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If, from all this, Shakespeare 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 should be unjust to feveral deferving Men of a reputable and useful Profeffion, if I did not, on this Occafion, acknowledge the fair Dealing I have always found amongst them; and profets my Senfe of the unjuft Prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have been, hitherto, unable to procure that Security for their Property, which they fee, the rest of their Fellow-Citizens enjoy. A Prejudice in Part arifing from the frequent Piracies, (as they are called) committed by Members of their own Body. But fuch kind of Members no Body is without. And it would be hard that this fhould be turned to the Difcredit of the honest Part of the Profeffion, who fuffer more from fuch Injuries than any other Men. It hath, in Part too, arifen from the Clamours of profligate Scriblers, ever ready, for a Piece of Money, to proftitute their bad Senfe for or against any Caufe prophane or facred; or in any Scandal public or private: Thefe 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 themfelves to People of Condition; and fupport their Importunities by false Complaints against Bookfellers.
But I fhould now, perhaps, rather think of my own Apology, than bufy myself in the Defence of others. I fhall have fome Tartuffe ready, on the firft Appearance of this Edition, to call out again, and tell me, that I fuffer myself to be wholly diverted from my Purpofe by thefe Matters lefs fuitable to my clerical Profeffion." Well, but fays a Friend, why not take fo
candid an Intimation in good part? Withdraw your"felf, again, as you are bid, into the clerical Pale; "examine the Records of facred and prophane Anti66 quity; and, on them, erect a Work to the Confufion "of Infidelity." Why, I have done all this, and more: And hear now what the fame Men have faid to it. They tell me, I have wrote to the Wrong and Injury
of Religion, and furnished out more Handles for Unbelievers. "Oh, now the Secret's out; and you may "have your Pardon, I find upon eafier Terms, 'Tis
only, to write no more."- -Good Gentlemen! and fhall I not oblige them? They would gladly obftruct my Way to thofe Things which every Man, who endeavours well in his Profeffion, muft needs think he has fome Claim to, when he fees them given to those who never did endeavour; at the fame Time that they would deter me from taking thofe Advantages which Letters enable me to procure for myself. If then I am to write no more; (tho' as much out of my Profeffion as they may please to reprefent this Work, I fufpect their Modeity would not infift on a Scrutiny of our feveral Applications of this prophane Profit and their purer Gains) if, I fay, I am to write no more, let me at leaft give the Public, who have a better Pretence to demand it of me, fome Reafon for my prefenting them with these Amusements. Which, if I am not much mistaken, may be excufed by the beft and faireft Examples; and, what is more, may be juftified on the furer Reafon of Things.
The great Saint CHRYSOSTOM, a name confecrated to Immortality by his Virtue and Eloquence, is known to have been fo fond of Ariftophanes as to wake with him at his Studies, and to fleep with him under his Pillow and I never heard that this was objected either to his Piety or his Preaching, not even in thofe Times of pure Zeal and primitive Religion. Yet, in refpect of Shakespeare's great Senfe, Ariftophanes's best Wit is but Buffoonry; and, in Comparifon of Ariftophanes's Freedoms, Shakespeare writes with the Purity of a Veftal. But they will fay, St. Chryfoftom contracted a Fondness for the comic Poet for the fake of his Greek. To this, indeed, I have nothing to reply. Far be it from me to infinuate fo unscholarlike a Thing, as if We had the fame Ufe for good English that a Greek had for his Attic Elegance. Critic Kufter, in a Tafte and Language peculiar to Grammarians of a certain Order, hath decreed, that the Hiflory and Chronology
of Greek Words is the most felid Entertainment of a Man of Letters.
I fly, then, to a higher Example, much nearer home, and still more in Point, the famous Univerfity of OxFORD. This illuftrious Body, which hath long fo justly held, and, with fuch Equity, difpenfed, the chief Honours of the learned World, thought good Letters fo much interested in correct Editions of the beft Englifh Writers, that they, very lately, in their public Capacity, undertook one, of this very Author, by Subfcription. And if the Editor hath not difcharged his Talk with fuitable Abilities for one fo much honoured by them, this was not their Fault but his, who thrust himself into the Employment. After fuch an Example, it would be weakening any Defence to feek further for Authorities. All that can be now decently urged is the Reafon of the Thing; and this I fhall do, more for the Sake of that truly venerable Body than my own.
Of all the literary Exercitations of fpeculative Men, whether defigned for the Ufe or Entertainment of the World, there are none of fo much Importance, or what are more our immediate Concern, than thofe which let us into the Knowledge of our Nature. Others may exercise the Reafon or amufe the Imagination; but thefe only can improve the Heart, and torm the human Mind to Wisdom. Now, in this Science, our Shakespeare is confeffed to occupy the foremost Place; whether we confider the amazing Sagacity with which he investigates every hidden Spring and Wheel of human Action; or his happy Manner of communicating this Knowledge, in the juft and living l'aintings which he has given us all of our Paffions, Appetites and Pursuits. These afford a Leffon which can never be too often repeated, or too conftantly inculcated: And, to engage the Reader's due Attention to it, hath been one of the principal Objects of this Edition.
As this Science (whatever profound Philofophers may think) is, to the reit, in Things; fo, in Words, (whatever fupercilious. Pedants may talk) every one's Mother Tongue is to all other Languages. This hath ftill been the Sentiment of Nature and true Wisdom.
Hence, the greatest Men of Antiquity never thought themselves better employed than in cultivating their own Country Idiom. So Lycurgus did Honour to Sparta, in giving the firft compleat Edition of Homer; and Cicero, to Rome, in correcting the Works of Lucretius. Nor do we want Examples of the fame good Sense in modern Times, even amidst the cruel Inroads that Art and Fashion have made upon Nature and the Simplicity of Wisdom. Menage, the greatest name in France for all Kinds of philologic Learning, prided himself in writing critical Notes on their best lyric Poet, Malherbe: And our greater Selden, when he thought it might reflect Credit on his Country, did not difdain even to comment a very ordinary Poet, one Michael Drayton. But the English Tongue, at this Juncture, deferves and demands our particular Regard. It hath, by Means of the many excellent Works of different Kinds compofed in it, engaged the Notice, and become the Study, of almoft every curious and learned Foreigner, fo as to be thought even a Part of literary Accomplishment. This must needs make it deferving of a critical Attention: And its being yet deftitute of a Teft or Standard to apply to, in Cafes of Doubt or Difficulty, fhews how much it wants that Attention. For we have neither GRAMMAR nor DICTIONARY, neither Chart nor Compafs, to guide us through this wide Sea of Words. And indeed how fhould we? fince both are to be compofed and finished on the Authority of our beft eftablished Writers. But their Authority can be of little Ufe till the Text hath been correctly fettled, and the Phrafeology critically examined. As, then, by these Aids, a Grammar and Dictionary, planned upon the best Rules of Logic and Philofophy, (and none but fuch will deferve the Name) are to be procured; the forwarding of this will be a general Concern: For, as Quintilian obferves, "Verborum proprietas ac differentia omnibus, qui fer
monem curæ habent, debet effe communis." By this Way, the Italians have brought their Tongue to a Degree of Purity and Stability which no living Language ever attained unto before. It is with Pleasure I
obferve, that these Things now begin to be understood amongst ourselves; and that I can acquaint the Public, we may foon expect very elegant Editions of Fletcher and Milton's Paradife Loft from Gentlemen of diftinguifhed Abilities and Learning. But this Interval of good Senfe, as it may be short, is indeed but new. For I remember to have heard of a very learned Man, who, not long fince, formed a Defign of giving a more correct Edition of Spenfer; and, without Doubt, would have performed it well; but he was diffuaded from his Purpose by his Friends, as beneath the Dignity of a Profeffor of the occult Sciences. Yet these very Friend's, I fuppofe, would have thought it had added Luftre to his high Station, to have new-furbished out fome dull northern Chronicle, or dark Sibylline Enigma. But let it not be thought that what is here faid infinuates any Thing to the Difcredit of Greek and Latin Criticism. If the Follies of particular Men were fufficient to bring any Branch of Learning into Difrepute, I don't know any that would ftand in a worse Situation than that for which I now apologize. For I hardly think there ever appeared, in any learned Language, fo execrable a Heap of Nonfenfe, under the Name of Commentaries, as hath been lately given us on a certain fatiric Poet, of the laft Age, by his Editor and Coadjutor.
I am fenfible how unjustly the very beft claffical Critics have been treated. It is faid, that our great Philofopher spoke with much Contempt of the two fineft Scholars of this Age, Dr. Bentley and Bifhop Hare, for fquabbling, as he expreffed it, about an old Play-book; meaning, I fuppofe, Terence's Comedies. But this Story is unworthy of him; tho' well enough fuiting the fanatic Turn of the wild Writer that relates it; fuch Cenfures are amongst the Follies of Men immoderately given over to one Science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the reft. Thofe learned Critics might, and perhaps did, laugh in their Turn, (tho' ftill, fure, with the fame Indecency and Indifcretion) at that incomparable Man, for wearing out a long Life in poring through a Telescope. Indeed, the Weakneffes VOL. I. f