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but have religioufly obferved the fevere canons of literal criticism, as may be feen from the reasons accompanying every alteration of the common text. Nor would a different conduct have become a critick, whofe greatest attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established reading from interpolations occafioned by the fanciful extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given the reader a body of canons, for literal criticism, drawn out in form; as well fuch as concern the art in general, as thofe that arife from the nature and circumflances of our author's works in particular. And this for two reafons. First, to give the unlearned reader a just idea, and confequently a better opinion of the art of criticifm, now funk very low in the popular esteem, by the attempts of fome who would needs exercite it without either natural or acquired talents; and by the ill fuccefs of others, who feemed to have loft both, when they came to try them upon English authors. Secondly, To deter the unlearned writer from wantonly trifling with an art he is a ftranger to, at the expence of his own reputation, and the integrity of the text of eftablished authors. But thefe ufes may be well supplied by what is occafionally faid upon the fubject, in the course of the following remarks.

II. The fecond fort of notes confifts in an explanation of the author's meaning, when by one or more of thefe caufes it becomes obfcure; either from a licentious ufe of terms, or a hard or ungrammatical conftruction; or laftly, from far-fetched or quaint allufions.

1. The licentious ufe of words is almoft peculiar to the language of Shakspeare. To common

terms he hath fixed meanings of his own, unauthorized by ufe, and not to be juflified by analogy. And this liberty he hath taken with the nobleft parts of speech, fuch as mixed modes; which, as they are moft fufceptible of abufe, fo their abuse moft hurts the clearness of the difcourfe. The criticks (to whom Shakspeare's licence was ftill as much a fecret as his meaning which that licence had obfcured) fell into two contrary mistakes; but equally injurious to his reputation and his writings. For fome of them, obferving a darkness that pervaded his whole expreffion, have cenfured him for confufion of ideas and inaccuracy of reafoning. In the neighing of a horfe (says Rymer) or in the growling of a mafliff, there is a meaning, there is a lively expreffion, and, may I fry, more humanity than many times in the tragical flights of Shakspeare. The ignorance of which cenfure is of a piece with its brutality. The truth is, no one thought clearer, or argued more clofely, than this immortal bard. But his fuperiority of genius lefs needing the intervention of words in the act of thinking, when he came to draw out his contemplations into dif course, he took up (as he was hurried on by the torrent of his matter) with the first words that lay in his way; and if, amongst these, there were two mixed modes that had but a principal idea in common, it was enough for him; he regarded them as fynonymous, and would ufe the one for the other without fear or fcruple. Again, there have been others, fuch as the two laft editors, who have fallen into a contrary extreme; and regarded Shakspeare's anomalies, (as we may call them) amongst the corruptions of his text; which, there

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fofe, they have cafhiered in great numbers, to make room for a jargon of their own. This hath put me to additional trouble; for I had not only their interpolations to throw out again, but the genuine text to replace, and establish in its ftead; which, in many cafes, could not be done without fhewing the peculiar fenfe of the terms, and explaining the caufes which led the poet to fo perverfe a ufe of them. I had it once, indeed, in my defign, to give a general alphabetical glossary · of those terms; but as each of them is explained in its proper place, there feemed the lefs occafion

for fuch an index.

2. The poet's hard and unnatural conftruction had a different original. This was the effect of mistaken art and defan. The publick tafte was in its infancy; and delighted (as it always does during that ftate) in the high and turgid; which leads the writer to difguife a vulgar expreffion with hard and forced conftruction, whereby the fentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here his criticks fhew their modefty, and leave him to himfelf. For the arbitrary change of a word doth little towards difpelling an obfcurity that arifeth, not from the licentious ufe of a fingle term, but from the unnatural arrangement of a whole fentence. And they rifqued nothing by their filence. For Shakspeare was too clear in fame to be fufpected of a want of meaning; and too high in fashion for any one to own he needed a critick to find it out. Not but, in his best works, we must allow, he is often fo natural and flowing, fo pure and correct, that he is even a model for ftyle and language.

3. As to his far-fetched and quaint allufions, these are often a cover to common thoughts; juft as his hard conftruction is to common expreffion, When they are not fo, the explanation of them has this further advantage, that, in clearing the obfcurity, you frequently difcover fome latent conceit not unworthy of his genius.

III. The third and laft fort of notes is concerned in a critical explanation of the author's beauties and defects; but chiefly of his beauties, whether in ftyle, thought, fentiment, character, or compofition. An odd humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst the criticks; as if nothing were worth remarking, that did not, at the fame time, deserve to be reproved. Whereas the publick judgment hath lefs need to be affifted in what it fhall reject, than in what it ought to prize; men being generally more ready at spying faults than in discovering beauties. Nor is the value they fet upon a work, a certain proof that they understand it. For it is ever feen, that half a dozen voices of credit give the lead: and if the public chance to be in good humour, or the author much in their favour, the people are fure to follow. Hence it is that the true critick hath fo frequently attached himself to works of eftablished reputation; not to teach the world to admire, which, in thofe circumftances, to fay the truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with reafon to admire: no eafy matter, I will affure you, on the fubject in question: for though it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath obferved, that Shakspeare is the fairest and fulleft fubject for criticifm, yet it is not fuch a fort of criticifm as may be raised me

chanically on the rules which Dacier, Rapin, and Boffu, have collected from antiquity; and of which, fuch kind of writers as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis, and Oldmixon, have only gathered and chewed the husks: nor on the other hand is it to be formed on the plan of those crude and fuperficial judgments, on books and things, with which a certain celebrated paper' fo much abounds; too good indeed to be named with the writers laft mentioned, but being unluckily mistaken for a model, because it was an original, it hath given rife to a deluge of the worst fort of critical jargon; I mean that which looks most like sense. But the kind of criticism here required, is fuch as judgeth our author by those only laws and principles on which he wrote, NATURE, and COMMON-SENSE.

Our obfervations, therefore, being thus extenfive, will, I prefume, enable the reader to form a right judgment of this favourite poet, without drawing out his character, as was once intended, in a continued difcourfe.

Thefe, fuch as they are, were among my younger amusements, when, many years ago, I used to turn over these fort of writers to unbend myself from more ferious applications: and what certainly the publick at this time of day had never been troubled with, but for the conduct of the two laft editors, and the perfuafions of dear Mr. Pope; whose memory and name,



-femper acerbum,

Semper honoratum (fic Dî voluiftis) habebo."

7 The Spectator. REED.

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