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to do, that he paffed the latter part of his life in a state of hoftility with verbal criticisin.'
I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of fo great a writer may be loft; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of compofition and justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his author, fo extenfive that little can be added, and fo exact, that little can be difputed, every editor has an interest to suppress, but that every reader would demand its infertion.
Pope was fucceeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehenfion, and fmall acquifitions, with no native and intrinfick fplendor of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in purfuing it. He collated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man fo anxiously scrupulous might have been expected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.
In his reports of copies and editions he is not to be trufted without examination. He speaks fometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio
The following compliment from Broome (fays Dr. Jofeph Warton) Pope could not take much pleasure in reading; for he could not value himself on his edition of Shakspeare :
"If aught on earth, when once this breath is fled,
Broome's Verses to Mr. Pope. STEEVENS.
as of middle authority; but the truth is, that the firft is equivalent to all others, and that the reft only deviate from it by the printer's negligence. Whoever has any of the folios has all, excepting thofe diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first.
Of his notes I have generally retained thofe which he retained himself in his fecond edition, except when they were confuted by subsequent annotators, or were too minute to merit prefervation. I have fometimes adopted his restoration of a comma, without inferting the without inferting the panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his achievement. The exuberant excrefcence of his diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have fometimes fuppreffed, and his contemptible oftentation I have frequently concealed; but I have in fome places fhown him, as he would have shown himself, for the reader's diverfion, that the inflated emptiness of fome notes may justify or excufe the contraction of the
Theobald, thus weak and ignorant, thus mean and faithlefs, thus petulant and oftentatious, by the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has efcaped, and escaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. So willingly does the world fupport those who folicit favour, againft those who command reverence; and fo eafily is he praised, whom no man can envy.
Our author fell then into the hands of Sir Thomas Hanmer, the Oxford editor, a man, in my opinion, eminently qualified by nature for fuch ftudies. He had, what is the firft requifite to emendatory criticifm, that intuition by which the
poet's intention is immediately discovered, and that dexterity of intellect which despatches its work by the easiest means. He had undoubtedly read much; his acquaintance with cuftoms, opinions, and traditions, feems to have been large; and he is often learned without fhow. He feldom paffes what he does not understand, without an attempt to find or to make a meaning, and sometimes haftily makes what a little more attention would have found. He is folicitous to reduce to grammar, what he could not be fure that his author intended to be grammatical. Shakspeare regarded more the feries of ideas, than of words; and his language, not being defigned for the reader's defk, was all that he defired it to be, if it conveyed his meaning
to the audience.
Hanmer's care of the metre has been too violently cenfured. He found the meafure reformed in fo many paffages, by the filent labours of fome editors, with the filent acquiefcence of the rest, that he thought himself allowed to extend a little further the licence, which had already been carried so far without reprehenfion; and of his corrections in general, it must be confeffed, that they are often juft, and made commonly with the leaft poffible violation of the text.
But, by inferting his emendations, whether invented or borrowed, into the page, without any notice of varying copies, he has appropriated the labour of his predeceffors, and made his own edition of little authority. His confidence, indeed, both in himself and others, was too great; he fuppofes all to be right that was done by Pope and Theobald; he feems not to fufpect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reasonable that he should claim what he fo liberally granted.
As he never writes without careful enquiry and diligent confideration, I have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will with for
Of the last editor it is more difficult to speak. Refpect is due to high place, tenderness to living reputation, and veneration to genius and learning; but he cannot be juftly offended at that liberty of which he has himfelf fo frequently given an example, nor very folicitous what is thought of notes, which he ought never to have confidered as part of his ferious employments, and which, I fuppofe, fince the ardour of compofition is remitted, he no longer numbers among his happy effufions.
The original and predominant error of his commentary, is acquiefcence in his first thoughts; that precipitation which is produced by confcioufnefs of quick difcernment; and that confidence which prefumes to do, by furveying the surface, what labour only can perform, by penetrating the bottom. His notes exhibit fometimes perverfe interpretations, and fometimes improbable conjectures; he at one time gives the author more profundity of meaning than the fentence admits, and at another difcovers abfurdities, where the fense is plain to every other reader. But his emendations are likewife often happy and juft; and his interpretation of obfcure paffages learned and fagacious.
Of his notes, I have commonly rejected thofe, against which the general voice of the publick has exclaimed, or which their own incongruity immediately condemns, and which, I fuppofe the author himself would defire to be forgotten. Of the rest, to part I have given the highest approbation, by inferting the offered reading in the text; part I
have left to the judgment of the reader, as doubtful, though fpecious; and part I have cenfured without reserve, but I am fure without bitterness of malice, and, I hope, without wantonness of infult.
It is no pleasure to me, in revifing my volumes, to obferve how much paper is wasted in confutation. Whoever confiders the revolutions of learning, and the various queftions of greater or less importance, upon which wit and reafon have exercifed their powers, muft lament the unfuccefsfulnefs of enquiry, and the flow advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of the labour of every writer is only the deftruction of those that went before him. The firft care of the builder of a new fyftem is to demolish the fabricks which are ftanding. The chief defire of him that comments an author, is to fhow how much other commentators have corrupted and obfcured him. The opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach of controversy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rife again to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion without progress. Thus fometimes truth and error, and fometimes contrarieties of error, take each other's place by reciprocal invafion. The tide of feeming knowledge which is poured over one generation, retires and leaves another naked and barren; the fudden meteors of intelligence, which for a while appear to fhoot their beams into the regions of obfcurity, on a fudden withdraw their luftre, and leave mortals again to grope their
These elevations and depreffions of renown, and the contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge muft for ever be expofed, fince they are not