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culed for it by thofe, who either were iniquitoufly for turning every thing to my disadvantage; or elfe were totally ignorant of the true duty of an
The science of criticifm, as far as it effects an editor, feems to be reduced to these three claffes; the emendation of corrupt paffages; the explanation 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 fome fpecimens interspersed of the latter kind, as feveral of the emendations were best supported, and feveral 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 labour. The third lies open for every willing undertaker: and I fhall be pleased to see it the employment of a masterly pen.
It must neceffarily happen, as I have formerly observed, that where the affiftance of manufcripts is wanting to fet an author's meaning right, and refcue him from thofe errors which have been transmitted down through a series 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 say, that because all cannot be retrieved, all ought to be left defperate? We fhould fhow very little honefty, or wifdom, 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 fenfe and meaning but to
be fo very referved and cautious, as to interpofe 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 firft place, by a diligent and laborious collation, to take in the affiftances 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 close and accurate copier wherever his fable was founded on history.
Wherever the author's fenfe is clear and difcoverable, (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 nonsense 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 greater latitude and liberty in amending, I have conftantly endeavoured to fupport my corrections and conjectures by parallel paffages and authorities from himself, the furest means of expounding any author whatsoever. Cette voie d'interpreter un autheur 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 justify and affert the reafon of it. Where I only offer a conjecture, and do not disturb the text, I fairly fet forth my grounds for fuch conjecture, and fubmit it to judgment. Some remarks are spent in explaining paffages, where the wit or fatire depends on an obfcure point of hiftory: others, where allufions are to divinity, philofophy, or other branches of fcience. Some are added, to fhow where there is a fufpicion of our author having borrowed from the ancients : others, to show where he is rallying his contem, poraries; 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 which are not to be met with in his Plays,) I thought a glossary 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 fhow the de praved, and to prove the reformed, pointing: a part of labour in this work which I could very willingly have fpared myself. May it not be objected, why then have you burdened us with these notes? The answer is obvious, and, if I mistake not, very material. Without fuch notes, thefe 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, fome 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 itself 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 whatsoever; and these 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 therefore fhould be well verfed in the hiftory and manners of his author's age, if he aims at doing him a service in this respect.
Befides, wit lying moftly in the affemblage of ideas, and in putting thofe together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any refemblance, or congruity, to make up pleasant pictures, and
agreeable vifions in the fancy; the writer, who aims at wit, muft of course range far and wide for materials. Now the age in which Shakfpeare lived, having, above all others, a wonderful affection to appear learned, they declined vulgar images, fuch as are immediately fetched from nature, and ranged through the circle of the sciences, to fetch their ideas from thence. But as the refemblances of fuch ideas to the subject muft neceffarily lie very much out of the common way, and every piece of wit appear a riddle to the vulgar; this, that fhould have taught them the forced, quaint, unnatural tract they were in, (and induce them to follow a more natural' one,) was the very thing that kept them attached to it. The oftentatious affectation of abftrufe learning, peculiar to that time, the love that men naturally have to every thing that looks like mystery, fixed them down to the habit of obfcurity. Thus became the poetry of DONNE (though the wittiest man of that age,) nothing but a continued heap of riddles. And our Shakspeare, with all his eafy nature about him, for want of the knowledge of the true rules of art, falls frequently into this vicious manner.
The third fpecies of obfcurities 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 thofe thoughts. With regard to his think ing, 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 philofophy was unknown to him; but every thing in it had the grace and force of novelty. And as novelty is one main fource of admiration, we are not to wonder that he has perpetual allufions to the