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WISDOM AND GENIUS
MORAL PHILOSOPHY-DELINEATIONS OF CHARACTER
ONE THOUSAND APHORISMS-AND
Select and Original Notes, and Scriptural References :
THE WHOLE MAKING A TEXT FOR THE
REV. THOMAS PRICE,
SECOND EDITION, ENLARGED.
Many works consisting of compilations from the writings of SHAKSPEARE have already appeared under different forms, but I am not aware that anything has ever been attempted on the plan of the work now presented to the public. My principal object has been to exhibit the Wisdom and Genius of our author, as these are reflected in his lucid pages, which have been justly characterized “the richest, the purest, the fairest, which genius uninspired ever laid open.”*
The first Section contains the Morals of Shakspeare, which are very numerous and of an exalted character. There is more moral knowledge contained in a few lines a sentence of our author, than is to be found in a whole chapter of those works which treat expressly of Moral science. There is one thing worthy of special observation in the Morals of Shakspeare, which presents his character in a very interesting light; I refer to the strong tincture which they have of Divine truth, affording evidence of his mind having been deeply imbued with the pure morality of the Gospel. This highly interesting feature
* “ Times Newspaper," Dec. 14, 1837.
of his morals I have pointed out in many instances, by references to particular passages of Scripture.
Although the first part of the work is designated Moral Philosophy, the reader must not infer from thence that there are no morals in the other Sections: the truth is, morals pervade the whole work, but many of them are so interwoven with the Characters, Nature and the Passions, &c., as not to admit of being separated.
Our author's paintings of the Passions are not less deserving of our admiration than his moral wisdom and delineations of Characters. He is the great master of the human heart, and depicts in an inimitable manner all the feelings of humanity, from the almost imperceptible emotions to the most tempestuous passions that agitate the breast of man. As A. W. Schlegel justly observes, “ He lays open to us in a single word, a whole series of preceding conditions.”
In that part of the work which respects Nature I have exhibited to the reader those exquisitely beautiful natural images which abound throughout our author's writings, and which claim the admiration of every cultivated mind. This excellence has been often alluded to, and is thus beautifully expressed by one who was capable of appreciating it: “He was familiar with all beautiful forms and images, with all that is sweet or majestic in the simple aspects of nature, of that indestructible love of flowers and odours, and dews, and clear waters and soft airs and sounds, and bright skies and woodland solitudes, and moonlight bowers, which are the material ele·ments of poetry,—and with that fine sense of their undefinable relation to mental emotion, which is its essence and vivifying soul—and which, in the midst of his most busy and atrocious scenes, falls like gleams of sunshine on rocks and ruins-contrasting with all that is rugged and repulsive, and reminding us of the existence of purer and brighter elements."*
Take also the sentiments of the following writers who speak in accordance with this work :
“ Shakspeare 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 anything, 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 learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read Nature; he looked inwards, and found her there.”—Dryden.
“ To instruct by delighting is a power seldom enjoyed by man, and still seldomer exercised. It is in this respect that Homer may be called the second of men, and Shakspeare the first. The wisdom of the Greek was not so universal as that of the Briton, nor his genius so omnipotent in setting it forth attractively. From the several works of the latter, a single work might be compiled little less worthy of divine sanction than any other extant, and by the beauty of its nature far more secure of human attention. But Shakspeare has done so much in this way, so nearly all that is sufficient, he has made the laws of the Decalogue and all their corollaries so familiar, he has
*“ Edinburgh Review," vol. xxviii. p. 473.