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efcaped by the highest and brightest of mankind' may furely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themselves but as the fatellites of their authors. How canft thou beg for life, fays Homer's hero to his captive, when thou knoweft that thou art now to fuffer only what must another day be fuffered by Achilles?
Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity on those who could exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too loud to be diftinct. His chief affailants are the authors of The Canons of Criticism, and of The Revifal of Shakspeare's Text; of whom one ridicules his errors with airy petulance, fuitable enough to the levity of the controverfy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to juftice an affaffin or incendiary. The one ftings like a fly, fucks 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 ftones, fhould lay him in puny battle; when the other croffes my imagination, I remember the prodigy in Macbeth:
"A falcon tow'ring in his pride of place,
Let me however do them juftice. One is a wit, and one a scholar.3 They have both shown acute
2 See Bofwell's Life of Dr. Johnfon, Vol. I. p. 227, 3d. edit. REED.
? It is extraordinary that this gentleman fhould attempt so vo
ness sufficient in the discovery of faults, and have both advanced fome probable interpretations of obscure paffages; but when they aspire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falfely we all eftimate 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 Obfervations 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 vigour of genius or nicety of taste. Many of his explanations are curious and ufeful, but he likewife, though he profeffed 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 feconded by his fkill. Every cold empirick, when his heart expanded by a fuccefsful experiment, fwells into a theorift, and the laborious-collator at fome unlucky moment frolicks in conjecture.
Critical, hiftorical, and explanatory Notes have been likewife publifhed upon Shakspeare by Dr. Grey, whofe diligent perufal of the old English writers has enabled him to make fome useful obfervations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticism, he employs rather his memory
luminous a work, as the Revifal of Shakspeare's text, when he tells us in his preface, " he was not fo fortunate as to be furnished with either of the folio editions, much less any of the ancient quartos: and even Sir Thomas Hanmer's performance was known to him only by Dr. Warburton's representation."
4 Republished by him in 1748, after Dr. Warburton's edition, with alterations, &c. STEEVENS.
than his fagacity. It were to be wished that al would endeavour to imitate his modefty, who have not been able to furpafs his knowledge.
I can fay with great fincerity of all my predeceffors, what I hope will hereafter be faid of me, that not one has left Shakspeare without improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been indebted for affiftance 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 my own. In fome perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour, be it more or lefs, fhould be transferred to the firft claimant, for his right, and his alone, stands above difpute; the fecond can prove his pretenfions only to himself nor can himself always diftinguifh invention, with fufficient certainty, from recollection.
They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been careful of obferving to one another. It is not eafy to discover from what cause the acrimony of a fcholiaft can naturally proceed. The subjects to be difcuffed by him are of very fmall importance; they involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the intereft of fect or party. The various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a paffage, feem to be queftions that might exercise the wit, without engaging the paffions. But whether it be, that small things make mean men proud, and vanity catches fmall occafions; 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 fpontaneous ftrain of invective and con
tempt, more eager and venomous than is vented by the most furious controvertift in politicks against thofe 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 fo 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 ftate, may attract notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temptations to fupply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a fpacious furface, to work that to foam which no art or diligence can exalt to spirit.
The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illuftrative, 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 fubjoin any other interpretation, I fuppofe commonly to be right, at least I intend by acquiescence to confefs, that I have nothing better to propofe.
After the labours of all the editors, I found many paffages which appeared to me likely to obftruct the greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to facilitate their paffage. It is impoffible for an expofitor not to write too little for fome, and too much for others. He can only judge what is neceffary by his own experience; and how long foever he may deliberate, will at laft explain many lines which the learned will think impoffible to be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help. These are cenfures merely relative, and must be quietly endured. I have
endeavoured to be neither fuperfluoufly copious, nor fcrupulously referved, and hope that I have made my author's meaning acceffible to many, who before were frighted from perufing him, and contributed fomething to the publick, by diffufing innocent and rational pleasure.
The complete explanation of an author not fyftematick and confequential, but defultory and vagrant, abounding in cafual allufions and light hints, is not to be expected from any fingle fcholiaft. All perfonal reflections, when names are fuppreffed, must be in a few years irrecoverably obliterated; and cuftoms, too minute to attract the notice of law, yet fuch as modes of drefs, formalities of converfation, rules of visits, difpofition of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which naturally find places in familiar dialogue, are fo fugitive and unfubftantial, that they are not eafily retained or recovered. What can be known will be collected by chance, from the receffes of obfcure and obfolete papers, perufed commonly with fome other view. Of this knowledge every man has fome, and none has much; but when an author has engaged the publick attention, thofe who can add any thing to his illuftration, communicate their discoveries, and time produces what had eluded diligence.
To time I have been obliged to refign many paffages, which, though I did not underftand them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, having, I hope, illuftrated fome, which others have neglected or mistaken, sometimes by short remarks, or marginal directions, fuch as every editor has added at his will, and often by comments more laborious than the matter will feem to deferve; but that which is moft difficult is not always most important, and to