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puerile, or neglected as unimportant. To judge of an individual through the glare of his public actions only, is to estimate character hy a contined and deceptive light. It is like determining the natural colour of the skin through the medium of a prison, and under the influence of a single ray.
Every species of literary composition ought to be devoted to some useful end. The legitimate province of the biographer, is to impart that kind of information which is calculated to inforın the understanding and ameliorate tbe heart. It is his duty to state every illustrative fact connected with the person whose life he portrays; to rouse the ardent mind to emulation, by the display of such qualities as do honour to human nature, and to point out and reprove those failings which detract from the perfection of human character. It is also his province to trace the progress of genius from the cradle to the grave, to observe the gradations of its developement into bloom, and to mark those peculiarities by which it is distinguished; those accidents by which it is attracted or repelled, incited or repressed. Could such a sketch be drawn of Shakspeare with the onerring pencil of truth, directed by some corresponding mind, what an interesting scene would be unfolded for the contemplation of philosophy. the les
When we reflect on these circumstances, and consider the defective state of biographical knowledge in general, we cannot refrain from expressing the deepest regret that so few illustrious men bave thought proper to bequeath to the world memoirs of their own lives. Such legacies, if more frequently bestowed, would be of incalculable benefit to society; and would tend to prevent a vast deal of useless, because for the most part, uncertain and indefinite controversy.
But if the want of faithful biography be a subject of ordinary lament, how greatly is it to be deplored when it regards men endowed with minds of the very highest order. Men who, like the comets of heaven, appear only at distant periods to attract the gaze of admiring nations, and to shed an unusual glory over the intellectual system. Of such beings every characteristic
trait should be recorded with the most scrupulous care; and then, instead of a deficiency of materials from which to draw a full length portrait of their lives, we should be presented with superabundant stores of anecdote and information.
That SHAKSPEARE was one of that class of men who, in relation to their species, deserve to be termed prodigies of intelligence, must be acknowledged by all to whom nature and education have given the capacity of understanding and appreciating his works. Not only does he stand unrivalled as a dramatic author, but in every quality of poetical composition he may challenge the most renowned competitor. In invention he is scarcely equalled by Homer; and though he seldom attains the suavity and graceful majesty of Maro, he far excels that poet in striking imagery and in origipality of conception. Even the genius of Milton, with all the aid wbich the sablimity of his subject afforded, is not more successful in its boldest flights than the wild and creative fancy of « our immortal bard.” And what renders him peculiarly an object of admiration, and an apparent anomaly in the poetical world, is the amazing versatility of his powers. He seems to have been the chief favourile of all the Muses; the adopted son of Apollo hiinself. Whether his aiin be to inove the passions or to assuage their tumult, to excite pity or rouse indignation; whether he deli. neates scenes of terror or incidents of pleasure; in fine,
in fine, whether he wishes to excite grief or joy, to awaken in the breast powerful emotions of anguish or of mirth, he appears to be a perfect master of his inimitable art. Nor does he excel only in commanding and influencing the passions, for in his reflections on men and manners, and on subjects of religion and philosophy, his sentiments are uniformly appropriate, and are delivered with a force of argument not unworthy of the most profound divine, or the most acute and discriminating moralist.
« Different minds
And gentlest beauty. Hence when lightning fires .
Akenside. The dramatic writings of Shakspeare, are numerous, and are distinguished for the great diversity of characters they include and portray. Some of his plays certainly acquired much popularity during his own life, and were also published by his contemporaries : yet he must have been regardless of posthumous fame, for he neither preparod any of them for the press, nor gave directions concerning their appropriation in his last will. Equally careless as to the praise or censure of critics and biographers, he either neglected to preserve, or destroyed all records, documents, and memoranda, relating to his own life and writings. Hence the laudable curiosity of the present age is unrewarded by facts, and is held in continued and aggravated suspense, as to the peculiarities of his personal actions and pursuits. His writings have occasioned several volumes of comment; and many authors have used them as stilts to publicity. Several also have written conjectures and dissertations on his life: but all have hitherto failed in their design to develope many biographical facts. An extraordinary and astonishing degree of mystery envelopes his naine ; and it is not without considerable difficulty and doubt that we have drawn up the following narrative, which has been derived from a careful examination of all preceding memoirs, aided by the intelligent communications of the historian of Stratford.
Of Shakspeare's remote and immediate ancestors, scarcely any facls are recorded. Only one solitary document has been found to notify his reputed parents, and to display the condition of his father. This is a “grant, or confirmation of arms,” dated 1599, by William Dethick and William Camden, officers of the Heralds' College, empowering John Shakspeare lo