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architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allowed, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth paffages. Nor does the whole fail to ftrike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.

Note, that one paragraph of this preface is omitted as containing matters particular to Mr. Pope's edition, and which no ways relate to this.



Some ACCOUNT of the LIFE, &c. of


Written by Mr. Row E.

T seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of themselves, as well as their works, to pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we see fome people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features, have been the fubject of critical inquiries. How trifling foever this curiofity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfy'd with an account of any remarkable perfon, till we have heard him defcribed even to the very cloths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may fometimes conduce to the better understanding his book: and though the works of Mr. Shakespear may feem to many not to want a comment, yet, I fancy, fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.

He was the son of Mr. John Shakespear, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a confiderable dealer in wool, had fo large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, 'tis true, for fome time at a free-school, where 'tis probable he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumftances, and the want of his assistance


at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we fcarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his tafte, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not fuperiour to fome of the beft of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed with, his own writings; fo that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a difadvantage to him or no, may admit of a difpute; for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have reftrained fome of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakespear: and, I believe, we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supply'd him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful paffages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the moft agreeable manner that it was poffible for a master of the English language to deliver them.

UPON his leaving fchool, he feems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propofed to him; and in order to fettle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, faid to have been a fubftantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of fettlement he continued for fome time, till an extravagance that he was guilty. of forced him both out of his country and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at firft to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occafion of exerting one of the greatest genius's that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He

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had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, fome that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him with them more than once in robbing a park that belonged to fir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was profecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, fomewhat too feverely; and, in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first effay of his poetry, be loft, yet it is faid to have been fo very bitter, that it redoubled the profecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for fome time, and fhelter himself in London.

IT is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is faid to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very inean rank; but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, soon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst thofe of the other players, before fome old plays, but without any particular account of what fort of parts he used to play; and though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the ghoft in his own Hamlet. I should have been much more pleased, to have learned from fome certain authority, which was the first play he wrote; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to fee and know what was the first effay of a fancy like Shakespear's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their leaft perfect writings; art had fo little, and nature so large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and ftrength of imagination in them, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule

• The higheft date of any I can yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old; and Richard the 2d, and 3d, in the next year, viz, the 34th of his age.


and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly fo great, fo juftly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the firft fight. But though the order of time in which the feveral pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are paffages in fome few of them which feem to fix their dates. So the chorus at the end of the fourth act of Henry V. by a compliment very handfomely turned to the earl of Effex, fhows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the queen in Ireland: and his elogy upon queen Elizabeth, and her fucceffor king James, in the latter end of his Henry VIII. is a proof of that play's being written after the acceffion of the latter of thofe two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diverfions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius arife amongst them of so pleasurable, so rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Befides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a good-natur'd man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a most agreeable companion; fo that it is no wonder if with so many good qualities he made himself acquainted with the best converfations of those times. Queen Elizabeth had several of his plays acted before her, and, without doubt, gave him many gracious marks of her favour: it is that maiden princefs plainly, whom he intends by

- A fair veftal, throned by the west.

Midfummer Night's Dream.

And that whole paffage is a compliment very properly brought in, and very handsomely applied to her. She was fo well pleafed with that admirable character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the fourth, that the commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to show him in love. This is faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor. How well fhe was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable proof. Upon this occafion it may not be improper to obferve, that this part of Falstaff is faid to have

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