Графични страници
PDF файл
[ocr errors]

perfecting the two other Parts, which were the proper Objects of the Editor's Labour. The third lies open for every willing Undertaker : and I shall be pleas'd to see it the Employment of a masterly Pen.

It must necesarily happen, as I have formerly ob. serv'd, that where the Alistance of Manuscripts is wanting to set an Author's Meining right, and rescue him from those Errors which have been tranfmitted down thro' a Series of incorrect Editions, and a long Intervention of Time, many passages must be defperate, and past a Cure; and their true Senfe irretriev. able either to Care or the Sagacity of Conjecture. But is chere any Reason therefore to say, That because All cannot be retriev'd, Al} ought to be left desperate ? We should thew very little Honesty, or Wisdom, to play the Tyrants with an Author's Text; to raze, alter, innovate, and overturn, at all Adventures, and to the utter Detriment of his Sense and Meaning : But to be so very reserved and cautious, as to interpose no Relief or Conjecture, where it manifestly labours and cries out for Asistance, seems, on the other hand, an indolent Absurdity.

As there are very few pages in Shakespear, upon -which fome Suspicions of Defravity do not reasonably arife; I have thought it my Duty, in the first place, by a diligent and laborious Collation to take in the Af. Gítances of all the older Copies.

In his Historical Plays, whenever our English Chronicles, and in his Tragedies when Greek or Roman Story, could give any Light ; no Pains have been omit. ted to fec Passages righe by comparing my Author with his Originals : for, as I have frequently observed, he was a close and accurate Copier where-ever his Fable was founded on Iliftcry.

Where-ever the Author's Sense is clear and discoverable, (tho', perchance, low and trivial ;) I have not by any Innovation tamper'd with his Text; out of an


Oftentation of endeavouring to make him speak betier than the old Copies have done.

Where, chro' all the former Fditions, a Paffage has labour'd under flat Nonfenfe and invincible Darknels, if, by che Addition or Alieration of a Letter or cwo, or a Transposition in the Pointing, I have restored to Him both Sense and Sentiinent; such Corrections, I am persuaded, will n: ed no Indulgence.

And whenever I have taken a greater Latitude and Liberty in amending, I have conitantly on leavoured to support my Corretions and Conjectur:s by parallel Passages and Authorities from him elf the lureit Means of expounding any Author whatsoever. Ceile voża d'interpreter un Autheur par luimêine est plus sure que lous les Commentaires, says a very learned Frenih Critick.

As to my Notes, (from which the common and learn:d Readers of our Author, I hope, will derive some Satisfaction ;) I have endeavoured to give ti em à Variety in fume Proportion to their Number. Where-ever I have ventur'd at an Emendation, á Nole is conftantly subjoin’d to justify and affere the Reason of it. Where I only offer a Conjecture, and do not disturb the Text, I fairly set forih my Grounds for such Conjecture, and submit it to Judgmenta Some Remarks are spent in explaining Passages, where the Wit or Satire depends on an obscure Point of History: Others, where Allusions are to Divinity, Philosophy, or other Branches of Science. . Some are added to show, where there is a Suspicion of our Author having borrow'd from the Ancients : Others, to thew where he is railying his Contemporaries ; or where He hin:self is rallied by them. And some are necefsarily thrown in, to explain an obfcure and obsolete Terin, Pbrase, or Idea. I once intended to have added a complete and copious Glafiry; but as I have been importun'd, and am prepar’d, to give a correct Edicion of our Author's Poems, in which many Terms occur that are not to be met with in his plays)

g 3

I thought a Glossary to all Shakespear's Works more proper to attend that Volume.

In reforming an infinite Number of Paffages in the Pointing, where the Sense was before quite loft, I have frequently subjoin’d Notes to shew the deprav'd, and to prove the reformid, Pointing: a Part of Labour in this Work which I could very willingly have spar'd myself. May it not be objected, why then have you burden'd us with these Notes? The Answer is obvious, and, if I mistake not, very material. Without such Noles, these Passages in subsequent Editions would be liable, thro' the Igiorance of Printers and Correctors, to fall into the old Confusion: Whereas, a Note on every one hinders all possible Return to Depravicy ; and for ever secures them in a State of Purity and Integrity not to be loft or forfeited.

Again, as some Notes have been necessary to point out the Detection of the corrupted Text, and establish the Restoration of the genuine Readings ; some others have been as necessary for the Explanation of Passages obscure and difficult. To understand the neceflity and Use of this part of my task, fome Particulars of my Author's Character are previously to be explain’d. There are Obscurities in him, which are common to him with all Poets of the lame Species; there are Others, the Issue of the Times he liv'd in ; and there are others, again, peculiar to himself. The Nature of Comic Poetry being entirely fatirical, it busies itself more in exposing what we call Caprice and Humour, than Vices cognizabl: to the Laws. The Lnglish, from the Happiness of a free Constitution, and a Turn of Mind peculiarly fpeculative and inquisitive, are observ'd to produce more Humourists and a greater Variety of original Characters, than any other People whatsoever : And These owing their immediate Birth to the peculiar Genius of each Age, an infinite Number of Things alluded to, glanced at, and expos’d, must needs become obscure, as the Characters them


selves are antiquated and disused. An Editor therefore should be well vers’d in the History and Manners of his Author's Age, if he aims at doing him a Service in this Respect,

Besides, Wit lying mostly in the Assemblage of Ideas, and in the putting Those together with Quickness and Variety, wherein can be found any Resemblance, or Congruity, to make up pleasant Pictures, and agreeable Vilions in the Fancy; the Writer, who aims at Wit, must of course range far and Wide for Materials. Now, the Age, in which Shakespear liv’d, having, above all others, a wonderful Affection to appear Learned, they declined vulgar Images, such as are imme šiately fecch'd from Nature, and rang'd thro' the Circle of the Sciences to fetch their Ideas from thence. But as the Resemblance of such Ideas to the Subject must necessarily lie very much out of the conmon Way, and every Piece of Wit appear a Riddle to the Vulgar ; This, that should have taught them the forced, quaint, unnatural Tract they were in, (and induce them to follow a more natural One,) was the very Thing that kept them atcach'd to it. The oftentatious Affectation of abstruse Learning, peculiar to that Time, the Love that Men naturally have to every Thing that looks like Mystery, fixed them down to this Habit of Obscurity. Thus became the Poetry of DONNE (tho' the witries Man of that Age,) nothing but a continued Heap of Riddles. And our ShakeSpear, with all his easy Nature about him, for want of the Knowledge of the true Rules of Art, falls frequently into this vicious Manner,

The third Species of Obscurities, which deform our Author, as the Effects of his own Genius and Chasacter, are Those that proceed from his peculiar Man. ner of Thinking, and as peculiar a Manner of cloathing those Thoughts. With regard to his Tbirking, it is certain, that he had a general Knowledge of all the . Sciences : But his Acquaintance was rather That of a

8 3


Traveller, than a Native. Nothing in Philosophy was unknown to him ; but every Thing in it had the Grace and Force of Novelty. And as Novelty is one main Source of Admiration, we are not to wonder that He has perpetual Allusions to the most recondite Parts of the-ciences : and This was done not so much out of Affectation, as the Effect of Admiration begot by Novelty Then, as too his Syle and Dillion, we may much more justly apply to SHAKESPEAR, what: a cez lebrated Wrier has said of MILTON ; Our Language funk under bim, and was unequal to that Greatness of. Soul which furnish'd him will fach glorious Conceptions. He therefore frequently uses old Words, to give his Diction an Air of Solemnity; as he coins others, to express the Novelty and Variety of his Ideas.

Upon every distinct Species of these Obscurities I have thought it my Province to employ a Nore, for the Service of my Author, and the Entertainment of my Readers. A few transient Remarks (no I have not fcrupled to intermix, upon the Poet's Negligences and Omiljions in point of Art; but I have done it always in such a Manner, as will ceftiły my Deference and Veneration for the immortal Author. Some Cena Jurers of Shakespear, and particularly Mr. Rymer, have taught me to distinguish betwixt the Raler and Cris tick. The Outrage of his Quotations is so remarkably violent, lo push'u beyond all bounds of Decency and sober Reasoning, that it quite carries over the Mark at which it was levellid. Extravagant Abuse throws off the Edge of the intended Disparagement; and curn's the Madman's Weapon into his own Bosom. In short, as to Rym r, This is my Opinion of him from his Criticisins on the Tragedies of the last Age. He writes with great Vivacity, and appears to have been a Scholar : but, as for his Knowledge of the Art of Petry; I can't perceive it was any deeper than his Acquaintance with Bofi and Dacier, from whom he has transcrib'd many of the best Reflexions. The




« ПредишнаНапред »