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Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity on those who could exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too Joud to be distinct. His chief affailants are the authours of the Canons of criticijm and of the Review of Shakespeare's text; of whom one ridicules his errours with airy petulance, suitable enough to the levity of the controversy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to justice an assassin or incendiary. The one stings like a fly, sucks a little blood, takes a gay Autter, and returns for more; the other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and gangrene behind him. When I think on one, with his confederates, I remember the danger of Coriolanus, who was afraid that girls with spits, and boys will stones, pould say him in puny battle; when the other crosses my imagination, I remember the prodigy in Macbeth,
An eagle tow'ring in bis pride of place,
Let me however do them justice. One is a wit, and one a scholar. They have both shewn acuteness fufficient in the discovery of faules, and have both advanced some probable interpretations of obscure passages; but when they aspire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falsely we all estimate our own abilities, and the little which they have been able to perform might have taught them more candour to the endeavours of others.
Before Dr. Warburton's edition, Critical observations on Shakespeare had been published by Mr. Upton, a man skilled in languages, and acquainted with books, but who seems to have had no great vigour of genius or nicety of taste. Many of his explanations are curious and useful, but he likewise, though he profeffed to oppose the licentious confidence of editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to restrain the
rage of emendation, though his ardour is ill feconded by his skill. Every cold empirick, when his heart is expanded by a successful experiment, swells into a theorist, and the laborious collator at some unlucky moment frolicks in conjecture.
Critical, historical and explanatory no!es have been likewise published upon Shakespeare by Dr. Grey, whose diligent perusal of the old English writers has enabled him to make some useful observations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticism, he employs rather his memory than his fagacity. Ic were so be wilhed that all would endeavour to initate his modesty who have not been able to surpass his knowledge.
I can say with great sincerity of all my predecessors, what I hope will hereafter be said of me, that not one has left Sbakespeare without improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been indebted for alliance and information. Whatever I have taken from them it was my intention to refer to its original authour, and it is certain, that what I have not
given to another, I believed when I wrote it to be my own. In some perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour, be it more or less, should be transferred to the first claimant, for' his right, and his alone, stands above dispute; the second can prove his pretensions only to himself, nor can himlelf always distinguish invention, with sufficient certainty, from recollection.
They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been careful of observing to one another. It is not easy to discover from what cause the acrimony of a scholiaft can naturally procced. The subjects to be discussed by him are of very small importance; they involve neither property nor liberty ; nor favour the interest of fect or party. The various readings of copies, and disferent interpretations of a passage, seem to be questions that might exercise the wit, without engaging the pallions. But, whether it be, that small things make meen men proud, and vanity catches small occasions ; or that all cuntrariety of opinion, even in those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there is often found in commentaries a spontaneous strain of invective and contempt, more eager and ver omous than is venied by the most furious controvertist in polipicks against those whom he is hired to defame.
Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to
be iovestigated is so near'to inexistence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation : That to which all would be indifferent in its original state, may attract notice when the face of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temprations to supply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a spacious surface, to work that to foam which no art or diligence can exalt to spiric.
The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illustrative, by which difficulties are explained; or judicial, by which faults and beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which depravations are corrected.
The explanations transcribed from others, if I do not subjoin any other interpretation, I suppose commonly to be right, at least I intend by acquiescence to confess, that I have nothing better to propose.
After the labours of all the edicors, I found many passages which appeared to me likely to obstruct the greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to facilitate their passage. It is impossible for an expositor not to write too little for some, and too much for others. He can only judge what is necessary by his own experience; and how long soever he may deliberate, will at last explain many lines which the learned will think impoflible to be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help. These are censures merely relative, and must be quietly
endured. I have endeavoured to be neither superAuously copious, nor scrupulously reserved, and hope that I have made my authour's meaning accessible to many who before were frighted from perusing bim, and contributed something to the publick, by diffusing innocent and rational pleasure.
The compleat explanation of an authour not fystematick and consequential, but desultory and vagrant, abounding in casual allusions and light hints, is not to be expected from any single scholiaft. All personal reflections, when names are suppressed, must be in a few years irrecoverable oblitterated; and customs, too minute to attract the notice of law, such as modes of dress, formalities of conversation, rules of visits, disposition of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which naturally find places in familiar dialogue, arc so fugitive and unsubstantial, that they are not easily retained or recovered. What can be known, will be collected by chance, from the recesses of obscure and obsolete papers, perused commonly with some other view. Of this knowledge every man has fome, and none has much; but when an authour has engaged the publick attention, those who can add any thing to bis illustration, communicate their discoveries, and time produces what had eluded diligence.
To time I have been obliged to resign many pafsages, which, though I did not understand them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, having, I hope, illustrated some, which others have neglected or mistaken, sometimes by hort remarks, or marginal di