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could gain it against all the disadvantages of the hor. rid condition in which he has hitherto appeared! Had Homer, or any other admired author, first started into publick so maimed and deformed, we cannot deter. mine whether they had not sunk for ever under the ignominy of such an ill-appearance. The mangled condition of Shakspere has been acknowledged by Mr. Rowe, who published him indeed, but neither corrected his text, nor collated the old copies. This ventleman had abilities, and sufficient knowledge of his author, had but his industry been equal to his talents. The same mangled condition has been acknow. ledged too by Mr. Pope, who published him likewise, pretended to have collated the old copies, and yet seldom has corrected the text but to its injury. I congratulate with the manes of our poet, that this gentleman has been sparing in indulging his private sense, as he phrases it; for he, who tampers with an author, whom he does not understand, must do it at the expence of his subject. I have made it evident throughout' my remarks, that he has frequently inflicted a wound where he intended a cure. He has acted with regard to our author, as an editor, whom LIPSIUS mentions, did with regard to MARTIAL; Inventus est nescio quis Popa, qui non vitia ejus, sed ipsum excidet. He has attacked him like an unhandy slaughterman; and not lopped off the errors, but the poet.
When this is found to be fa&t, how absurd must appear the praises of such an editor ? It seems a moot point, whether Mr. Pope has done most injury to
Shakspere, as his editor and encomiast; or Mr. Rymer done him service, as his rival and censurer. They have both shewn themselves in an equal impuissance of suspecting or amending the corrupted passages : and though it be neither prudence to censure or commend what one does not understand ; yet, if a man must do one when he plays the critick, the latter is the more ri. diculous office; and by that Shakspere suffers most. For the natural veneration which we have for him makes us apt to swallow whatever is given us as his, and set off with encomiunis; and hence we quit all suspicions of depravity : on the contrary, the censure of so divine an author sets us upon his defence; and this produces an exact scrutiny and examination, which ends in finding out and discriminating the true from the spurious.
It is not with any secret pleasure, that I so frequently animadvert on Mr. Pope as a critick ; but there are provocations, which a man can never quite forget. His libels have been thrown out with so much inveteracy, that not to dispute whether they should come from a Christian, they leave it a question whether they could come from a man. I should be loth to doubt, 26 Quintus Serenus did in a like case :
Sive homo, seu similis turpissima bestia nobis
The indignation, perhaps, for being represented a blackhead, may be as strong in us, as it is in the ladies
for a rellection on their beauties. It is certain, 'I am indebted to him for some flagrant civilities; and I shall willingly devote a part of my life to the honest endeavour of quitting scores: with this exception, however, that I will not return those civilities in his peculiar strain, but confine myself, at least, to the limits of common decency. I shall ever think it better to want wit, than to want humanity: and impartial posterity may, perhaps, be of my opinion.
But to return to my subject, which now calls upon me to inquire into those causes, to which the depra. vations of my author originally may be assigned ; we are to consider him as a writer, of whom no authentick manuscript was left extant; as a writer, whose pieces were dispersedly performed on the several stages then in being. And it was the custom of those days for the poets to take a price of the players for the pieces they from time to time furnished ; and thereupon it was supposed they had no farther right to print them without the consent of the players. As it was the interest of the companies to keep their plays unpublished, when any one succeeded, there was a contest betwixt the cu. riosity of the town, who demanded to see it in print; and the policy of the stagers, who wished to secrete it within their own walls. Hence many pieces were taken down in short-hand, and imperfectly copied by ear from a representation : others were printed froin piecemeal parts surreptitiously obtained from the theatres, incorrect, and without the poet's knowledge. To some of these causes we owe the train of blemishes,
I want sterity
u all that deforin those pieces which stole singly into the ishall I world in our author's life-time.
There are still other reasons, which may be suppo, sed to have affected the whole set. When the players
took upon them to publish his works entire, every zits of theatre was ransacked to supply the copy; and parts
collected, which had gone through as many changes as performers, either from mutilations or additions made to them. Hence we derive many chasms and incoherences in the sense and matter. Scenes were frequently transposed, and shuffled out of their true place, to humour the caprice, or supposed convenience, of some particular actor. Hence much confusion and impropriety has attended and embarrassed the business and fable. To these obvious causes of corruption it must be added, that our author has lain under the disa advantage of having his errors propagated and multiplied by time: because, for near a century, his works were published from the faulty, copies, without the assistance of any intelligent editor: which has been the case likewise of many a classick writer.
The nature of any distemper once found, has gene. rally been the immediate step to a cure. Shakspere's case has in a great measure resembled that of a corrupt classick; and, consequently, the method of cure was likewise to bear a resemblance. By what means, and with what success, this cuire has been effected on ancient writers, is too well known, and needs no formal illustration. The reputation, consequent on tasks of that nature, invited me to attenipt the method here;
with with this view, the hopes of restoring to the publick their greatest poet in his original purity, after having so long lain in a condition that was a disgrace to com. mon sense. To this end I have ventured on a labour, that is the first assay of the kind on any modern au. thor whatsoever. For the late edition of Milton, by the learned Dr. Bentley, is, in the main, a performance of another species. It is plain, it was the intention of that great man rather to correct and pare off the excrescencies of the Paradise Lost, in the manner that Tucca and Varius' were employed to criticise the Æneis of Virgil, than to restore corrupted passages. Hence, therefore, may be seen either the iniquity or ignorance of his censurers, who, froin some expres. sions, would make us believe the doctor every where gives us his corrections as the original text of the author ; whereas the chief turn of his criticism is plainly to shew the world, that, if Milton did not write as lie would have him, he ought to have wrote
I thought proper to premise this observation to the readers, as it will shew that the critique on Shakspere is of a quite different kind. His genuine text is for the most part religiously adhered to, and the numerous faults and blemishes, purely his own, are left as they were found. Nothing is altered, but what, by the clearest reasoning, can be proved a corruption of the true text; and the alteration, a real restoration of the genuine reading. Nay, so strictly have I strove to give the true reading, though sometimes not to the ad.