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A Review of Doctor Johnson's New Edition of Shakespeare : In
which the Ignorance, or Inattention, of that Editor is exposed, and
the Poet defended from the Persecution of his Commentators. By - W. Kenrick. 8vo. 35. Payne..
THEN men, eminent for their abilities, or learning, VV engage on contested points of literature or science, persons of inferior endowments will naturally look up to them, as to examples, for their imitation; they will study their arts of attack and defence ; they will copy their manners; and if the dispute be liberally conducted, they will observe how generously the MASTERS encounter, _scorning every little mean advantage, and mutually disclaiming all personal enmity, or private malice :- the love of Truth their principle, and Fame their only motive. With what superior skill do they wield the weapons of controversy! with what elegance of deportment, what refinement of address ! equally displaying the scholar, the genius, and the gentleman !
On the contrary, when we see, as too often we do fee, perfons of distinguished abilities indecently attacking each other, forgetful not only of what they owe to the cause of truth, but even the respect due to their own rank in the republic of letters, -how much reason have we to regret the illiberal dispute, and to be sorry for such improper examples !-examples which the passions of mankind will but too naturally excite them to fol. low!- How much, rather, were it to be wished, that men of letters would learn to diflent from each other with urbanity, and to debate with such candid opposition of sentiment, that 'every witness to the friendly contest, thould be ready to cry out with the poet,
: - Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes . . Emollit mores, nec finit elle feros!
The foregoing general reflection was excited by some passages in the rough attack which the Author of the critical performance now before us, hath made on a gentleman of established literary reputation. This Reviewer feems to be one of those violent af
sailants whofe aim is not merely to vanquish but even to exter*minate his antagonist. · With him, it is not enough that the
editor of Shakespeare be proved to have mistaken his own powers . and qualifications, when he undertook that arduous task, in which greater men than Dr. Johnson have failed of success, but he muft also be exposed as a very pretender to all literature and science * !- This is really outrageous! What must the im
* See p. 54; where Mr. K. says, 'it does not appear to him, that Dr. J. is matter of any one science, or any one language.' REV. (c. 1765.
partial partial reader think of such extravagance? what, but that Mr. Kenrick is, in controversy, what the North-American Indians are in war; and comes arined with the tomahawk and scalpingknife, to slay, and to strip, the slain, with the barbarity of a Mohawk or a Cherokee. . To do our Author justice, however, he seems to have been conscious of his having offended against the laws of literary wår; and he thus apologizes for it, in his preface; if, indeed, that can be called an apology, which is rather a justification : · "The Author,' says he, speaking of himself, can readily foresee, that he shall be thought to have treated both Dr. Johnson and Dr. Warburton (for he spares the bishop as little as he hath spared the doctor of laws with an ill-becoming levity, if not with unmerited severity.-The Reviewer confeffes indeed he should have been glad to have had, on this occasion, less to do with the commentary of the reverend gentleman lasť mentinned. , And this, he has reason to think, would have been the case, had not Dr. Johnson been prevailed on by his printer prus dentially to cancel several annotations, in which he had strongly exprefled his dissent from that learned scholiaft. But having, on second thoughts, judged it expedient to shelter himself, as it were, under the wing of the bishop of Gloucester; it is hoped the justice due to Shakespeare will excuse the Reviewer, though he should be sometimes obliged, in correcting his present editor, to ruffle and expose an irreverend feather or two of the bishop's.
That he may not be suspected, however, of attempting to injure either, from a principle of spleen of resentment, he can safely aver, with regard to both, what another of Dr. Warburton's antagonists hath declared in respect to him alone; i. é. “ That he is personally a stranger to either of these gentlemen; never conversed with them ; never saw them [bit onte] ; never had the least communication with them of any kind ; never bath received or solicited any favour from either ; nor, on the other hand, had been ever personally disobliged by them ; fo that it is · impoffible this proceeding can have been influenced either by
disappointment or resentment. The truth is, that the Reviewer hath always understood it to be an established law in the republic of letters, wisely calculated to restrain the excesses of insult, pe. · tulance and ill-nature, too apt to shoot up in the fplenetic re. .cesses of solitary literature, that every writer should be treated on the same foot of civility, on which, when unprovoked by prior ili ufage, he hath been accustomed to treat others.” Now, whether he hath treated either of these gentlemen worfe than thcy have treated Shakespeare, he dares appeal to the impartiality of the public; which, at whateyer low estimation it may rate an obscure author, who hath never set his name to a book; it will hardly think there can be a greater difference between him and
this par nobile fratrum of commentators, than there is between them and the inimitable writer on whose works they have fo freely commented. If the Reviewer hath at any time, indeed, behaved towards these gentlemen with little ceremony, it hathbeen always when they deserved much lefs : for it is to be observed, he had nothing to do with the political characters of either. He did not think it necessary, therefore, to pay any deference to Dr. Johnson, as his majesty's pensioner ; nor to Dr. Warburton, as bilhop of Gloucester. Their literary character was all that concerned him ; and even, viewing them in this Jight, he had to respect them only as commentators on Shakespeare.
Not that the Reviewer piques himself on being deficient in point of civility, or would take upon himself to infringe the necessary forms of decency and decorum. He admits, as Dr. Johnfon observes, “ that respect is due to high place, and tenderness for living reputation :" but then he conceives that respect to be limited both as to place and time ; and cannot admit that any tenderness for the living gives us a right to trample inhumanly and sacrilegiously on the dead.
Had the bishop of Gloucester, when he entered on that right-reverend function, made a public recantation of the errors of poetry, and formally renounced the pomps and vanities of verbal criticism; not one of the heresies he maintained, or the fins he committed in this kind, absurd and enormous as they were, should, with the Reviewer's consent, have risen up in judgment against him; or have been dragged from that oblivion, to which they seemed eternally consigned. But if either Dr. Warburton, or his friends, presume on the influence of lawnTeeves in the republic of letters, it is proper to inform them there are neither bishops, priests, nor deacons in that community. The republic of letters is a perfect democracy, where, all being equal, there is no respect of persons, but every one hath a right to speak the truth »f another, to cenfure without fear, and to commend without favour or affection. Nor is the literary community of less dignity than the political. Popularity and inAuence, indeed, may be obtained, for a while, by finifter means in both; but though birth and wealth may confer eminence and power in the one, not the descent of an Alexander, nor the siches of Creesus, confer prerogative or authority in the other.' • How far such apologizing as this, may suffice to excuse the many extraordinary freedoms which this Writer hath taken with Dr. Johnson, (some of which we may be obliged to quote, in the course of the article, although we fhould rather chufe to avoid the spreading of such personalities) we leave our Readers to conclude ; and thall now proceed to give some idea of Mr. Kena şick's hypercriticisins.
first parin Tempeft; and. As a specimo
4 This large pamphlet contains only half of the Author's des fign; which is, to take a review of all the eight volumes of which Dr. Johnson's edition of Shakespeare consists. The prefent firft part goes no farther than the third volume. Mr. K. begins with the Tempeft; and goes on with the play's, in the order wherein they are printed. As a specimen of his abilities and manner as a critic, in general, and of his knowlege of
Shakespeare, and the earlier English poets, in particular, we * fhall select a few passages, and the fewer will fuffice, as we shall
have an opportunity of returning to the subject, when the fecerid "part of this undertaking shall be published : - and it is promiled, in the advertisement, with all convenient speed.'
In The Midsummer-night's Dream, the following passage bath given rise to some very notable criticisms : Qusen. Full often the hath goslipt by my fide;
And sat with me, on Neptune's yellow lands,
When we have laught to see the sails conceive,
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait,
As from a voyage rich with merchandize.
and eighth lines. ' Dr. Warburton says, “ Following what? *The did not follow the ship, whose motion she imitated; for that failed on the water, she on the land. If by following we are to understand imitating, it will be a mere pleonasm-imitating would imitate. From the poet's description of the actions it plainly * appears we should read
FOLLYING . .
Would imitate. *i. e. wantoning in sport and gaiety. Thus the old English . writers--and they beleeven FOLYLY and fallely -- says Sir J. Mandeville, from and in the sense of folâtrer, to play the wanton. This exactly agrees to the action described. -- full often has me gollipt by my fide-and-when we have laught to fee."
* This note, Dr. Johnson tells us, is very ingenious ; but, "continues he, "fince Follying is a word of which I know not any example; aird the fairy's favourite might,' without much
icentiousness of language, be said to follow a ship that failed in the direction of the coast, I think there is no sufficient reason for adopting it. The coinage of new words is a violent remedy, "not to be afed but in the last necessity."
. . . . . I will
ad gaiety; and fal to play
I will not, says Mr. K. dispute with our editor the ingenuity of Dr. Warburton's note, or that of his own; but it is certainly an ingenuity of a different kind to that which is necefsary to illustrate Shakespeare. The former of these gentlemen, I remember, affected to ridicule the booksellers for believing a filly maxim, that none but a poet should presume to meddle with a poet. The event, however, hath proved this maxiın to have some truth in it. If either Dr. Warburton, or Dr. Johnson, had, in criticising this passage, exercised their ingenuity as poets, instead of their ingenuity as philologers, I am persuaded they would soon have discovered its meaning. But they were too intent upon words, to attend to the images designed to be .conveyed by them. The former talks of an action described in
two lines, wherein nothing is spoken of but gollipping and laughiing. Do these imitate a ship under fail? To have been merely · playful and wanton, is not the imitation here mentioned: nor
docs it confift in merely following the object imitated, as Dr. : Johnson conceives; for the did not only sail upon land, in the · fame direction along the coast as the ships did in the sea; but the returned again, which must have been in a different direction. So that it appears neither of these ingenious critics had any idea of the poetical beauty of this passage.--I Thall endeavour to ex"plain it, therefore, by a very different mode of investigation.
If the reader hath ever seen a ship scudding before the wind, * with its' fore-fail grown big-bellied, as the poet expresses it, with
the swelling breeze; he muft recollect that, in such a case, the "- fail projects fo far forward, that it seems, to a spectator on
fhore, to go in a manner before the rest of the veflel; which, for the same reason, appears to follow, though closely, after, with an easy, swimming motion. This was the moving image, which the fairy's favourite, taking the hint from, and the advantage of, her pregnancy, endeavoured to imitate; and this she did, by wantonly displaying before her the convexity of her swelling belly, and moving after it, as the poet describes,
with pretry and with swimming gait. : Such being the sense of the pasfage, the text is easily ascertained, • by pointing and reading thus;
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait
Following her womb, then rich with my young squire, . Would imitate. . This is the method a critic should take with the poets. 'Trace · out their images, and you will soon find how they exprefied .themselves, without perplexing yourself either about the mean
ing of antiquated words, or the coinage of new ones.' • We cannot help thinking that Mr. Kenrick hath understood
and explained this beautiful paffage better than any former commentator ; and his illustration is to us the more satisfactory, as Hh3