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lieve belonged to Richard Hay of Dromboot; and there are other copies in Scotland besides that; but I should be glad to learn whether there is any copy in England to which we could have access.


Jan. 14th, 1797.

In a rummage amongst my papers, when I was last in town, I found literal translations (which a friend once kindly sent me) of a few old Irish romances. I take the liberty to send one for your perusal. At some future day I shall trouble you to return it. Should you wish it, a copy shall be at your service.

My friend, Major Ouseley, has acquainted me with your obliging intention of enriching my little collection of Italian dramas. But I beg that, in order to enrich mine, you may not impoverish I shall be grateful for any duplicates your own. you may happen to have; and shall return, with many thanks, any that are not duplicates.

As you were the first person who directed my notice to the works of F. Testi,* I am indebted to

* The name of Fulvio Testi does not occur either in De Bure or in Dr. Watts's comprehensive Bibliotheca Britannica, or in Fontanini's Biblioteca dell' Eloquenza Italiana ; but the library of the British Museum contains a copy of his works, entitled Poesie Liriche, e Alcina Tragedia, 12mo. Nap. 1637. Mr.

you for the pleasure which I derived from the perusal of them. I am surprised that a writer of so much merit should be so little known. Tiraboschi, "the indefatigable," has, I am told, written his life. I am charmed with Mr. Roscoe's work. He has served most essentially the cause of Italian literature in England.

After several years of neglect, I lately took up Dr. Farmer's Essay on the Learning (i. e. the ignorance) of Shakspeare. It is a very ingenious little work; but it rather amuses than convinces. Nobody doubts Shakspeare's ignorance of Greek; nor ought any body to question his knowledge of Latin, since his envious friend, Dr. Johnson, acknowledged he had "a little." The attempts to prove him unacquainted with French and Italian are feeble; they are arrows from the hand of debility. The orthography of Shakspeare's French is incorrect; therefore he did not understand the language. The orthography of his English is not more correct; yet he is generally allowed to

Pinkerton, in his Letters on Literature, p. 120, speaks of him with much esteem, as a man who appeared to have attained the genuine texture of lyric thought and style more than any other Italian poet he knew, without exception. And he makes long quotations from his odes, on which, after assigning Testi the place next to Petrarch as a lyric bard, he observes, "every reader, I believe, must confess that there are in the above extracts the grandeur and opulence of Pindar, and the neatness, beauty, and elegance of Anacreon, mingled with the pathos which the ancients ascribe to Simonides." To the above encomium Mr. Walker, (Historical Memoir, p. 188.) adds his suffrage, and subjoins an interesting sketch of the Life and Writings of Testi.

How does

have understood English. Pistol pronounces bras like brass. I have in my possession a poem written by a gentleman, who can read with ease the most difficult French author, in which sous is made to rhyme with house. Though Shakspeare ekes out many of his lines with French words, he was so ignorant of the language, that he was obliged to employ a journeyman to write the scene between Henry and Catharine. In the epilogue to the second part of Henry IV., he promises to make us merry with fair Catharine of France. he perform his promise? By making Catharine speak broken English, interlarded with scraps of French; or by making her translate into French Henry's bombastic compliments, and then ask her maid if she rightly understands her royal lover. Yet all this French ribaldry, according to Dr. Farmer, was either written at Shakspeare's desire, by a second person, or inserted after he left the stage. Of Italian, he must have been ignorant; because he might have read in English translations the Italian novels from which he has borrowed so freely! But does it follow that he could not read these novels in the original? When Dr. Farmer wishes to consult a classic author for a simple fact, is he not sometimes content to turn to a translation? Did he never take down Langhorne's Plutarch, when the original stood upon the same shelf? But this is wandering from the point. Of Shakspeare's acquaintance with the Italian language, proofs, I think, might be adduced. I shall not now trouble you with any which may have occurred in the course of my confined reading; but I shall close these re

marks with a simple question. If the plot of the Comedy of Errors was borrowed from the Menæchmi of Plautus, how did he, Shakspeare, come at it? He could not, according to Dr. Farmer, read Plautus in the original; and there was no English translation before the year 1595; and in the year 1593, Shakspeare's comedy was published. But an Italian translation of the Menæchmi appeared in 1530; and, during the reign of Elizabeth, Italian literature was much cultivated in England.


Edinburgh, Jan. 17th, 1797.

The industry and success with which you have elucidated the early history of Scotland, demand

* Malcolm Laing, Esq., a distinguished advocate at the Scotch bar, published the sixth volume of Dr. Henry's History of England, with his Life, and a Continuation; the History of Scotland, from the Union of the Crowns by the Accession of James VI., to the Union of the Kingdoms in the Reign of Queen Anne; and an edition of the Poems of Ossian, with Notes and a Dissertation. In the general election of 1807, he was returned to the House of Commons as member for the Orkneys, of which he was a native. In Mr. Field's Life of Dr. Parr, vol. ii. p. 240, is the following notice of Mr. Laing, so honorable to the memory of that gentleman, that I feel I should be guilty of an act of injustice were I not here to transcribe it. "Dr. Parr, in his visit to Edinburgh, became acquainted with the well-known historian of Scotland, Malcolm Laing, Esq., whose work was emphatically styled by Mr. Fox, a treasure, opening new sources, he said, of interesting in2 E


not only the gratitude of your impartial countrymen, but whatever information individuals can contribute to your future researches. It is from the interest which your past, and the expectation which your future productions excite, that I take the liberty to address you.

In your Portraits of Illustrious Persons in Scotland, a hint contained in the character of Anne of Denmark, imparts a luminous conception, and, to my mind, the most rational explanation of Gowrie's conspiracy. In the tract which you have almost promised on that intricate subject, your attention will no doubt be directed to the subsequent discoveries of Sprott the notary, and to Logan of Restalrig's attainder after death. As I have had occasion to examine these points minutely in a History of Scotland which I am preparing, from the accession, 1603, to the Union, and in which I have made considerable progress,

formation; presenting new views of important transactions, and constituting a valuable acquisition to all who wish to obtain a true knowledge of the history of the nation of which it treats, Upon the same work Dr. Parr also passed his encomium in the following terms: "The ardor of Mr. Laing in the career of liberty is not disgraced by democratic coarseness or theoretic refinement. His inquiry into the controverted question of Mary's participation in the death of Darnley is minute without tediousness, and acute without sophistry. When I consider his sagacity in explaining causes, his clearness in relating facts, his vigor in portraying character, or his ingenuity in unfolding and enforcing principles, I shall ever find reason to lament that the continuance of Hume's History was not undertaken by a writer so eminently qualified as Mr. Laing, for a work so arduous and important."

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