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endured. I have endeavoured to be neither fuperfluoufly copious, nor fcrupulously referved, and hope that I have made my authour's meaning acceffible to many who before were frighted from perufing him, and contributed fomething to the publick, by diffufing innocent and rational pleasure.

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The compleat explanation of an authour not systematick and confequential, but defultory and vagrant, abounding in cafual allufions and light hints, is not. to be expected from any single scholiaft. All perfonal reflections, when names are fuppreffed, must be in a few years irrecoverable oblitterated; and customs, too minute to attract the notice of law, fuch as modes of drefs, formalities of converfation, rules of vifits, difpofition of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which naturally find places in familiar dialogue, are fo fugitive and unfubftantial, that they are not easily retained or recovered. What can be known, will be collected by chance, from the receffes of obscure and obfolete papers, perufed commonly with fome other view. Of this knowledge every man has fome, and none has much; but when an authour has engaged the publick attention, thofe who can add any thing to his illuftration, communicate their difcoveries, and time produces what had eluded diligence.

To time I have been obliged to refign many paffages, which, though I did not understand them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, having, I hope, illuftrated fome, which others have neglected or miltaken, fometimes by fhort remarks, or marginal di


rections, fuch as every editor has added' at his will, and often by comments more laborious than the matter will seem to deferve; but that which is moft difficult is not always most important, and to an editor nothing is a trifle by which his authour is obfcured.

The poetical beauties or defects I have not been very diligent to obferve. Some plays have more, and fome fewer judicial observations, not in proportion to their difference of merit, but becaufe I gave this part of my design to chance and to caprice. The reader, I believe, is feldom pleased to find his opinion anticipated; it is natural to delight more in what we find or make, than in what we receive. Judgement, like other faculties, is improved by practice, and its advancement is hindered by fubmiffion to dictatorial decifions, as the memory grows torpid by the ufe of a table book. Some initiation is however neceffary; of all fkill, part is infufed by precept, and part is obtained by habit; I have therefore fhewn fo much as may enable the candidate of criticifm to discover the rest.

To the end of most plays, I have added fhort ftrictures, containing a general cenfure of faults, or praife of excellence; in which I know not how much I have concurred with the current opinion; but I have not, by any affectation of fingularity, deviated from it. Nothing is minutely and particularly examined, and therefore it is to be fuppofed, that in the plays which are condemned there is much to be praised,

praised, and in these which are praifed much to be condemned.

The part of criticism in which the whole fucceffion of editors has laboured with the greatest diligence, which has occafioned the moft arrogant oftentation, and excited the keeneft acrimony, is the emendation of corrupted paffages, to which the publick attention having been firft drawn by the violence of the contention between Pope and Theobald, has been continued by the perfecution, which, with a kind of conspiracy, has been fince raised against all the publishers of Shakespeare.

That many paffages have paffed in a state of depravation through all the editions is indubitably certain; of these the reftoration is only to be attempted by collation of copies or fagacity of conjecture. The collator's province is fafe and eafy, the conjecturer's perilous and difficult. Yet as the greater part of the plays are extant only in one copy, the peril muft not be avoided, nor the difficulty refufed.

Of the readings which this emulation of amendment has hitherto produced, fome from the labours of every publisher I have advanced into the text; thofe are to be confidered as in my opinion fufficiently fupported; fome I have rejected without mention, as evidently erroneous; fome I have left in the notes without, cenfure or approbation, as refting in equipoife between objection and defence; and fome, which feemed fpecious but not right, I have inferted with a fubfequent animadverfion.



Having claffed the obfervations of others, I was at laft to try what I could fubftitute for their mif takes, and how I could fupply their omiffions. I collated fuch copies as I could procure, and wifhed for more, but have not found the collectors of these rarities very communicative. Of the editions which chance or kindness put into my hands I have given an enumeration, that I may not be blamed for neglecting what I had not the power to do.

By examining the old copies, I foon found that the later publishers, with all their boafts of diligence, fuffered many paffages to ftand unauthorifed, and contented themfelves with Rowe's regulation of the text, even where they knew it to be arbitrary, and with a little confideration might have found it to be wrong. Some of these alterations are only the ejection of a word for one that appeared to him more elegant

more intelligible. Thefe corruptions I have often filently rectified; for the hiftory of our language, and the true force of our words, can only be preferved, by keeping the text of authours free from adulteration. Others, and those very frequent, fmoothed the cadence, or regulated the meafure; on these I have not exercised the fame rigour; if only a word was tranfpofed, or a particle inferted or omitted, I have fometimes fuffered the line to ftand; for the inconftancy of the copies is fuch, as that fome liberties may be eafily permitted. But this practice I have not fuffered to proceed far, having reftored the primitive diction wherever it could for any reafon be preferred.


The emendations, which comparison of copies fupplied, I have inferted in the text; fometimes where the improvement was flight, without notice, and fometimes with an account of the reasons of the change.

Conjecture, though it be fometimes unavoidable, I have not wantonly nor licentiously indulged. It has been my fettled principle, that the reading of the ancient books is probably true, and therefore is not to be disturbed for the fake of elegance, perfpicuity, or mere improvement of the fenfe. For though much credit is not due to the fidelity, nor any to the judgement of the first publishers, yet they who had the copy before their eyes were more likely to read it right, than we who only read it by imagination. But it is evident that they have often made ftrange mistakes by ignorance or negligence, and that therefore fomething may be properly attempted by criticism, keeping the middle way between prefumption and timidity.

Such criticism I have attempted to practife, and where any paffage appeared inextricably perplexed, have endeavoured to discover how it may be recalled to sense, with leaft violence. But my first labour is, always to turn the old text on every fide, and try if there be any interftice, through which light can find its way; nor would Huetius himfelf condemn me, as refufing the trouble of refearch, for the ambition of alteration. In this modeft industry I have not been unsuccessful. I have refcued many lines from

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