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tempted by Peter Burman himself, with the library of Shakspeare before him Truly, (as Mr. Dogberry says,) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this subject :" but where should I meet with a reader ?-When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in course : Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed ; or rather which was not virtually removed before : a very little analogy will do the business. I shall therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against sermons on the thirtieth of January, “ an answer to every thing that shall hereafter bewritten on the subject.
But “ this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when translations were extant.”. -Shade of Burgersdicius!—does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a course of education—whose contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually called literature—whose mistakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise, that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek ?-I suspect, Rollin's opinion of our philosopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakspeare wanted not the stilts of languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading : had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, “ got only from possum to posset,” and yet will throw out a line occasionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety:- If, however, the old editions be trusted in this passage, our author's memory somewhat failed him in point of concord.
The rage of parallelisms is almost over, and in truth nothing can be more absurd. stolen from one classick,—That from another;' and had I not stept in to his rescue, poor Shakspeare had been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first held horses at the door of the playhouse.
The late ingenious and modest Mr. Dodsley declared himself
66 This was
“ Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome.”
yet let us take a passage at a venture from any
of his performances, and a thousand to one, it is stolen. Suppose it to be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop: “ A good wife makes the cares of the world sit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures ; she is a man’s best companion in prosperity, and his only friend in adversity; the carefullest preserver of his health, and the kindest attendant on his sickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a comforter in affliction, and a prudent manager in all his domestick affairs.” Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobæus :
« Γυνή γαρ εν κακoίσι και νόσοις πόσει
Malvolio in the Twelfth Night of Shakspeare hath
some expressions very similar to Alnaschar in the Arabian Tales: which perhaps may be sufficient for some criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic !
It seems, however, at last, that “ Taste should determine the matter.” This, as Bardolph expresses it, is a word of exceeding good command : but I am willing, that the standard itself be somewhat better ascertained before it be opposed to demonstrative evidence.-Upon the whole, I may consider myself as the pioneer of the commentators : I have removed a deal of learned rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakspeare's track in the everpleasing paths of nature. This was necessarily a previous inquiry; and I hope I may assume with some confidence, what one of the first criticks of the age was pleased to declare on reading the former edition, that “ The question is now for ever decided."
*** I may just remark, Jest they be mistaken for Errata, thar the word Catherine in the 47th page is written, according to the old Orthography for Catharine ; and that the passage in the 50th page is copied from Upton, who improperly calls Horatio and Marcellus in Hamlet, « the Centinels.”
THE THIRD EDITION, 1789.
IT may be
necessary to apologize for the republication of this pamphlet. The fact is, it has been for a good while extremely scarce, and some mercenary publishers were induced by the extravagant price, which it has occasionally borne, to project a new edition without the consent of the author.
A few corrections might probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have necessarily occurred in more than twenty years : some of which may be found in the late admirable editions of our Poet, by Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed.
But, perhaps enough is already said on so light a subject :-A subject, however, which had for a long time pretty warmly divided the criticks upon Shakspeare.