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Art and Genius, which each has given us ; They are the Authors of other Works very unworthy of them : But with this Difference; that in Jobnson's bad Pieces we don't discover one fingle Trace of the Author of the Fox and Alchymist : but in the wild extravagant Notes of Sbakespear, you every now and then encounter Scrains that recognize the divine Composer. This Difference may be thus accounted for. "Joknson, as we said before, owing all his Excellence to his Art, by which he sometimes strain'd himself to an uncommon Pitch, when at other times he unbent and play'd with his Subject, having nothing then to support him, it is no wonder he wrote so far beneath himself. But Shakespear, indebted more largely to Nature, than the Other to acquired Talents, in his most negligent Hours could never so totally divest himself of his Genius, but that it would frequently break out with astonishing Force and Splendor.
As I have never propos’d to dilate farther on the Character of my Author, than was necessary to explain the Nature and Use of this Edicion, I shall procted to consider him as a Genius in Pufleffion of an everlasting Name. And how great that Meric mult be, which could gain it against all the Disadvantages of the horrid Condition in which he has hitherto appear'd! Had Homer, or any other admir'd Auchor, first started into Publick so maim'd and deformid, we cannot determine whether they had not funk for ever under the Ignominy of such an ill Appearance. The mangled Condition of Shakespear has been acknowledg'd by Mr. Rowe, who publish'd him inderd, but neither corrected his Text, nor collated the old Copies. This Gentleman had Abilities, and suffic.ent Knowledge of his Author, had but his Industry been equal to his Talents. The same mangled Condicion has been acknowledg’d too by Mr. Pope, who publish'd him likewise, pretended to have collared the old Copies, and yet Ildom has corected the Text but to ics In
jury. I congratulate with the Manes of our Poet, that this Gentleman has been sparing in indulging his private Sense, as he phrases it ; for He, who tampers with an Author, whom he does not understand, must do it at the Expence of his Subject. I have made it evident throughout my Remarks, that he has frequently inflicted a Wound where he intended a Cure. He has acted with regard to our Author, as an Editor, whom Lipsius mentions, did with regard to MAR. TIAL; Inventus eft nescio quis Popa, qui non vitia ejus, sed ipsum excidit. He has attack'd him like an unhandy Slaughterman ; and not lopp'd off the Errors, but the Poet.
When this is found to be the Fact, how absurd must appear the Praises of luch an Editor ? It seems a moot Point, whether Mr. Pope has done most Injury to Shakespear as his Editor and Encomiast ; or Mr. Rymer done him Service as his Rival and Censurer. They have both shewn themselves in an equal Impuisance of suspecting, or amending, the corrupted Passages : and tho it be neither Prudence to censure, or com. mend, what one does not understand ; yet if a Man must do one when he plays the Critick, the latter is the more ridiculous Office: And by That Shakespear suffers moft. For the natural Veneration, which we have for him, makes us apt to swallow whatever is given us as bis, and set off with Encomiums; and hence we quit all Suspicions of Depravity: On the contrary, the Cenfure of fo divine an Author fets us upon his Defence ; and this produces an exact Scrutiny and Examination, which ends in finding out and discriminating the true from the spurious.
It is not with ony secret Pleasure, that I so frequently animadvert on Mr. Pope as a Critick ; but there are Provocations, which a Man can never quite forget. His Libels have been thrown out with so much Inveteracy, that, not to dispute whether they should come from a Christian, they leave it a Question whether they
could come from a Man. I should be loth to doubt, as Quintus Serenus did in a like Case,
Sive bomo, feu fimilis turpisima bestia nobis,
Vulnera dente dedit. The Indignation, perhaps, for being represented a Blockbead, may be as strong in us as it is in the Ladies for a Reflexion on their Beauties. It is certain, I am indebted to Him for some flagrant Civilities ; and I fhall willingly devote a Part of my Life to the honeft Endeavour of quitting Scores; with this Exception however, that I will not return those Civilities in his peculiar Strain, but confine myself, at least, to the Limits of common Decency. I shall ever think it better to want Wit, than to want Humanily: and impartial Pofterity may, perhaps, be of my Opinion.
But, to return to my Subject; which now calls upon me to inquire into those Causes, to which the Depravations of my Author originally may be allignid. We are to consider him as a Writer, of whom no authentic Manuscript was left extant; as a Writer, whose Pieces were dispersedly perform’d on the several Stages then in Being. And it was the Custom of those Days for the Poets to take a Price of the Players for the Pieces They from time to time furnish’d; and thereupon it was suppos’d, they had no farther Right to print them without the Consent of the Players. As it was the interest of the Companies to keep their Plays unpublish'd, when any one succeeded, there was a Contest betwixt the Curiosity of the Town, who demanded to see it in Print, and the Policy of the Stagers, who wilh'd to secrete it within their own Walls. Hence, many Pieces were taken down in Short-hand, and imperfectly copied by Ear, from a Representation : Others were printed from piece-meal Parts surreptitiouly obtain'd from the Theatres, uncorrect, and without the Poet's Knowledge. To some of these Causes we owe the Train of Ble:nishes, that deform those Pieces
which stole singly into the World in our Author's Life-time.
There are still other Reasons, which may be suppos’d to have affected the whole Set.
When the Players took upon them to publish his works intire, every Theatre was ransack’d to supply the Copy; and Parts collected, which had gone thro' as many Changes as Performers, either from Mutilations or Additions made to them. Hence we derive many Chasms and Incoherencies in the Sense and Matter. Scenes were frequently transposed, and shuffled out of their true Place, to humour the Caprice, or suppos’d Convenience, of some particular Actor. Hence much Confusion and Impropriety has attended, and embarras'd the Business and Fable. To these obvious Causes of Corruption it must be added, That our Author has lain under the Disadvantage of having his Errors propagated and multiplied by Time : because, for near a Century, his Works were publish'd from the faulty Copies, without the Amftance of any intelligent Editor: which has been the Case likewise of many a Clasic Writer.
The Nature of any Diftemper once found has generally been the immediate Step to a Cure. ShakeSpear's Cafe has in a great Measure resembled That of a corrupt Clasc; and, consequently, the Method of Cure was likewise to bear a Resemblance. By what Means, and with what Success, this Cure has been effected on ancient Writers, is too well known, and needs no formal Illustration. The Reputation, consequent on Talks of that Nature, invited me to attempt the Method here; with this view, the Hopes of ielioring to the Publick their greatest Poet in his original Purity : after having so long lain in a Condi. tion that was a Disgrace to common Sense. To this end I have ventur'd on a Labour, that is the first Alsay of the kind on any modern Author whatsoever. For the late Edition of Milton by the Learned Dr. Bentley is, in the main, a Performance of another
Species. It is plain, it was the Intention of thac Great Man rather to correct and pare off the Excref- . cencies of the Paradise Lost, in the Manner that Tucca and Varius were employ'd to criticize the Æneis of Virgil, than to restore corrupted Passages. Hence, therefore, may be seen either the Iniquity or Ignorance of his Censurers, who, from some Expressions, would make us believe, the Dostor eve:y where gives us his Corrections as the original Text of the Author ; whereas the chief Turn of his Criticism is plainly to shew the World, that if Milton did not write as He would have him, he ought to have wrote fo.
I thought proper to premise this Observation to the Readers, as it will fhew that the Critic on Shakespear is of a quite different Kind. His genuine Text is for the most part religiously adher'd to, and the numerous Faults and Blemishes, purely his own, are left as they were found. Nothing is alter'd, but what by the clearest Reasoning can be proved a Corruption of the true Text ; and the Alteration, a real Restoration of the genuine Reading. Nay, so strictly have I strove to give the true Reading, tho' sometimes not co the Advantage of my Author, that I have been rijiculousy ridicul'd for it by Those, who either were iniquicously for turning every thing to my Disadvantage; orele were totally ignorant of the true Duty of an Editor.
The Science of Criticism, as far as it affects an Edi. tor, seems to be reduced to these three Claffes ; the Emmendation of corrupt Paliages; the Explanation of obf. ure and difficulc ones; and an Inquiry into the Beauties and Defects of Composition. This work is principally confin'd to the iwo former Parts : tho' there are some Specimens interspers’d of the latter Kind, as several of the Emendations were best supported, and several of the Difficulties best explain's, by taking notice of the Beauries and Defects of the Composicion peculiar to this Immortal Poet. But This was buc occasional, and for the sake only of Vol. I,