« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
By a memorandum in the hand-writing of Mr. Steevens it appeared to be his intention to adopt and introduce into the prolegomena of the present edition some parts of two late works of Mr. George Chalmers. An application was therefore made to that gentleman for his consent, which was immediately granted; and to render the favour more acceptable, permission was given to divest the extracts of the offensive asperities of controversy.
The portrait of Shakspeare prefixed to the present edition, is a copy of the picture formerly belonging to Mr. Felton, now to Alderman Boydell, and at present at the Shakspeare Gallery, in Pall Mall. After what has been written on the subject it will be only necessary to add, that Mr. Steevens persevered in his opinion that this, of all the portraits, had the fairest chance of being a genuine likeness of the author. Of the canvas Chandois picture he remained convinced that it possessed no claims to authenticity.
Some apology is due to those gentlemen who, during the course of the publication, have obligingly offered the present Editor their assistance, which he should thankfully have received, had he considered himself at liberty to accept their favours. He was fearful of loading the page, which Mr. Steevens in some instances thought too much crouded already, and therefore confined himself to the copy left to his care by his deceased friend.
Of the character repeatedly and deliberately bestowed by the same Editor on the first of these old engravers, not a single word will be retracted; for, if the judgment of experienced artists be of any value, the plate by Droeshout now under consideration has (in one instance at least) established his claim to the title of "a most abominable imitator of humanity."
Mr. Fuseli has pronounced, that the Portrait described in the Proposals of Mr. Richardson, was the work of a Flemish hand. It may also be observed, that the verses in praise of Droeshout's performance, were probably written as soon as they were bespoke, 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 just resemblance of Shakspeare; took it for granted that the copy would be exact; and, therefore, rashly assigned to the engraver a panegyrick which the painter had more immediately deserved. It is lucky indeed for those to whom metrical recommendations are necessary, that custom does not require they should be delivered upon oath.
It is likewise probable that Ben Jonson had no intimate acquaintance with the graphick art, and might not have been over-solicitous about the style in which Shakspeare's lineaments were transmitted to posterity.
after the life, though he did not add the words ad vivum, as was common upon such occasions. But if we grant this to be the case, the artist will acquire very little additional honour upon that account; for there is full as great a want of taste manifest in the design, 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 so minutely investigated on former occasions, that any fresh advertisement of similar tendency might be considered as a tax on the reader's patience.
It may be proper indeed to observe, that the errors we have discovered in our last edition are here corrected; and that some explanations, &c. which seemed to be wanting, have likewise been supplied.
To these 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 Proposals of Mr. Richardson, at whose expence two engravings from it have been already made.
We are happy to subjoin, that Messieurs Boydell, who have resolved to decorate their magnificent edition of Shakspeare with a copy from the same original picture lately purchased by them from Mr. Felton, have not only favoured us with the use of it, but most obligingly took care, by their own immediate superintendance, that as much justice should be done to our engraving, as to their own.
3 See p. 4.
MR. RICHARDSON'S PROPOSALS, &c.
BEFORE the patronage of the publick is solicited in favour of a new engraving from the only genuine portrait of Shakspeare, it is proper that every circumstance relative to the discovery of it should be faithfully and circumstantially related.
On Friday, August 9, Mr. Richardson, printseller, of Castle Street, Leicester Square, assured Mr. Steevens that, in the course of business having recently waited on Mr. Felton, of Curzon Street, May Fair, this gentleman showed him an ancient head resembling the portrait of Shakspeare as engraved by Martin Droeshout in 1623.
Having frequently been misled by similar reports founded on inaccuracy of observation or uncertainty of recollection, Mr. Steevens was desir ous to see the Portrait itself, that the authenticity. of it might be ascertained by a deliberate comparison with Droeshout's performance. Mr. Felton, in the most obliging and liberal manner, permitted Mr. Richardson to bring the head, frame and all, away with him; and several unquestionable judges have concurred in pronouncing that the plate of Droeshout conveys not only a general likeness of its original, but an exact and particular one as far
as this artist had ability to execute his undertaking. Droeshout could follow the outlines of a face with tolerable accuracy, but usually left them as hard as if hewn out of a rock. Thus, in the present instance, he has servilely transferred the features of Shakspeare from the painting to the copper, omitting every trait of the mild and benevolent character which his portrait so decidedly affords.-There are, indeed, just such marks of a placid and amiable disposition in this resemblance of our poet, as his admirers would have wished to find.
This Portrait is not painted on canvas, like the Chandos Head," but on wood. Little more of it
Of some volunteer infidelities, however, Droeshout may be convicted. It is evident from the picture that Shakspeare was partly bald, and consequently that his forehead appeared unusually high. To remedy, therefore, what seemed a defect to the engraver, he has amplified the brow on the right side. For the sake of a more picturesque effect, he has also incurvated the line in the fore part of the ruff, though in the original it is mathematically straight. See note 9, p. 6.
It may be observed, however, to those who examine trifles with rigour, that our early-engraved portraits were produced in the age when few had skill or opportunity to ascertain their faithfulness or infidelity. The confident artist therefore assumed the liberty of altering where he thought he could improve. The rapid workman was in too much haste to give his outline with correctness; and the mere drudge in his profession contented himself by placing a caput mortuum of his original before the publick. In short, the inducements to be licentious or inaccurate, were numerous; and the rewards of exactness were seldom attainable, most of our ancient heads of authors being done, at stated prices, for booksellers, who were careless about the verisimilitude of engravings which fashion not unfrequently obliged them to insert in the title-pages of works that deserved no such expensive decorations.
A living artist, who was apprentice to Roubiliac, declares that when that elegant statuary undertook to execute the figure of Shakspeare for Mr. Garrick, the Chandos picture was borrowed; but that it was, even then, regarded as a performance