Smith, George Gregory, ed. Elizabethan
Critical Essays, Clarendon Press, 1904,
Puttenham. The arte of English poesie. 1589. Sir John Harington. A
preface or rather a briefe apologie of poetrie, prefixed to the
translation of Orlando Furioso. 1591. Thomas Nash. Preface to Sidney's
Astrophel and Stella. 1591. Gabriel Harvey. From Foure letters. 1592.
Thomas Nash. From Strange newes ... 1592. Gabriel Harvey: I. From
Pierce's Supererogation. 1593. II. From A new letter of notable
contents. 1593. Richard Carew. The excellency of the English tongue.
?1595-6. George Chapman: I. Preface to Seaven bookes of the Iliades of
Homere. 1598. II. Dedication, &c. of Achilles shield. 1598. Francis
Meres. From Palladis Tamia. 1598. William Vaughan. From The golden
grove. 1600. Thomas Campion. Observations in the art of English poesie.
1602. Samuel Daniel. A defence of ryme. ?1603.
The Defence Of
Poesie by Sir Philip Sidney (1595).
Of The English Tongue by Richard Carew (1614).
Discoveries by Ben Jonson (1640), with the famous section on Shakespeare:
|De Shakespeare nostrat.
I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his
writing, (whatsoever he penn'd) hee never blotted out line. My answer hath beene, would he
had blotted a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity
this, but for their ignorance, who choose that circumstance to commend their friend by,
wherein he most faulted. And to justifie mine owne candor, (for I lov'd the man, and doe
honour his memory (on this side Idolatry) as much as any.) Hee was (indeed) honest, and of
an open, and free nature: had an excellent Phantsie; brave notions, and gentle
expressions: wherein hee flow'd with that facility, that sometime it was necessary he
should be stop'd: Sufflaminandus erat; as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his
owne power; would the rule of it had beene so too. Many times hee fell into those things,
could not escape laughter: As when hee said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him;
Cæsar thou dost me wrong. Hee replyed: Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause: and
such like; which were ridiculous. But hee redeemed his vices, with his vertues. There was
ever more in him to be praysed, then to be pardoned.
Margaret Cavendish, The Lady Marchioness of
CCXI Sociable Letters, 1664, Letters CXXIII and CLXII, from
Google Book Search.
|...yet Shakespear did not want
wit, to express to the life all sorts of persons, of what
quality, profession, degree, breeding, or birth soever; nor did
he want wit to express the divers and different humours, or
natures, or several passions in mankind; and so well he hath
expressed in his playes all forts of persons, as one would think
he had been transformed into every one of those persons he hath
From letter CXXIII.
|To begin then with Shakespeare; he was the man who of all Modern, and
perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the Images of
Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily : when he
describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have
wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learn'd; he needed
not the spectacles of Books to read Nature; he look'd inwards, and found her there.
|I have chiefly consider'd the Fable or Plot,
which all I conclude to be the Soul of a Tragedy; which
with the Ancients is always found to be a reasonable Soul,
but with us for the most part a brutish and often worse
Nicholas Rowe, from Some Acount of the Life &c. of Mr. William Shakespear
(1709). Much of Rowe's biography, as with most subsequent biographies, is given
over to criticism of the works, since the biographical details are scant and speculative.
The Beauties of
Shakespear vol. II (1752) was the beginning of the English
critical tradition. The only full view volume available in the
1752 edition is vol.II. A much more readable edition, containing
the full text is available published in
The Dodd work is really nothing more than a selection of "beauties."
|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. --from The Preface to The Beauties of
Smith, David Nichol.
Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare, 1903.
A full view Google Book Search scan with a fully downloadable PDF
version. This fascinating volume contains essays by Rowe (the
original Life of Shakespeare), Dennis, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer,
Warburton, Dr. Johnson, Farmer and Morgann. The essays (prefaces
to collected works by these great editors) show the growth in stature of
Shakespeare over the 18th century from man to idol.
Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu,
An Essay on the
Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). The
link is to an 1810 edition of the work.
This link is to
the 1785 edition. I could not find links to the 1769 edition
at GBS or Internet Archive. The following is a note on Elizabeth
Montegu and the publication history of "An Essay" taken from
Lynch's extract from this essay: "Elizabeth Montagu: The Essay
was published anonymously in 1769 by Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800),
known as the "Queen of Bluestockings." Editions and reprints followed in
1770, 1772, 1777, 1778, 1785, and 1810; a pirated Dublin edition
appeared in 1769; and translations appeared in German (1771), French
(1777), and Italian (1828)."
|Mine hostess Quickly is of a species not extinct. It
may be said, the author there sinks from comedy to farce; but she helps
to complete the character of Falstaffe, and some of the dialogues in
which she is engaged are diverting. Every scene in which Doll Tearsheet
appears, is indecent, and therefore not only indefensible but
inexcusable. There are delicacies of decorum in one age unknown to
another age; but whatever is immoral, is equally blameable in all ages,
and every approach to obscenity is an offence for which wit cannot
atone, nor the barbarity or the corruption of the times excuse.
An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare, p. 105.
For more on Mrs. Montagu, see this
Bartleby.com article. Mrs. Montagu wrote her essay to
protest the views of Voltaire on Shakespeare. An illuminating,
but early (1902) guide is
and Voltaire, by Thomas Lounsbury. Wikipedia has two
relevant articles, one on
Montagu herself, and one on the
Blue Stockings Society.
Preface to his 1765 Edition of the Works of Shakespeare,
from the University of Toronto (produced to rigorous standards).
Preface to Shakespeare by Samuel Johnson, with notes on selected
plays, from the University of Adelaide.
Spoken By Mr. Garrick At The Opening Of The Theatre In Drury-Lane, 1747.
Johnson on Hamlet
Shakespeare's Plays (1817). The entire work
from the University of Toronto.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Sara Coleridge
Coleridge, and Henry Nelson Coleridge.
Notes and Lectures Upon Shakespeare and Some of the Old Poets and
Dramatists, With Other Literary Remains of S.T. Coleridge.
London: W. Pickering, 1849, from Google Book Search, full view and PDF,
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.
Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher: Notes and Lectures,
1874. This is a full view Google Book Search scan with a
downloadable PDF version.