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endeavouring to make him speak better than the old copies have done.
Where, through all the former editions, a pafrage has Inboured under fiat nonsense and invincible darkness, if, by the addition or alteration of a letter or two, or a transposition in the pointing, I have restored to him both lense and sentiment; such corrections, I am persuaded, will need no indulgence.
And whenever I have taken a greater latitude and liberty in amending, I have constantly endeavoured to support my corrections and conjectures by parallel passages and authorities from himteif, the fureit means of expounding any author whatsoever. Cette vie d'interpreter un autheur par lui-même et plus sure que tous les commentaires, says a very learned French critick.
As to my notes (from which the common and learned readers of our author, I hope, will derive fome satisfaction) I lave endeavoured to give them a variety in some propertion to their number. Wherever I have ventured at a emendation, a note is constantly subjoined to justify and alert the reason of it. Where I only offer a conjeclure, and do not difturb the text, I fairly set forth my grounds for such conjecture, and submit it to judgment. Some remarks are ipent in explaining paffages, where the wit or fitire depends on an obscure point of history: others, where aliusions are to divinity, philosophy, or other branches of fcience. Some are added to thew, where there is a sufpicion of our author having borrowed from the ancients: others, to thew where he is rallying his contemporaries ; or where tre himtelf is rallied by them. And fome are neceffarily thrown in, to explain an obscure and obsolete term, phrase, or idea. I once intended to have added a complete and copious gloffary; but as I have been importuned, and am prepared to give a correct edition of our author's Poems, (in which many terins occur that are not to be met with in his plays) I thought a glossary to all Shakespeare's works more proper to attend that volume.
In reforming an infinite number of paffages in the pointing, where the sense was before quite loft, I have frequently fubjoined notes to show the depraved, and to prove the reformed, pointing: a part of labour in this work which I could very willingly have spared myself. May it not be objected, why then have you burdened us with these notes ? The answer is obvious, and, if I mistake not, very ma
terial. Without such notes, these passages in subsequent editions would be liable, through the ignorance of printers and correctors, to fall into the old confusion : whereas, a note on every one hinders all possible return to depravity; and for ever secures them in a state of purity and integrity not to be lost or forfeited.
Again, as some notes have been necessary to point out the detection of the corrupted text, and establish the restoration of the genuine readings ; some others have been as necessary for the explanation of passages obscure and difficult. To understand the necessity and use of this part of my talk, fome particulars of my author's character are previously to be explained. There are obfiurities in him, which are common to him with all poets of the same species ; there are others, the issue of the times he lived in; and there are others, again, peculiar to himself. The nature of comick poetry being entirely satirical, it busies itself more in exposing what we call caprice and humour, than vices cognizable to the laws. The English, from the happiness of a free constitution, and a turn of mind peculiarly speculative and inquisitive, are observed to produce more humourists, and a greater variety of original charaéters, than any other people whatsoever : and thefe owing their immediate birth to the peculiar genius of each age, an infinite number of things alluded to, glanced at, and exposed, must needs become obscure, as the characters themselves are antiquated and disused. An editor therefore should be well versed in the history and manners of his author's age, if he aims at doing him a service in this respect. · Besides, wit lying mostly in the assemblage of ideas, and in putting those together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance, or congruity, to make up pleasant pictures, and agreeable visions in the fancy; the writer, who aims at wit, must of course range far and wide for materials. Now the age in which Shakespeare lived, having, above all others, a wonderful affection to appear learned, they declined vulgar images, such as are immediately fetched from nature, and ranged through the circle of the sciences to fetch their ideas from thence. But as the resemblances of such ideas to the subject must necessarily lie very much out of the common way, and every piece of wit appear a riddle to the vulgar; this, that should have taught them the forced, quaint, unnatural tract they were in (and induce them to follow a more natural one)
was the very thing that kept them attached to it. The oftentatious affectation of abftrufe learning, peculiar to that time, the love that men naturally have to every thing that looks like mystery, fixed them down to the habit of obscurity. Thus became the poetry of Donne (though the wittiest man of that age) nothing but a continued heap of riddles. And our Shakespeare, with all his ealy nature about him, for want of the knowledge of the true rules of art, falls frequently into this vicious manner.
The third fpecies of obfcurities which deform our author, as the effects of his own genius and character, are thote that proceed from his peculiar manner of thinking, and as peculiar a manner of clothing those thoughts. With regard to his thinking, it is certain, that he had a general knowledge of all the sciences: but his acqnaintance was rather that of a traveller than a native. Nothing in philosophy was unknown to him ; but every thing in it had the grace and force of novelty. And as novelty is one main source of admiration, we are not to wonder that he has perpetual allusions to the most recondite parts of the sciences : and this was done not so much out of affectation, as the effect of admiration begot by novelty. Then, as to his file and diction, we may much more justly apply to SHAKESPEARE, what a celebrated writer faid of MILTON: Our language funk under him, and was unequal to that greatness of foul which furnished him with such glorious conceptions. He therefore frer quently uses old words, to give his diction an air of solemnity; as he coins others, to express the novelty and variety of his ideas,
Upon every diftinct species of these obscurities, I have thought it my province to employ a note for the service of my author, and the entertainment of my readers. A few transient remarks too I have not scrupled to intermix, upon the poet's negligences and omiffions in point of art; but I have done it always in such a manner, as will testify my deference and veneration for the immortal author. Some censurers of Shakespeare, and particularly Mr. Rymer, have taught me to distinguish betwix: the railer and critick. The outrage of his quotations is so remarkably violent, fo pushed beyond all bounds of decency and sober reasoning, that it quite carries over the mark at which it was levelled. Extravagant abufe throws off the edge of the intended dif. paragement, and turns the madman's weapon into his own bofom. In short, as to Rymer, this is my opinion
of him, from his criticisms on the tragedies of the last age. He writes with great vivacity, and appears to have been a fcholar : but as for his knowledge of the art of poetry, I cannot perceive it was any deeper than his acquaintance with Bollu and Dacier, from whom he has transcribed many of his best reflexions. The late Mr. Gildon was one attached to Pymer by a similar way of thinking and studies. They were both of that species of critics who are defirous of displaying their powers rather in finding faults, than in consulting the improvement of the world: the hyper-critical part of the fcience of criticism.
I had not mentioned the modeft liberty I have here and there taken of animadverting on my author, but that I was willing to obviate in time the splenetick exaggerations of my adversaries on this head. From past experiments I have reason to be conscious, in what light this attempt ma be placed : and that what I call a mo:lest liberty, will, by a little of their dexterity, be inverted into downright impudence. From a hundred mean and dishonest artifices employed to discredit this edition, and to cry down its editor, I have all the grounds in nature to beware of attacks. But though the malice of wit, joined to the smoothness of vera fification, may furnish fome ridicule; fall, I hope, will be able to stand its ground against banter and gaiety.
It has been my fate, it feens, as I thought it my duty, to difcover fome anacronisms in our author, which might have slept in obfcurity but for ibis Restorer, as Mr. Pope is pleafed afuctionately to ftile me; as for instance, where Aristotle is mentioned by Hector in Troilus and Craffida : and Galun, Cato, and Alexander the Great, in Coriolanus. These, in Mr. Pope's opinion, are blunders, which the illiteracy of the first publishers of his works has fathered upon the poet's memory : it not being at all credible, that these could be the errors of any man who had the least tinclure of a school, or the least conversation with such as bad. But I have fulliciently proved, in the course of my notes, that such anachronisms were the effect of poetick licence, rather than of ignorance in our poet. And if I may be permitted to ask a modest question by the way, why may not I restore an anachronism really made by our author, as well as Mr. Pope take the privilege to fix others upon him, which he never had it in his head to make : as I may venture to affirm he had not, in the instance of Sir Francis Drake, to which I have spoke in the proper place ?
But who shall dare make any words about this freedom of Mr. Pope's towards Shakespeare, if it can be proved, that, in his fits of criticism, he makes no more ceremony with good Homer himself? To try, then, a criticism of his own advancing; in the 8th book of the OdyJey, where Demodocus fings the episode of the loves of Mars and Venus; and that, upon their being taken in the net by Vulcan,
- The god of arms “ Must pay the penalty for lawless charms ;" Mr. Pope is so kind gravely to inform us, “ That Homer " in this, as in many other places, seems to allude to the “ laws of Athens, where death was the punishment of
adultery." But how is this significant observation made out? Why, who can possibly object any thing to the contrary? Does not Pausanias relate, that Draco, the largiver to the Athenians, granted impunity to any person that took revenge upon an adulterer? And was it not also the inftitution of Solon, that if any one took an adulterer in the fact, he might use him as he pleased? These things are very true: and to see what a good memory, and found judgment in conjunction can atchieve! Though Homer's date is not determined down to a single year, yet it is pretty generally agreed that he lived above 300 years before Draco and Solon and that, it seems, has made him seem to allude to the very laws, which these two legislators propounded above 300 years after. If this inference be not something like an anachronism or prolepfis, I will look once more into my lexicons for the true meaning of the words. It appears to me, that somebody besides Mars and Venus has been caught in a net by this episode: and I could call in other instances to confirm what treacherous tackle this net-work is, if not cautiously handled.
How just, 11otwithstanding, I have been in detecting the anachronisms of my author, and in defending him for the use of them, our late editor seems to think, they should rather have flept in obfcurity: and the having discovered them is sneered at, as a fort of wrong-headed fagacity.
The numerous corrections which I have made of the poet's text in my SHAKESPEARE Restored, and which the publick have been so kind to think well of, are, in the appendix of Mr. Pope's last edition, flightingly called various reafonings, guesjes, &c. He confesses to have inserted as many of them as he judged of any the least advantage to the poet; but says, Vol. I, [K]