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and fatisfied that the hour is arrived when "welltimed retreat" is the measure which prudence dictates, and reafon will approve, he here bids adieu to SHAKSPEARE, and his Commentators; acknowledging the candour with which very imperfect efforts have been received, and wifhing for his fucceffors the fame gratification he has experienced in his humble endeavours to illuftrate the greatest poet the world ever knew.
WHEN I faid I would die a bachelor, (cries
Benedick,) I did not think I should live till I were married." The prefent Editor of ShakSpeare may urge a kindred apology in defence of an opinion hazarded in his Prefatory Advertisement ; for when he declared his disbelief in the exiftence of a genuine likeness of our great Dramatick Writer, he most certainly did not fuppofe any Portrait of that defcription could have occurred, and much lefs that he himfelf fhould have been inftrumental in producing it. He is happy, however, to find he was mistaken in both his fuppofitions; and confequently has done his utmoft to promote the appearance of an accurate and finifhed Engraving, from a Picture which had been unfaithfully as well as poorly imitated by Droefhout and Marshall."
* See Mr. Richardfon's Propofals, p. 4.
Martin Droefhout. One of the indifferent engravers of the last century. He refided in England, and was employed by the bookfellers. His portraits, which are the best part of his works, have nothing but their scarcity to recommend them. He engraved the head of Shakspeare, John Fox, the martyrologift, John Howfon, Bishop of Durham," &c.
Strutt's Dictionary of Engravers, Vol. I. p. 264.
"William Marshall. He was one of those laborious artists whofe engravings were chiefly confined to the ornamenting of books. And indeed his patience and affiduity is all we can admire when we turn over his prints, which are prodigiously numerous. He worked with the graver only, but in a dry taftelefs ftyle; and from the fimilarity which appears in the defign of all his portraits, it is fuppofed that he worked from his own drawings
Of the character repeatedly and deliberately beftowed by the fame Editor on the first of these old engravers, not a fingle word will be retracted; for, if the judgment of experienced artists be of any value, the plate by Droefhout now under confideration has (in one inftance at least) established his claim to the title of "a most abominable imitator of humanity."
Mr. Fufeli has pronounced, that the Portrait defcribed in the Propofals of Mr. Richardfon, was the work of a Flemish hand. It may alfo be obferved, that the verfes in praife of Droefhout's performance, were probably written as foon as they were befpoke, and before their author had found opportunity or inclination to compare the plate with its original. He might previously have known that the picture conveyed a juft refemblance of Shakfpeare; took it for granted that the would be copy M exact; and, therefore, rafhly affigned to the engraver a panegyrick which the painter had more immediately deferved. It is lucky indeed for thofe to whom metrical recommendations are neceffary, that cuftom does not require they should be delivered upon oath.
It is likewife probable that Ben Jonson had no intimate acquaintance with the graphick art, and might not have been over-folicitous about the style in which Shakspeare's lineaments were tranfmitted to posterity.
after the life, though he did not add the words ad vivum, as was common upon fuch occafions. But if we grant this to be the cafe, the artist will acquire very little additional honour upon that account; for there is full as great a want of taste manifeft in the defign, as in the execution of his works on copper." &c. Ibid. Vol. II. p. 125.
N. B. The character of Shakspeare as a poet; the condition of the ancient copies of his plays; the merits of his respective editors, &c. &c. have been fo minutely inveftigated on former occafions, that any fresh advertisement of fimilar tendency might be confidered as a tax on the reader's patience. It may be proper indeed to observe, that the errors we have discovered in our laft edition are here. corrected; and that fome explanations, c. which feemed to be wanting, have likewife been fupplied.
To thefe improvements it is now become our duty to add the genuine Portrait of our author. For a particular account of the discovery of it, we must again refer to the Propofals of Mr. Richardson,3 at whofe expence two engravings from it have been already made.
We are happy to fubjoin, that Meffieurs Boydell, who have refolved to decorate their magnificent edition of Shakspeare with a copy from the fame original picture lately purchafed by them from Mr. Felton, have not only favoured us with the ufe of it, but moft obligingly took care, by their own immediate fuperintendance, that as much juftice fhould be done to our engraving, as to their own.
3 See p. 4.