William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

a rule in dramatic composition which he does not habitually violate. He is called the poet of nature, and he certainly imitates her deformities with exactness, but seldom aims at that preference of art which consists in copying her excellence. The profusion of intemperate praise which accompanies his memory indicates much oftener an abject deference for the opinion of the multitude than any real sense of intrinsic merit. And many a reader fancies himself charm’d with the beauties, who is only a dupe to the name of an author. Johnson was not a critic to be misled by report, while he could have access to the truth. He even says that there is not one of Shakespeare’s plays which, were it now to be exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer, would be heard to the conclusion.1 And he states the excellencies and defects of his author in terms so equally pointed and strong that he has run into paradox, where he meant only to be impartial. (137-41)


281.

John Pinkerton, observations on Shakespeare

1785

From Letters of Literature (1785). Published under the pseudonym of Robert Heron, this collection of letters by John Pinkerton (1758-1826) includes three constituting ‘observations on the last edition of Shakespeare’, the Johnson-Steevens of 1778: Letters XVIII (pp. 105-16), XXVI (pp. 162-78), and XXXVIII (pp. 301-15). There are scattered notes elsewhere.

Pinkerton, a Scottish antiquary and historian, published Select Scottish Ballads in 1783 (which Joseph Ritson exposed as modern forgeries), an Essay on Medals (1784), a Dissertation on the Origin and Progress of the Scythians or Goths (1787: arguing

1 Cf. Vol. 5, p. 82.

-395-

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