« PoprzedniaDalej »
play, it would have been much more full and circumstantial. At present, it has too much the nakedness of an orginal.”
It would, indeed, be absurd to think, that this Ballad was taken from Shakspeare's play, as they differ in the most essential circumstances. The sum borrowed is in the former an hundred crowns, in the latter three thousand ducats: The time limited for payment in the one is only three months, in the other a year and a day: In the play the merchant's motive for borrowing, (which is finely imagined by Shakspeare, and is conducive to the general plot) is not on account of his own necessities, but for the service of his friend. To these we may add, that the close of the story is finely heightened by Shakspeare. A mere copyist, such as we may suppose a Ballad-maker, would not have given himself the trouble to alter circumstances: at least he would not have changed them so much for the worse. But this matter seems to be placed out of all doubt by the first stanza of the Ballad, which informs us, that the story was taken from some Italian novel. "Thus much therefore is certain, (as Mr. Warton observes) that Shakspeare either copied from that Italian novel, or from this Ballad. Now we have no translation I presume, of such a novel into English. If then it be granted, that Shakspeare generally took his Italian stories from their English translations, and that the arguments above, concerning the prior antiquity of this Ballad, are true, it will follow, that Shakspeare copied from this Ballad."
Upon the whole, it is very likely, that the Italian novel, upon which this Ballad seems founded, took its rise (with an inversion of the circumstances) from the above mentioned story in the "Life of Pope Sixtus V." the memory of which must have been then recent. I should be glad if any of your readers can give any further light into this affair, and, if possi
ble, acquaint the public, from whence Shakspeare borrowed the other part of his fable concerning Por tia and the Caskets; which, it is more than probable, is drawn from some other novel well known in his time.
I cannot conclude without remarking, with what art and judgment Shakspeare has wove together these different stories of the Jew and the Caskets; from both which he has formed one general fable, without having recourse to the stale artifice of eking out a barren subject with impertinent underplots.
Scarce more with Athens science chose to dwell,
TO MR. TOWN.
THOUGH many historians have described the city of London (in which we may include Westminster) with great accuracy, yet they have not set it out in the full light, which at present it deserves. They have not distinguished it as an university. Paris is an university, Dublin is an university, even Moscow is an university. But London has not yet been honoured with that title. I will allow our metropolis to have been intended originally, only as a city of trade and I will farther own, that scarce any science, except such as were purely mercantile, were cultivated
in it, until within these last thirty years. But from that period of time, I may say an whole army, as it were, of arts and sciences have amicably marched in upon us, and have fixed themselves as auxiliaries to our capital.
The four greater faculties, I mean Theology, Law, Medicine, and Philosophy, which are taught in other universities, are in their highest perfection here. The prosperity of the first may be seen by the crowded churches every Sunday, and the discipline of the second by the numberless young students, who constantly dine in their respective halls at the several Inns of Court. These two faculties have of late received considerable improvements, but particularly that of Theology; as is manifest from several new and astonishing opinions, which have been started among us. There have risen, within these two years, very numerous tribes of Methodists, Moravians, Middletonians, Muggletonians, Hutchinsonians, &c. In a word, our sects are multiplied to such an infinite degree, that (as Voltaire has before observed) every man may now go to heaven his own way." Can the Divinity-schools boast such sound doctrine as the Foundery in Moorfields? Or were ever fellows of colleges such adepts in matrimony, as the reverend doctors of the Fleet, or the primate of May-Fair?
The theory of medicine may undoubtedly be taught at Oxford and Cambridge in a tolerable manner; but the art itself can only be learned, where it flourishes, at London. Do not our daily papers give us a longer list of medicines, than are contained in any of the Dispensatories; And are we not constantly told of surprising antidotes, certain cures, and never-failing remedies for every complaint; And are not each of these specifics equally efficacious in one distemper as another, from the Grand Restorative Elixir of Life down to the Infallible Corn-salve, as thousands have experienced? With what pleasure and admira
tion have I beheld the Machaon of our times, Dr Richard Rock, dispensing from his one horse-chaise his Cathartic Antivenereal Electary, his Itch Powder, and his Quintessence of Vipers! it may be asked, is he a Graduate? Is he a Regular Physician? No, he is superior to regularity. He despises the formality of academical degrees. He styles himself M. L. He is a London Physician, or, as Moliere would express it, C'est un Medicin de Londres.
After Medicine let us consider Logic. How is that most useful art taught in the two universities? Is it not clogged with such barbarous terms, as tend to puzzle and confound, rather than enlighten or direct the understanding? Is it not taught in a dead, I had almost said, in a Popish tongue? Is it not over-run with dry, distinctions, and useless subtleties? Where then is it to be learned in all the purity of reason, and the dignity of language? Neither at Oxford nor at Cambridge, but at the Robin-Hood alehouse in Butcher Row near Temple-Bar.
From Logic let us proceed to Eloquence, and let us ingenuously confess, that neither of our universities can boast an orator equal to the renowned Henley. Has he not all the qualifications required by Tully in a complete orator? Has he not been followed by the greatest men of the nation? Yet has this modest divine never derived any title to himself from his own rhetoric, except such an one as his extraordinary elocution naturally bestowed upon him. Might he not have called himself President of the Butchers? Dean of Marrow-bones and Cleavers? or Warden of ClareMarket? Certainly he might. Therefore, if it were. for his sake only, in my humble opinion, London ought immediately to assume the title of an university; and the butchers of Clare-Market, who have so constantly attended Mr. Henley's lectures ought to be presented with honorary degrees.
I know not what pretensions the universities may have had originally to adopt music among the rest of their sciences: perhaps they have assumed a right of bestowing degrees in music, from their being called the seats of the Muses; as it is well known, that Apollo was a fidler, as well as a poet and a physician and the Muses are said to have delighted in fiddling and piping. The young students, I am told of either university are more ambitious to excel in this science than any other, and spend most of their time in the study of the gamut: but their knowledge in harmonics is seldom carried farther than I love Sue, or Ally Croker. In this point London has undoubtedly a better title to be called an university. Did Oxford or Cambridge ever produce an opera, though they have the advantage of languages so very little known, as the Greek and even Hebrew, to compose in? Had ever any of their professors the least idea of a burletta? Or are any of their most sublime anthems half so ravishing as Footes Minuet from the hand organ of the little Savoyard Duchess? Are those classical instruments the Doric Lute, the Syrinx, or the Fistula, to be compared to the melody of the Wooden Spoons, the Jews-Harp, and Salt-Box, at Mrs. Midnight's?
But there are no doctrines more forcibly inculcated among us than those of Ethics, or Moral Philosophy. What are the precepts of Plato, Epictetus, or Tully, in comparison to the moral lessons delivered by our periodical writers! And are not you Mr. Town, a wiser man than Socrates? But the age is more parti. cularly indebted, for it's present universal purity of manners, to those excellent rules for the conduct of life contained in our modern novels. From these moral works might be compiled an entire new system of Ethics, far superior to the exploded notions of musty academics, and adapted to the practice of the present times, Cato, we are told, commended a young