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at this jundure, deserves and demands our párticular regard. It hath, by means of the many excellent works of different kinds composed in it, engaged the notice, and become the study, of almost every curious and learned foreigner, fo as to be thought even a part of literary accomplishment. This must needs make it deserving of a critical attention: and its being yet destitute of a test or standard to apply to, in cases of doubt or difficulty, fhows how much it wants that attention. For we have neither GRAMMAR nor DICTIONARY, neither chart nor compass, to guide us through this wide fea of words. And indeed how should we? since both are to be composed and finished on the authority of our best established writers. But their authority can be of little use, till the text hath been correály settled, and the phrafeology critically examined. As, then, by these aids, a Grammar and Dictionary, planned upon the best rules of logick and philosophy (and none but such will deserve the name,) are to be procured; the forwarding of this will be a general concern : for, as Quintilian observes, “ Verborum proprietas ac differentia omnibus, qui fermonem curæ habent, debet esse com•, munis." 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
descending to write notes on Shakspeare, Warburton copied from Pope, who facrificed Drayton to gratify the vanity of this flattering editor. "I have a particular reason (says Pope in a Letter to Warburton) to make you intereit yourself in me and my writings. It will cause both them and mne ta make a better figure to pofterity. A very mediocre poet, one Dray:on, is yet taken notice of, because Selden writ a few nutes o?2 one of his poems," Pope's Works, Vol. IX. p. 350, 8vo. 1751.
pleasure I observe, that these things now begin to be understood among ourselves; and that I can acquaint the publick we may soon expect very elegant editions of Fletcher, and Milton's Paradise Lot from gentlemen of distinguished abilities and learning. But this interval of good sense, as it may be short, is indeed but new. For I remember to have heard of a very learned man, who, not long since, formed a design, of giving a more correct edition of Spenser; and, without doubt, would have performed it well ; but he was diffuaded from his purpose by his friends, as beneath the dignity of a professor of the occult sciences. Yet these very friends, I suppose, would have thought it added lustre to his high ftation, to have new-furbished out some dull northern chronicle, or dark Sibylline ænigma. But let it not be thought that what is here said infinuates any thing to the discredit of Greek and Latin criticism. If the follies of particular men were sufficient to bring any branch of learning into disrepute, I do not know any that would stand in a worfe situation than that for which I now apologize. For I hardly think there ever appeared, in any learned language, so execrable a heap of nonsense, under the name of commentaries, as hath been lately given us on a certain satirick poet, of the last age, by his editor and coadjutor.
I am sensible how unjustly the very best clasical criticks have been treated. It is said, that our great philosopher' spoke with much contempt of
This alludes to Dr. Grey's edition of Hudibras published in 1744. REED.
Sir isaac Newton. See Whiston's Historical Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Clarke, 1748, 8vo. p. 113. REED.
the two finest scholars of this age, Dr. Bentley and Bishop Hare, for squabbling as he expressed it, about an old play-book; meaning, I suppose, Terence's comedies. But this story is unworthy of
' him; though well enough suiting the fanatick turn of the wild writer that relates it; such censures are amongst the follies of men immoderately given over to one science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the rest. Those learned criticks might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn (though still, sure, with the same indecency and indiscretion) at that incomparable man, for wearing out a long life in poring through a telescope. Indeed, the weakneffes of such are to be mentioned with reverence, But who can bear, without indignation, the fashionble cant of every trifling writer, whose insipidity passes with himself, for politeness, for pretending to be shocked, forsooth, with the rude and savage airs of vulgar criticks; meaning such as Muretus, Scaliger, Casaubon, Salmasius, Spanheim, Bentley! When, had it not been for the deathless labours of such as these, the western world, at the revival of letters, had soon fallen back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity, as deplorable as that from which providence had just redeemed it. To conclude with an obfervation of a
a fine writer and great philosopher of our own, which I would gladly bind, though with all honour, as a phyla&tery, on the brow of
the brow of every awful grammarian, to teach him at once the use and limits of his art: WORDS ARE THE MONEY OF FOOLS, AND THE COUNTERS OF WISE MEN.
P R E F
A C E.
HAT praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from thc heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard which is yet denied by envy, will be at lait bestowed by time.
Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reafon, but from prejudice. Some seem to' admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preferved, without confidering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his beft.
A First printed in 1765.
To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often examined and compared, and if they persift to value the possession, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers ; so in the produ&ions of genius, nothing can be ftiled excellent till it hath been compared with other works of the same kind. Demonstration immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux of years; buț works tentative and experimental must be estimated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long fucceffion of endeavours. Of the first building that was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect ; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrafe his sentiments.