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It is observed by Mr. Pope, that “If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Ægyptain strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was inspiration indeed : he is not so much an imitator, as an instrument of nature; and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks through him.
“His characters are so much nature herself, ` that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shews that they received them from one another, and were but multipliers of the same image: each
picture, like a mock rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. But every single character in Shakspeare, is as much an individual, as those in life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike ; and such, as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker.”
The object of the volume here offered to the publick, is to illustrate these remarks in a more particular manner by a reference to each play. A gentleman by the name of Mason, the author of a Treatise on Ornamental Gardening, (not Mason the poet) began a work of a similar kind about forty years ago, but he only lived to finish a parallel between the characters of Macbeth and Richard III., which is an exceedingly ingenious piece of analytical criticism. Richardson's Essays include but a few of Shakspeare’s principal characters. The only work which seemed to supersede the necessity of an attempt like the present was Schlegel’s very admirable Lectures on the Drama, which give by far the best account of the plays of Shakspeare that has hitherto appeared. The only