Page images
PDF
EPUB

Shall leave it therefore at present : and the reader will think it, I believe, bigb time for us to go and bury the miserable remains of this our critic and commentator.

ONE word more to the reader before I conclude this preface. I have long intended to publish my thoughts concerning the subject of critics and criticism : which art bas been strangely misapplied, if not misunderstood, by two of the greatest critics that ever appeared on the learned stage of the world, Aristarchus and Dr. Bentley ; for both of these ala tered pasages, for no other reason, oftentimes, than because they disliked them. Sir Thomas Hanmer had just served Shakespeare, exa&tly after these models, when I drew up my critical observations, to put some stop, if possible, to this licentious pra&tice. But before I criticised our poet, 'twas worth while inquiring whether, or no, he deserved to be criti. cised. And this is chiefly the subje&t of the First Book, where I have very fully examined into bis art and skill in forming and planning his dramatic poems. And, because Aristotle drew his observations from Nature and the most perfeɛt models of antiquity, I have, in a great measure, been directed by this great Master ; whose treatise of poetry, tho' imperfe&tly banded down to us, is one of the noblest remains of ancient criticism. The edition,

wbich I use, was formerly printed under the dimenion of Dr. Hare ; wbo, then rising in the world, with other's of his school and college, yet tamely could see his learned pupil sent into an obfcure part of the world to teach the forft ruditients of literature to boys, when be might bave inftrutted the scholars of Europe.

His faltem adcumulem donis, et fungar inani
Munere.

Perbaps what I have written in this forft book, wbilt it does justice to Shakespeare, may at the Jame time be looked on as no bad comment on AriBotle.

Having found our poet worthy of criticism in a larger and more extenhve view : 'lis worth our while doubtless to know more minutely bis very coords and genuine expreffons. This is the fubjet of the Second Book. And bow is bis genuine text to be discovered and retrieved ? How but by consulting the various copies of authority? By comparing the author with himself ? And by that previous knowledge on which · elsewhere I bave laid such a stress? To discover therefore the corruptions that bave crept into the context, I bave confidered the various ways that books generally become corrupted. Hence the reader will see many alterations of the printed copies ; which are fub mitted to bis judgment. I think a sobolar could not belp, by the bye, to mention fome. few of the lite kind of errors in other books ; nor does indeed this stand in need of any apology." The corrections priopofed on several passages of the New Testament are

See above, xlv, xlvi, below, 137.

come

all omitted in this second edition ; because, widb many additions, I intend soon to print them, as moft proper, by themselves. The reader may perceive that by little and little I rise upon him, 'till I demand the giving up, as spurious, no less than three plays, which are printed among Shakespeare's genuine works.

Confidering therefore the incroaching spirit of criticism, the reader cannot but see the expediency of checking its licentious bumour. And bow can it be checked better, than by confidering what rules the poet laid down to bimself when be commenced author and writer in form? And this is the subje&t of the THIRD Book : wbicb, as it treats of words and grammatical construction, is very dry, (as tis called;) and will scarcely be red, but by those, who are willing tboraugbly, and not fuperficially, to understand Ebe di&tion of our poet. Every rule, there drawn up, is-Shakespeare's rule; and the visibly, and apparently such to every scholar-like reader, yet there has not been one editor of our poet, but has erred against every one of these rules.

This is the plan of those critical observations which I drew up, as well to do justice to this our « ancient dramatic poet, as to put some stop, if

poffible, to the vague and licentious spirit of criticism." And if this plan, bere proposed, was followed, the world might expect a much better, « at least a less altered edition from Shakespeare's

own words, than has yet been published.

[ocr errors]

Critical

Ο Ν

SHAKESPEARE.

BOOK I.

SE C T. I.

'T

IS observable, that critics generally set out with these two maxims ; the

ore, that the author must always dictate what is best ; the other, that the critic is to determine what that best is. There is an affertion not very unlike this, that Dr. Bentley has made in his late edition of Milton: “I have " such an esteem for our poet, that which of the

two words is the better, that I say was dictated “ by Milton.” And from a similar cast of reasoning, in a preface prefixed to his edition of Horace, he says, that those emendations

2

i See his first note on Milton's Paradise loft.

2 Plura igitur in Horatianis his curis ex conjuctura exhi. bemus, quàm ex codicum fubfidio ; et, nifs ma omnia falluxt, plerumque certiora.

B

of

« PreviousContinue »