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dulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination; but have religiously obferved the fevere Canons of literal Criticifm; as may be feen, from the Reafons accompanying every Alteration of the common Text. Nor would a different Conduct have become a Critic, whofe greatest Attention, in this part, was to vindicate the eftablished Reading from Interpolations occafioned by the fanciful Extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given the Reader a body of Canons, for literal Criticism, drawn out in form; as well fuch as concern the Art in general, as those that arise from the Nature and Circumftances of our Author's Works in particular. And this for two Reafons. First, To give the unlearned Reader a just Idea, and confequently a better Opinion of the Art of Criticifm, now funk very low in the popular Efteem, by the Attempts of fome who would needs exercife it without either natural or acquired Talents; and by the ill Succefs of others, who feenied to have loft both, when they came to try them upon English Authors. Secondly, To deter the unlearned Writer from wantonly trifling with an Art he is a Stranger to, at the Expence of his own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text of eftablished Authors. But thefe Ufes may be well fupplied by what is occafionally faid upon the Subject, in the Course of the following Remarks.
II. The fecond fort of Notes confifts in an Explanation of the Author's Meaning, when, by one or more of these Caufes, it becomes obfcure; either from a licentious Ufe of Terms; or a hard or ungrammatical Conftruction; or laftly, from far-fetch'd or quaint Allufions.
1. This licentious Ufe of Words is almoft peculiar to the Language of Shakespear. To common Terms he hath affixed Meanings of his own, unauthorised by Ufe, and not to be juftified by Analogy. And this Liberty he hath taken with the nobleft Parts of Speech, fuch as Mixed-modes; which, as they are moft fufcep
tible of Abufe, fo their Abuse most hurts the Clearnets of the Difcourfe. The Critics (to whom ShakeSpear's Licence was ftill as much a Secret as his Meaning, which that Licence had obfcured) fell into two contrary Mistakes; but equally injurious to his Reputation and his Writings. For fome of them obferving a Darkness, that pervaded his whole Expreffion, have cenfured him for Confufion of Ideas and Inaccuracy of reatoning. In the Neighing of a Ho fe, (fays Rymer) or in the Growling of a Maftiff, there is a Meaning, there is a lively Expreffion, and, may I fay, more Humanity than many times in the tragical Fights of Shakespear. The Ignorance of which Centure is of a piece with its Brutality. The Truth is, no one thought clearer, or argued more clofely than this immortal Bard. But his Superiority of Genius lefs needing the Intervention of Words in the Act of Thinking, when he came to draw out his Contemplations. into Discourse, he took up (as he was hurried on by the Torrent of his Matter) with the first Words that lay in his way; and if, amongst thefe, there were two Mixed-modes that had but a principal Idea in common, it was enough for him; he regarded them as fynonymous, and would ufe the one for the other without Fear or Scruple. Again, there have been others, fuch as the two laft Editors, who have fallen into a contrary Extreme; and regarded Shakefpear's Anomalies (as we may call them) amongst the Corruptions of his Text; which, therefore, they have cafhiered in great numbers, to make room for a Jargon of their This hath put the to additional Trouble; for I had not only their Interpolations to throw cut again, but the genuine Text to replace, and eftablifh in its ftead; which, in many Cafes, could not be done without fhewing the peculiar Senfe of the Terms, and ex. plaining the Caufes which led the Poet to fo perverfe an ufe of them. I had it once, indeed, in my Defign, to give a general alphabetic Gloffary of thefe Terms;
Terms; but as each of them is explained in its proper Place, there feemed the lefs Occafion for fuch an Index.
2. The Poets hard and unnatural Conftruction had a different Original. This was the Effect of mistaken Art and Defign. The Public Tafte was in its Infancy; and delighted (as it always does during that State) in the high and turgid: which leads the Writer to disguise a vulgar expreffion with hard and forced construction, whereby the fentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here, his Critics fhew their mo÷ defty, and leave him to himself. For the arbitrary change of a Word doth little towards difpelling an obfcurity that arifeth, not from the licentious use of a fingle Terin, but from the unnatural arrangement of a whole Sentence. And they rifqued nothing by their filence. For Shakespear was too clear in Fame to be fufpected of a want of Meaning; and too high in Fashion for any one to own he needed a Critic to find it out. Not but, in his best works, we must allow, he is often fo natural and flowing, fo pure and correct, that he is even a model for ftile and language.
3. As to his far-fetched and quaint Allusions, thefe are often a cover to common thoughts; juft as his hard construction is to common expreffion. When they are not fo, the Explanation of them has this further advantage, that, in clearing the Obfcurity, you frequently discover fome latent conceit not unworthy of his Genius.
III. The third and laft fort of Notes is concerned in a critical explanation of the Author's Beauties and Defects; but chiefly of his Beauties, whether in Stile, Thought, Sentiment, Character or Compofition. An odd humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst the Critics; as if nothing were worth remarking that did not, at the fame time, deferve to be reproved. Whereas the public Judgment hath leís need to be assisted in what it fhall reject, than in what
it ought to prize; Men being generally more ready at spying Faults than in difcovering Beauties. Nor is the value they fet upon a Work, a certain proof that they understand it. For 'tis ever feen, that half a dozen Voices of credit give the lead: And if the Publick chance to be in good humour, or the Author much in their favour, the People are fure to follow. Hence it is that the true Critic hath fo frequently attached himself to Works of established reputation; not to teach the World to admire, which, in those circumftances, to fay the truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with reafon to admire: No eafy matter, I will affure you, on the fubject in queftion: for tho' it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath obferved, that Shakespear is the fairest and fulleft fubject for criticism, yet it is not fuch a fort of criticifm as may be raised mechanically on the Rules which Dacier, Rapin and Bou have collected from Antiquity; and of which, fuch kind of Writers as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis and Oldmixon, have only gathered and chewed the Hufks: nor on the other hand is it to be formed on the Plan of thofe crude and fuperficial Judgments, on books and things, with which a certain celebrated Paper fo much abounds; too good indeed to be named with the Writers laft mentioned, but being unluckily mistaken for a Model, because it was an Original, it hath given rife to a deluge of the worst fort of critical Jargon; I mean that which looks moft like fenfe. But the kind of criticifm here required is fuch as judgeth our Author by thofe only Laws and Principles on which he wrote NATURE, and COMMON-SENSE.
Our Observations, therefore, being thus extenfive, will, I prefume, enable the Reader to form a right judgment of this favourite Poet, without drawing out his Character, as was once intended, in a continued discourse.
Thefe, fuch as they are, were amongst my younger amufements, when, many years ago, I used to turn over these fort of Writers to unbend myself from more ferious applications: And what, certainly, the Public, at this time of day, had never been troubled with, but for the conduct of the two laft Editors, and the perfuafions of dear Mr. POPE; whofe memory and name, femper acerbum,
Semper honoratum (fic Di voluiftis) habebo.
He was defirous I fhould give a new Edition of this Poet, as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to a prevailing folly of altering the Text of celebrated Authors without Talents or Judgment. And he was willing that his Edition fhould be melted down into mine, as it would, he said, afford him (fo great is the modefty of an ingenuous temper) a fit opportunity of confeffing his Mistakes *. In memory of our Friendfhip, I have therefore, made it our joint Edition. His admirable Preface is here added; all his Notes are given, with his name annexed; the Scenes are divided according to his regulation; and the moft beautiful paffages diftinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas. In imitation of him, I have done the fame by as many others as I thought most deserving of the Reader's attention, and have marked them with double commas.
If, from all this, Shakespear or good Letters have received any advantage, and the Public any benefit, or entertainment, the thanks are due to the Proprietors, who have been at the expence of procuring this Edition. And I should be unjuft to feveral deferving Men of a reputable and useful Profeffion, if I did not, on this occafion, acknowledge the fair dealing I have always found amongst them; and profefs my fenfe of the unjuft Prejudice which lies against them; whereby
* See his Letters to me.