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my Knowledge ; and, when that Project fail'd, for employing a number of my Conjectures in his Edition against my express Desire not to have that Honour done unto me.
Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on; and, by that means got a Character of Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a better 'Talent. By a punctilious Collation of the old Books, he corrected what was manifestly wrong in the latter Editions, by what was manifestly right in the earlier. And this is his real Merit ; and the whole of it. For where the Phrase was very obsolete or licentious in the common Books, or only flightly corrupted in the other, he wanted fufficient knowledge of the Progress and various Stages of the English Tongue, as well as. Acquaintance with the Peculiarity of Shakespear's Language to understand what was right; nor had he either common Judgment to fee, or critical Sagacity to amend, what was manifestly faulty. Hence he generally exerts his conje&tural Talent in the wrong Place: He tampers, with what is found in the common Books; and, in the old ones, omits all Notice of Variations the Sense of which he did not understand.
How the Oxford Editor came to think himself qualified for this Office, from which his whole Course of Life had been so remote, is still more difficult to conceive. For whatever Parts he might have either of Genius or Erudition, he
Tobah (0.2 was absolutely ignorant of the Art of Criticifm, as well as of the Poetry of that Time, and the Language of his Author. And so far from a Thought of examining the first Editions, that he even neglected to compare Mr. Pope's, from which he printed his own, with Mr. Tbeobald's; whereby he lost the Advantage of many fine Lines which the other had recovered from the old Quartos. Where he trusts to his own Sagacity, in what affects the Sense, his Conjectures are generally absurd and extravagant, and violating every Rule of Criticism. Tho', in this Rage of Correcting, he was not absolutely deftitute of all Art. For, having a number of my Conjectures before him, he took as many of them as he saw fit, to work upon; and by changing them to something, he thought, fynonimous or fimilar, he made them his own, and so became a Critic at a cheap Expence. But how well he hath succeeded in this, as likewise in his Conjectures which are properly his own, will be seen in the course of my Remarks: Tho', as he hath declined to give the Reasons for his Interpolations, he hath not afforded me so fair a hold of him as Mr. Theobald bath done, who was less cautious. But his principal Object was to reform his Author's Numbers, and this, which he hath done, on every Occasion, by the Insertion or omission of a set of harmless, unconcerning Expletives, makes up the grofs Body of his innocent Corrections. And so, in spite of that extreme Negligence in Numbers, which distinguishes the first Dramatic Writers, he hath tricked up the old Bird,
from Head to Foot, in all the finical Exactness of a modern Measurer of Syllables. s. For the rest, all the Corrections which these two Editors have made on any reasonable Foundation, are here admitted into the Text; and carefully assigned to their respective Authors. A piece of Justice which the Oxford Editor never did; and which the Other was not always scrupulous în observing towards me. To conclude with them in a word, They separately possessed those two Qualities which, more than any other, have contributed to bring the Art of Criticism into difrepute, Dulness of Apprebension, and Extravagance of Conjecture.
I am now to give some Account of the present Undertaking. For as to all those Things, which have been published under the titles of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakespear, (if you except fome critical Notes on Macbeth, given as a Specimen of a projected Edition, and written, as appears, by a Man of Parts and Genius) the rest are absolutely below a serious Notice.
The whole a Critic can do for an Author who deferves his Service, is to correct the faulty Text; to remark the Peculiarities of Language ; to illustrate the obfcure Allusions ; and to explain the Beauties and Defects of Sentiment or Compolition. And surely, if ever Author had a Claim to this Service, it was our Shakespear': Who, widely excelling in the Knowledge of Human Nature, hath given to his infinitely varied Pica tures ofsit, fach Truth of Design, such Force of Drawing, Ideh Beauty of Colouring, as was hardly
ever equalled by any Writer, whether his Aim was the Use, or only the Entertainment of Mankind. The Notes in this Edition, therefore, take in the whole Compass of Criticism.
I. The first fort is employed in restoring the Poet's genuine Text ; but in those Places only where it labours with inextricable Nonsense. In which, how much foever I may have given Scope to critical Conjecture, where the old Copies failed
me, I have indulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination ; but have religiously observed the fevere Capons of literal Criticism; as may be seen from the Reasons accompanying.every Alteration of the common Text. Nor would a different Conduct have become a Critic, whose greatest Attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established Reading from Interpolations occasioned by i the fanciful Extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given
the Reader a body of Canons, for literal Criticism, drawn out inform; as well such asconcern the Art in general, as those that arise from the Nature and Circumstances of our Author's Works in particular. And this for two Reasons." First, Togive the unlearned Reader a juft Idea, and consequently a better Opinion of the Art of Criticism, now sunk very low in the popular Esteem, by the Attempts of some who would needs exercise it without either natural or acquired Talents ; and by the ill Success of others, who seemed to have lost both, when they came to try them upon English Authors. Secondly, To deter the Unlearned Writer from wantonly trifling with an Art hc is a Stranger to,' at the Expence of his
own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text » of established Authors. But these Uses may be well supplied by what is occasionally said upon the Subject, in the Course of the following Remarks,
II. The second sort of Notes consists in an Explanation of the Author's Meaning, when, by one, or more of these Causes, it becomes obfcure ; either from a licentious Use of Terms ;; or a bard or ungrammatical Construction ; or lastly, from far-fetch'd or quaint Allufions. 1. This licentious Use of Words is almost
peculiar to the Language of Shakespear. To common Terms he hath affixed Meanings of his own, unauthorised by Use, and not to be justified by Analogy. And this Liberty he hath taken with the noblest Parts of Speech, such as Mixedmodes; which, as they are most susceptible of Abuse, so their Abuse most hurts the Clearness of the Discourse. The Critics (to whom ShakeSpear's Licence was still as much a Secret as his Meaning, which that Licence had obscured) fell into two contrary Mistakes ; but equally injurious to his Reputation and his Writings. For some of them observing a Darkness, that pervaded his whole Expression, have censured him for Confufion of Ideas and Inaccuracy of reasoning. In the Neighing of a Horse, (says Rymer) or in the Growling of a Mastif there is a Meaning, there is a lively Expression, and, may I say, more Humanity than many times in the tragical Flights of Shakespear. The Ignorance of which Censure is of a piece with its Brutality. The Truth is, no one thought