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They are, some of them, among the primary volumes of Shakespeare's school, and tend materially to illustrate the obscurities of his text. But, hitherto, who but the lucky successors of Farmer, Steevens, Reed, Malone, and the Duke of Roxburgh, could

procure an inspection of them?

The happy passion of the Collector shall not here be decried. These pages shall never ridicule the scornful preference given to the broken, irregular, and crowded types, and the dingy paper of the originals, from which the text is here copied with such conscious inferiority of value! It is however to be lamented, that something of a more discriminating taste is not oftener to be found in those who addict themselves to antiquarian pursuits: that, if a reader has acquired a fondness for antiquarian matter, he is seldom content to receive it unless dressed in all the rude beauty of ancient typography!

It is singular that the numerous pieces of Robert Greene seem to have vanished not only from circulation, but from memory, as early as the time of Langbaine, whose work on the Dramatic Poets appeared in 1691; and who mentions two or three of them, as if he was utterly ignorant even of the names of the others. A mere modern reader, habituated to a style gradually polished into a refined and perhaps diseased delicacy, will be continually repelled and shocked by the coarseness of expression, and, indeed, of thought, which this author, like most of his cotemporaries, too often exhibits. But there are defects and impurities in the lan, guage and composition of our own days, as well as in those of our less smooth but sounder and more vigorous ancestors; and the

comparison and contrast enable us to enlarge and strengthen our debilitated minds. The praise of taste cannot be honestly bestowed on Greene. Taste, indeed, is very rarely the growth of an early period : it is the last result of judgment and experience, before age has brought back the faculties to the weakness and delusions of a second childhood. But Greene had fancy, sentiment, and invention; a pastoral simplicity of genius ; and a copious facility of diction.

As to GABRIEL HARVEY, there is more difficulty and hesitation in characterizing him with exact and unbiassed truth. His pedantry, his offensive vanity, and the malignant irritability of his temper; above all, his inhuman trampling upon the grave of Greene, which roused into indignation even the cold and dry feelings of honest Anthony Wood, have continually excited in the Editor's mind

prejudices against his merits, which his cooler reflection has overcome. Even his scholastic style, which at first is so repulsive, softens by long familiarity into many excellencies. His learning at least must be allowed to have been extensive and profound; and his judgment acute and discriminative. There is no Tract in the English language which contains so many cotemporary literary notices of the Elizabethan reign; and none, therefore, of equal value to the antiquarian Critic and Philologer. It is not merely curious, as giving names and titles ; but of far greater interest, as giving characters. But the eye and the heart of a poet were denied to him: though the friend of Spenser, he does not appear to have been endowed with a single poetical quality. He outlived his illustrious and inspired friend between thirty and forty years.

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Tom Nash is a name so familiar to those who have pored over the exuberant note-makers on Shakespeare, that they will probably not be displeased to have an opportunity of judging for themselves of his merits. Hitherto his pieces have been so rare as to be almost inaccessible. Harvey, in his Letter of Notable Contents, speaks of his Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, as an instance of ho ble hypocrisy. “ Were I not content,” says he',“ in some little of his final recovery, either in deed or in shew, to do him a meritorious favour by concealing his utter discredit, I would easily, and would notoriously, make him ashamed of some of his late sayings and doings. O Lord, how unbeseeming The Tears of Christ; and, alas ! how likely to forerun a miserable destiny !” &c. &c. This severity of Harvey, when we recollect the irritation and vehemence which was passing between these antagonists, will have but little weight in oppressing the fame of Nash.

The versatile author took an important part in a controversy of an higher concern. He was a main opponent to the puritanical and seditious Sectarians, who contended under the name of Martin Marprelate. “ There was," says Isaac Walton, in his Life of Hooker, “ not only Martin Marprelate, but other venomous books daily printed and dispersed; books that were so absurd and scurrilous, that the graver divines disdained them an answer. And yet these were grown into high esteem with the common people, till Tom Nash appeared against them, who was a man of a sharp wit, and the master of a scoffing, satirical, merry pen, which he employed to discover the absurdities of those blind, malicious, sense

See the Letter in vol. ii. p. 23.

less pamphlets, and sermons as senseless as they. Nash's answers being like his books which bore these titles: An Almond for a Parrot; A Fig for my Godson; Come, crack me this Nut; and the like; so that his merry wit made such a discovery of their absurdities, as (which is strange) he put a greater stop to these malicious pamphlets, than a much wiser man had been able.”

Dr. Zouche, the editor of Walton's Lives, adds,“ that he wrote with great pleasantry and wit against a set of men, who at that time boldly pretended to prognostications and astronomical

predictions. From the various Tracts written by Nash,” he continues, “ the commentators on Shakespeare have happily illustrated and explained several passages of their great poet."

Drayton, in his Epistle of Poets and Poems *, says:

“ And surely Nashe, tho' he a proser were,
A branch of laurel yet deserves to bear :
Sharply satiric was he, and that way
He went, since that his being, to this day
Few have attempted, and I surely think
Those words shall hardly be set down with ink,
Shall scorch and blast so as his could, where he
Would inflict vengeance!”

ROBERT SouthWELL comes next in contrast with those already named. This grave writer's moral pathos is thus doubly striking; and is therefore selected to shew the style of the times in a different department of composition.

Of Nicholas Breton, a great favourite with the Editor as a poet, these prose pieces are left to the reader's judgment. They are not such as might have been expected from one whose poetical vein was generally clear and bright; but who here writes with a common-place epigrammatic quaintness not at all indicative of genius. It has been said, however, that these are favourites with some of the readers of ARCHAICA : and there is no disputing on matters of taste. They have been placed in this collection as specimens of a popular writer. In his Melancholic Humours, printed at the private press of Lee Priory, there are several exquisite specimens of poetry by this ingenious but forgotten author.

* See Drayton's Nymphidia, with other poems, printed at the Lee Priory Press.

RICHARD BRATHWAYTE is of a later period. He was once very popular. Some of his pieces are become extremely rare. His Essays on the Five Senses (which is perhaps the only Tract in this Collection of less uncommon occurrence) deserves perusal: but it does not seem necessary to the Editor to add any thing to his observations prefixed to it.

Here, then, this General Preface may draw to a close. The heavy task, which the Editor voluntarily imposed on himself, he has discharged amid a thousand avocations and distractions ; amid good report and bad report; amid sneers, and frowns, and detractions, sometimes softened by the smiles of the candid, and the civilities of the kind; amid the hurry of procrastination, and the enfeebling distresses of wearisome solicitude. If he has failed in adding any thing more than a stupid and useless contribution to that literature, to which, under the influence of an unconquerable passion, he has been through life a devoted and unmercenary slave, it will but add one more to the numerous disappointments which it has been his destiny to bear.

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