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critical Notes on Macbeth, given as a Specimen of a projected Edition, and written, as appears, by a Man of Parts and Genius) the rest are absolutely below a ferious Notice.

The whole a Critic can do for an Author who deferves his Service, is to correct the faulty Text; to remark the Peculiarities of Language; to illuftrate the obfcure Allufions; and to explain the Beauties and Defects of Sentiment or Compofition. And furely, if ever Author had a Claim to this Service, it was our Shakespeare: Who, widely excelling in the Knowledge of Human Nature, hath given to his infinitely varied Picture of it, fuch Truth of Defign, fuch Force of Drawing, fuch Beauty of Colouring, as was hardly ever equalled by any Writer, whether his Aim was the Ufe, or only the Entertainment of Mankind. The Notes in this Edition, therefore, take in the whole Compass of Criticism.

I. The first fort is employed in reftoring the Poet's genuine Text; but in thofe Places only where it labours with inextricable Nonsense. In which, how much foever I may have given Scope to critical Conjecture, where the old Copies failed me, I have indulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination; but have religioully obferved the fevere Canons of literal Criticifm; as may be seen from the Reasons accompanying every Alteration of the common Text. Nor would a different Conduct have become a Critic, whofe greatest Attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established Reading from Interpolations occafioned by the fanciful Extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given the Reader a Body of Canons, for literal Criticism, drawn out in Form; as well fuch as concern the Art in general, as those that arife from the Nature and Circumstances of our Author's Works in particular. And this for two Reafons. First, to give the unlearned Reader a juft Idea, and confequently a better Opinion of the Art of Criticism, now funk very low in the popular Efteem, by the Attempts of fome who would needs exercise it without either natural or acquired Talents; and by the ill Succefs of others, who feemed to

have loft both, when they came to try them upon English Authors. Secondly, To deter the unlearned Writer from wantonly trifling with an Art he is a Stranger to, at the Expence of his own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text of established Authors. But thefe Ufes may be well fupplied by what is occafionally faid upon the Subject, in the Courfe of the following Remarks.

II. The fecond Sort of Notes confists in an Explanation of the Author's Meaning, when, by one or more of these Causes, it becomes obfcure; either from a licentious Ufe of Terms; or a hard or ungrammatical Conftruction; or laftly, from far-fetched or quaint Allufions.

I. This licentious Use of Words is almoft peculiar to the Language of Shakespeare. To common Terms he hath affixed Meanings of his own, unauthorised by Ufe, and not to be juftified by Analogy. And this Liberty he hath taken with the nobleft Parts of Speech, fuch as Mixed-modes; which, as they are moft fufceptible of Abuse, so their Abuse most hurts the Clearnefs of the Difcourfe. The Critics (to whom Shakespeare's Licence was ftill as much a Secret as his Meaning, which that Licence had obfcured) fell into two contrary Mistakes; but equally injurious to his Reputation and his Writings. For fome of them obferving a Darkness, that pervaded his whole Expreffion, have cenfured him for Confufion of Ideas and Inaccuracy of Reasoning. In the Neighing of a Horfe, (lays Rymer) or in the Growling of a Maftiff, there is a Meaning, there is a lively Expreffion, and, may I fay, more Humanity than many Times in the tragical Flights of Shakespeare. The Ignorance of which Cenfure is of a piece with its Brutality. The Truth is, no one thought clearer, or argued more clofely than this immortal Bard. But his Superiority of Genius lefs needing the Intervention of Words in the Act of Thinking, when he came to draw out his Contemplations into Difcourfe, he took up (as he was hurried on by the Torrent of his Matter) with the first Words that lay in his Way; and if, amongst these, there were two Mixed-modes that had


but a principal Idea in common, it was enough for him; he regarded them as fynonymous, and would use the one for the other without Fear or Scruple.Again, there have been others, fuch as the two last Editors, who have fallen into a contrary Extreme; and regarded Shakespeare's Anomalies (as we may call them) amongst the Corruptions of his Text; which, therefore, they have cafhiered in great Numbers, to make room for a Jargon of their own. This hath put me to additional Trouble; for I had not only their Interpolations to throw out again, but the genuine Text to replace, and establish in its ftead; which, in many Cafes, could not be done without fhewing the peculiar Senfe of the Terms, and explaining the Caufes which led the Poet to fo perverfe an ufe of them. I had it once, indeed, in my Defign, to give a general alphabetic Gloffary of thefe Terms; but as each of them is explained in its proper Place, there feemed the lefs Occafion for fuch an Index.

2. The Poet's hard and unnatural Conftruction had a different Original. This was the Effect of miftaken Art and Defign. The public Tafte was in its Infancy; and delighted (as it always does during that State) in the high and turgid; which leads the Writer to dif guife a vulgar Expreffion with hard and forced Conftruction, whereby the Sentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here, his Critics fhew their Modefty, and leave him to himself. For the arbitrary Change of a Word doth little towards difpelling an Obfcurity that arifeth, not from the licentious Ufe of a fingle Term, but from the unnatural Arrangement of a whole Sentence. And they rifqued nothing by their Silence. For Shakespeare was too clear in Fame to be fufpected of a Want of Meaning; and too high in Fafhion 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 fo natural and flowing, fo pure and correct, that he is even a Model for Stile and Language.

3. As to his far-fetched and quaint Allufions, these are often a Cover to common Thoughts; just as his hard Construction is to common Expreffion. When they


are not fo, the Explanation of them has this further Advantage, that, in clearing the Obfcurity, you frequently discover some latent Conceit not unworthy of his Genius.

III. The third and laft Sort 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 Compofition. An odd Humour of finding Fault hath long prevailed amongst the Critics; as if nothing were worth remarking that did not, at the fame Time, deferve to be reproved. Whereas the public Judgment hath lefs need to be affifted in what it fhall reject, than in what it ought to prize; Men being generally more ready at fpying Faults than in difcovering Beauties. Nor is the Value they fet upon a Work, a certain Proof that they understand it. For it is ever seen, that Half a Dozen Voices of Credit give the Lead: And if the Public chance to be in good Humour, or the Author much in their Favour, the People are fure to follow. Hence it is that the true Critic hath fo frequently attached himself to Works of established Reputation; not to teach the World to admire, which, in thofe Circumftances, to fay the Truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with Reason to admire: No eafy Matter, I will affure you, on the Subject in Queftion: For tho' it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath obferved, that Shakespear is the fairest and fulleft Subject for Criticifm, yet it is not fuch a Sort of Criticism as may be raised mechanically on the Rules which Dacier, Rapin and Boffu, have collected from Antiquity; and of which, fuch kind of Writers as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis and Oldmixon, have only gathered and chewed the Hufks: Nor on the other Hand is it to be formed on the Plan of thofe crude and fuperficial Judgments, on Books and Things, with which a certain celebrated Paper fo much abounds; too good indeed to be named with the Writers laft mentioned, but being unluckily mistaken for a Model, because it was an Original, it hath given rife to a Deluge of the worft Sort of critical Jargon; I mean that which looks most like


Senfe. But the Kind of Criticism here required is fuch as judgeth our Author by those only Laws and Principles on which he wrote NATURE and COMMONSENSE.

Our Obfervations, therefore, being thus extenfive, will, I prefume, enable the Reader to form a right Judgment of this favourite Poet, without drawing out his Character, as was once intended, in a continued Difcourfe.

Thefe, fuch as they are, were amongst my younger Amusements, when many Years I used to turn ago, over these Sort of Writers to unbend myself from more ferious Applications: And what, certainly, the Public, at this Time of Day, had never been troubled with, but for the Conduct of the two laft Editors, and the Perfuafions of dear Mr. POPE; whofe Memory and Name,

-femper acerbum,

Semper honoratum (fic Di voluiftis) habebo.

He was defirous 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 fhould be melted down into mine, as it would, he faid, afford him (fo great is the Modefty of an ingenuous Temper) a fit Opportunity of confeffing his Miftakes*. In Memory of our 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 moft beautiful Paffages diftinguished, as in his Book, with inverted Commas. In Imitation of him, I have done the fame by as many others as I thought moft deferving of the Reader's Attention, and have marked them with double Commas.

* See his Letters to me.

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