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AN

ESSAY

ON THE

LEARNING OF SHAKSPEARE.

BY

RICHARD FARMER, D. D.

Mafter of EMMANUEL College, CAMBRIDGE, and Principal Librarian of that Univerfity.

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Though our commentaries on the following Plays have been enriched by numerous extracts from this celebrated Essay, the whole of it is here reprinted. I fhall hazard no contradiction relative to the value of its contents, when I add

-profunt fingula, jun&a juvant. STEEVENS.

PREFACE

TO

THE SECOND EDITION,

THE

1767.

HE author of the following ESSAY was folicitous only for the honour of Shakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reason to complain of occafional criticks, or criticks by profeffion. The very FEW, who have been pleafed to controvert any part of his doctrine, have favoured him with better manners, than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonftrating the futility of theoretick reasoning against matter of fact. It is indeed ftrange, that any real friends of our immortal POET fhould be ftill willing to force him into a fituation, which is not tenable: treat him as a learned man, and what fhall excufe the moft grofs violations of hiftory, chronology, and geography?

Οὐ πείσεις, ἐδ ̓ ἦν πείσης is the motto of every pole mick: like his brethren at the amphitheatre, he holds it a merit to die hard; and will not fay, enough, though the battle be decided. "Were it fhewn, (fays fome one) that the old bard borrowed all his allufions from English books then publifhed, our Elayift might have poffibly established his fyftem."— In good time!This had fcarcely been attempted

by Peter Burman himself, with the library of ShakSpeare before him." Truly, (a's Mr. Dogberry fays,) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to beftow it all on this fubject:" but where fhould 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 eafily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before a very little analogy will do the business. I fhall therefore have no occafion to trouble myfelf any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleafant declaimer against fermons on the thirtieth of January," an answer to every thing that fhall hereafter be written on the fubject.

But this method of reafoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written. when tranflations were extant."-Shade of Burgerfdicius !--does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a courfe of education-whofe contemporaries, friends and focs, nay, and himself likewife, agree in his want of what is ufually called literature-whofe miftakes from equivocal tranflations, and even typographical errors, cannot poffibly be accounted for otherwife, -that Locke, to whom not one of thefe circumftances is applicable, understood no Greek?-I fufpect, Rollin's opinion of our philofopher was not founded on this argument.

Shakspeare wanted not the ftilts of languages to raife him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, ftrongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroncoufly from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, "got only from poffum to

poffet," and yet will throw out a line occafionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.If, however, the old editions be trufted in this paffage, our author's memory fomewhat failed him in point of concord.

The rage of parallelifms is almoft over, and in truth nothing can be more abfurd. "THIS WAS ftolen from one claffick,-THAT from another;"— and had I not stept in to his refcue, poor Shakspeare had been ftript as naked of ornament, as when he first held borfes at the door of the playhouse.

The late ingenious and modeft Mr. Dodfley declared himself

"Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome:"

yet let us take a paffage at a venture from any of his performances, and a thoufand to one, it is ftolen. Suppose it be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop: "A good wife makes the cares of the world fit eafy, and adds a fweetness to its pleasures; fhe is a man's best companion in profperity, and his only friend in adverfity; the carefulleft preferver of his health, and the kindest attendant in his fickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a comforter in affliction, and a prudent manager in all his domeftick affairs." Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobaus:

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Malvolio in the Twelfth Night of Shakspeare hath fome expreffions very fimilar to Ainafchar tin he

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