« AnteriorContinuar »
now Mr. Felton's, is an undertaking difficult enough; and yet conjecture may occafionally be fent out on a more hopeless errand.
The old pictures at Tichfield House, as part of the Wriothesley property, were divided, not many years ago, between the Dukes of Portland and Beaufort. Some of these paintings that were in good condition were removed to Bulftrode, where two portraits of Shakspeare's Earl of Southampton are ftill preserved. What became of other heads hich time or accident had impaired, and at what period the remains of the furniture, &c. of his Lordship's venerable manfion were fold off and difperfed, it may be fruitlefs to enquire.
Yet, as the likeness of our author lately redeemed from obfcurity was the work of fome eminent Flemish artift, it was probably painted for a perfonage of distinction, and might therefore have belonged to the celebrated Earl whom Shakspeare had previously complimented by the dedication of his Venus and Adonis. Surely, it is not unreasonable to fuppose, that a resemblance of our excellent dramatick poet might have been found in the house of a nobleman who is reported to have loved him well enough to have presented him with a thousand pounds.
To conclude-the names 4 which have honoured
3 One of these portraits, is on canvas, and therefore the genuineness of it is controverted, if not denied.
4 In the numerous Lift of Gentlemen who thoroughly examined this original Picture, were convinced of its authenticity, and immediately became Subfcribers to W. Richardfon, are the names of Dr. Farmer, Mr. Cracherode, Mr. Bindley, Sir Jofeph Banks, Sir George Shuckburgh, Mr. Chalmers, Mr. Reed, Mr. Ritfon, Mr. Douce, Mr. Markham, Mr. Wefton, Mr. Lyfons, Mr. James, Col. Stanley, Mr. Combe, Mr. Lodge, Mei. Smith, fen. and jun. Mr. Nicol, Mr. Boaden, Mr. Pearce, Mr.
the fubfcription for an engraving from this new found portrait of Shakspeare, must be allowed to furnish the most decifive estimate of its value.
[Since the foregoing Paper was received, we have been authorized to inform the Publick, that Messieurs Boydell and Nicol are fo thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of Mr. Felton's Shakspeare, that they are determined to engrave it as a Frontifpiece to their splendid Edition of our Author, infead of having recourfe to the exploded Picture inherited by the Chandos Family.]
From the European Magazine, for December,
Whitefoord, Mr. Thane, Meff. Boydell, Mr. G. Romney, Mr.
The following pages, on account of their connection with the fubject of Mr. Richardfon's Remarks, are suffered to stand as in our last edition.
PREFIXED TO EDITION 1793.
THE reader may observe that, contrary to former ufage, no head of Shakspeare is prefixed to the prefent edition of his plays. The undisguised fact is this. The only portrait of him that even pretends to authenticity, by means of injudicious cleaning, or fome other accident, has become little better than the" fhadow of a fhade."5 The late Sir Joshua Reynolds indeed once fuggefted, that whatever perfon it was defigned 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 confefs that they are all unlike each other, and convey no diftinct refemblance of the
Such, we think, were the remarks, that occurred to us feveral years ago, when this portrait was acceffible. We wished indeed to have confirmed them by a fecond view of it; but a late accident in the noble family to which it belongs, has precluded us from that satisfaction.
• Vertue's portraits have been over-praised on account of their fidelity; for we have now before us fix different heads of Shakfpeare engraved by him, and do not scruple to affert that they have individually a different caft of countenance. Cucullus non facit monachum. The fhape of our author's ear-ring and fallingband may correfpond in them all, but where fhall we find an equal conformity in his features?
Few objects indeed are occafionally more difficult to feize, than the flender traits that mark the character of a face; and the
poor remains of their avowed original. Of the drapery and curling hair exhibited in the excellent engravings of Mr. Vertue, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Knight, the painting does not afford a veftige; nor is there a feature or circumftance on the whole canvas, that can with minute precifion 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 be hind him no fuch memorial of his face. As he was careless of the future ftate of his works, his folicitude might not have extended to the perpetuation of his looks. Had any portrait of him exifted, we may naturally fuppofe it must have belonged to his family, who (as Mark Antony fays of a hair of Cæfar) would
have mention'd it within their wills,
and were there ground for the report that Shakspeare was the real father of Sir William D'Avenant, and that the picture already fpoken of was painted for him, we might be tempted to obferve with our author, that the
"Was kinder to his father, than his daughters
But in fupport of either fuppofition fufficient evidence has not been produced. The former of these
eye will often detect the want of them, when the most exact mechanical process cannot decide on the places in which they are omitted.-Vertue, in fhort, though a laborious, was a very indifferent draughtfman, and his best copies too often exhibit a general instead of a particular resemblance.
tales has no better foundation than the vanity of our degener Neoptolemus," and the latter originates from modern conjecture. The prefent age will probably
7 Nor does the fame piece of ancient fcandal derive much weight from Aubrey's adoption of it. The reader who is acquainted with the writings of this abfurd goflip, will scarcely pay more attention to him on the present occafion, than when he gravely affures us that "Anno 1670, not far from Cirencester was an apparition; being demanded whether a good spirit or a bad? returned no anfwer, but difappeared with a curious perfume and most melodious twang. Mr. W. Lilly believes it was a fairy." Sce Aubrey's Mifcellanies, edit. 1784, p. 114.-Aubrey, in fhort, was a dupe to every wag who chose to practise on his credulity; and would moft certainly have believed the person who fhould have told him that Shakspeare himself was a natural fon of Queen Elizabeth.
An additional and no lefs pleasant proof of Aubrey's cullibility, may be found at the conclufion of one of his own Letters to Mr. Ray; where, after the enumeration of several wonderful methods employed by old women and Irishmen to cure the gout, agues, and the bloody flux, he adds: "Sir Chriftopher Wren told me once [eating of firawberries] that if one that has a wound in the head eats them, 'tis mortal."
See Philofophical Letters between the late learned Mr. Ray c. Published by William Derham, Chaplain to his Royal Highness George Prince of Wales, & F. R. S. 8vo. 1718, p. 251.
In the foregoing inftance our letter-writer feems to have been perfectly unconscious of the jocularity of Sir Chriftopher, who would have meant nothing more by his remark, than to fecure his ftrawberries, at the expence of an allufion to the crack in poor Aubrey's head. Thus when Falftaff " did defire to eat fome prawns," Mrs. Quickly told him "they were ill for a green
Mr. T. Warton has pleasantly obferved that he "cannot fuppofe Shakspeare to have been the father of a Doctor of Divinity who never laughed ;" and-to wafte no more words on Sir William D'Avenant,-let but our readers furvey his heavy, vulgar, unmeaning face, and, if we miftake not, they will as readily conclude that Shakspeare never holp to make it." So despicable, indeed, is his countenance as represented by Faithorne, that it appears to have funk that celebrated engraver beneath many a common artift in the fame line.