« ZurückWeiter »
THE merits of our great dramatick Bard, the pride and glory of his country, have been so amply difplayed by perfons of various and first-rate talents, that it would appear like prefumption in any one, and especially in him whofe name is fubfcribed to this Advertisement, to imagine himself capable of adding any thing on fo exhaufted a fubject. After the labours of men of such high estimation as Rowe, Pope, Warburton, Johnson, Farmer, and Steevens, with others of inferior name, the rank of Shakspeare in the poetical world is not a point at this time fubject to controverfy. His pre-eminence is admitted; his fuperiority confeffed. Long ago it might be faid of him, as it has been, in the energetick lines of Johnson, of one almost his equal,
"At length, our mighty bard's victorious lays
"And baffled spite, with hopeless anguish dumb,
"Yields to renown the centuries to come."
a renown, established on fo folid a foundation, as to bid defiance to the caprices of fashion, and to the canker of time.
Leaving, therefore, the Author in quiet poffeffion of that fame which neither detraction can leffen nor panegyrick increase, the Editor will proceed to the confideration of the work now presented to the Publick.
It contains the last improvements and corrections of Mr. Steevens,* by whom it was prepared for the
* Of one to whom the readers of Shakspeare are fo much obliged, a flight memorial will not here be confidered as mifplaced.
GEORGE STEEVENS was born at Poplar, in the county of Middlesex, in the year 1736. His father, a man of great refpectability, was engaged in a business connected with the Eaft India Company, by which he acquired an handsome fortune. Fortunately for his fon, and for the publick, the clergyman of the place was Dr. Gloucester Ridley, a man of great literary accomplishments, who is ftyled by Dr. Lowth poeta natus. With this gentleman an intimacy took place that united the two families closely together, and probably gave the younger branches of each that tafte for literature which both afterwards ardently cultivated. The first part of Mr. Steevens's education he received under Mr. Wooddefon, at Kingston-upon-Thames, where he had for his fchool-fellows George Keate the poet, and Edward Gibbon the hiftorian. From this feminary he removed in 1753 to King's College, Cambridge, and entered there under
press, and to whom the praise is due of having first adopted, and carried into execution, Dr. Johnfon's
the tuition of the Reverend Dr. Barford. After staying a few years at the Univerfity, he left it without taking a degree, and accepted a commiffion in the Effex militia, in which fervice he continued a few years longer. In 1763 he loft his father, from whom he inherited an ample property, which if he did not leffen he certainly did not increase. From this period he seems to have determined on the course of his future life, and devoted himself to literary pursuits, which he followed with unabated vigour, but without any lucrative views, as he never required, or accepted, the flighteft pecuniary recompence for his labours. His first refidence was in the Temple, afterwards at Hampton, and laftly at Hampstead, where he continued near thirty years. In this retreat his life paffed in one unbroken tenor, with scarce any variation, except an occafional vifit to Cambridge, walking to London in the morning, fix days out of seven, for the fake of health and converfation, and returning home in the afternoon of the fame day. By temperance and exercife he continued healthy and active until the laft two years of his life, and to the conclufion of it did not relax his attention to the illuftration of Shakspeare, which was the firft object of his regard. He died the 22d of January, 1800, and was buried in Poplar chapel,
To the eulogium contained in the following epitaph by Mr. Hayley, which differs in some respect from that inscribed on the monument in Poplar chapel, those who really knew Mr. Steevens will readily fubfcribe:
"Peace to these afhes! once the bright attire