“I remember the Players have often mention’d it as an Honour to Shakespear, that in Writing (whatsoever he penn’d) he never blotted out a Line. My Answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand, which they thought a malevolent Speech. I had not told Posterity this, but for their Ignorance, who chose that Circumstance to commend their Friend by, wherein he most faulted. And to justifie mine own Candor, (for I lov’d the Man, and do honour his Memory, on this side Idolatry, as much as any.) He was, indeed, Honest, and of an open and free Nature, had an Excellent Fancy, brave Notions, and gentle Expressions, wherein he flow’d with that Facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopp’d: Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His Wit was in his own Power, would the Rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things could not escape Laughter; as when he said in the Person of Caesar, one speaking to him,
“Caesar thou dost me Wrong.
“Caesar did never Wrong, but with just Cause.
and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeem’d his Vices with his Virtues: There was ever more in him to be Prais’d than to be Pardon’d.”
As for the Passage which he mentions out of Shakespear, there is somewhat like it Julius Caesar, Vol. V. p. 2260. but without the Absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any Edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Johnson. Besides his Plays in this Edition, there are two or three ascrib’d to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise, Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in Stanza’s, which have been printed in a late Collection of Poems. As to the Character given of him by Ben Johnson, there is a good deal true in it: But I believe it may be as well express’d by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote Tragedy upon the Greek Models, (or indeed translated ’em) in his Epistle to Augustus.
sublimis & Acer
Nam spirat Tragicum satis & faeliciter Audet,
Sed turpem putat in Chartis metuitq; Lituram._
There is a Book of Poems, publish’d in 1640, under the Name of Mr. William Shakespear, but as I have but very lately seen it, without an Opportunity of making any Judgment upon it, I won’t pretend to determine, whether it be his or no.
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[Footnote A: Ld. Falkland, Ld. C.J. Vaughan, and Mr. Selden.]
[Footnote B: Alluding to the Sea-Voyage of Fletcher.]
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