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great Latinifts. For it is not to be wondered at, if both the court and schools, equal Alatterers of power, should adapt themselves to the royal taste.
But now I am touching on the question (which has been so frequently agitated, yet so entirely undecided) of his learning and acquaintance with the languages ; an additional word or two naturally falls in here upon the genius of our author, as compared with that of Jonson his contemporary, They are confessedly the greatest writers our nation could ever boast of in the drama. The first, we say, owed all to his prodigious natural genius; and the other a great deal to his art and learning. This, if attended to, will explain a very remarkable appearance in their writings. Besides those wonderful inafter-pieces of art and genius, which each has given us; they are the authors of other works very unworthy of them: but with this difference, that in Jonson's bad pieces we do not discover one single trace of the author of The Fox and Alchemist; but, in the wild extravagant notes of Shakspeare, you every now and then encounter ftrains that recognize the divine composer. This difference may be thus accounted for. Jonson, as we said before, owing all his excellence to his art, by which he sometimes strained himself to an uncommon pitch, when at other times he unbent and played with his subject, having nothing then to fupport him, it is no wonder that he wrote so far beneath himself. But Shakspeare, indebted more largely to nature than the other to acquired talents, in his most negligent hours could never so totally diveft himself of his genius, but that it would frequently break out with astonishing force and fplendor.
As I have never proposed to dilate farther on the character of my author, than was necessary to explain the nature and use of this edition, I lhall proceed to consider him as a genius in possession of an everlasting name. And how great that merit must be, which could gain it against all the disadvantages of the horrid condition in which he has hitherto appeared! Had Homer, or any other admired author, first started into publick so maimed and deformed, we cannot determine whether they had not funk for ever under the ignominy of such an ill appearance. The mangled condition of Shakspeare has been acknowledged by Mr. Rowe, who published him indeed, but neither corrected his text, nor collated the old copies. This gentleman had abilities, and sufficient knowledge of his author, had but his industry been equal to his talents. The same mangled condition has been acknowledged too by Mr. Pope, who published him likewise, pretended to have collated the old copies, and very seldom has corrected the text but to its injury. I congratulate with the manes of our poet, that this gentleman has been sparing in indulging his private sense, as he phrases it; for he, who tampers with an author, whom he does not understand, must do it at the expence of his subject. I have made it evident throughout my remarks, that he has frequently inflicted a wound where he intended a cure. He has acted with regard to aur author, as an editor, whom LIPSIus mentions, did with regard to MARTIAL; Inventus eft nefcio quis Popa, qui non vitia ejus, sed ipsum excidit. He has attacked him like an handy slaughterman; and not lopped of the errors,
but the poet.
When this is found to be faet, how absurd must appear the praises of such an editor! It seems a moot point, whether Mr. Pope has done most injury to Shakspeare, as his editor and encomiast; or Mr. Rymer done him service, as his rival and censurer. They have both shewn themselves in an equal impuisance of suspecting or amending the corrupted passages: and though it be neither prudence to cenfure or commend what one does not understand; yet if a man must do one when he plays the critick, the latter is the more ridiculous office; and by that Shakspeare suffers moft. For the natural veneration which we have for him makes us apt to swallow whatever is given us as his, and fet off with encomiums; and hence we quit all suspicions of depravity: on the contrary, the censure of so divine an author fets us upon his defence; and this produces an exact scrutiny and examination, which ends in finding out and discriminating the true from the fpurious.
It is not with any secret pleasure that I so frequently animadvert on Mr. Pope as a critick, but there are provocations, which a man can never quite forget. His libels have been thrown out with so mach inveteracy, that, not to dispute whether they Mould come from a christian, they leave it a question whether they could come from a man. I should be loth to doubt, as Quintus Serenus did in a like case:
“ Sive homo, feu fimilis turpissima bestia nobis
The indignation, perhaps, for being represented a blockhead, may be as strong in us, as it is in the
It is cer
ladies for a reflection on their beauties. tain, I am indebted to him for some flagrant civilities; and I shall willingly devote a part of my life to the honest endeavour of quitting scores: with this exception, however, that I will not return those civilities in his peculiar strain, but confine myself, at least, to the limits of common decency. I shall ever think it better to wánt wit than to want humanity: and impartial posterity may, perhaps, be of my opinion.
But to return to my subject, which now calls upon me to enquire into those causes, to which the depravations of my author originally may be asfigned. We are to consider him as a writer, of whom no authentick manuscript was left extant; as a writer, whose pieces were dispersedly performed on the several sages then in being. And it was the custom of those days for the poets to take a price of the players for the picces they from time to time furnished; and thereupon it was supposed they had no farther right to print them without the consent of the players. As it was the interest of the companies to keep their plays unpublished, when any one succeeded, there was a contest betwixt the curiosity of the town, who demanded to fee it in print, and the policy of the stagers, who wished to secrete it within their own walls. Hence many pieces were taken down in short-hand, and imperfectly copied by ear from a reprefentation : others were printed from piecemeal parts surreptitiously obtained from the theatres, uncorrect, and without the poet's knowledge. To some of these causes we owe the train of blemishes, that deform those pieces which ftole fingly into the world in our author's life-time.
There are still other reasons, which may be fupposed to have affected the whole set. When the players took upon them to publish his works entire, every theatre was ransacked to supply the copy; and parts collected, which had gone through as many changes as performers, either from mutilations or additions made to them. derive many chasms and incoherences in the sense and inatter. Scenes were frequently tranfposed, and shuffled out of their true place, to humour the caprice, or supposed convenience, of some particular actor. Hence much confusion and impropriety has attended and embarrassed the bufiness and fable. To these obvious causes of corruption it must be added, that our author has lain under the disadvantage of having his errors propagated and multiplied by time: because, for near a century, his works were published from the faulty copies, without the assistance of any intelligent editor: which has been the case likewise of many a classick writer.
The nature of any distemper once found has generally been the immediate step to a cure. Shak speare's cafe has in a great measure resembled that of a corrupt clasick; and, consequently, the method of cure was likewife to bear a resemblance.
By what means, and with what success, this cure has been effected on ancient writers, is too well known, and needs no formal illustration. The reputation, consequent on tasks of that nature invited me to attempt the method here; with this view, the hopes of restoring to the publick their greatest poet in his original purity, after having so long lain in a condition that was a disgrace to common