Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

naturalized or known among us, a gloffary is added at the end of the work, for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been fo many ftumbling-blocks to the generality of readers; and where there is any obfcurity in the text, not arifing from the words, but from a reference to fome antiquated cuftoms now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a note is put at the bottom of the page, to clear up the difficulty.

With these feveral helps, if that rich vein of fense which runs through the works of this author can be retrieved in every part, and brought to appear in its true light, and if it may be hoped, without prefumption, that this is here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him juftice, who does great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a fingular genius; one who hath attained a high degree of perfection in those two great branches of poetry, tragedy and comedy, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be faid without partiality to have equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the beft writers of any age or country, who have thought it glory enough to diftinguish themselves in either.

Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their most celebrated poets with the faireft impreffions beautified with the ornaments of fculpture, well may our Shakspeare be thought to deferve no lefs confideration: and as a fresh acknowledgment hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his ftatue at a publick expence; fo it is defired that this new edition of his VOL. I.

works, which hath coft fome attention and care, may be looked upon as another small monument defigned and dedicated to his honour.

DR. WARBURTON'S

PREFACE.

IT

hath been no unufual thing for writers, when diffatisfied with the patronage or judgment of their own times, to appeal to pofterity for a fair hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the first inftance; and to decline acquaintance with the publick, till envy and prejudice had quite fubfided. But, of all the trufters to futurity, commend me to the author of the following poems, who not only left it to time to do him juftice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For, what between too great attention to his profit as a player, and too little to his reputation as a poet, his works, left to the care of door-keepers and prompters, hardly escaped the common fate of those writings, how good foever, which are abandoned to their own fortune, and unprotected by party or cabal. At length, indeed, they ftruggled into light; but fo difguifed and travefted, that no claffick author, after having run ten fecular ftages

3

through the blind cloifters of monks and canons, ever came out in half fo maimed and mangled a condition. But for a full account of his diforders, I refer the reader to the excellent difcourfe which follows," and turn myself to confider the remedies that have been applied to them.

Shakspeare's works, when they escaped the players, did not fall into much better hands when they came amongst printers and bookfellers; who, to say the truth, had at first but small encouragement for putting them into a better condition. The ftubborn nonfenfe, with which he was incrusted, occafioned his lying long neglected amongst the common lumber of the ftage. And when that refiftlefs fplendor, which now fhoots all around him, had, by degrees, broke through the fhell of thofe impurities, his dazzled admirers became as fuddenly infenfible to the extraneous fcurf that still ftuck upon him, as they had been before to the native beauties that lay under it. So that, as then he was thought not to defervé a cure, he was now fuppofed-not to need any.

*

His growing eminence, however, required that he should be used with ceremony; and he foon had his appointment of an editor in form. But the bookfeller, whofe dealing was with wits, having learnt of them, I know not what filly maxim, that none but a poet should prefume to meddle with a poet, engaged the ingenious Mr. Rowe to undertake this employment. A wit indeed he was; but fo utterly unacquainted with the whole bufinefs of criticism, that he did not even collate or confult. the first editions of the work he undertook to publish; but contented himself with giving us a

7 Mr. Pope's Preface. REED,

meagre account of the author's life, interlarded with some common-place fcraps from his writings. The truth is, Shakspeare's condition was yet but ill understood. The nonfenfe, now, by confent, received for his own, was held in a kind of reverence for its age and author; and thus it continued till another great poet broke the charm, by fhowing us, that the higher we went, the lefs of it was ftill to be found.

;

For the proprietors, not difcouraged by their first unsuccessful effort, in due time, made a fecond and, though they ftill ftuck to their poets, with infinitely more fuccefs in their choice of Mr. Pope, who, by the mere force of an uncommon genius, without any particular ftudy or profeffion of this art, difcharged the great parts of it fo well, as to make his edition the beft foundation for all further improvements. He feparated the genuine from the fpurious plays; and, with equal judgment, though not always with the fame fuccefs, attempted to clear the genuine plays from the interpolated scenes: he then confulted the old editions; and, by a careful collation of them, rectified the faulty, and fupplied the imperfect reading, in a great number of places and laftly, in an admirable preface, hath drawn a general, but very lively sketch of Shakspeare's poetick character; and, in the corrected text, marked out thofe peculiar ftrokes of genius which were most proper to fupport and illuftrate that character. Thus far Mr. Pope. And although much more was to be done before Shakspeare could be restored ́ to himself (such as amending the corrupted text where the printed books afford no affiftance; explaining his licentious phrafeology and obfcure allufions; and illuftrating the beauties of his

poetry); yet, with great modefty and prudence, our illuftrious editor left this to the critick by profeffion.

But nothing will give the common reader a better idea of the value of Mr. Pope's edition, than the two attempts which have been fince made by Mr. Theobald and Sir Thomas Hanmer in oppofition to it; who, although they concerned themselves only in the first of these three parts of criticism, the reftoring the text, (without any conception of the Second, or venturing even to touch upon the third,). yet fucceeded fo very ill in it, that they left their author in ten times a 'worfe condition than they found him. But, as it was my ill fortune to have fome accidental connections with these two gentlemen, it will be incumbent on me to be a little more particular concerning them.

The one was recommended to me as a poor man; the other as a poor critick: and to each of them, at different times, I communicated a great number of obfervations, which they managed, as they faw fit, to the relief of their feveral diftreffes. As to Mr. Theobald, who wanted money, I allowed him to print what I gave him for his own advantage; and he allowed himself in the liberty of taking one part for his own, and fequeftering another for the benefit, as I fuppofed, of fome future edition. But, as to the Oxford editor, who wanted nothing but what he might very well be without, the reputation of a critick, I could not so easily forgive him for trafficking with my papers, without my knowledge; and, when that project failed, for employing a number of my conjectures in his edition against my express defire not to have that honour done unto me.

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to industry

« PředchozíPokračovat »