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fense. To this end I have ventured on a labour, that is the firft effay of the kind on any modern author whatsoever. For the late edition of Milton, by the learned Dr. Bentley, is, in the main, a performance of another fpecies. It is plain, it was the intention of that great man rather to correct and pare off the excrefcencies of the Paradife Loft,

in the manner that Tucca and Varius were employed to criticise the Aneis of Virgil, than to restore corrupted paffages. Hence, therefore, may be seen either the iniquity or ignorance of his cenfurers, who, from fome expreffions would make us believe the doctor every where gives us his corrections as the original text of the author; whereas the chief turn of his criticifm is plainly to fhew the world, that, if Milton did not write as he would have him, he ought to have wrote fo.

I thought proper to premife this obfervation to the readers, as it will fhew that the critick on Shakspeare is of a quite different kind. His genuine text is for the most part religioufly adhered to; and the numerous faults and blemishes, purely his own, are left as they were found. Nothing is altered but what by the cleareft reafoning can be proved a corruption of the true text; and the alteration, a real restoration of the genuine reading. Nay, fo ftrictly have I ftrove to give the true reading, though fometimes not to the advantage of my author, that I have been ridiculously ridiculed for it by thofe, who either were iniquitously for turning every thing to my disadvantage; or elfe were totally ignorant of the true duty of an editor.

The fcience of criticism, as far as it effects an editor, seems to be reduced to these three claffes; the emendation of corrupt paffages; the explana tion of obfcure and difficult ones; and an enquiry into the beauties and defects of compofition. This work is principally confined to the two former parts: though there are several specimens intersperfed of the latter kind, as feveral of the emendations were beft fupported, and several of the difficulties best explained, by taking notice of the beauties and defects of the compofition peculiar to this immortal poet. But this was but occafional, and for the fake only of perfecting the two other parts, which were the proper objects of the editor's la bour. The third lies open for every willing un dertaker and I fhall be pleafed to fee it the employment of a masterly pen.

It muft neceffarily happen, as I have formerly bbferved, that where the affiftance of manufcripts is wanting to fet an author's meaning right, and refcue him from thofe errors which have been tranfmitted down through a feries of incorrect editions, and a long intervention of time, many paffages must be defperate, and past a cure; and their true fenfe irretrievable either to care or the fagacity of conjecture. But is there any reason

therefore to fay, that because all cannot be retrieved, all ought to be left defperate? We fhould fhew very little honefty, or wifdóm, to play the tyrants with an author's text; to raze, alter, innovate, and overturn, at all adventures, and to the utter detriment of his sense and meaning: but tơ be fo very referved and cautious, as to interpofe M


no relief or conjecture, where it manifeftly labours and cries out for affiftance, feems, on the other hand, an indolent abfurdity.

As there are very few pages in Shakspeare, upon which fome fufpicions of depravity do not reafonably arife; I have thought it my duty in the first place, by a diligent and laborious collation, to take in the affiftance of all the older copies.

In his hiftorical plays, whenever our English chronicles, and in his tragedies, when Greek or Roman ftory, could give any light, no pains have been omitted to fet paffages right, by comparing my author with his originals: for, as I have frequently obferved, he was a clofe and accurate copier wherever his fable was founded on hiftory.

Wherever the author's fenfe is clear and dif coverable, (though perchance, low and trivial, } I have not by any innovation tampered with his text, out of an oftentation of endeavouring to make him fpeak better than the old copies have done..

Where, through all the former editions, a paffage has laboured under flat nonfenfe and invincible darkness, if, by the addition or alteration of a letter or two, or a tranfpofition in the pointing, I have reftored to him both fenfe and fentiment: fuch corrections, I am perfuaded, will need no indulgence.

And whenever I have taken a great latitude and liberty in amending, I have conflantly endeavoured to fupport my corrections and conjectures by parallel paffages and authorities from himself, the fureft ineans of expounding any author whatsoever.


voie d'interpréter un auteur par lui-même eft plus fure que tous les commentaires, fays a very learned French critick.

As to my notes, (from which the common and learned readers of our author, I hope, will derive fome fatisfaction,) I have endeavoured to give them a variety in fome proportion to their number. Wherever I have ventured at an emendation, a note is conftantly fubjoined to juftify and affert the reafon of it. Where I only offer a conjecture, and do not difturb the text, I fairly fet forth my grounds for fuch a conjecture, and submit it to judgment. Some remarks are fpent in explaining paffages, where the wit or fatire depends on an obfcure point of history: others, where allufions are to divinity, philofophy, or other branches of fcience. Some are added, to fhew where there is a fufpicion of our author having borrowed from the ancients : others, to fhew where he is rallying his contemporaries; or where he himself is rallied by them. And fome are neceffarily thrown in, to explain an obfcure and obfolete term, phrafe, or idea: I once intended to have added a complete and copious gloffary; but as I have been importuned and am prepared to give a correct edition of our author's POEMS, (in which many terms occur that are not to be met with in his plays,) I thought a gloffary to all Shakspeare's works more proper to attend that volume.

In reforming an infinite number of paffages in the pointing, where the sense was before quite loft, I have frequently fubjoined notes to fhew the depraved, and to improve the reformed, pointing: part of labour in this work which I could very

willingly have spared myself. May it not be objected, why then have you burthened us with these notes? The answer is obvious, and, if I mistake not, very material. Without fuch notes, these paffages in fubfequent editions would be liable, through the ignorance of printers and correctors, to fall into the old confufion: whereas, a note on every one hinders all poffible return to depravity: and for ever fecures them in a ftate of purity and integrity not to be loft or forfeited.


Again, as fome notes have been neceffary to point out the detection of the corrupted text, and establish the restoration of the genuine reading; fome others have been as neceffary for the explanation of paffages obfcure and difficult. To understand the neceffity and ufe of this part of my task, some particulars of my author's character are previously to be explained. There are obfcurities in him, which are common to him with all poets of the fame fpecies; there are others, the iffue of the times he lived in; and there are others, again, peculiar to himself. The nature of comick poetry being entirely fatirical, it bufies itfelf more in expofing what we call caprice and humour, than vices cognizable to the laws. The English, from the happiness of a free conftitution, and a turn of mind peculiarly fpeculative and inquifitive, are obferved to produce more humourifts, and a greater variety of original characters, than any other people whatfoever: and thefe owing their immediate birth to the peculiar genius of each age, an infinite number of things alluded to, glanced at, and expofed, muft needs become obfcure, as the characters themfelves are antiquated and difufed. An editor there

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