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'HE snatches of lyrical poetry scattered here and there among the Plays of
Shakspere are, in part at least, familiar wherever his language is spoken, and are acknowledged, by all readers of taste and sensibility, to unite nearly every perfection of which such compositions are susceptible.
His Miscellaneous Poems, however--and particularly his “ Sonnets,” the most delightful portion of them have never, in the present age, been estimated as they deserve. To what is this to be attributed ? Not, certainly, to any want of interest or beauty in the productions themselves; for there are of these Sonnets many which, in nobility and tenderness of thought, in power and harmony of expression, have never been surpassed, if they have ever been equalled, by any poems of a like description. Wordsworth, indeed, says of them, that “there is not a part of the writings of this. Poet where is to be found, in an equal compass, a greater number of exquisite feelings felicitously expressed.” Their want of due appreciation, we know, has been ascribed to the unworthy strictures of George Steevens, and it must be admitted that his adverse criticism on them had, for a time, a very prejudicial influence. But this influence has long passed away. No one now reads Shakspere's Sonnets by the light of this commentator's wisdom. The simple truth appears to be, that these matchless effusions are not prized at the same worth as the Poet's Songs, because they are so much less known.
When no edition of his “Works” will be reckoned complete which does not contain his Miscellaneous Poems, 'tis not long after, the merits of his Sonnets will be as universally admitted as those of his unrivalled Dramas.