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P R E F A C E
HE AUTHOR of the following Essay was folhath however, in his own capacity, little reason to complain of occasional Criticks, or Criticks by profesion. The very Few, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his Doctrine, have favoured him with better manners, than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonstrating the futility of Theoretick reasoning against Matter of Faet. It is indeed strange, that any real Friends of our immortal Poet should be still willing to force him into a situation, which is not tenable: treat him as a learned Man, and what shall excuse the most grofs violations of History, Chronology, and Geography ?
Ου σείσεις, εδ' ήν πείσης is the Motto of every Polemick: like his Brethren at the Amphitheatre, he holds it a merit to die hard; and will not say, Enough, though the Battle be decided. " Were it shewn, says some one, that the old Bard borrowed all bis allusions from English books then published, our Esayist might have possibly established his System.
In good time ! — This had scarcely been attempted by Peter Burman himself, with the Library of Shakespeare before him. Truly, as Mr.
Dogberry says, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a King, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this Subject:" but where should I meet with a Reader?
When the main Pillars are taken away, the whole Building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed; or rather, which was not virtually removed before: a very little Analogy will do the business, I shall therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further ; and may venture to call my Pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant Declaimer against Sermons on the thirtieth of January, “ an Answer to every thing that hall hereafter be written on the Subject.”
But “this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the Languages, who hath written when Translations were extant.' Shade of Burgersdicius! — does it follow, because Shakespeare's early life was incompatible with a course of Education whose Contemporaries, Friends and Foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually called Literature — whose mistakes from equivocal Translations, and even typographical Errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise, -that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek? I suspect, Rallin's Opinion of our Philosopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakespeare wanted not the Stilts of Languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading : had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously
from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, “ got only from Poljum to polet," and
yet will throw out a line occasionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety. --- If, however, the old Editions be trusted in this passage, our Author's memory somewhat failed him in point of Concord.
The rage of Parallelisms is almost over, and in truth nothing can be more absurd, “This was stolen from one Classick, -That from another;"and had I not stept in to his rescue, poor Shakespeare had been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first held Horses at the door of the Playhouse.
The late ingenious and modeft Mr. Dodfley declared himself
“ Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome :") Yet let us take a passage at a venture from any of his performances, and a thousand to one, it is stolen. Suppose it be his celebrated Compliment to the Ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop : *** A good Wife makes the cares of the World lit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures; she is a Man's best Companion in Prosperity, and his only Friend in Adverfity; the carefullest preserver of his Health, and the kindeft Attendant in his Sickness; a faithful Adviser in Distress, a Comforter in Affliction, and a prudent Manager in all his domestic Affairs." - Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobæus.
“Γυνή γαρ εν κακoίσι και νόσοις πόσες
Malvolio in the Twelfth Night of Shakespeare hath fome expressions very similar to Alnafchar in the Arabian Tales : which perhaps may be sufficient for some Criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic !
It seems however, at last, that “ Taste should determine the matter.” This, as Bardolph expresses it, is a word of exceeding good command: but I am willing, that the Standard itself be somewhat better ascertained before it be opposed to demonstrative Evidence,
Upon the whole, I may consider myself, as the Pioneer of the Commentators: I have removed a deal of learned Rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakespeare's track in the ever-pleasing Paths of Nature. This was necessarily a previous Inquiry; and I hope I may assume with some confidence, what one of the first Criticks of the Age was pleased to declare on reading the former Edition, that “ The Question is now for ever decided.”
*. I may just remark, left they be mistaken for Errata, that the word Catherine in the 47th page is written, according to the old Orthography, for Catharine ; and that the passage in the 511t page is copied from Upton, who improperly calls Horatio and Marcellus in Hamlet, “ the Centinels.”
In p. 23. 1. 23. for had probably read might have &c.
boke of Frendshipe, by Yobn Tiptoft, Earl of Worcefter. I believe the
former was translated by Wyllyam 1 yrcefire, alias Botaner. In p. 84. 1. 28. for fupicion, read Jujpiciin.