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Mr. William Shakespear.
In TEN VOLUMES.
Publish'd by Mr. POPE and Dr. SEWELL.
Printed for J. and J. KNAPTON, J. DARBY, A. BET-
T is not my defign to enter into a Criticifm upon this Author, tho' to do it effectually and not fuperficially, would be the beft occafion that any juft Writer could take, to form the judgment. and taste of our nation. For of all English Poets Shakespear muft be confeffed to be the fairest and fulleft fubject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as moft confpicuous inftances, both of Beau ties and Faults of all forts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the bufinefsof which is only to give an account of the Fate of his Works, and the difadvantages under which they have been tranfmitted to
us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not: A defign, which tho' it can be no guide to future Criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be fufficient to prevent their doing him an injuftice in the other.
I cannot however but mention fome of his principal and characteristic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly and univerfally elevated above all other Dramatic Writers. Not that this is the proper place of praifing him, but because I would not omit any occafion of doing it.
If ever any Author deferved the name of an Original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art fo immediately from the fountains of Nature, it proceeded thro' Egyptian ftrainers and channels, and came to him not without fome tincture of the learning, or fome caft of the models, of thofe before him. The Poetry of ShakeSpear was Infpiration indeed: he is not fo much an Imitator, as an Inftrument, of Nature; and 'tis not so just to say that he fpeaks from her, as that the fpeaks thro' him.
His Characters are fo much Nature her felf, that 'tis a fort of injury to call them by fo diftant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets have a conftant refemblance,
femblance, which thews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multiplyers of the fame image: each picture like a mock-rainbow is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every fingle character in Shakespear is as much an Individual, as thofe in Life itfelf; it is as impoffible to find any two alike; and fuch as from their relation or affinity in any refpect appear moft to be Twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably diftinct. To this life
and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful Preservation of it; which is fuch throughout his plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very names of the Perfons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.
The Power over our Paffions was never poffefs'd in a more eminent degree, or difplay'd in fo different inftances. Yet all along, there is feen no labour, no pains to raife them; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it: But the heart fwells, and the tears burst out, juft at the proper places: We are furpriz'd, the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the paffion fo juft, that we shou'd be furpriz'd if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How aftonishing is it again, that the paf-fions directly oppofite to thefe, Laughter