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I have seen, in the book of some modern critick, a collection of anomalies which fhew that he has corrupted language by every mode of depravation, but which his admirer has accumulated as a monument of honour.

He has fcenes of undoubted and perpetual excellence, but perhaps not one play, which, if it were now exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer, would be heard to the conclufion. I am indeed far from thinking, that his works were wrought to his own ideas of perfection; when they were fuch as would fatisfy the audience, they fatisfied the writer. It is feldom that authours, though more ftudious of fame than Shakefpeare, rife much above the standard of their own age; to add a little to what is best will always be fufficient for prefent praise, and those who find themselves exalted into fame, are willing to credit their encomiasts, and to spare the labour of contending with themselves.


It does not appear, that Shakespeare thought his works worthy of pofterity, that he levied any ideal tribute upon future times, or had any further profpect, than of prefent popularity and prefent profit. When his plays had been acted, his hope was at an end; he folicited no addition of honour from the reader. therefore made no fcruple to repeat the fame jests in many dialogues, or to entangle different plots by the fame knot of perplexity, which may be at leaft forgiven him, by those who recollect, that of Congreve's four comedies, two are concluded by a marriage in a mask, by a deception, which perhaps never happened, and which, whether likely or not, he did not invent.

So careless was this great poet of future fame, that, though he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet little declined into the vale of years, before he could be difgufted with fatigue, or disabled by infirmity, he made no collection of his works, nor defired to rescue those that had been already published from the depravations


that obfcured them, or fecure to the reft a better deftiny, by giving them to the world in their genuine ftate..

Of the plays which bear the name of Shakespeare in the late editions, the greater part were not published till about feven years after his death, and the few which appeared in his life are apparently thruft into the world. without the care of the authour, and therefore probably without his knowledge.

Of all the publishers, clandeftine or profeffed, their negligence and unfkilfulness has by the late revifers. been fufficiently shown. The faults of all are indeed. numerous and grofs, and have not only corrupted many paffages perhaps beyond recovery, but have brought others into fufpicion, which are only obfcured by obfolete phrafeology, or by the writer's unfkilfulness and affectation. To alter is more eafy than to explain, and temerity is a more common quality than diligence. Those who faw that they muft employ conjecture to a certain degree, were willing to indulge it a little further.. Had the authour published his own works, we fhould have fat quietly down to difentangle his intricacies, and clear his obfcurities; but now we tear what we cannot loose, and eject what we happen not to un-derstand.

The faults are more than could have happened without the concurrence of many caufes. The ftile of Shakespeare was in itself ungrammatical, perplexed and obfcure; his works were tranfcribed for the players by those who may be fuppofed to have feldom understood them; they were tranfmitted by copiers equally unfkilful, who still multiplied errours; they were perhaps sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the fake of fhortening the fpeeches; and were at laft printed without correction of the prefs.

In this ftate they remained, not as Dr. Warburton fuppofes, because they were unregarded, but because

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the editor's art was not yet applied to modern languages, and our ancestors were accustomed to fo much negligence of English printers, that they could very patiently endure it. At laft an edition was undertaken by Rowe; not because a poet was to be published by a poet, for Rowe feems to have thought very little on correction or explanation, but that our authour's works might appear like those of his fraternity, with the appendages of a life and recommendatory preface. Rowe has been clamorously blamed for not performing what he did not undertake, and it is time that justice be done him, by confeffing, that though he seems to have had no thought of corruption beyond the printer's errours, yet he has made many emendations, if they were not made before, which his fucceffors have received without acknowledgment, and which, if they had produced them, would have filled pages and pages with cenfures of the ftupidity by which the faults were committed, with difplays of the abfurdities which they involved, with oftentatious expofitions of the new reading, and felf congratulations on the happiness of difcovering it.

Of Rowe, as of all the editors, I have preferved the preface, and have likewise retained the authour's life, though not written with much elegance or fpirit; it relates however what is now to be known, and therefore deferves to pass through all fucceeding publications.

The nation had been for many years content enough with Mr. Rowe's performance, when Mr. Pope made them acquainted with the true state of Shakespeare's text, fhewed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave reafon to hope that there were means of reforming it. He collated the old copies, which none had thought to examine before, and restored many lines to their integrity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected whatever he difliked, and thought more of amputation than of cure.

I know not why he is commended by Dr. Warburton for diftinguishing the genuine from the spurious plays. In this choice he exerted no judgment of his own; the plays which he received, were given by Hemings and Condel, the firft editors; and those which he rejected, though, according to the licentioufnefs of the prefs in thofe times, they were printed during Shakespeare's life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and were never added to his works before the edition of 1664, from which they were copied by the later printers..

This was a work which Pope feems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to fupprefs his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He understood but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is indeed dull, yet, like other tedious talks, is very neceffary; but an emendatory.critick would ill discharge his duty, without qualities very different from dulness. In perusing a corrupted piece, he must have before him all poffibilities of meaning, with all poffibilities of expreffion. Such must be his comprehenfion of thought, and fuch his copioufnefs of language. Out of many readings poffible, he must be able to felect that which beft fuits with the ftate, opinions, and modes of language prevailing in every age, and with his authour's particular caft of thought, and turn of expreffion. Such must be his knowledge, and fuch his tafte. Conjectural criticifm demands more than humanity poffeffes, and he that exercises it with moft praife has very frequent need of indulgence. Let us now be told no more of the dull duty of an editor.

Confidence is the common confequence of fuccefs.. They whofe excellence of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude, that their powers are univerfal. Pope's edition fell below his own expecta tions, and he was fo much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for others to do, that he


past the latter part of his life in a state of hoftility with verbal criticism.

I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of so great a writer may be loft; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of compofition and juftnefs of remark, and containing a general criticism on his authour, fo extenfive. that little can be added, and fo exact, that little can be difputed, every editor has an intereft to fupprefs, but that every reader would demand its infertion.

Pope was fucceeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehenfion and finall acquifitions, with no native and intrinfick splendour of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in pursuing 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

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. enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio 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 diverfities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards ufed only the firft.

Of his notes I have generally retained those 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 panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his atchievement. The exuberant excrefcence of diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have fometimes fuppreffed, and his contemptible

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