« AnteriorContinuar »
He was desirous I should give a new edition of this poet, as he thought it might contribute to put a ftop to a prevailing folly of altering the text of celebrated authors without talents or' judgment. And he was willing that his edition should be melted down into mine,' as it would, he said, afford him (so great is the modesty of an ingenuous temper) a fit oportunity of confeffing his mistakes. In memory of our friendship, I have, therefore,
, made it our joint edition. His admirable preface is here added; all his notes are given, with his name annexed; the fcenes are divided according to his regulation; and the most beautiful passages' distinguished, as in his book, with inverted comnias. In imitation of him, I have done the same by as many others as I thought most deserving of the reader's attention, and have marked them with double cominas.
If, from all this, Shakspeare or good letters have received any advantage, and the publick any benefit, or entertainment, the thanks are due to the proprietors, who have been at the expence
procuring this edition. And I should be unjust to several deserving men of a reputable and useful profession, if I did not, on this occasion, acknowledge the fair dealing I have always found amongst them; and profess my sense of the unjust prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have been, hitherto unable to procure that security for their property, which they see the rest of their fellowcitizens enjoy.
A prejudice in part arising from the frequent piracies (as they are called) committed
8 See his Letters to me.
by members of their own body. But such kind of members no body is without. And it would be hard that this should be turned to the discredit of the honest part of the profession, who suffer more from such injuries than any other men. It hath, in part too, arisen from the clamours of profligate fcribblers, ever ready, for a piece of money, to prostitute their bad sense for or against any cause profane or sacred; or in any scandal publick or private: these meeting with little encouragement from men of account in the trade (who, even in this enlightened age, are not the very worst juriges or rewarders of merit,) apply themselves to people of condition; and support their importunities by false complaints against booksellers.
But I should now, perhaps, rather think of my own apology, than busy myself in the defence of others. I shall have fõme Tartuffe ready, on the firft appearance of this edition, to call out again, and tell me, that I suffer myself to be wholly diverted
I from my purpose by these matters less suitable to my clerical professior. “Well, but (says a friend) why not take fo candid an intimation in good part? Withdraw yourself again, as you are bid in the clerical pale; examine the records of sacred and profane antiquity; and, on them, erect a work to the confusion of infidelity." Why, I have done all this, and more: and hear now what the fame men have said to it. They tell me, I have wrote. to the wrong and injury of religion, and furnished out more handles for unbelievers. Oh! now the secret is out; and you may have your pardon, I find, upon easier terms. It is only to write no more."
Good gentlemen! and shall I not oblige them? They would gladly obstruct my way to those things which every man, who endeavours well in his profeffion, must needs think he has some claim to, when he sees them given to those who never did endeavour; at the same time that they would deter me from taking those advantages which letters enable me to procure for myself.
If then I am to write no more (though as much out of my profession as they may please to represent this work, I suspect their modesty would not insist on a scrutiny of our several applications of this profane profit and their purer gains,) if, I say, I am to write no more, let me at least give the public, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, some reason for my presenting them with these amusements: which, if I am not much mistaken, may be excused by the best and fairest examples; and, what is more, may be justificd on the surer reafon of things.
The great Saint CHRYSOSTOM, a name consecrated to immortality by his virtue and eloquence, is known to have been so fond of Aristophanes, as to wake with him at his studies, and to sleep with him under his pillow; and I never heard that this was objected either to his piety or his preaching, not even in those times of pure zcal and primitive religion. Yet, in respect of Shakspeare's great sense, Aristophanes's best wit is but buffoonery; and in comparison of Aristophanes's freedoms, Shakspeare writes with the purity of a vesial. But they will say, St. Chryfoftom contracted a fondness for the comick poet for the sake of his Greek. To this, indeed, I have nothing to reply.
Far be it from me to insinuate fo unscholar-like a thing, as if we had the same use for good English, that a Greek had for his Attick elegance. Critick Kuster, in a taste and language peculiar to grammarians of a certain order, hath decreed, that the history and chronology of Greek words is the most SOLID entertainment of a man of letters.
I fly then to a higher example, much nearer home, and still more in point, the famous univerfity of OXFORD. This illustrious body which hath long so juftly held, and with such equality dispensed, the chief honours of the learned world, thought good letters so much interested in correct editions of the best English writers, that they, very lately, in their publick capacity, undertook one of this very author by subscription. And if the editor hath not discharged his talk with suitable abilities for one so much honoured by them, this was not their fault, but his, who thrust himself into the employment. After such an example, it would be weakening any defence to seek further for authorities. All that can be now decently urged, is the reason of the thing; and this I shall do, more for the sake of that truly venerable body than
Of all the literary exercitations of speculative inen, whether designed for the use or entertainment of the world, there are none of so much importance or whai are more our immediate concern, than those which let us into the knowledge of our
Others may exercise the reason, or amuse the imagination; but these can only improve the heart, and form the human mind to wisdom. Now, in this science, our Shakspeare is confessed to occupy the foremost place; whether we consider
the amazing fagacity with which he investigates every hidden spring and wheel of human action; or his happy manner of communicating this knowledge, in the just and living paintings which he has given us of all our passions, appetites, and pursuits. These afford a lesson which can never be too often repeated, or too constantly inculcăted; and, to engage the reader's due attention to it, hath been one of the principal objects of this edition.
As this science (whatever profound philosophers may think) is, to the rest, in things ; so, in words, ( whatever supercilious pedants may talk) every one's mother tongue is to all other languages. This hath still been the fentiinent of nature and true wisdom.
Hence, the greatest men of antiquity never thought themselves better employed, than in cultivating their own country idiom. So Lycurgus did honour to Sparta, in giving the first complete edition of Homer; and Cicero to Rome, in correcting the works of Lucretius. Nor do we want examples of the same good sense in moderni times, even amidst the cruel inroads that art and fashion have made upon nature and the simplicity of wisdom. Menage, the greatest name in France for all kinds of philologick learning, prided himfelf in writing critical notes on their best lyrick poet Malherbe: and our great Selden,' when he thought it might reflect credit on his country, did not disdain even to comment a very ordinary poet, one Michael Drayton.
But the Engilslı tongue, our great Selden, when he thought he might reflect credit on his country, did not disdain to comment a very ordivary poet, one Michael Drayton. ] This compliment to himself for con