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make some inquiries concerning the history of his theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private life.' After which this enlightened writer re-affirms and clenches the judgment he has quoted, by saying, — His admirers, however, if he had admirers in that age, possessed no portion of such enthusiasm.'

It may, perhaps, be an instructive lesson to young readers, if we now show them, by a short sifting of these confident dogmatists, how easy it is for a careless or a half-read man to circulate the most absolute falsehoods under the semblance of truth; falsehoods which impose upon himself as much as they do upon others. We believe that not one word or illustration is uttered in the sentences cited from these three critics, which is not virtually in the very teeth of the truth.

To begin with Mr. Nahum Tate. This poor grub of literature, if he did really speak of Lear as an obscure piece, recommended to his notice by a friend,' of which we must be allowed to doubt, was then uttering a conscious falsehood. It happens that Lear was one of the few Shakspearian dramas which had kept the stage unaltered. But it is easy to see a mercenary motive in such an artifice as this. Mr. Nahum Tate is not of a class of whom it can be safe to say that they are well known:' they and their desperate tricks are essentially obscure, and good reason he has to exult in the felicity of such obscurity; for else this same vilest of travesties, Mr. Nahum's Lear, would consecrate his name to everlasting scorn. For himself, he belonged to the age of Dryden rather than of Pope: he flourished,' if we can use such a phrase of one who was always withering, about the era of the Revolution; and his Lear, we believe, was arranged in the year


1682. But the family to which he belongs is abundantly recorded in the Dunciad, and his own name will be found amongst its catalogues of heroes.

With respect to the author of the Tatler, a very different explanation is requisite. Steevens means the reader to understand Addison; but it does not follow that the particular paper in question was from his pen. Nothing, however, could be more natural than to quote from the common form of the play as then in possession of the stage. It was there, beyond a doubt, that a fine gentleman living upon town, and not professing any deep scholastic knowledge of literature, (a light in which we are always to regard the writers of the Spectator, Guardian, &c.,) would be likely have learned anything he quoted from Macbeth. This we say generally of the writers in those periodical papers; but, with reference to Addison in particular, it is time to correct the popular notion of his literary character, or at least to mark it by severer lines of distinction. It is already pretty well known, that Addison had no very intimate acquaintance with the literature of his own country. It is known, also, that he did not think such an acquaintance any ways essential to the character of an elegant scholar and littérateur. Quite enough he found it, and more than enough for the time he had to spare, if he could maintain a tolerable familiarity with the foremost Latin poets, and a very slender one indeed with the Grecian. How slender, we can see in his Travels.' Of modern authors, none as yet had been published with notes, commentaries, or critical collations of the text; and, accordingly, Addison looked upon all of them, except those few who professed themselves followers in the

retinue and equipage of the ancients, as creatures of a lower race. Boileau, as a mere imitator and propagator of Horace, he read, and probably little else amongst the French classics. Hence it arose that he took upon himself to speak sneeringly of Tasso. To this, which was a bold act for his timid mind, he was emboldened by the countenance of Boileau. Of the elder Italian authors, such as Ariosto, and, à fortiori, Dante, he knew absolutely nothing. Passing to our own literature, it is certain that Addison was profoundly ignorant of Chaucer and Spenser. Milton only, and why? simply because he was a brilliant scholar, and stands like a bridge between the Christian literature and the Pagan, - Addison had read and esteemed. There was also in the very constitution of Milton's mind, in the majestic regularity and planetary solemnity of its epic movements, something which he could understand and appreciate. As to the meteoric and incalculable eccentricities of the dramatic mind, as it displayed itself in the heroic age of our drama, amongst the Titans of 1590-1630, they confounded and overwhelmed him.

In particular with regard to Shakspeare, we shall now proclaim a discovery which we made some twenty years ago. We, like others, from seeing frequent references to Shakspeare in the Spectator, had acquiesced in the common belief, that although Addison was no doubt profoundly unlearned in Shakspeare's language, and thoroughly unable to do him justice, (and) this we might well assume, since his great rival, Pope, who had expressly studied Shakspeare, was, after all, O memorably deficient in the appropriate knowledge,) - yet, that of course he had a vague popular knowl


edge of the mighty poet's cardinal dram as. Accident only led us into a discovery of our mistake. Twice or thrice we had observed, that if Shakspeare were quoted, that paper turned out not to be Addison's; and at length, by express examination, we ascertained the curious fact, that Addison has never in one instance quoted or made any reference to Shakspeare. But was this, as Steevens most disingenuously pretends, to be taken as an exponent of the public feeling towards Shakspeare? Was Addison's neglect representative of a general neglect? If so, whence came Rowe's edition, Pope's, Theobald's, Sir Thomas Hanmer's, Bishop Warburton's, all upon the heels of one another? With such facts staring him in the face, how shameless must be that critic who could, in support of such a thesis, refer to the author of the Tatler,' contemporary with all these editors. The truth is, Addison was well aware of Shakspeare's hold on the popular mind; too well aware of it. The feeble constitution of the poetic faculty, as existing in himself, forbade his sympathizing with Shakspeare; the proportions were too colossal for his delicate vision; and yet, as one who sought popularity himself, he durst not shock what perhaps he viewed as a national prejudice. Those who have happened, like ourselves, to see the effect of passionate music and deep-inwoven harmonics' upon the feeling of an idiot,3 may conceive what we mean. Such music does not utterly revolt the idiot; on the contrary, iɩ has a strange but a horrid fascination for him; it alarms, irritates, disturbs, makes him profoundly unhappy; and chiefly by unlocking imperfect glimpses of thoughts and slumbering instincts, which it is for his peace to have entirely obscured, because for him


they can be revealed only partially, and with the sad effect of throwing a baleful gleam upon his blighted condition. Do we mean, then, to compare Addison with an idiot? Not generally, by any means. Nobody can more sincerely admire him where he was a man of real genius, viz., in his delineations of character and manners, or in the exquisite delicacies of his humor. But assuredly Addison, as a poet, was amongst the sons of the feeble; and between the authors of Cato and of King Lear there was a gulf never to be bridged over.4

But Dryden, we are told, pronounced Shakspeare already in his day a little obsolete.' Here now we have wilful, deliberate falsehood. Obsolete, in Dryden's meaning, does not imply that he was so with regard to his popularity, (the question then at issue,) but with regard to his diction and choice of words. To cite Dryden as a witness for any purpose against Shakspeare, Dryden, who of all men had the most ransacked wit and exhausted language in celebrating the supremacy of Shakspeare's genius, does indeed require as much shamelessness in feeling as mendacity in principle.

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But then Lord Shaftesbury, who may be taken as half way between Dryden and Pope, (Dryden died in 1700, Pope was then twelve years old, and Lord S. wrote chiefly, we believe, between 1700 and 1710,) 'complains,' it seems, of his rude unpolished style, and his antiquated phrase and wit.' What if he does? Let the whole truth be told, and then we shall see how much stress is to be laid upon such a judgment. The second Lord Shaftesbury, the author of the Character istics, was the grandson of that famous political agitator,

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