« PreviousContinue »
fimilar way of thinking and ftudies. They were both of that species of criticks who are defirous of difplaying their powers rather in finding faults, than in confulting the improvement of the world; the hypercritical part of the fcience of criticism.
I had not mentioned the modeft liberty I have here and there taken of animadverting on my author, but that I was willing to obviate in time the fplenetick exaggerations of my adversaries on this head. From past experiments I have reason to be conscious, in what light this attempt may be placed: and that what I call a modeft liberty will, by a little of their dexterity, be inverted into downright impudence. From a hundred mean and difhoneft artifices employed to difcredit this edition, and to cry down its editor, I have all the grounds in nature to beware of attacks. But though the malice of wit, joined to the fmoothness of verfification, may furnish some ridicule; fact, I hope, will be able to ftand its ground against banter and gaiety.
It has been my fate, it seems, as I thought it my duty, to discover fome anachronisms in our author; which might have flept in obfcurity but for this Reftorer, as Mr. Pope is pleafed affectionately to ftyle me as for inftance, where Ariftotle is mentioned by Hector in Troilus and Crefsida; and Galen, Cato, and Alexander the Great, in Coriolanus. These, in Mr. Pope's opinion, are blunders, which the illiteracy of the first publishers of his works has fathered upon the poet's memory: it not being at all credible, that thefe could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tincture of a fchool, or the leaft converfation with fuch as had. But I have fufficiently proved, in the course of my notes, that fuch anachronisms were the effect of poetick licence, rather than of ignorance in our poet. And if I
may be permitted to ask a modeft queftion by the way, why may not I reftore an anachronism really made by our author, as well as Mr. Pope take the privilege to fix others upon him, which he never had it in his head to make; as I may venture to affirm he had not, in the inftance of Sir Francis Drake, to which I have spoke in the proper place?
But who fhall dare make any words about this freedom of Mr. Pope's towards Shakspeare, if it can be proved, that, in his fits of criticifin, he makes no more ceremony with good Homer himfelf? To try, then, a criticism of his own advancing in the 8th Book of The Odyssey, where Demodocus fings the episode of the loves of Mars and Venus; and that, upon their being taken in the net by Vulcan,
The god of arms
Mr. Pope is fo kind gravely to inform us, "That Homer in this, as in many other places, feems to allude to the laws of Athens, where death was the punishment of adultery." But how is this fignificant obfervation made out? Why, who can poffibly object any thing to the contrary?Does not Paufanias relate that Draco, the lawgiver to the Athenians, granted impunity to any person that took revenge upon an adulterer? And was it not alfo the inftitution of Solon, that if any one took an adulterer in the fact, he might use him as he pleafed? These things are very true: and to fee what a good memory, and found judgment in conjunction, can achieve! though Homer's date is not determined down to a fingle year, yet it is pretty generally agreed that he lived above three hundred years be
fore Draco and Solon: and that, it feems, has made him feem to allude to the very laws, which these two legiflators propounded above three hundred years after. If this. inference be not fomething like an anachronism or prolepfis, I will look once more into my lexicons for the true meaning of the words. It appears to me, that fomebody befides Mars and Venus has been caught in a net by this episode and I could call in other inftances, to confirm what treacherous tackle this net-work is, if not cautiously handled.
How juft, notwithstanding, I have been in detecting the anachronisms of my author, and in defending him for the ufe of them, our late editor feems to think, they should rather have flept in obfcurity and the having difcovered them is fineered at, as a fort of wrong-headed fagacity.
The numerous corrections which I have made. of the poet's text in my SHAKSPEARE Reftored, and which the publick have been fo kind to think well of, are, in the appendix of Mr. Pope's last edition, flightingly called various readings, gueffes, &c. He confeffes to have inferted as many of them as he judged of any the least advantage to the poet; but fays, that the whole amounted to about twenty five words and pretends to have annexed a complete lift of the reft, which were not worth his embracing. Whoever has read my book will, at one glance, fee how in both these points veracity is ftrained, fo an injury might be done. Malus, eth obeffe non pote, tamen cogitat.
Another expedient to make my work appear of a trifling nature, has been an attempt to depreciate literal criticism. To this end, and to pay a fervile compliment to Mr. Pope, an anonymous writer has,
⚫ David Mallet. See his poem Of Verbal Criticism, Vol. I. of his works, 12mo. 1759. REED.
like a Scotch pedlar in wit, unbraced his pack on the subject. But, that his virulence might not feem to be levelled fingly at me, he has done me the honour to join Dr. Bentley in the libel. I was in hopes we should have been both abufed with smartness of fatire at least, though not with folidity of argument; that it might have been worth fome reply in defence of the science attacked. But I may fairly fay of this author, as Falstaff does of Poins:-Hang him, baboon! his wit is as thick as Tewksbury mustard; there is no more conceit in him, than is in a MALLET. If it be not a prophanation to fet the opinion of the divine Longinus against such a scribbler, he tells us exprefsly, "That to make a judgment upon words (and writings) is the most confummate fruit of much experience." yap τῶν λόγων κρίσις πολλῆς ἔςι πείρας τελευταῖον ἐπιγένημα. Whenever words are depraved, the fenfe of course must be corrupted; and thence the reader is betrayed into a false meaning.
If the Latin and Greek languages have received the greatest advantages imaginable from the labours of the editors and criticks of the two laft ages, by whofe aid and affiftance the grammarians have been enabled to write infinitely better in that art than even the preceding grammarians, who wrote when thofe tongues flourished as living languages; I fhould account it a peculiar happinefs, that, by the faint effay I have made in this work, a path might be chalked out for abler hands, by which to derive the fame advantages to our own tongue; a tongue, which, though it wants none of the fundamental qualities of an univerfal language, yet, as a noble writer fays, lifps and ftammers as in its cradle; and has produced little more towards its polifhing than complaints of its barbarity.
Having now run through all thofe points, which I intended fhould make any part of this differtation, and having in my former edition made publick acknowledgments of the affiftances lent me, I fhall conclude with a brief account of the methods taken in this.
It was thought proper, in order to reduce the bulk and price of the impreffion, that the notes, wherever they would admit of it, might be abridged for which reason I have curtailed a great quantity of fuch, in which explanations were too prolix, or authorities in fupport of an emendation too numerous and many I have entirely expunged, which were judged rather verbofe and declamatory (and fo notes merely of oftentation) than neceffary or inftructive.
The few literal errors which had escaped notice for want of revifals, in the former edition, are here reformed; and the pointing of innumerable paffages is regulated, with all the accuracy I am capable of.
I shall decline making any farther declaration of the pains I have taken upon my author, because it was my duty, as his editor, to publifh him with my best care and judgment; and because I am fenfible, all fuch declarations are conftrued to be laying a fort of debt on the publick. As the former edition has been received with much indulgence, I ought to make my acknowledgments to the town for their favourable opinion of it; and I fhall always be proud to think that encouragement the best payment I can hope to receive from my poor ftudies.