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‘Phe story of this tragedy has been told in many an ancient ballad, and other ingenious works; but mr. Malone supposes, that Shakspeare is more indebted for his fable to “the true chronicle history of king Lear and his three daughters. Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia.” than no any other production. Camden, in his remains, gives the following account of an english king, which is also similar to the story of Leir, or Lear. “Ina, king of the west saxons, had three daughters, of whom, upon a time, he demanded, whether they did love him, and so would do during their fives, above all others? the two elder sware deeply they would ; the youngest, but the wisest, told her father "atly. that albeit she did love, honor, and reverence him, and so would whilst she lived, as much as nature and daughterly duty at the uttermost could expect; yet she did think that one day it would come to pass, that she should affect another more fervently, meaning her husband, when she were married.” This relation, the commentator imagires, may probably have been applied to king Lear; whom Geoffrey of Monmouth says, “nobly governed his country for sixty years, and died about eight hundred years before the birth of Christ.” Notwithstanding the number of histories and books of fiction, that have promulgated this pileous tale of a monarch and his children, it remains a doubt among the most learned on this subject, whether such an event, as here described, ever, in reality, occured.
But, if it never did before the time of Shakspeare, certainly something very like it has taken place sinceLear is not represented much more affectionate to his daughters by Shakspeare, than James the second is by Hume. James's daughters were, besides, under more than ordinary obligations to their king and father, for the tenderness he had evinced towards their mother, in raising her from an humble station to the elevation of his own; and thus preserving these two princesses from the probable disgrace of illegitimate birth. Even to such persons as hold it was right to drive king James from the throne, it must be a subject of lamentation, that his beloved children were the chief instruments of those concerned. When the king was informed that his eldest daughter, Mary, was landed, and proceeding to the metropolis, in order to dethrone him, he called, as the historian relates, for the princess Anne–and called for her by the tender description of his “dear, his only remaining daughter.” On the information given to his masjesty in return, that “she had forsook the palace, to join her sister,” the king wept and tore his hair. Lear, exposed on a bleak-heath, suffered not more than James, at one of the sea ports, trying to escape to France. King Lear was only pelted by a storm, king James by his merciless subjects. Not one of Shakspeare's plays more violently agitates the passions than this tragedy; parents and children are alike interested in every character, and instructed by each. There is, nevertheless, too much of ancient cruelty in many of the events. An audience finds horror prevail over compassion, on Gloster's loss of his eyes: and though dr. Johnson has vindicated this frightful incident, by saying, “Shakspeare well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote;” yet this argument is no apology for the correctors of Shakspeare, who have altered the drama to gratify spectators more refined, and yet have not expunged this savage and improbable act. he nice distinction which the author has made be
tween the real and the counterfeit madman in this tra-