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of sublimity, and obtain the commendations of a Longinus. And, unless some of the same spirit that elevated the poet, elevate the reader too, he must not presume to talk of taste and elegance; he will prove a languid reader, an indifferent judge, and a far more indifferent critic and commentator.
It is some time since I first proposed puhlishing this collection; for Shakspeare was ever, of all modern authors, my chief favourite; and during my relaxations from my more severe and necessary studies at college, I never omitted to read and indulge myself in the rapturous flights of this delightful and sweetest child of fancy: and when my imagination has been heated by the glowing ardour of his uncommon fire, have never failed to lament, that bis BEAUTIES should be so obscured, and that he himself should be made a kind of stage, for bungling critics to show their clumsy activity upon.
It was my first intention to have considered each play critically and regularly through all its parts; but as this would have swelled the work beyond proper bounds, I was obliged to confille myself solely to a collection of his Poetical Beauties : and I doubt not, every reader will find so large a fund for observation, so much excellent and refined morality, that he will prize the work as it deserves, and pay, with me, all due adoration to the manes of Shakspeáre.
Longinus* tells us, that the most infallible test of the true sublime, is the impression a performance makes upon our minds, when read or recited. If,' says he, a person
' finds, that a performance transports not bis soul, nor exalts his thoughts; that it calls not up
into his mind ideas more enlarged than the mere sounds of the words convey, but on attentive examination its dignity lessens
* See Longinus on the Sublime, Sect. 7. The i translation in the text is from the learned Mr. Smith.
aud declines, he may conclude, that whatever pierces no deeper than the ears, can never be the true sublime. That, on the contrary, is grand and lofty, which the more we consider, the greater ideas we conceive of it; whose force we cannot possibly withstand; which immediately sinks deep, and makes such impression on the mind as cannot easily be worn out or effaced : in a word, you may pronounce that sublime, beautiful, and genuine, which always pleases and takes equally with all sorts of men. For when persons of different humours, ages, professions, and inclinations, agree in the same joint approbation of any performance, then this union of assent, this combination of so many different judgments, stamps an high and indisputable value on that performance, which meets with such general applause. This fine observation of Longinus is most remarkably verified in Shakspeare; for all humours, ages, and inclinaz
tions, jointly proclaim their approbation and esteem of him; and will, I hope, be
I found true in most of the passages which áre here collected from him: I say, most, because there are some which I ain covinced will not stand this test: the old, the grave, and the severe, will disapprove, perhaps,
, the more soft and as they may call them) trifling love-tales, so elegantly breathed forth, and so emphatically extolled by the young, the gay, and the passionate; while these will esteem as dull and languid, the sober saws of morality, and the home-felt observations of experience. However, as it was my business to collect for readers of all tastes, and all complexions, let me desire none to disapprove what hits not with their own humour, but to turn over the page, and they will surely find something acceptable and engaging. But I have yet another apology to make, for some passages introduced merely on account of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention, as indicating the vast stretch, and sometimes particular turn of the poet's imagination.
There are many passages in Shakspeare so closely connected with the plot and characters, and on which their beauties so wholly depend, that it would have been absurd and idle to have produced them here: hence the reader will find little of the inimitable Falstaff in this work, and not one line extracted from the Merry Wives of Windsor*, one of Shakspeare's best, and most justly admired comedies : whoever reads that play, will immediately see, there was nothing either proper or possible for this work: which, such as
as it is,
is, I most sincerely and cordially recommend to the can
* It has, however, been considered proper to present the reader with a bumorous representation from this Play, by way of FRONTISPIŁCE.