« PředchozíPokračovat »
such will deserve the name) are to be procured ; the forwarding of this will be a general concern : For, as Quintilian observes,
" Verborum pro“ prietas ac differentia omnibus, qui sermonem
curæ habent, debet effe communis.” By this way, the Italians have brought their tongue to a degree of Purity and Stability which no living Language ever attained unto before. It is with pleasure Iobserve, that these things now begin to be understood amongst ourselves ; and that I can acquaint the Public, we may soon expect very elegant Éditions of Fletcher and Milton's Paradise Lost from Gentlemen of distinguished Abilities and Learning. But this interval of good sense, as it may be short, is indeed but new. For I remem, ber to have heard of a very learned Man, who, not long since, formed a design of giving a more correct Edition of Spenser ; and, without doubt, would have performed it well; but he was dissuaded from his purpose by his Friends, as beneath the dignity of a Profeffor of the occult Sciences. Yet these very Friends, I suppose, would have thought it had added lustre to his high Station, to have new-furbished out some dull northern Chronicle, or dark Sibylline Ænigma, But let it not be thought that what is here said insinuates any thing to the difcredit of Greek and Latin criticism. If the follies of particular Men were sufficient to bring any branch of Learning into disrepute, I don't
that would stand in a worse situation than that for which I now apologize. For Į
hardly think there ever appeared, in any
learned Language, fo execrable a heap of nonsense, under the name of Commentaries, as hath been lately given us on a certain satiric Poet, of the last Age, by his Editor and Coadjutor.
I am sensible how unjustly the very best classical Critics have been treated. It is said, that our great Philosopher spoke with much contempt of the two finest Scholars of this Age, Dr. Bentley and Bishop Hare, for squabbling, as he expressed it, about an old Play-book ; meaning, I suppose, Terence's Comedies. But this Story is unworthy of him; tho' well enough fuiting the fanatic turn of the wild Writer that relates it ; such censures are amongst the follies of men immoderately given over to one Science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the rest. Those learned Critics might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn, (tho' still, sure, with the same indecency and indiscretion) at that incomparable Man, for wearing out a long Life in poring through a Telescope. Indeed, the weaknefies of Such are to be mentioned with reverence. But who can bear, without indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling Writer, whose infipidity passes, with himself, for politeness, for pretending to be shocked, forsooth, with the fude and savage air of vulgar Critics ; meaning such as Muretus, Scaliger, Casaubon, Salmahus, Spanbeim, Bentley. When, had it not been for the deathless labours of such as thele,
the western World, at the revival of Letters, had foon faln back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity as deplorable as that from which Providence had just redeemed it.
To conclude with an observation of a fine Writer and great Philosopher of our own ; which I would gladly bind, tho' with all honour, as a Phylactery, on the Brow of every awful Gråmmarian, to teach him at once, the Ule, and Limits of his art: WORDS ARE MONEY OF FOOLS, AND THE COUNTERS OF WISE MEN.
T is not my design to enter into a Criticism upon this Author ; tho' to do it effectually and not superficially, would be the best occasion that any just Writer
could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English Poets ShakeSpear must be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his Works, and the disadvantages under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not : A design, which tho' it can be no guide to future Criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.
I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteristic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects ) he is justly and universally ele
vated above all other Dramatick Writers. Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.
If ever any Author deserved the name 'of an Original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of Nature, it proceeded thro' Ægyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The Poetry of Shakespear was Inspiration indeed : he is not so much an Imitator, as an Instrument, of Nature ; and 'tis not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks thro' him.
His Characters are so much Nature herself, that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets have a constant resemblance, which shews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multipliers of the fame image: each picture like a mock-rainbow is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every single character in Shakespear is as much an Individual, as those in Life it self; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his Plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very names of the Perfons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.
The Power over our Passions was never poffefs'd in a more eminent degree, or display'd in so different instances. " Yet all along, there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them ; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it : But the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places : We are surpriz'd the moment we