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pected that the reading is right, which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot without so much labour appear to be right. The juftness of a happy restoration strikes at once, and the moral precept may be well applied to criticism, quod dubitas ne feceris.

To dread the shore which he sees spread with wrecks, is natural to the sailor. I had before my eye so many critical adventures ended in miscarriage, that caution was forced upon me. countered in every page wit struggling with its own sophistry, and learning confused by the multiplicity of its views. I was forced to censure those whom I admired, and could not but reflect, while I was difpoffefling their emendations, how soon the same fate might happen to my own, and how many of the readings which I have corrected may be by some other editor defended and established.

I en

Criticks I saw, that others' names efface,
And fix their own, with labour, in the place ;
Their own, like others, soon their place resign'd,
Or disappear'd, and left the first behind.


That a conjectural critick should often be inistaken, cannot be wonderful, either to others or himself, if it be considered, that in his art there is no system,, no principal and axiomatical truth that regulates subordinate positions. His chance of error is renewed at every attempt; an oblique view of the passage, a Night misapprehension of a phrase, a casual inattention to the parts connected, is suf

cient to make him not only fail, but fail ridiculously; and when he succeeds best, he produces per

haps haps but one reading of many probable, and he that suggests another will always be able to dispute his claims.

It is an unhappy state, in which danger is hid under pleasure. The allureinents of emendation are scarcely resistible. Conjecture has all the joy and all the pride of invention, and he that has once started a happy change, is too much delighted to consider what objections may rise against it.

Yet conjectural criticisin has been of great use in the learned world; nor is it my intention to depreciate a study, that has exercised so many mighty minds, from the revival of learning to our own age, from the bishop of Aleria to Eriglish Bentley. The criticks on ancient authors have, in the exercise of their fagacity, many asistances, which the editor of Shakespeare is condemned to want. They are employed upon grammatical and settled languages, whose construction contributes so much to perfpicuity, that Hemer has fewer passages unintelligible than Chaucer. The words have not only a known reginnen, but invariable quantities, which direct and confine the choice. There are commonly more manuscripts than one; and they do not often confpire in the fame mistakes. Yet Scaliger could confels to Salmefills how little satisfaction his emenda-. tions give him. Illudunt nobis conjecturæ noftræ, queruin nos pudet, posteagitiin jil meliores codices incis dimis. And Lip/1:5 could complain, that criticks were making faults, by trying to remove them, Ut olim vitiis, ita nunc remediis laboratur. And indeed, where mere conjecture is to be used, the emendations of Scaliger and Lipins, notwithstanding their


wonderful sagacity and erudition, are often vague and disputable, like mine or Theobald's.

Perhaps I may not be more censured for doing wrong, than for doing little ; for raising in the publick, expectations which at last I have not anfwered. The expectation of ignorance is indefinite, and that of knowledge is often tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not what to demand, or those who demand by design what they think impossible to be done. I have indeed disappointed no opinion more than my own; yet I have endeavoured to perform my talk with no night solicitude. Not a single passage in the whole work has appeared to me corrupt, which I have not attempted to restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to illustrate. In many I have failed, like others; and from many, after all my efforts, I have retreated, and confessed the repulse. I have not passed over, with affected superiority, what is equally difficult to the reader and to myself, but, where I could not instruct him, have owned my ignorance. I might easily have accumulated a mass of seeming learning upon easy scenes; but it ought not to be imputed to negligence, that, where nothing was necessary, nothing has been done, or that, where others have said enough, I have said no more.

Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him, that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play, from the first scene to the last, with utter

negligence negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at core rection or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him seid on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption ; let him prelerve his comTrcliention of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceastui, let him attempt exa&tness, and read the

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Particular paftages are cleared by notes, but the scneral effect of the work is weakened. The inind is refrigerated by interruption ; the thoughts are di. verted from the principal fubject; the reader is weary, he fufpects not why; and at last throws away the book which he has too diligently studied.

Pirts are not to be examined till the whole has been furveyed; there is a kind of intellectual remotenuis neceffary for the comprehension of any great

work in its full design and in its true proportions; a close approach fhews the smaller niceties, but the beauty of the whole is discerned no longer.

It is not very grateíul to consider how little the fucccfiion of editors his added to this author's wrofi leasing. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all tie improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him; while the reading was yet pot recufid, nor his allusions understood; yet then di Indone pronounce, “ that Shakespeare was the man, who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive « foul. All the images of nature were still present " to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but


luckily: when he describes any thing, you more " than see it, you feel it too. Those, who accuse " him to have wanted learning, give him the greater " commendation : he was naturally learned: he “ needed not the spectacles of books to read na

ture; he looked inwards, and found her there. “ I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so « I should do him injury to compare him with the

greatest of mankind. He is many times flat and

insipid; his comick wit degenerating into " clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But “ he is always great, when some great occasion is “ presented to him: no man can fay, he ever had “ a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise “ himself as high above the rest of poets,

Quantum lenta folent inter viburna cuprefi." It is to be lamented, that such a writer should want a commentary; that his language should become obsolete, or his sentiments obfcure. But it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things; that which must happen to all, has happened to Shakespeare, by accident and time; and more than has been suffered by any other writer since the use of types, has been suffered by him through his own negligence of fame, or perhaps by that superiority of mind, which despised its own performances, when it compared thein with its powers, and judged those works unworthy to be


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