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EW only are the remarks absolutely needed by
way of introduction to a work which within itself sufficiently explains and carries out a new
method of illustration for the dramas of Shakespeare. As author, I commenced this volume because of various observations which, while reading several of the early Emblem writers, I had made on similarities of thought and expression between themselves and the great Poet; and I had sketched the whole outline, and had nearly filled it in, without knowing that the path pursued by me had in any instance been trodden by other amateurs and critics. From the writings of the profoundly learned Francis Douce, whose name ought never to be uttered withcut deep respect for his rare scholarship and generous regard to its interests, I first became aware that Shakespeare's direct quotation of Emblem mottoes, and direct description of Emblem devices, had in some degree been already pointed out to the attention of the literary public.
And right glad am I to observe that I have had precursors in my labours, and companions in my researches; and that, in addition to Francis Douce, writers of such repute as Langlois of Rouen, Charles Knight, Noel Humphreys, and Dr. Alfred Woltmann, of Berlin, have, each by an example or two, shown how, with admirable skill and yet with evident appropriation,
our great Dramatist has interwoven among his own the materials which he had gathered from Emblem writers as their source.
To myself the fact is an assurance that neither from aiming at singularity of conjecture, nor from pretending to a more penetrating insight into Shakespeare's methods of composition, have I put before the world the following pages for judgment. Those pages are the results of genuine study,-a study I could not have so well pursued had not liberal-minded friends freely entrusted to my use the book-treasures which countervailed my own deficiencies. The results arrived at, though imperfect, are also, I believe, grounded on real similitudes between Shakespeare and his predecessors and contemporaries; and those similitudes, parallelisms, or adaptations of thought, by whichever name distinguished, often arose from the actual impression made on his mind and memory by the Emblematists whose works he had seen, read, and used.
As a suitable Frontispiece the portraits are presented of five celebrated authors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries : one a German-Sebastian Brandt; three Italian-Andrew Alciat, Paolo Giovio, and Achilles Bocchius; and one from HungaryJohn Sambucus. They were all men of learning and renown, whom kings and emperors honoured, and whom the foremost of their age admired. The central portrait, that of Bocchius of Bologna, is from the famous artist Giulio Bonasone, and the original engraving was retouched by Augustino Caracci. The other portraits have been reduced from the "ICONES," or Figures of Fifty Illustrious Men, which Theodore de Bry executed and published during Shakespeare's prime, in 1597. In their own day they were regarded as correct delineations and likenesses, and are said to be authentic copies.
The vignette of Shakespeare on the title-page is now
engraved for the first time. The original is an oil-painting, a head of the life size, and possessing considerable animation and evidences of power. It is the property of Charles Clay, Esq., M.D., Manchester. Without vouching for its authenticity, we are justified in saying, when it is compared with some other portraits, that it offers equal, if not superior, claims to genuine
To discuss the question does not belong to these pages, , but simply and cordially to acknowledge the courtesy with which the oil-painting was offered for use and allowed to be copied, and to say that our woodcut is an accurate and wellexecuted representation of the original picture.
Of the ornamental capitals at the head of the chapters, and of the little embellishments at their end, it may be remarked that, with scarcely an exception, there are none later than our Poet's day, and but few that do not belong to Emblem books: they are forty-eight in number. The illustrative woodcuts and photolith plates, of which there are one hundred and fifty-three of the former and nineteen of the latter, partake of the variety, and, it may be said, apologetically, of the defects of the works from which they have been taken. However fanciful in themselves, they are realities,-true exponents of the Emblem art of their day; so that, within the compass of our volume, containing above two hundred examples of emblematic devices and designs, is exhibited a very full representation of the various styles of the original works, and which, in the absence of the works themselves, may serve to show their chief characteristics. The Photoliths, I may add, have been executed by Mr. A. Brothers, of Manchester.
Doubtless both the woodcuts and the plates are very unequal in their execution; but to have aimed at a uniformity even of high excellence would have been to sacrifice truth to
mere embellishment. It should be borne in mind what one of our objects has been, - namely, to place before the reader examples of the Emblem devices themselves, very nearly as they existed in their own day, and not to attempt the ideal perfection to which modern art rightly aspires.
The Edition of Shakespeare from which the extracts are taken is the very excellent one, in nine volumes, issued from Cambridge, 1863-1866. Its numbering of the lines for purposes of reference is most valuable.
Our work offers information, and consequently advantage, to three classes of the literary public :
Ist. To the Book Agent and Book Antiquarian, so far as relates to books of Emblems previous to the early part of the seventeenth century, A.D. 1616. In a collected and methodical form, aided not a little by the General Index, the first chapters and sections of our volume supply information that is widely scattered, and not to be obtained without considerable trouble and search. The authors, titles, and dates of the chief editions of Emblem books within the period treated of, are clearly though briefly given, arranged according to the languages in which the books were printed, and accompanied where requisite by notices and remarks. There is not to be found, I believe, in any other work so much information about the early Emblem books, gathered together in so compendious and orderly a manner.
2nd. To the Students and Scholars of Shakespeare, - a widely-extended and ever-increasing community. Another aspect of the Master's reading and attainments is opened to them; and into the yet unquarried illustrations of which his marvellous writings are susceptible, another adit is driven. We may have followed him through Histories and Legends, through the Epic and the Ballad, through Popular Tales and Philosophic Treatises, from the forest glade to the halls and gardens of palaces, -across the wild moor where the weird sisters muttered and prophesied, and to that moon-lighted bank where the sweet Jessica was sitting in all maiden loveliness ;- but if only for variety's sake it may interest us, even if it does not impart pleasure, to mark how much his mind was in accord with the once popular Emblem literature, which now perchance awakens scarcely a thought or a regret, though great scholars and men of genius devoted themselves to it; and how from that literature, imbued with its spirit and heightening its power, even he—the self-reliant one-borrowed help and imagery, and made his own creations more his own than otherwise they would have been.
And 3rd. To the great Brotherhood of nations among the Teutonic race, to whom Shakespeare is known as a chieftain among the Lares,—the heroes and guardians of their households. In him they recognise an impersonation of high poetic Art, and they desire to see unrolled from the treasures of the past whatever course his genius pursued to elevate and refine its powers ;-persuaded that out of the elevation and refinement ever is springing something of his own inspiration to improve and ennoble mankind.
A word or two may be allowed respecting the translations into English which are offered of the Emblem writers' verses occurring in the quotations. An accurate rendering of the original was desirable ; and, therefore, in many instances, rhymes and strictly measured lines have been abjured, and cadence trusted rather than metre; the defect of the plan, perhaps, is that cadence varies with the peculiar pitch and intonation of each person's voice. Nevertheless, among rhymes the Oarsman's Cry (p. 61) might find a place on Cam, or Isis, and the Wolf and the Ass (p. 54) be entitled to abide in a book of fables.