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opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach of controversy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rise again to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion without progress.
Thus sometimes truth and error, and sometimes contrarieties of error, take each other's place by reciprocal invafion. The tide of seeming knowledge which is poured over one generation, retires and leaves another naked and barren; the sudden meteors of intelligence, which for a while appear to shoot their beams into the regions of obscurity, on a sudden withdraw their lustre, and leave mortals again to grope their way.
These elevations and depressions of renown, and the contradictionş to which all improvers of knowledge must for ever be exposed, since they are not escaped by the highest and brightest of mankind, may surely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themselves but as the fatellites of their authors. How canst thou beg for life, says Homer's hero to his captive, when thou knowest that thou art now to suffer only what must another day be suffered by Achilles ?
Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity on those who could exalt themfelves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too loud to be distinct. His chief assailants are the authors of The canons of criticism, and of The revisal of Shakspeare's text ; of whom one ridicules his errors with airy petulance, suitable enough to the levity of the controversy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to justice an assassın or incendiary. The one stings like a fly, sucks a little blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more; the other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and gangrene behind him. When I think on one, with his confederates, I remember the danger of Coriolanus, who was afraid that girls with Spits, and boys with stones, should pay him in puny battle; when the other crosses my imagination, I remember the prodigy in Macbeth:
" A falcon tow'ring in his pride of place,
" Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd." Let me however do them justice. One is a wit, and one a scholar.” They have both shewn acuteness sufficient in the discovery of faults, and have both advanced some probable interpretations of obfcure passages; but when they aspire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falsely we all estimate our own abilities, and the little which they have been able to perform might have taught them more candour to the endeavours of others.
Before Dr. Warburton's edition, Critical Observations on Shakspeare had been published by Mr. Upton,' a man skilled in languages, and acquainted with books, but who seems to have had no great
· It is extraordinary that this gentleman should attempt fa voluminous a work, as the Revisal of Shakspeare's text, when he tells us in his preface, she was not so fortunate as to be furnished with either of the folio editions, much lefs any of the ancient quartos: and even Sir Thomas Hanmer's performance was known to him only by Dr. Warburton's representation."
FARMER. 3 Republished by him in 1748, after Dr. Warburton's cdition, with alterations, &c. STEEVENS.
vigour of genius or nicety of taste. Many of his explanations are curious and useful, but he likewise, though he professed to oppose the licentious confidence of editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to restrain the rage of emendation, though his ardour is ill seconded by his skill. Every cold empiřick, when his heart is expanded by a successful experiment, swells into a theorist, and the laborious collator at some unlucky moment frolicks in conjecture.
Critical, historical, and explanatory notes have been likewise published upon Shakspeare by Dr. Grey, whose diligent perufal of the old English writers has enabled him to make some useful observations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticisin, he employs rather his memory than his, sagacity. It were to be wished that all would endeavour to imitate his modesty, who have not been able to surpass his knowledge.
I can say with great fincerity of all my predeceffors what I hope will hereafter be said of me, that not one has left Shakspeare without improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been. indebted for affistance and information. Whatever I have taken from them, it was my intention to refer to its original author, and it is certain, that what I have not given to another, I believed when I wrote it to be
In some perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever foạnd to encroach upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour, be it more or less, should be transferred to the first claimant, for
his right, and his alone, stands above dispate; the second can prove his pretensions only to himself, nor can himself always distinguish invention, with sufficient certainty, from recollection.
They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been careful of observing to one another. It is not easy to discover from what cause the acrimony of a scholiaft can naturally proceed. The subjects to be discussed by him arc of
very small importance; they involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the interest of feet or party. The various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a passage, seem to be questions that might exercise the wit, without engaging the passions. But whether it be, that small things make mean men proud, and vanity catches small occasions; or that all contrariety of opinion, even in those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there is often found in commentaries a spontaneous strain of invective and contempt, more cager and venomous than is vented by the most furious controvertist in politicks against those whom he is hired to defame.
Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to be investigated is so near to inexistence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation: that to which all would be indifferent in its original state, may attract notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temptations to supply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a spacious surface, to work that to foain which no art or diligence can exalt to fpirit. The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illustrative, by which difficulties are explained; or judicial, by which faults and beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which depravations are corrected.
The explanations transcribed from others, if I do not subjoin any other interpretation, I suppose commonly to be right, at least I intend by acquiescence to confess, that I have nothing better to propose.
After the labours of all the editors, I found many passages which appeared to me likely to ob-, ftruét the greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to facilitate their passage. It is inpoflible for an expositor not to write too little for some, and too much for others. He can only judge 'what is necessary by his own experience; and how long foever he may deliberate, will at last explain many lines which the learned will think impossible to be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help. These are censures merely relative, and must be quietly endured. I have endeavoured to be neither superfluously copious, nor scrupulously reserved, and hope that I have made my author's meaning accessible to many, who before were frighted from perusing, him, and contributed something to the publick, by diffusing innocent and rational pleasure.
The complete explanation of an author not stematick and consequential, but desultory and vagrant, abounding in casual állusions and light hints, is not to be expected from any single scholiaft. All personal reflections, when names are suppressed, must be in a few years irrecoverably obliterated;