An exquisice where that old King, hasty and intemperate in his Paffions, coming to his Son and Daugh
ter Cornwall, is told by the Earl of Gloucester that they are not to be spoken with: and thereupon throws himself into a Rage, supposing the Excuse of Sickness and Weariness in them to be a purpos’d Contempt: Gloucester begs him to think of the fiery and unremoveable Quality of the Duke: and This, which was design’d to qualify his Passion, serves to exaggerate the Transports of it.
As the Conduct of Prince Henry in the first Instance, the secret and mental Reflexions in the Case of Prospero, and the instant Detour of Lear from the Violence of Rage to a Temper of Reasoning, do so much Honour to ihat surpizing Knowledge of human Nature, which is certainly our Author's Masterpiece, I thought, they could not be set in too good a Light. Indeed, to point out, and exclaim upon, all the Beauties of Shakespeare, as they come singly in Review, would be as infipid, as endless; as tedious, as unneceffary: But the Explanation of those Beauties, that are lefs obvious to common Readers, and whole Illustration depends on the Rules of just Criticism,
exact Knowledge of human Life, Nould deservedly have a Share in a general Critic upon the Author.
I shall dismiss the Examination into these his latent Beauties, when I have made a short Comment upon a remarkable Paffage from Julius Cæjar, which is inexpiessibly fine in