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vailed on the present respectable clergyman of Stratford, to have it re-painted all over with white lead, &c. By this absurd and tasteless operation, the character and expression of the features are much injured: but it is proposed to divest the head of this exterior coat, and preserve it with care and caution in proportion to its value. Mr. Malone characterises the bust, for its “pertness of countenance; and therefore tolally differing from that placid composure and thoughtful gravity, so perceptible in his original portrait, and his best prints. Our poets monument, having been erected by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, the statuary probably had the assistance of some picture, and failed froin want of skill to copy it." Thus prepossession and prejudice will always pervert facts, and resort lo sophistry. In spite of all that has been advanced by Mr. Malone, by Jonson, and by other writers, in behalf of different pictures and prints professing to be the head of Sbakspeare, they are all unsatisfactory, and mostly futile: for a bad artist can never produce a good likeness, nor can we place any reliance on the execution of an unskilful engraver, or a worn-out picture. Whatever comes in “a questionable shape,” should be severely and fastidiously investigated; if pot authenticated by proof, or supported by powerful probability, should be bauished from the page of history, and from the receptacles of belief.
From what has already been staled, it is evident that the writings of Shakspeare bave progressively acquired considerable publicity; and that they now rank as chief, or in the first list, of British classics. This high celebrity is to be attributed to various secondary causes, as well as to their own intrinsic merits. To players, critics, biographers, and artists, a large portion of this fame is to be ascribed; for had the plays been represented by Garrick, Kemble, &c. as originally published by Condell and Hemynge, or reprinted verbatim from that text, the spectators to the one, and readers of the other, would have been comparatively limited. It is talent only that can properly represent and appreciate talent. The birth and productions of one man of brilliant genius will stimulate the emulation, and call into
action the full powers of a correllative mind. Hence the British theatrical hemisphere has been repeatedly illamined by the corruscations of a Garrick, Henderson, Pritchard, Kemble, Siddons, Cooke, Young, and Kean : and these performers have derived no small portion of their justly acquired fame, from the exquisite and powerful writings of the bard of Avon. Whilst the one may be considered as the creator of thought and inventor of character, the others have personified and given "local habitation” and existence to the poetical vision. The painter has also been usefully and honourably employed in delineating incidents, and portraying characters from the poet: whilst the engraver has translated these designs into a new language, and given them extensive circulation and permanent record. It may thus be said that the works of Sbakspeare have conferred a literary and dramatic immortality on Great Britain, which nothing less than annihilation can destroy.
It may be both useful and amusing to close this essay with an account of the principal editions of Shakspeare's plays and poems, and also with an enumeration of the most considerable volumes and pamphlets that have been expressly devoted to comment ou, elucidate, or perplex the original writings.
The first collection of Shakspeare's plays was published in 1623, with the following title: "Mr. Williain Shakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the lrue original copies. London: printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623," folio." This volume was edited by John Hemynge and Henry Condell, and was dedicated to "the most incomparable pair of brethren” William, Earl of Pembroke, and Philip, Earl of Montgomery. In the title page is a portrait, said to be a likeness of the author, with the engraver's name, “ Martin Droeshout, Sculspit, London;" and on the opposite page are these lines by Ben Jonson, addressed "To the Reader.”
« This figure that thou here sees't put,
0, could be but have drawne his wit
B. I. The above volume was carefully reprinted in close imitation of the original, a few years back, by J. Wright, for Vernon and Hood, London.
A second edition of Shakspeare's plays was published in folio, in 1632; a third in 1664, and a fourth in 1685. These several impressions are usually denominated “ ancient editions, because published within the first century after the death of the poet, and before any comments or elucidations were employed to expound the original text.
Of those editions which are distinguished by the title modern, the earliest was published by Nicholas Rowe in 1709, in 6 vols. Sro.' This was followed by an edition in 12mo. by the same author in 1714; and to both were prefixed a biographical m
I memoir of the illustrious bard. In 1725 Pope, who first introduced critical and emendatory notes, published his edition in 6 vols. 4to. with a preface, which Johnson characterizes as valuable alike for composition and justness of remark. A second edition by the same editor was published in 10 vols. 12mo. with additional notes and corrections, in 1728. The successor of Pope was Theobald, who produced a very elaborate edition in 7 vols. 8vo. in 1733; and a second, with corrections and additions, in 8 rols. 12mo. in 1740. Sir Thomas Hanmer next torned his attention to the illustration of Shakspeare, and in 1744 gave the world an edition of his plays in 6 vols. 4to. Warburton published his edition in 8 vols. 8vo. in 1747; from which time vo critic attempted the task, till the year 1765; when Dr. Johnson's first edition made its appearance, in 8 vols. 8vo. It was preceded by an able and ingenious preface, in which the character of Shakspeare's writings, and the merits of his commentators, are discussed with that perspicuity and critical judgment for which this renowned author was so much distinguished. In 1766, Steevens's edition was published in 4 vols. 8vo.