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proach shows the smaller niceties, but the beauty of the whole is discerned no longer.
It is not very grateful to consider how little the succession of editors has added to this author's power of pleasing. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all the improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accu. mulate on him; while the reading was yet not rectified, nor his allusions understood ; yet then did Dryden pronounce, 'that Shakspeare was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those, who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation : he was naturally learned ; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat and insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say, he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of poets,
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.' It is to be lamented, that such a writer should want a commentary; that his language should become obsolete, or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things : that which must happen to all, has happened to Shakspeare, by accident and time ; and more than has been suffered by any other writer since the use of types,
has been suffered by him through his own negligence of fame, or perhaps by that superiority of mind, which despised its own performances, when it compared them with its powers; and judged those works unworthy to be preserved, which the critics of following ages were to contend for the fame of restoring and explaining.
Among these candidates of inferior fame, I am now to stand the judgment of the public; and wish that I could confidently produce my commentary as equal to the encouragement which I have bad the honor of receiving. Every work of this kind is by its nature deficient; and I should feel little solicitude about the sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and the learned.
Of what has been performed in this revisal, an account is given by Mr. Steevens, who might have spoken both of his own diligence and sagacity in terms of greater self-approbation, without deviating from modesty or truth.
EPITAPH ON WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,
What needs my Shakspeare for his honour'd bones,