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author, but we see nothing that acquaints us with human fentiments or human actions; we place it with the fairest and the noblest progeny which judgment propagates by conjunction with learning; but Othello is the vigorous and vivacious offspring of observation impregnated by genius. Cato affords a fplendid exhibition of artificial and fictitious manners, and delivers just and noble sentiments, in diction eafy, elevated, and harmonious, but its hopes and fears communicate no vibration to the heart; the composition refers us only to the writer; we pronounce the name of Cato, but we think on Adifon.

The work of a correct and regular writer is a garden accurately formed and diligently planted, varied with fhades, and fcented with flowers; the compofition of Shakspeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their branches, and pines tower in the air, interfperfed fometimes with weeds and brambles, and sometimes giving fhelter to myrtles and to rofes; filling the eye with awful pomp, and gratifying the mind with endless diverfity. Other poets difplay cabinets of precious rarities, minutely finished, wrought into shape, and polished into brightnefs. Shakfpeare opens a mine which contains gold and diamonds in unexhaustible plenty, though clouded by incrustations, debased by impurities, and mingled with a mass of meaner minerals.

It has been much difputed, whether Shakspeare owed his excellence to his own native force, or whether he had the common helps of fcholaftick education, the precepts of critical fcience, and the examples of ancient authors.

There has always prevailed a tradition, that Shakfpeare wanted learning, that he had no regular education, nor much skill in the dead languages. Jonson, his friend, affirms, that he had fmall Latin and lefs Greek; who, befides that he had no imaginable temptation to falsehood,


wrote at a time when the character and acquifitions of Shakspeare were known to multitudes. His evidence ought therefore to decide the controversy, unless some teftimony of equal force could be opposed.

Some have imagined, that they have discovered deep learning in imitations of old writers; but the examples which I have known urged, were drawn from books tranflated in his time; or were fuch easy coincidencies of thought, as will happen to all who confider the fame fubjects; or such remarks on life or axioms of morality as float in conversation, and are tranfinitted through the world in proverbial fentences.

I have found it remarked, that, in this important fentence, Go before, I'll follow, we read a translation of, I prae, fequar. I have been told, that when Caliban, after a pleasing dream, fays, I cry'd to fleep again, the author imitates Anacreon, who had, like every other man, the fame with on the fame occafion.

There are a few paffages which may pass for imitations, but fo few, that the exception only confirms the rule; he obtained them from accidental quotations, or by oral communication, and as he used what he had, would have ufed more if he had obtained it.

The Comedy of Errors is confeffedly taken from the Menæchmi of Plautus; from the only play of Plautus which was then in English. What can be more probable, than that he who copied that, would have copied more; but that those which were not translated were inacceffible?

Whether he knew the modern languages is uncertain. That his plays have some French scenes proves but little; he might easily procure them to be written, and probably, even though he had known the language in the com mon degree, he could not have written it without assist

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ance. In the ftory of Romeo and Juliet he is obferved to have followed the English translation, where it deviates from the Italian; but this on the other part proves nothing against his knowledge of the original. He was to copy, not what he knew himself, but what was known to his audience.

It is most likely that he had learned Latin fufficiently to make him acquainted with construction, but that he never advanced to an eafy perufal of the Roman authors. Concerning his skill in modern languages, I can find no fufficient ground of determination; but as no imitations of French or Italian authors have been discovered, though the Italian poetry was then high in efteem, I am inclined to believe, that he read little more than English, and chofe for his fables only fuch tales as he found translated.

That much knowledge is fcattered over his works is very justly obferved by Pope, but it is often fuch knowledge as books did not fupply. He that will understand Shakspeare, muft not be content to ftudy him in the clofet, he must look for his meaning fometimes among the fports of the field, and fometimes among the manufactures of the fhop.

There is however proof enough that he was a very diligent reader, nor was our language then fo indigent of books, but that he might very liberally indulge his curiofity without excurfion into foreign literature. Many of the Roman authors were tranflated, and fome of the Greek; the Reformation had filled the kingdom with theological learning; most of the topicks of human difquifition had found English writers; and poetry had been cultivated, not only with diligence, but fuccefs. This was a flock of knowledge fufficient for a mind fo capabie of appropriating and improving it.

But the greater part of his excellence was the produ&


of his own genius. He found the English stage in a state of the utmoft rudeness; no effays either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which it could be discovered to what degree of delight either one or other might be carried. Neither character nor dialogue were yet underftood. Shakspeare may be truly faid to have introduced them both amongst us, and in fome of his happier scenes to have carried them both to the utmoft height.

By what gradations of improvement he proceeded, is not eafily known; for the chronology of his works is yet unfettled. Rowe is of opinion, that perhaps we are not to look for his beginning, like those of other writers, in his leaft perfect works; art had fo little, and nature fo large a share in what he did, that for aught I know, fays he, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, were the best. But the power of nature is only the power of using to any certain purpose the materials which diligence procures, or opportunity supplies. Nature gives no man knowledge, and when images are collected by study and experience, can only affift in combining or applying them. Shakspeare, however favoured by nature, could impart only what he had learned; and as he muft increase his ideas, like other mortals, by gradual acquifition, he, like them, grew wifer as he grew older, could display life better, as he knew it more, and inftruct with more efficacy, as he was himself more amply inftructed.

There is a vigilance of observation and accuracy of diftinction which books and precepts cannot confer; from this almost all original and native excellence proceeds. Shakspeare must have looked upon mankind with perfpicacity, in the highest degree curious and attentive. Other writers borrow their characters from preceding writers, and diverfify them only by the accidental appendages

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pendages of present manners; the drefs is a little varied, but the body is the fame. Our author had both matter and form to provide, for, except the characters of Chaucer, to whom I think he is not much indebted, there were no writers in English, and perhaps not many in other modern languages, which fhewed life in its native colours.

The conteft about the original benevolence or malignity of man had not yet commenced. Speculation had not yet attempted to analyfe the mind, to trace the paffions to their fources, to unfold the feminal principles of vice and virtue, or found the depths of the heart for the motives of action. All thofe inquiries, which from that time that human nature became the fashionable study, have been made fometimes with nice discernment, but often with idle fubtilty, were yet unattempted. The tales, with which the infancy of learning was fatisfied, exhibited only the fuperficial appearances of action, related the events, but omitted the causes, and were formed for fuch as delighted in wonders rather than in truth. Mankind was not then to be studied in the closet; he that would know the world, was under the neceffity of gleaning his own remarks, by mingling as he could in its bufinefs and amufements.

Boyle congratulated himself upon his high birth, because it favoured his curiofity, by facilitating his access. Shakspeare had no fuch advantage; he came to London a needy adventurer, and lived for a time by very mean employments. Many works of genius and learning have been performed in states of life that appear very little favourable to thought or to inquiry; so many, that he who confiders them is inclined to think that he fees enterprize and perfeverance predominating over all external agency, and bidding help and hindrance vanish before them. The

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