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force and direction to its actions and geftures : when one of these critics has attempted to finish a work by his own rules, he has rarely been able to convey into it one spark of divine fire; and the hero of his piece, whom he designed for a man, remains a cold inanimate statue ; which, moving on the wood and wire of the great masters in the mechanical part of the drama, presents to the spectators a kind of heroic puppetThew. As these pieces take their rise in the school of criticism, they return thither again, and are as good subjects for the students in that art, as a dead body to the professors in phyfic. Most minutely too have they been anatomifed in learned academies : but works animated by genius will not abide this kind of dissection.
Mr. Pope says, that, to form a judgment of Shakespear's works, we are not to apply to the rules of Aristotle, which would be like trying a man by the laws of one country, who lived under those of another. Heaven-born genius acts from something
superior to rules, and antecedent to rules ; and has a right of appeal to nature herself.
Great indulgence is due to the errors of original writers, who, quitting the beaten track which others have travelled, make daring incursions into unexplored regions of invention, and boldly strike into the pathless sublime : it is no wonder if they are often bewildered, sometimes benighted ; yet surely it is more eligible to partake the pleasure and the toil of their adventures, than still to follow the cautious steps of timid imitators through trite and common roads. Genius is of a bold enterprizing naturé, ill adapted to the formal restraints of critic institutions, or indeed to lay down to itself rules of nice discretion. If .perfect and faultless composition is ever to be expected from human faculties, it must be at some happy period when a 'noble and graceful fimplicity, the result of well regulated and sober magnanimity, reigns through the general manners.
Then the muses and the arts, neither effeminately delicate nor audaciously
bold, aflume their highest character, and in all their compofitions seem to respect the chastity of the public taste, which would equally disdain quaintness of ornament, or the rude neglect of elegance and decorum. Such periods had Greece, had Rome! Then were produced immortal works of every kind! But, when the living manners degenerated, in vain did an Aristotle and a Quintilian endeavour to restore by doctrine what had been inspired by sentiments, and fashioned by manners.
If the feverer muses, whose sphere is the library and the fenate, are obliged in complaisance to this degeneracy, to trick themselves out with meretricious and frivolous ornaments, as is too apparent from the compositions of the historians and orators in declining empires, can we wonder that a dramatic poet, whose chief interest it is to please the people, should, more than any other writer, conform himself to their humour ;
most strongly infected with the faults of the times, whether they
be such as belong to unpolished, or corrupted taste.
Shakespear wrote at a time when learning was tinctured with pedantry; wit was. unpolished, and mirth ill-bred. The court of Elizabeth spoke a fcientific jargon, and a certain obfcurity of style was universally affected. James brought an addition of pedantry, accompanied by indecent and indelicate manners and language. By contagion, or from complaisance to the taste of the public, Shakespear falls sometimes into the fafhionable mode of writing : but this is only by fits ; for many parts of all his plays are written with the most noble, ele gant, and uncorrupted fimplicity. Such is his merit, that the more just and refined the taste of the nation has become, the more he has encreafed in reputation. He i was approved by his owh age, admired by the next; and is revered, and almost adored by the present. His merit is disputed bylittle wits, and his errors are the jefts of little crítics; but there has not been a great poèt, or great critic, since his time, i who has not spoken of him with the highest veneration, Mr. Voltaire excepted. His translations often, his criticisms still oftener, prove he did not perfectly understand the words of the author ; and therefore it is certain he could not enter into his meaning He comprehended enough to perceive he was unobservant of fome established rules of composition ; the felicity with which he
performs what no rules can teach escapes him. Will not an intelligent spectator: admire the prodigious structures of Stone-Henge, because he does not know by what law of mechanics they were raised ? Like them, our author's works will remain for ever the greatest monuments of the amazing force of nature, which we ought to view as we do other prodigies, with an attention to, and admiration of their stupendous parts, and proud irregularity of greatness.
It has been already declared that Shakefpear is not to be tried by any code of critic