Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

:

it from that quarter. In either cafe then we may suppose, that the legend relative to the name of its painter,5 and the place where it was found, (notwithstanding both these particulars might be true,) were at hazard appended to the portrait under confideration, as foon as its fimilitude to Shakspeare had been acknowledged, and his name discovered on the back of it. This circumftance, however, cannot affect the credit of the picture; for (as the late Lord Mansfield obferved in the Douglas controverfy) "there are inftances in which falfhood has been employed in fupport of a real fact, and that it is no uncommon thing for a man to defend a true caufe by fabulous pretences.'

99

That Shakspeare's family poffeffed no refemblance of him, there is fufficient reason to believe. Where then was this fafhionable and therefore neceffary adjunct to his works to be fought for? If any where, in London, the theatre of his fame and fortune, and the only place where painters, at that period, could have expected to thrive by their profeffion. We may fuppofe too, that the bookfellers who employed Droefhout, discovered the object of their research by the direction of Ben Jonfon," who in the following lines has borne the moft ample teftimony to the verifimilitude of a portrait which will now be recommended, by a more accurate and finished engraving, to the publick notice:

The tradition that Burbage painted a likeness of Shakspeare, has been current in the world ever fince the appearance of Mr. Granger's Biographical History.

It is not improbable that Ben Jonfon furnished the Dedication and Introduction to the first folio, as well as the Commendatory Verses prefixed to it.

"The figure, that thou here feeft put,
"It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
"Wherein the graver had a ftrife
"With Nature, to outdoo the life :
"O, could he but have drawne his wit
"As well in braffe, as he hath hit
"His face; the print would then surpaffe-
"All that was ever writ in braffe.
"But, fince he cannot, Reader, looke
"Not on his picture, but his Booke.”

That the legitimate resemblance of fuch a man has been indebted to chance for its prefervation, would excite greater astonishment, were it not recollected, that a portrait of him has lately become an object of far higher confequence and eftimation than it was during the period he flourished in, and the twenty years fucceeding it; for the profeffion of a player was fcarcely then allowed to be reputable. This remark, however, ought not to ftand unfupported by a paffage in The Microcosmos of John Davies of Hereford, 4to. 1605, p. 215, where, after having indulged himself in a long and fevere ftrain of fatire on the vanity and affectation of the actors of his age, he fubjoins

7

as he hath hit

His face;] It fhould feem from these words, that the plate prefixed to the folio 1623 exhibited such a likeness of Shakspeare as fatisfied the eye of his contemporary, Ben Jonson, who, on an occafion like this, would hardly have ventured to affert what it was in the power of many of his readers to contradict. When will evidence half fo conclufive be produced in favour of the Davenantico-Bettertonian-Barryan-Keckian-Nicolfian-Chandofan canvas, which bears not the flightest resemblance to the original of Droefhout's and Marshall's engraving?.

Players, I loue yee and your qualitie, "As ye are men that pass time not abus'd: "And fome I loue for painting, poefie,* ** * W. S. R. E.' "And fay fell fortune cannot be excus'd, "That hath for better ufes you refus'd: "Wit, courage, good shape, good partes, are all good, "As long as all thefe goods are no worse us'd;8 "And though the ftage doth ftaine pure gentle bloud, "Yet generous yee are in minde and moode."

The reader will obferve from the initials in the margin of the third of these wretched lines, that W. Shakspeare was here alluded to as the poet, and R. Burbage as the painter.

Yet notwithstanding this compliment to the higher excellencies of our author, it is almost certain that his resemblance owes its present safety to the shelter of a series of garrets and lumber-rooms, in which it had fculked till it found its way into the broker's fhop from whence the difcernment of a modern connoiffeur fo luckily redeemed it.

It may also be obferved, that an excellent original of Ben Jonfon was lately bought at an obfcure auction by Mr. Ritfon of Gray's Inn, and might once have been companion to the portrait of Shakspeare thus fortunately reftored, after having been loft to the publick for a century and a half. They are, nevertheless, performances by very different artists. The face of Shakspeare was imitated by a delicate pencil, that of Jonson by a bolder hand. It is not defigned, however, to appretiate the distinct value of these pictures; though it must be allowed (as feveral undoubted originals of old Ben are extant)

8

are all good,

As long as all thefe goods are no worfe us'd;] So, in our author's Othello:

"Where virtue is, these are moft virtuous."

that an authentick head of Shakspeare is the greater defideratum.

To conclude those who affume the liberty of defpifing prints when moderately executed, may be taught by this example the use and value of them; fince to a coarse engraving by a second-rate artist,9 the publick is indebted for the recovery of the only genuine portrait of its favourite Shakspeare.

PROPOSALS

BY

WILLIAM RICHARDSON,

PRINTSELLER, CASTLE STREET, LEICESTER SQUARE,

FOR THE PUBLICATION OF

TWO PLATES

FROM THE PICTURE ALREADY DESCRIBED.

THESE Plates are to be engraved of an octavo fize, and in the most finished ftyle, by T. Trotter. A fac-fimile of the hand-writing, date, &c. at the

9 There is reafon to believe that Shakspeare's is the earliest known portrait of Droefhout's engraving. No wonder then that his performances twenty years after, are found to be executed with a fomewhat fuperior degree of fkill and accuracy. Yet ftill he was a poor engraver, and his productions are fought for more on account of their fcarcity than their beauty. He seems indeed to have pleased fo little in this country, that there are not above fix or seven heads of his workmanship to be found.

back of the picture, will be given at the bottom of one of them.

They will be impreffed both on octavo and quarto paper, fo as to fuit the best editions of the plays of Shakspeare.

No

Price of the pair to Subfcribers 7s. 6d. Proofs will be taken off. Non-fubfcribers 10s. 6d. The money to be paid at the time of subscribing, or at the delivery of the prints, which will be ready on December 1, 1794.

[ocr errors]

Such portions of the hair, ruff, and drapery, as are wanting in the original picture, will be supplied from Droefhout's and Marfhall's copies of it, in which the inanimate part of the compofition may be fafely followed. The mere outline in half of the plate that accompanies the finished one, will ferve to ascertain how far thefe fupplements have been adopted. To fuch fcrupulous fidelity the publick (which has long been amused by inadequate or ideal likeneffes of Shakspeare) has an undoubted claim; and fhould any fine ladies and gentlemen of the prefent age be disgusted at the stiff garb of our author, they may readily turn their eyes afide, and feaft them on the more eafy and elegant fuit of clothes provided for him by his modern tailors, Meffieurs Zouft, Vertue, Houbraken, and the humble imitators of their fuppofititious drapery.

The dress that Shakspeare wears in this ancient picture, might have been a theatrical one; as in the courfe of obfervation fuch another habit has not occurred. Marshall, when he engraved from the fame portrait, materially altered its paraphernalia, and, perhaps, because he thought a ftage garb did not ftand fo characteristically before a volume of Poems as before a collection of Plays; and yet it must be confeffed, that this change might have been intro

« ZurückWeiter »