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Of all the publishers, clandestine or profeffed, their negligence and unskilfulness has by the late revisers been sufficiently shown. The faults of all are indeed numerous and gross, and have not only corrupted many passages perhaps beyond recovery, but have brought others into fufpicion, which are only obscured by obsolete phraseology, or by the writer's unskilfulness and affectation. To alter is more easy than to explain, and temerity is a more common quality than diligence. Those who saw that they must employ conjecture to a certain degree, were willing to indulge it a little further. Had the authour published his own works, we should have fat quietly down to disentangle his intricacies, and clear his obscurities; but now we tear what we cannot loose, and eject what we happen not to understand.
The faults are more than could have happened without the concurrence of many causes. The stile of Shakespeare was in itself ungrammatical, perplexed and obscure; his works were transcribed for the players by those who may be supposed to have seldom understood them; they were transmitted by copiers equally unskilful, who still. multiplied errours ; they were perhaps sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the sake of shortening the speeches 3 and were at last printed without correction of the press.
In this state they remained, not as Dr. Warburton fupposes, because they were unregarded, but because the editor's art was not yet applied to modern languages, and our ancestors were accustomed to so
much negligence of Englis printers, that they could very patiently endure it. At last an edition was undertaken by Rowe; not because a poet was to be published by a poet, for Rowe seems to have thought very little on correction or explanation, but that our authour's works might appear like those of his fraternity, with the appendages of a life and recommendatory preface. Rowe has been clamorously blamed for not performing what he did not undertake, and it is time that justice be done him, by confefling, that though he seems to have had no thought of corruption beyond the printer's errours, yet he has made many emendations, if they were not made before, which his successors have received without acknowledgment, and which, if they had produced them, would have filled pages and pages with cenfures of the itupidity by which the faults were committed, with displays of the absurdities which they involved, with ostentatious expositions of the new reading, and self congratulations on the happiness of discovering it.
Of Rowe, as of all the editors, I have preserved the preface, and have likewise retained the authour's life, though not written with much elegance or spirit ; it relates however what is now to be known, and therefore deserves to pass through all succeeding publications.
The nation had been for many years content enough with Mr. Rowe's performance, when Mr. Pope made them acquainted with the true state of Shakespear's
text, shewed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave reason to hope that there were means of reforming it. He collated the old copies, which none had thought to examine before, and restored many lines to their integrity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected whatever he disliked, and thought more of amputation than of cure.
I know not why he is commended by Dr. Warburton for distinguishing the genuine from the spuri. ous plays. In this choice he exerted no judgement of his own; the plays which he received, were given by Hemings, and Condel, the first editors; and those which he rejected, though, according to the licentiousness of the press in those times, they were printed during Shakespear's life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and were never added to his works before the edition of 1664, from which they were copied by the later printers.
This was a work which Pope seems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to suppress his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. · He understood but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is indeed dull, yet, like other tedious tasks, is very necessary; but an emendatory critick would ill difcharge his duty, without qualities very different from dulness. In perusing a corrupted piece, he must have before him all possibilities of meaning, with all posfibilicies of expression. Such must be his comprehension of thought, and such his copiousness of language. Out of many readings possible, he must be able to
select that which best suits with the state, opinions, and modes of language prevailing in every age, and with his authour's particular cast of thought, and turn of expression. Such must be his knowledge, and such his taste. Conjectural criticism demands more than humanity poffeffes, and he that exercises it with most praise has very frequent need of indulgence, Let us now be cold no more of the dull duty of an editor.
Confidence is the common consequence of succes. They whose excellence of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude, that their powers are universal. Pope's edition fell below his own expectations, and he was so much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for others to do, that he past the latter part of his life in a state of hostility with verbal criticism.
I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of so great a writer
may be lost; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of composition and justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his auchour, so extensive that little can be added, and so exact, that little can be disputed, every editor has an interest to fuppreis, but that every reader would demand its insertion.
Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension and small acquisitions, with no native and intrinsick splendour of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in purloing it. He col
lated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man fo anxiously scrupulous might have been expected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.
In his reports of copies and editions he is not to be trusted, without examination. He speaks sometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio as of middle authority; but the truth is, that the first is equivalent to all others, and that the rest only deviate from it by the printer's negligence. Whoever has any of the folios has all, excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first.
Of his notes I have generally retained those which he retained himself in his second edition, except when they were confuted by subsequent annotators, or were too minute to meric preservation. I have sometimes adopted his restoration of a comma, without inserting the panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his atchievement. The exuberant excrescence of diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have sometimes suppressed, and his contemptible oftentation I have frequently concealed; but I have in some places shewn him, as he would have shewn himself, for the reader's diversion, that the infiated emptiness of some notes may justify or excuse the contraction of the rest.