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Represents SHAKSPEARE veated between the DRAMATICK MUSE and the GENIUS OF PAINTING Gwho is pointing
out as the proper Subject for her pencil.
The reader may observe that, contrary to former usage, no head of Shakspeare is prefixed to the present edition of his plays. The undisguised fact is this. Theonly portrait of him that even pretends to authenticity, by means of injudicious cleaning, or some other accident, has become little better than the “ shadow of a shade."* The late Sir Joshua Rcynolds indeed once suggested, that whatever person it was designed for, it might have been left, as it now appears, unfinished. Various copies and plates, however, are faid at different times to have been made from it; but a regard for truth obliges us to confess that they are all unlike each other, † and convey no distinct resemblance of the poor remains of their avowed original. Of the drapery and curling hair exhibited in the
* Such, we think, were the remarks, that occurred to us several years ago, when this portrait was accessible. We wished indeed to have confirmed them by a second view of it; but a late accident in the no. ble family to which it belongs, has precluded us from that satisfa&ion.
† Vertue's portraits have been over-praised on account of their fidelity; for we have now before us fix different heads of Shakspeare engraved by him, and do not fcruple to allert that they have individually a different cast of countenance. Cucullus non facit monachum. The shape of our author's ear-ring and falling-band may correspond in them all, but where shall we find an equal conformity in his features ?
Few obje&s indeed are occasionally more difficult to seize, than the flender traits that mark the charađer of a face; and the eye will often VOL. I.
excellent engravings of Mr. Vertue, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Knight, the painting does not afford a vestige; nor is there a feature or circumstance on the whole canvas, that can with minute precision be delineated. -- We must add, that on very vague and dubious authority this head has hitherto been received as a genuine portrait of our author, who probably left behind him no such memorial of his face. As he was careless of the future state of his works, his folicitude might not have extended to the perpetuation of his looks. Had any portrait of him exifted, we may naturally suppose it must have belonged to his family, who (as Mark Antony says of a hair of Cæsar) would
have mention d it within their wills, " Bequcathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their issue;" and were there ground for the report that Shakspeare was the real father of Sir William D'Avenant, and that the picture already spoken of was painted for him, we might be tempted to observe with our author, that the is
" Got 'twixt the natural sheets. But in support of either supposition sufficient evidence has not been produced. The former of
dete& the want of them, when the most exa& mechanical process cannot decide on the places in which they are omitted.-Vertue, in short, though a laborious, was a very indifferent draughtsman, and his best copies too often exhibit a general instead of a particular resemblance.