Obrázky stránek



always does during that State) in the high and turgid : which leads the Writer to disguise a vulgar expression with hard and forced construction, whereby the sentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here, his Critics shew their modesty, and leave him to himself. For the arbitrary change of a Word doth little towards dispelling an obscurity that ariseth, not from the licentious use of a single Term, but from the unnatural arrangement of a whole Sentence. And they risqued nothing by their filence. For Shakespear was too clear in Fame to be suspected of a want of Meaning; and too high in Fashion for any one to own he needed a Critic to find it out. Not but, in his best works, we must allow, he is often so natural and flowing, so pure and correct, that he is even a model for stile and language.

3. As to his far-fetched and quaint Allusions, these are often a cover to common thoughts ; just as his hard construction is to common expresfion. When they are not so, the explanation of them has this further advantage, that, in clearing the Obscurity, you frequently discover fome latent conceit not unworthy of his Genius.

III. The third and last fort of Notes is concerned in a critical explanation of the Author's Beauties and Defects; but chiefly of his Beauties, whether in Stile, Thought, Sentiment, Character or Composition. An odd humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst the Critics as if nothing were worth remarking that did VOL. I.



[merged small][ocr errors]

not, at the fame time, deserve to be reproved. Whereas the public Judgment hath less need to be affifted in what it shall reject, than in what it ought to prize ; Men being generally more ready at spying Faults than in discovering Beauties. Nor is the value they set upon a Work, a certain proof that they understand it. For 'tis ever feen, that half a dozen Voices of credit give the lead : And if the Publick chance to be in good humour, or the Author much in their favour, the People are sure to follow. Hence it is that the true Critic hath so frequently attached himself to Works of established reputation ; not to teach the World to admire, which, in those circumstances, to say the truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with reaJon to admire: No easy matter, I will assure you, on the subject in question: For tho’ it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath observed, that Shakespear is the fairest and fullest subject for criticism, yet it is not such a sort of criticism as may be raised mechanically on the Rules which Dacier, Rapin and Bolju have collected from Antiquity ; and of which, such kind of Writers as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis and Oldmixon, have only gathered and chewed the Husks: nor on the other hand is it to be formed on the Plan of those crude and su-. perficial Judgments, on books and things, with which a certain celebrated Paper so much abounds; too good indeed to be named with the Writers last mentioned, but being unluckily mistaken for a Model, because it was an Original, it hath given


rise to a deluge of the worst sort of critical Jargon; I mean that which looks most like fenfe. But the kind of criticism here required is such as judgeth our Author by those only Laws and Principles on which he wrote, NATURE, and COMMON-SENSE.

Our Observations, therefore, being thus extensive, will, I presume, enable the Reader to form a right judgment of this favourite Poet, without drawing out his Character, as was once intended, in a continued discourse.

These, such as they are, were amongst my younger amusements, when, many years ago, I used to turn over these fort of Writers to unbend myself from more serious applications: And what, certainly, the Public, at this time of day, had never been troubled with, but for the conduct of the two last Editors, and the persuasions of dear Mr. POPE; whose memory and name,

femper acerbum, Semper bonoratum (fic Di voluiftis ) babebo. He was desirous I should give a new Edition of this Poet, as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to a prevailing folly of altering the Text of celebrated Authors without Talents or Judgment. And he was willing that his Edition thould be melted down into mine, as it would, he faid, afford' him (so great is the modesty of an ingenuous temper ) a fit opportunity of confelling his Mistakes *. In memory of our See his Letters to me. 2 2


Friendship, I have, therefore, made it our joint Edition. His admirable Preface is here added all his Notes are given, with his name annexed ; the Scenes are divided according to his regulation ; and the most beautiful passages distinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas. In imitation of him, I have done the same by as many others as I thought most deserving of the Reader's attention, and have marked them with double commas.

If, from all this, Shakespear or good Letters have received any advantage, and the Public any benefit, or entertainment, the thanks are due to the Proprietors, who have been at the expence of procuring this Edition. And I Thould be unjust to several deserving Men of a reputable and useful Profession, if I did not, on this occafion, acknowledge the fair dealing I have always found amongst them; and profess my sense of the unjust Prejudice which lies against them ; whereby they have been, hitherto, unable to procure that security for their Property, which they see, the rest of their Fellow-Citizens enjoy. A prejudice in part arising from the frequent Piracies, ( as they are called) committed by Members of their own Body. But such kind of Members no Body is without. And it would be hard that this should be turned to the discredit of the honest part of the Profession, who suffer more from such Injuries than any other' men. It hath, in part too, arisen from the clamours of profligate Scriblers, ever ready,


[ocr errors]

for a piece of Money, to prostitute their bad sense for or against any Cause prophane or facred; or in

or in any Scandal public or private : : These meeting with little encouragement from Men of account in the Trade, (who even in this enlightened Age are not the very worst Judges or Rewarders of merit) apply them, selves to People of Condition ; and support their importunities by false complaints against Bookfellers.

But I should now, perhaps, rather think of my own Apology, than busy myself in the

. defence of others. I shall have some Tartuffe ready, on the first appearance of this Edition, to call out again, and tell me, that I suffer myself to be wholly diverted from my purpose by these matters less suitable to my clerical Profeffón.

Well, but, says a Friend, why not take so “ candid an intimation in good part? With“ draw yourself, again, as you are bid, into the « clerical Pale ; examine the Records of sacred " and prophane Antiquity; and, on them, erect " a Work to the confusion of Infidelity." Why, I have done all this, and more :

And hear now what the same Men have said to it. They tell me, I have wrote to the wrong and injury of Religion, and furnished out more bandles for Unbelievers. “Oh now the secret's

and you may have your pardon, I find, upon easier terms. 'Tis only, to write no "more.

Good Gentlemen ! and shall I not oblige them? They would gladly obstruct


[ocr errors]


« PředchozíPokračovat »