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of his are for the most pare more certain, which are made from conjecturés, than those from ancient copies and manuscripts.
'Twas never my intention to call in question the skill and abilities of one, whose reputation in learning is so deservedly established: but there was a good piece of: advice, (which I cannot so easily pass over, because of universal use to critics,) offered him, when first he made his design known of publishing his Horace; which was, to admit into the context all those better readings, for which he had the authority of ancient manuscripts; but as to meer conjectural corrections, to place them in his notes. His reply to this advice was, as might be expected, “No, for " then who will regard them?"
Our great critic was too well guarded by his learning, to have his own reply turned as a farcasm against himself; which might so juftly be turned against many dealers in the critical craft, who, with little or no stock in trade, set up for correctors and successors of Aristarchus. There
3. Of this particular circumstance I was informed by the late learned Mr. Wass of Aynoe. I will add here a rule of Graevius, in his preface to Cicero's offices : A prifcis libris non recedendum, nifi aut librarii, aut fcioli peccatum fit tan reftatum, ut ab omnibus, qui non caligant in fole, videri poffit.
is one part of their cunning, that I cannot help here mentioning, which is, their intruding their own guesses and reveries into the context, which, first meeting the reader's eye, naturally prepossess his judgment : mean while the author's words are either removed entirely out of the way, or permitted a place in some remote note, loaden wich misreprefentations and abuse, according to the great goodness of the most gracious critic; who with his dagger of lath on his own stage, like the old Vice, or modern Harlequin, belabours the poor Devil of his own raising
Who is there but will allow greater liberty for altering authors, who wrote before the invention of printing, than fince ? Blunders upon blunders of transcribers interpolations--glossesmomisfions--various readings—and what not? But to try these experiments, without great caution, on Milton or Shakespeare, though it may be sport to you, as the pelted frogs cried out in the fable, yet, Gentlemen, 'tis death and destruction to the little tast remaining among us.
HAVE often wondered with what kind of
reasoning any one could be so far imposed on, as to imagine that Shakespeare had no learning ;
when it must at the same time be acknowledged,
i Cicero pro Arch. Poet. A fummis hominibus eruditisimisque accepimus-Poetam naturâ ipfà valere-et quafi divino quodam fpiritu inflari. De Nat. Deor. II. 66. Nema igitur vir magnus fine aliquo afflatu divino unquam fuit. In Plato's lo, there is a great deal to the same purpose concerning this poetic rapture and enthusiasm ; where a certain poet is mentioned, who having made a number of very bad verses, wrote one poem which he himself said was sögmpecé to Myoãr: the poem happened to be a very extraordinary one ; and the people took the poet's word, thinking it impossible, without inspiration, that so bad a poet should write fuch good verses.
has ever prevailed, is owing partly to 1. Ben Johnson's jealousy, and partly to the pride and pertness of dunces, who, under such a name as Shakespeare's, would gladly shelter their own idleness and ignorance.
He was bred in a learned age, when even the 3 court ladies learnt Greek, and the Queen of England among scholars had the reputation of being a scholar. Whether her fucceffor had equal learning and senfe, is not material to be at present enquir'd into; but thus far is certain, that letters, even then, stood in some rank of
praise. 2 And though thou hadi fmall Latin and lefs Greek. 'Tis true Johnson fays very handsome things of him prefently after : for people will allow others any qualities, but those which they highly value themselves for.
3 See what Ascham writes of Lady Jane Grey, (who lived some time before Shakespeare) in his fcholemaster, p. 37. Edit. Lond. 1743. and afterwards, p. 67. of Queen Elizabeth.
“ It is your shame (I speak to you: “ all, you young gentlemen of England) that one maid “ fhould go beyond you all in excellency of learning, and
knowledge of divers tongues. Point forth fix of the “ best given gentlemen of this court, and all they together “ Thew not so much good will, spend not so much time, “ bestow not so many hours daily, orderly and constantly, « for the increase of learning and knowledge, as doth the " Queen's majesty her self. Yea I believe that befide her
perfect readiness in Latin, Italian, French and Spanish,
praise. Happy for us, that our poet, and Johnson, came into life fo early ; that they lived not in an age, when not only their art, but every thing else that had wit and elegance began to be despised ; 'till the minds of the people came to be disposed for all that hypocrisy, nonsenfe, and fuperftitious fanaticism, which foon after like a deluge overwhelmed this nation. Twere to be wished, that with our reftored king fome of that taft of literature had been restored, which we enjoyed in the days of Queen Elizabeth. But when we brought home our frenchified king, we did then, and have even to this day continued to bring from France our models, not only of letters, but
• The readeth here now at Windsor more Greek every day, “ than some prebendary of this church doth read Latin in
whole week.” Sir H. Savil in his latin speech at Oxford thus compliments her ; Illa commemorabo, quæ vulgà minus nota, non minus certe mirabilia ad laudem : te, cum tot literis legendis, tot di&tandis, tot manu tua fcribendis fufficias.
te magnam diei partem in graviffimorum autorum fcriptis legendis, audiendisque ponere : neminem nifi Jua lingua tecum loqui ; te cum nemine nifi ipforum, aut omnium communibus Latina, Graecaque. Omitte plebeios philofophos, quos raro ir manus sumis. Quoties divinum Platonem animadverti tuis.in. terpretationibus diviniorem effetum! quoties Ariftotelis obscuritates principis philofopborum, à principe foeminarum evolutas Atque explicatas!