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As of the other editors, I have preserved the prefaces, I have likewise borrowed the author's life from Rowe, though not written with much elegance or spirit; it relates however what is now to be known, and therefore deserves to pass through all succeeding publications.
The nation had been for many years content enough with Mr. Rowe's performance, when Mr. Pope made them acquainted with the true state of Shakespeare's țext, shewed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave reason to hope that there were means of reforming it. He collated the old copies, which none had thought to examine before, and restored many lines to their integrity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected whatever he disliked, and thought more of amputation than of cure.
I know not why he is commended by Dr. Wara buton for distinguishing the genuine from the spurious plays. In this choice he exerted no judgment of his own; the plays which he received, were given by Hemings and Condel, the first editors; and those which he rejected, though, according to the licentiousness of the press in those times, they were printed during Shakespeare's life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and were never added to his works before the edition of 1664, from which they were copied by the later printers.
This is a work which Pope seems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to suppress his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He under
stood food but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is indeed dull, yet, ' like other tedious tasks, is very neceffary; but an emendatory critick would ill discharge his duty, without qualities very different from dulness. In perusing a corrupted piece, he must have before him all poffibilities of meaning, with all possibilities of expression. Such must be his comprehenfion of thought, and such his copiousness of language. Out of many readings possible, he must be able to select that which best suits with the state, opinions, and modes of language prevailing in every age, and with his author's particular cast of thought, and turn of expression. Such must be his knowledge and such his taste. Conjectural criticism demands more than humanity poffefies, and he that exercises it with most praise, has very frequent need of indulgence. Let us now be told no more of the dull duty of an editor. . .
· Confidence is the common consequence of success. They whose excellence of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude, that their powers are universal. Pope's edition fell below his own expectations, and he was so much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for others to do, that he passed the latter part of his life in a state of hoftility with verbal criticism.
I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of so great a writer may be loft; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of composition and justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his au.
thor, thor, fo extensive that little can be added, and so exact, chat little can be disputed, every editor has an interest to suppress, but that every reader would de.
and its infertion.
Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension, and small acquisitions, with no native and intrinsic fplendor of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in pursuing it. He collated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man so anxiously scrupulous might have been ex. pected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.
In his reports of copies and editions he is not to! be trusted without examination. He speaks sometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio as of middle authority ; but the truth is, that the first is equivalent to all others, and that the rest only deviate from it by the printer's negligence. Whoever has, any of the folios has all, excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first,
Of his notes I have generally retained those which he retained himself in his second edition, except when they were confuted by subsequent annotators, or were too minute to merit preservation. I have sometimes adopted his restoration of a comma, without inserting
the panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his atchievement. The exuberant excrescence of his diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have sometimes suppressed, and his contemptible oftentation I have frequently concealed ; but I have in some places shewn him, as he would have shewn himself, for the reader's diversion, that the inflated emptiness of some notes may justify or excuse the contraction of the rest.
Theobald, thus weak and ignorant, thus mean and faithless, thus petulant and oftentatious, by the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and escaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. So willingly does the world support those who solicie favour, against those who command reverence ; and so easily is he praised, whom no man can envy.
Our author fell then into the hands of Sir Thomas Hanmer, the Oxford editor, a man, in my opinion, eminently qualified by nature for such studies. He had, what is the first requisite to emendatory criticism, that intuition by which the poet's intention is immediately discovered, and that dexterity of intellect which dispatches its work by the easiest means. He had undoubtedly read much ; his acquaintance with customs, opinions, and traditions, seems to have been large ; and he is often learned without shew. He seldom passes what he does not understand, without an attempt to find or to make a meaning, and sometimes hastily makes what a little more attention would have found. He is solicitous to reduce to grammar, what he could not be sure that his author intended
to be grammatical. Shakespeare regarded more the series of ideas, than of words ; and his language, not being designed for the reader's desk, was all that he desired it to be, if it conveyed his meaning to the audience.
Hanmer's care of the metre has been too violently censured. He found the measure reformed in so many passages, by the silent labours of some editors, with the silent acquiescence of the rest, that he thought himself allowed to extend a little further the licence, which had already been carried so far without reprehenfion; and of his corrections in general, it must be confessed, that they are often just, and made commonly with the least possible violation of the text.
But, by inserting his emendations, whether invented or borrowed, into the page, without any notice of varying copies, he has appropriated the labour of his predecessors, and made his own edition of little authority. His confidence indeed, both in himself and others, was too great ; he supposes all to be right that was done by Pope and Theobald; he seems not to suspect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reasonable that he should claim what he so liberally granted.
! As he never writes without careful enquiry and
diligent confideration, I have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will wish for more.