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THE THIRD EDITION, 1789.
IT may be necessary to apologize for the republication of this pamphlet. The fact is, it has been for a good while extremely scarce, and some mercenary publishers were induced by the extravagant price which it has occasionally borne, to project a new edition without the consent of the author.
A few corrections might probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have necessarily occurred in more than twenty years : some of which may be found in the late admirable editions of our Poet, by Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed.
But, perhaps enough is already said on so light a subject :-A subject, however, which had for a long time pretty warmly divided the criticks upon Shakspeare.
TO MR. COLMAN'S TRANSLATION OF TERENCE.
THE reverend and ingenious Mr. Farmer, in his curious and entertaining “ Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare,” having done me the honour to animadvert on some passages in the preface to this translation, I cannot dismiss this edition without declaring how far I coincide with that gentleman; although what I then threw out carelessly on the subject of this pamphlet was merely incidental, nor did I mean to enter the lists as a champion to defend either side of the question.
It is most true, as Mr. Farmer takes for granted, that I had never met with the old comedy called The Supposes, nor has it ever yet fallen into my hands; yet I am willing to grant, on Mr. Farmer's authority, that Shakspeare borrowed part of the plot of The Taming of the Shrew, from that old translation of Ariosto's play by George Gascoign, and had no obligations to Plautus. I will accede also to the truth of Dr. Johnson's and Mr. Farmer's observation, that the line from Terence, exactly as it stands in Shakspeare, is extant in Lilly, and Udall's “ Floures for Latin Speaking.” Still, however, Shakspeare's total ignorance of the learned languages remains to be proved; for it must be granted, that such books are put into the hands of those who are learning those languages, in which class we must necessarily rank Shakspeare, or be could not even have quoted Terence from Udall or Lilly; nor is it likely, that so rapid a genius should not have made some further progress. author,” says Dr. Johnson, as quoted by Mr. Farmer, , “ had this líne from Lilly; which I mention, that it may not be brought as an argument of his learning.” It is, however, an argument that he read Lilly; and a few pages
further it seems pretty certain, that the author of The Taming of the Shrew had at least read Ovid; from whose Epistle we find these lines :
Hàcibat Simois ; hic est Sigeïa tellus ;
Hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis. And what does Dr. Johnson say on this occasion ? Nothing. And what does Mr. Farmer say on this occasion ? Nothing*.
In Love's Labour's Lost, which, bad as it is, is ascribed by Dr. Johnson himself to Shakspeare, there occurs the word thrasonical; another argument which seems to show that he was not unacquainted with the comedies of Terence; not to mention, that the character of the schoolmaster in the same play could not possibly be written by a man who had travelled no further in Latin than hic, hæc, hoc. In Henry the Sixth we meet with a quotation from Virgil :
Tantæne animis cælestibus iræ ? But this, it seems, proves nothing, any more than the lines from Terence and Ovid, in The Taming of the Shrew; for Mr. Farmer looks on Shakspeare's property in the comedy to be extremely disputable; and he has no doubt but Henry the Sixth had the same author with Edward the Third, which had been recovered to the world in Mr. Capell’s Prolusions.
If any 'play in the collection bears internal evidence of Shakspeare's hand, we may fairly give him Timon of Athens. In this play we have a familiar quotation from Horace:
“ Ira furor brevis est." I will not maintain but this hemistich may be found in Lilly or Udall; or that it is not in the “ Palace of Pleasnre,” or the “ English Plutarch ;” or that it was not originally foisted in by the players; it stands, however, in the play of Timon of Athens.
* “ Colman, in a note on his Translation of Terence, talking of Shakspeare's Learning, asks, "What says Farmer to this?
, , • What says Johnson?' Upon this he observed, “Sir, let Farmer answer for himself: I never engaged in this controversy. I always said Shakspeare had Latin enough to grammaticise his English.” Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, vol. iii. 264.
The world in general, and those who purpose to comment on Shakspeare in particular, will owe much to Mr. Farmer, whose researches into our old authors throw a lustre on many passages, the obscurity of which must else have been impenetrable. No future Upton or Gildon will go further than North's translation for Shakspeare's acquaintance with Plutarch, or balance between Dares Phrygius, and “ The Troye Booke of Lydgate." Hystorie of Hamblet,” in black letter, will for ever supersede Saxo Grammaticus; translated novels and ballads will, perhaps, be allowed the sources of Romeo, Lear, and The Merchant of Venice; and Shakspeare himself, however unlike Bayes in other particulars, will stand convicted of having transversed the prose of Holinshed; and, at the same time, to prove “ that his studies lay in
own language," the translations of Ovid are determined to be the production of Heywood.
“ That his studies were most demonstratively confined to nature, and his own language," I readily allow: but does it hence follow that he was so deplorably ignorant of every other tongue, living or dead, that he only “remembered, perhaps, enough of his school-boy learning to put the hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir H. Evans; and might pick up in the writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian.” In Shakspeare's plays both these last languages are plentifully scattered; but, then we are told, they might be impertinent additions of the players. Undoubtedly they might: but there they are, and, perhaps, few of the players had much more learning than Shakspeare.
Mr. Farmer himself will allow that Shakspeare began to learn Latin : I will allow that his studies lay in English: but why insist that he neither made any progress at school; nor improved his acquisitions there? The general encomiums of Suckling, Denham, Milton, &c. on his native genius*, prove nothing; and Ben Jonson's
• Mr. Farmer closes the general testimonies of Shakspeare's having been only indebted to nature, by saying, “ He came out of her hand, as some one else expresses it, like Pallas out of Jove's head, at full growth and 'mature." It is whimsical enough, that this some one else, whose expression is here quoted to countenance the general notion of Shakspeare's want of VOL, I.
celebrated charge of Shakspeare's small Latin and less Greekt, seems absolutely to decide that he had some knowledge of both ; and if we may judge by our own time, a man, who has any Greek, is seldom without a very competent share of Latin ; and yet such a man is very likely to study Plutarch in English, and to read translations of Ovid.
See Dr. Farmer's reply to these remarks by Mr. Colman, in a note on Love's Labour's Lost, Act IV. Sc. II. literature, should be no other than myself. Mr. Farmer does not choose to mention where he met with the expression of some one else; and some one else does not choose to mention where he dropt it 1.
+ In defence of the various reading of this passage, given in the Preface to the last edition of Shakspeare, “small Latin and no Greek,” Mr. Farmer tells us, that "it was adopted above a century
ago by W. Towers, in a panegyrick on Cartwright.” Surely Towers having said that Cartwright had no Greek, is no proof that Ben Jonson said so of Shakspeare.
| It will appear still more whimsical that this some one else whose expression is here quoted, may have his claim to it superseded by that of the late Dr. Young, who in his “ Conjectures on Original Composition,” (p. 100, vol. v. edit. 1773,) has the following sentence: “ An adult genius comes out of nature's hands, as Pallas out of Jove's head, at full growth and mature. Shakspeare's genius was of this kind.” Where some one else the first may have intermediately dropped the contested expression I cannot ascertain ; but some one else the second transcribed it from the author already mentioned. Anon.