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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.
The matchless genius of Shakespeare has furnished occupation for authors, from the very age in which he wrote, down to the present day; so that, independent of the innumerable editions of his plays, from the original authentic copies, to the modern mutilations represented under his name upon the stage, we have more than two hundred works of which Shakespeare and his writings are the subject. .
Such being the case, it may be thought necessary, for one who ventures to add to the number, to offer some apology to the public for so doing. That tendered for the present compilation is founded on the belief, that among all these works, there does not exist one which effectively occupies the ground here taken, and very few which even attempt to connect Shakespeare's felicitous. expressions --exhibiting, as they do, a matchless insight into human naturewith the various casualties, motives, and objects of ordinary life. Such a task, if performed with judgment and faithfulness, could hardly fail to prove both pleasing and useful. In support of the opinion that this task yet remained to be accomplished, it will be necessary to submit a few observations concerning the works which profess to have the same object, upon the comparative merits of which with the SHAKESPEARIAN DICTIONARY, its pretensions to public favour must be founded.
Ayscough's “Index to Shakespeare,” is a work of great labour, and, as a verbal compilation; is doubtless of utility; but it is a dictionary of the poet's words, rather than of his expressions, giving only so much of the context as was necessary to elucidate the peculiar sense wherein each word is to be understood, and con necting this with remarkable speeches only by means of refer
From almost any arrangement of the words of such an author, occasional scintillations will necessarily flash out; but in
this case, the pleasing effect, which thus occurs, is destroyed when we arrive at the next word in the catalogue. We may learn to number the occasions wherein each word recurs throughout the author's writings, but what have the imagination or the feelings to do with such a calculation? We may, indeed, retain the consciousness we bring with us of treading on hallowed ground, but feel not the inspiring influence of the divinity.
Certain smaller 'compilations, put forth under the captivating title of “Beauties of Shakespeare,” contain only the more remark. able speeches, and, for the most part, are confined to such as are clothed in verse; omitting altogether the thousands of expressions strewed profusely throughout the prose speeches and col. loquies, wherein are to be found all those most surprising flashes of description, alternating from the grotesque to the sublime, which peculiarly distinguish the Bard of Avon from all other writers, either ancient or modern.
In this class of compilations must be included a work, published about ten years since, “by the author of the Peerage and Baronetage Chart,” and called “A Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare ;" but the same objection that attends the “ Beauties," must be made against the “ Dictionary.” The quotations are given exclusively from the measured poetry of the author, while the prose speeches and colloquies are wholly neglected. Fearful of being suspected of speaking unfairly, concerning a work which comes, perhaps, the nearest in collision with the present; a specimen is here introduced, whence the reader may form some opinion of the editorial discrimination which has been exhibited. Under the head of Drunkenness, the description of Danish regal ceremonies is introduced from Hamlet:
“ Give me the cups;
Now the king drinks to Hamlet."
“Give me a bowl of wine;
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 concep
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,
but is to this hour the constant companion of the contemplative, da well as the gay associate of the playful and the happy.
“ Thus while I wond'ring pause o'er Shakespeare's page,
High o'er the wrecks of man, who stands sublime,
Majestic 'mid the solitude of time.”