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As another illustration of the same subject, we have the expression of Richard, endeavouring to rally his downcast spirits against the pressure of a guilty conscience:
"Give me a bowl of wine;
I have not that alacrity of spirit
Nor cheer of mind that I was wont to have."
Now it is difficult to conceive how these different quotations relate to drunkenness, save only as they refer to the act of drinking; without which, that wretched state or propensity which we express by the word drunkenness, cannot indeed have existence.
"The Aphorisms of Shakespeare," edited by Mr. Capel Lofft, and printed and published at Bury St. Edmunds about twenty years ago, formed a collection worthy of that highly gifted gentleman. Mr. Lofft extracted sentences from Shakespeare, beginning with the play of Hamlet. To each extract he prefixed a synonym, or concisely descriptive sentence. Where he conceived the author to be obscure, from having used terms that have become obsolete, or encumbered by expletives, he took the liberty of altering the text, and of reducing any extract according to his own pleasure, into an aphoristic compass. The result proved, as might have been expected from so competent an editor, and such rich materials, one of the most choice collections of aphoristic wisdom that ever issued from the press. The defects of Mr. Lofft's book were, that he arranged each play separately, without any classification of subjects, or alphabetical order: hence its inconvenie ce as a work of reference. Suppose it were required to be known what Shakespeare had said on the subject of Grief, Man, Pride, or any other matter, a person would probably require to look for these in as many different places, as Shakespeare wrote plays. As a Dictionary of Shakespearian Quotations, it could not, for obvious reasons, be of any use.
In the compilation now submitted to the public, each extract will be found classed under its appropriate head; and where the import could be expressed in a single word, it is so expressed; but where such brevity was found impracticable, the drift or spirit of the extract is expressed in the fewest words possible. In certain cases it has been found impracticable to express the import of an extract literally, either by a single word, or by a short sentence. In such cases the compiler has endeavoured to catch the spirit, and to prefix such a term as would best convey it to the reader's comprehension.
If he has not in all such cases been successful, the candid will not hastily condemn, but refer for a better term to the context. Whatever the compiler's demerits may be, the charge of altering the language of Shakespeare cannot be sustained, for the text is in no instance meddled with, except with the view to reconcile slight variations which occur in the most authentic editions. The whole collection has been finally revised, and collated with the edition of Heminge and Condell, folio, Lond. 1632.
As a table-book, it is presumed this work will be found no less pleasing, than as a book of reference it will be useful. Expressions, long and short, grave and gay, when read consecutively, will ever produce a pleasing effect; and the devoted admirer of Shakespeare will not, it is hoped, be displeased at occasionally meeting beauties which had long been familiar to him, suddenly presenting themselves from behind coverts where he had not expected to see them.
The DICTIONARY OF SHAKESPEARIAN QUOTATIONS, being the result of some thought, as well as labour, is respectfully offered as a book of utility to foreigners, young persons, and others, engaged in enquiries into the structure of our language; the synonym and the extract being mutually illustrative, according to Locke's idea of a definition.
Works of Shakespeare.
THERE have been men of learning and talent in the world, whose merits, real or supposed, have ensured to their names and memories honours more glorious and more lasting than the highest titles which any merely hereditary or heraldic claims could boast. We have "the learned John Selden;" "the judicious Hooker;" "the ever-memorable John Hales;" "the admirable Crichton;" "the leviathan in literature, Dr. Samuel Johnson," and many others; but not one of all this phalanx of merit has more justly deserved his honorary distinction, than "the IMMORTAL Shakespeare." Had this man lived in the ancient days of Greece or Rome, he had now occupied no contemptible place in the mythological records of those times. But Shakespeare was born to higher honours than any to be derived from a Pagan apotheosis. He lives in the heart of every man of correct taste-he dwells on the lip of eloquence-he gives life, and soul, and energy to every feeling expression-he lends his powerful aid to the moralist, and is not despised even by the true religionist -nay, his very enemies, the saints of modern date, "praise him in the gate"-and often, unwittingly, it is granted, do homage to his memory by borrowing his language to aid their own crude conceptions; nor have instances been wanting, within the observation of the writer, of persons, even in the pulpit, quoting the "bard of Avon," at a time when they themselves imagined they were borrowing from some of our best divines.
Alas! how difficult a task it is to write of Shakespeare and his works in terms adequate to their claims on our wonder, admiration,
and esteem! Yet nearly one hundred different works have already been successively published on the writings and genius of this truly immortal bard.
Of the life of our author nothing new can be said: his biography has been exhausted, yet would it be a gross injustice to him to print his works without prefixing whatever has been authentically handed down to us. But his mind lives for ever; and will for ever furnish some new topic of admiration, or some fresh subject of literary criticism.
A contemporary writer on Ecclesiastical History, speaking of that best of books, the Bible, thus expresses himself: "One little book, which I can carry in my bosom, and refer to in every exigence of moment to my soul's peace, is worth all the mighty tomes of the Vatican; superior, in my estimation, to all that ever bishops wrote, or canonists have quarrelled about." There is nothing profane in the observation, that what the Sacred Volume is to the devout Christian, the works of Shakespeare are to the man of taste; for there is scarcely a subject of the slightest interest, that has not received some illustration from the writings of this author, in whose mind appear to have been embodied all the forms and fashions, all the great, and all the minute shades of human character. Shakespeare was great upon all subjects, which is more than can, with truth, be asserted of any other writer, in any age or any country. His writings may be referred to on almost all occasions; and the man whose mind is stored with the language of our bard, need never be at a loss for topics of conversation, or subjects of important reflection.
Shakespeare was not only what Ben Jonson denominates him, the
soul of the age,
The applause, delight, and wonder of the stage;"
but is to this hour the constant companion of the contemplative, as well as the gay associate of the playful and the happy.
"Thus while I wond'ring pause o'er Shakespeare's page,
I mark in visions of delight the sage;
High o'er the wrecks of man, who stands sublime,
A column in the melancholy waste,
(Its glory humbled and its glories past,)
On this head it would be unpardonable to omit noticing what Schlegel has said of our poet, in his German "Lectures on the Drama," which, translated into English, is as follows:-Never, perhaps, was there so comprehensive a talent for characterization as Shakespeare's. It not only grasps the diversities of rank, sex, and age, down to the dawnings of infancy; not only do the king and the beggar, the hero and the pickpocket, the wise and the idiot, speak and act with equal truth-not only does he transport himself to distant ages and to foreign nations, and pourtray in the most accurate manner, with only a few apparent violations of costume, the spirit of the ancient Romans-of the French in their wars with the English-of the English themselves during a great part of their history-of the Southern Europeans (in the serious parts of many of his comedies,) the cultivated society of that time, and the former rude and barbarous state of the north; his human characters have not only such depth and precision that they cannot be arranged under classes, and are inexhaustible, even in conception; no, this Prometheus not merely forms men, but opens the gates of the magical world of spirits; calls up the midnight ghost; exhibits before us his witches amidst their unhallowed mysteries; peoples the air with sportive fairies and sylphs; and these beings, existing only in imagination, possess such truth and consistency, that even when they are deformed monsters, like Caliban, he extorts the assenting conviction that, if there should be such beings, they would so conduct themselves. In a word, as he carries with him the most fruitful and daring fancy into the kingdom of nature, on the other hand he carries nature into the regions of fancy, lying beyond the confines of reality. We are lost in astonishment at seeing the extraordinary, the wonderful, and the unheard, in such intimate nearness.
Again: if Shakespeare deserves our admiration for his characters, he is equally deserving of it for the exhibition of passion— taking this word in its widest signification, as including every mental condition, every tone of indifference, or familiar mirth, to the wildest rage and despair. He gives us the history of minds; he lays open to us, in a single word, a whole series of preceding conditions. His passions do not at first stand displayed to us in all their height, as is the case with so many tragic poets, who, in the language of Lessing, are thorough masters of the legal style of love. He paints, in a most inimitable manner, the gradual progress from the first origin. "He gives," as Lessing says, "a living picture of