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for what books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occafion was, approbation by telling his auditors, By G-'tis good, and if you like't, you may; and by pouring out against those who preferred our poet to him, a torrent of illiberal abufe; which, as Mr. Walpole juftly obferves, fome of his contemporaries were willing to think wit, because they were afraid of it: for, notwithstanding all his arrogant boafts, notwithstanding all the clamor of his partizans both in his own life-time and for fixty years after his death, the truth is, that his pieces, when first performed, were fo far from being applauded by the people, that they were fcarcely endured; and many of them were actually damned.

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the fine plafh and velvets of the age


"Did oft for fixpence damn thee from the ftage," fays one of his eulogifts in Jonfonius Virbius, 4to. 1638. Jonfon himself owns that Sejanus was damned. It is a poem," fays he, in his dedication to lord Aubigny, that, if I well remember, in your lordship's fight fuffered no lefs violence from our people here, than the fubject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome. His friend E. B. (probably Edmund Bolton,) Ipeaking of the fame performance, fays,

"But when I view'd the people's beaftly rage,

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Bent to confound thy grave and learned toil, "That coft thee fo much sweat and fo much oil, My indignation I could hardly affuage.

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Again, in his dedication of Catiline to the earl of Pembroke, the author fays, Pofterity may pay your benefit the honor and thanks, when it fhall know that you dare in thefe jig-given times to countenance a legitimate poem. I must call it fo, against all noife of opinion, from whofe crude and ayrie reports I appeal to that great and fingular facultie of judgment in your lordship. "

See alfo the Epilogue to Every man in his humor, by lord Buckhurft, quoted below in the Account of our old English Theatres, ad finem. To his teftimony and that of Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, (there alfo mentioned,) may be added that of Leonard Digges in his Verfes on Shakspeare, and of Sir Robert Howard, who fays in the preface to his plays, folio, 1665, (not thirty years after Ben's death,) . When I confider how fevere the former age has been to fome of the best of Mr. Jonfon's neverto-be-equall'd comedies, I cannot but wonder, why any poet fhould fpeak of former times. The truth is, that however extravagant the elogiums were that a few scholars gave

him in

I think, very juft and proper. In a converfation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonfon, Sir John Suckling, who was a profeffed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonfon with fome warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time, told them, That if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewife not stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to fhew fomething upon the fame fubject at least as well written by Shakspeare.*


their clofets, he was not only not admired in his own time by the generality, but not even understood. His friend Beaumont affures him in a copy of verfes, that his fenfe is so deep that he will not be understood for three ages to come.", MALONE.

9 Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time, told them,) In Mr. Rowe's first edition this paffage runs thus:

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Mr. Hales, who had fat still for fome time, hearing Ben frequently reproach him with the want of learning and ignorance of the antients, told him at last, That if Mr. Shakspeare,,, &c. By the alteration, the fabfequent part of the fentence . Ꭵf he would produce, &c. is rendered ungrammatical. MALONE. 2 he would undertake to fhew fomething upon the fame fubject at least as well written by Shakspeare.) I had long endeavoured in vain to find out on what authority this relation was founded; and have very lately discovered that Mr. Rowe probably derived his information from Dryden: for in Gildon's Letters and Effays, published in 1694, fifteen years before this Life appeared, the fame story is told; and Dryden, to whom an Effay in vindication of Shakspeare is addreffed, is appealed to by the writer as his authority. As Gildon tells the ftory with fome flight variations from the account given by Mr. Rowe, and the book in which it is found is now extremely searce, I shall fubjoin the paffage in his own words:

But to give the world fome fatisfaction that Shakspeare has had as great veneration paid his excellence by men of unqueftioned parts, as this I now exprefs for him, I fhall give fome account of what I have heard from your mouth, fir, about the noble triumph he gained over all the ancients, by the judgement of the ableft criticks of that time.

The latter part of his life was fpent, as all men

The matter of fact, if my memory fail mé not, was this. Mr. Hales of Eton affirmed, that he would fhew all the poets of antiquity out-done by Shakspeare, in all the topicks and common-places made ufe of in poetry. The enemies of Shakspeare would by no means yield him fo much excellence; fo that it came to a refolution of a trial of fkill upon that fubject. The place agreed on for the difpute was Mr. Hales's chamber at Eton. A great many books were fent down by the enemies s of this poet; and on the appointed day my lord Falkland, Sir John Suckling, and all the perfons of quality that had wit and learning, and interefted themfelves in the quarrel, met there; and upon a thorough difquifition of the point, the judges chofen by agreement out of this learned and ingenious affembly, unanimously gave the preference to Shakspeare, and the Greek and Roman poets were adjudged to vail at least their glory in that, to the English Hero. "

This elogium on our author is likewife recorded at an earlier period by Tate, probably from the fame authority, in the preface to the Loyal General, quarto, 1680: Our learned Hales was wont to affert, that, fince the time of Orpheus, and the oldeft poets, no common-place has been touched upon, where our author has not performed as well.,,

Dryden himselfalfo certainly alludes to this ftory, which he appears to have related both to Gildon and Rowe, in the following paffage of his Effay of Dramatick Poefy, 1667; and he as well as Gildon goes fomewhat further than Rowe in his panegyrick. After giving that fine character of our poet which Dr. Johnfon has quoted in his preface, he adds, The confderation of this made Mr. Hales of Eton fay, that there was no fubject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it MUCH BETTER done by Shakspeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonfon, never equalled them to him in their efteem: And in the last king's court (that of Charles I.) when Ben's reputation was at higheft, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers fet our Shakspeare far above him.",

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Let ever-memorable Hales, if all his other merits be forgotten, be ever mentioned with honor, for his good taste and admiration of our poet. He was," fays Lord Clarendon, the leaft men in the kingdom; and one of the greatest scholars in Europe. See a long character of him in Clarendon's Life, Vol. I. p. 52, MALONE.

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From a Drawing in the Margin of an Ancient SURVEY, made by Order of SIR GEORGE CAREW, (afterwards BARON CAREW of Clopton, and EARL of TOTNESS) and found at Clopton near Stratford upon Avon, in 1786.

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