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suspects not why; and at last throws away the book which he has too diligently studied.
Parts are not to be examined till the whole has been surveyed; there is a kind of intellectual remoteness necessary for the comprehension of any great work in its full design and in its true proportions; a close approach shews the smaller niceties; but the beauty of the whole is discerned no longer.
It is not very grateful to consider how little the succession of editors has added to this author's power of pleasing. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, while he was yet deforined with all the improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him : while the reading was yet not rectified, nor his allusions understood ; yet then did Dryden pronounce, “ that Shakspere was the man, “ who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, “ had the largest and most comprehensive soul. 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 nature ; 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 dege“ nerating into clenches, his serious swelling into
le bombast. But he is always great, when some great « occasion is presented to him : no man can say, he "ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then %6 raise himself as high above the rest of poets,
« Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressz.""
It is to be lamented, that such a writer shouid want a commentary; that his language should become obselete, or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things; that which must happen to all, has happened to Shakspere, 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 them with its powers, and judged those works unworthy to be preserved, which the criticks of following ages were to contend for the fame of restoring and explaining.
Among these candidates of inferior fame, I am now to stand the judgment of the publick; and wish that I could confidently produce my commentary as equal to the encouragement which I have had the honour of receiving. Every work of this kind is by its nature deficient, and I should feel little solicitude about the sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and the learned
Of Of what has been performed in this revisal, an ac. count is given in the following pages by Mr. Steevens, who might have spoken both of his own diligence and sagacity, in terms of greater self-approbation, without deviating from modesty or truth.
· MR. STEEVENS's : ADVERTISEMENT
PREFIXED TO THE SECOND EDITIO N.
The want of adherence to the old copies, which has been complained of, in the text of every modern republication of Shaks pere, is fairly deducible from Mr. Rowe's inattention to one of the first duties of an editor *. Mr. Rowe did not print from the earliest
. **I must not (says Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the duke of Somerset) pretend to have restored this work to the exactness of the author's original manuscripts; those are lost, or, at least, are gone beyond any inquiry I could make; so that there was nothing left, but to compare the several editions, and give the true reading, as well as I could, from thence. This I have endeavoured to do pretty carefully, and rendered very many places intelligible, that were not so before. In some of the editions, especially the last, there were many lines (and in Hamiet one whole scene) left out together; these are now all supplied. I fear your grace will find some faults, but, I hope, they are mostly literal, and the errors of the press.” Would not any one, from this declaration, suppose that Mr, Rowe (who does not appear to have consulted a single quarto) had at least compared the folios with each other?
and and most correct, but from the most remote and iro accurate of the four folios. Between the years 1623 and 1685 (the dates of the first and last) the errors in every play, at least, were trebled. Several pages in each of these ancient editions have been examined, that the assertion might come more fully supported, It may be added, that as every fresh editor continued to make the text of his predecessor the ground-work of his own (never collating but where difficulties occurred), some deviations from the originals had been handed down, the number of which are lessened in, the impression before us, as it has been constantly compared with the most authentick copies, whether collation was absolutely necessary for the recovery of sense, or not. The person who undertook this task, may have failed by inadvertency, as well as those who preceded him; but the reader may be assured, that he, who thought it his duty to free an author from, such modern and unnecessary innovations, as had been, censured in others, has not ventured to introduce any. of his own.
It is not pretended, that a complete body of various readings is here collected; or that all the diversities, which the copies exhibit, are pointed out; as near two-thirds of them are typographical mistakes, of such a change of insignificant particles, as would: erowd the bottom of the page with an ostentation of materials, from which, at last, nothing useful could, be selected,