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lated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man lo anxiousy scrupulous might have been expected 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 edicions, 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 diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have sometimes suppressed, and his contemprible ostentation I have frequently concealed; but I have in some places shewn him, as he would have shewn himself, for the reader's diverfion, that the infiuced 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 folicite favour, against those who command reverence ; and so easily is he praised, whom no man can envy.
Our authour fell then into the hands of Sir Tbos mas Hanmer, the Oxford.editor, a man, in my opinion, eminently qualified by nature for such studies. He had, what is the first requisice 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 feldom 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 authour intended to be grammatical. Shake)peare 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 measures reformed in so many passages, by the fient labouts of fome editors,
with the silent acquiescence of the rest, that he thought himself allowed to extend a little further the license, which had already been carried so far without reprehension, and of his corrections in general, it must be confeffed, that they are often just, and made commonly with the least poslible violacion 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 consideration, I have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will with for more.
Of the last editor it is more difficult to speak. Refpect is due to high place, tenderness to living reputation, and veneration to genius and learning ; but he cannot be justly offended at that liberty of which he has himself so frequently given an example, nor Very solicitous what is thought of notes, which he ought never to have considered as part of his serious employments, and which, I suppose, since the ardour of composition is remitted, he no longer numbers among his happy effufions.
The original and predominant errour of his commentary, is acquiescence in his first thoughts ; that precipitation which is produced by consciousness of quick discernment; and that confidence which pre. sumes to do, by surveying the surface, what Jabour only can perform, by penetrating the bottom. His notes exhibit sometimes perverse interpretations, and sometimes improbable conjectures; he at one time gives the authour more profundity of meaning than the sentence admits, and at another discovers absurdities, where the sense is plain to every other reader. But his emendations are likewise often happy and just; and his interpretation of obscure passages learned and sagacious.
Of his notes, I have commonly rejected those, against which the general voice of the publick has exclaimed, or which their own incongruity immediately condemns, and which, I suppose, the authour himself would desire to be forgotten. Of the rest, to part I have given the highest approbation, by inferring the offered reading in the text; part I have left to the judgment of the reader, as doubtful, though specious; and part I have cenfured without reserve, but I am sure without bitterness of malice, and, I hope, without wantonness of insult.
It is no pleasure to me, in revising my volumes, to observe how much paper is wasted in confutation. Whoever considers 'the revolutions of learning, and the various questions of greater or less importance, upon which wit and reaton have exercised their powers,
must lament the unsuccessfulness of enquiry, and the Now advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of the labour of every writer is only the destruction of those that went before him. The first care of the builder of a new system, is to demolish the fabricks which are standing. The chief desire of him that comments an authour, is to shew how much other commentators have corrupted and obscured him. The opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach of controversy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rise again to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion without progress. Thus sometimes truth and errour, and fometimes contrarieties of errour, take each others place by reciprocal invasion. The tide of seeming knowledge which is poured over one generation, retires and leaves another naked and barren ; the sudden meteors of intelligence which for a while appear to shout their beams into the regions of obscuricy, on a sudden withdraw their lustre, and leave mortals again to grope their way.
These elevations and depressions of renown, and the contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge must for ever be exposed, since they are not escaped by the highest and brightest of mankind, may surely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themselves but as the fatellites of their authours. How canit thou beg for life, says Achilles to his captive, when thou knowest that thou art now to suffer only what must another day be suffered by Achilles ?