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SELECTED FROM EACH PLAY:
DIGESTING THEM UNDER PROPER HEADS.
BY THE LATE
WILLIAM DODD, D.D.
JOHN BUMPUS, HOLBORN BARS.
I SHALL not attempt any laboured encomiums on Shakspeare, or endeavour to set forth his perfections, at a time when such universal and just applause is paid him, and when every tongue is big with his boundless fame. He himself tells us,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To seek the beauteous eye of heav'n to garnish,
And wasteful and ridiculous indeed it would besto say any thing in his praise, when 'presenting the world with such a collection of BEAUTIES às' perhaps is no where to be met with, and, I may very safely affirm, cannot be paralleled from the productions of any other single author, ancient or modern. There is scarcely a topic, common with other writers, on which he has not excelled them all; there are many nobly peculiar to himself, where he shines unrivaled, and, like the eagle, properest emblem of his daring genius, soars beyond the common reach, and gazes undazzled on the sun. His flights are
sometimes so bold, frigid criticism almost dares to disapprove them; and those narrow minds, which. are incapable of elevating their ideas to the sublimity of their author's, are willing to bring them down to a level with their own. Hence many fine passages have been condemned in Shakspeare, as rant, and fustian, intolerable bombast, and turgid nonsense, which, if read with the least glow of the same imagination that warmed the writer's bosom, would
blaze in the robes 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
It is some time since I first proposed publishing 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 his 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 confine 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 Shakspeare.
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 his soul, nor exalts his thoughts; that it
* See Longinus on the Sublime, Sect. 7. The translation in The text is from the learned Mr. Smith.