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the poetry of DONNE (though the wittiest man of that age) nothing but a continued heap of riddles. And our Shakspeare, with all his easy nature about him, for want of the knowledge of the true rules of art, falls frequently into this vicious manner.
The third species of obscurities which deform our author, as the effects of his own genius and character, are those 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 acquaintance 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 style and diction, we may much more justly apply to SHAKSPEARE, what a celebrated writer said of MILTON: Our language sunk under him, and was unequal to that greatness of soul which furnished him with such glorious conceptions. He therefore frequently 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 distinct 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 negligence and omissions 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 Shakspeare, and particularly Mr. Rymer, have taught me to distinguish betwixt the railer and critick. The outrage of his quotations is so remarkably violent, so pushed beyond all bounds of decency and sober reasoning, that it quite carries over the mark at which it was levelled. Extravagant abuse throws off the edge of the intended disparagement, and turns the madman's weapon into his own bosom. 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 scholar: but as for his know. ledge of the art of poetry, I cannot perceive it was any deeper than his acquaintance with Bossu and Dacier, from whom he has transcribed many of his best reflections. The late Mr. Gildon was one attached to Rymer by a similar way of thinking and studies. They were both of that species of criticks who are desirous of displaying their powers rather in finding faults, than in consulting the improvement of the world; the hypercritical part of the science of criticism.
I had not mentioned the modest 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 may be placed: and that what I call a modest liberty will, by a little of their dexterity, be in. verted into downright impudence. From a hundred mean and dis. honest 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 versification, may furnish some ridicule; fact, I hope, will be able to stand its ground against banter and gaiety.
It has been my fate, it seems, as I thought it my duty, to discover some anachronisms in our author; which might have slept in obscurity but for this Restorer, as Mr. Pope is pleased affectionately to style me: as for instance, where Aristotle is mentioned by Hector in Troilus and Cressida; and Galen, Cato, and Alexander the Great, in Coriolanus. These, in Mr. Pope's opi. nion, 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 tincture of a school, or the least conversation with such as had. But I have sufficiently proved, in the course of my notes, that such anachronisins 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 Shakspeare, iť 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 Odyssey, where Demodocus sings 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 lawgiver to the Athenians, granted impunity to any person that took revenge upon an adulterer? And was it not also the institution of Solon, that if any one took an adulterer in the fuct, he might use him as he pleased? These things are very true: and to see what a good memory, and sound judgment in conjunction, can achieve! though Homer's date is not determined down to a single year, yet it is pretty generally agreed that he lived above three hundred 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 three hundred years after. If this inference be not something like an anachronism or prolepsis, 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, notwithstanding, I have been in detecting the ana. chronisms of my author, and in defending him for the use of them, our late editor seems to think, they should rather have slept in obscurity: and the having discovered them is sneered at, as a sort of wrong-headed sagacity.
The numerous corrections which I have made of the poet's text in my SHAKSPEARE Restored, and which the publick have been so kind to think well of, are, in the appendix of Mr. Pope's last edition, slightingly called various readings, guesses, &c. He confesses to have inserted as many of them as he judged of any the least advantage to the poet; but says, that the whole amount. ed to about twenty-five words: and pretends to have annexed a complete list of the rest, which were not worth his embracing. Whoever has read my book will, at one glance, see how in both thes points veracity is strained, so an injury might be done. Malus, etsi obesse non pote, tamen cogitat.
Another expedient to make my work appear of a trilling nature, has been an attempt to depreciate literal criticism. To this end, and to pay a servile compliment to Mr. Pope, an anonymous writer* has, like a Scotch pedlar in wit, unbraced his pack on the subject. But, that his virulence might not seem to be le. velled singly at me, he has done me the honour to join Dr. Bentley in the libel. I was in hopes we should have been both abused with smartness of satire at least, though not with solidity of argument; that it might have been worth some reply in defence of the science attacked. But I may fairly say of this author, as Falstaff does of Poins :—Hang him, baboon! his wit is as thick as Tewksbury mustard; there is no more conceit in him, than is in a Mallet. If it be not a prophanation to set the opinion of the divine Longinus against such a scribbler, he tells us expressly, "That to make a judgment upon words (and writings) is the most consummate fruit of much experience.” ý góp tão λόγων κρίσις πολλής έσι σειρας τελευταίων επιγένηκα. Whenever words are depraved, the sense of course must be corrupted; and thence the reader is betrayed into a false meaning.
If the Latin and Greek languages have received the greatest advantages imaginable from the labours of the editors and cri. ticks of the two last ages, by whose aid and assistance the grammarians have been enabled to write infinitely better in that art than even the preceding grammarians, who wrote when those tongues flourished as living languages; I should account it a peculiar happiness, that, by the faint essay I have made in this work, a path might be chalked out for abler hands, by which to
* David Mallet. See his poem Of Verbal Criticism, Vol. I, of his works, 12mo. 1759. Reed.
derive the same advantages to our own tongue; a tongue, which, though it wants none of the fundamental qualities of an univer. sal language, yet, as a noble writer says, lisps and stammers as in its cradle; and has produced little more towards its polishing than complaints of its barbarity.
Having now run through all those points, which I intended, should make any part of this dissertation, and having in my former edition made publick acknowledgments of the assistances lent me, I shall conclude with a brief account of the methods taken in this.
It was thought proper, in order to reduce the bulk and price of the impression, that the notes, wherever they would admit of it, might be abridged: for which reason I have curtailed a great quantity of such, in which explanations were too prolix, or authorities in support of an emendation too numerous: and many I have entirely expunged, which were judged rather verbose and declamatory (and so notes merely of ostentation) than necessary or instructive.
The few literal errors which had escaped notice for want of revisals, in the former edition, are here reformed; and the point. ing of innumerable passages is regulated, with all the accuracy I am capable of.
I shall decline making any farther declaration of the pains I have taken upon my author, because it was my duty, as his editor, to publish him with my best care and judgment; and because I am sensible, all such declarations are construed to be laying a sort of debt on the publick. As the former edition has been received with much indulgence, I ought to make my acknowledgments to the town for their favourable opinion of it; and I shall always be proud to think that encouragement the best payment I can hope to receive from my poor studies,
TO THE SECOND EDITION,
THE author of the following Essay was solicitous only for the honour of Shakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reason to complain of occasional criticks, or criticks by profession. The very FEW, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his doctrine, have favoured him with better manners, than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonstrating the futility of theoretick reasoning against matter of fact. It is indeed strange, that any real friends of our im. mortal PoEt should be still willing to force him into a situation, which is not tenable: treat him as a learned man, and what
shall excuse the most gross violations of history, chronology, and geography ?
Ou meitas, iš uv ael'ons, is the motto of every polemick: like his brethren at the amphitheatre, he holds it a merit to die hard; and will not say, enough, though the battle be decided. “Were it shewn, (says some one) that the old bard borrowed all his allusions from English books then published, our Essayist might have possibly established his system.”—In good time! This had scarcely been attempted by Peter Burman himself, with the library of Shakspeare before him.- “Truly, (as Mr. Dogberry says) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this subject:" but where should I meet with a reader?-When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before: a very little analogy will do the business. I shall therefore have no occasion to trou. hle myself any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against sermons on the thir. tieth of January, an answer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the subject.”
But “this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when translations were extant." Shade of Burgersdicius!-does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a course of education -whose contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself like. wise, agree in his want of what is usually called literaturewhose mistakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise, -that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek?-I suspect, Rollin's opinion of our philosopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakspeare wanted not the stilts of languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet,
got only from possum to posset," and yet will throw out a line occasionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.If
, however, the old editions be trusted in this passage, our author's memory somewhat failed him in point of concord.
The rage of parallelisms is almost over, and in truth, nothing can be more absurd.“ This was stolen from one classick,—THAT from another;"--and had I not stept into his rescue, poor Shakspeare had been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first held horses at the door of the play-house. The late ingenious and modest Mr. Dodsley declared himself
“ Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome.” yet let us take a passage at a venture from any of his perform.