« PreviousContinue »
of a work, and when their very features betray their bastardy, one may yenture' not only to mark them for not being genuine, but entirely to remove them. In K. Henry the fifth, there is a scene between Katharine and an old woman, where Mr. Pope has this remark, “ I « have left this ridiculous scene as I found it ; « and am sorry to have no colour left, from any
of the editions, to imagine it interpo“ lated.” But with much less colour Mr. Pope has made many greater alterations; and this scene is rightly omitted in the late elegant edition printed at Oxford. But 'tis a hard matter to fix bounds to criticism. However in our subsequent book we will try whether or no, by the help of some rules, we cannot regulate a little its rage.
1- B O O K III.
HEN one considers the various
tribes of rhetoricians, grammarians,
etymologists, &c. of ancient Greece : and here find the wiseft and best of 'philosophers inculcating grammatical niceties to his scholars ; not so foreign to his grand design of bettering mankind, as we now perhaps may imagine : when again we consider that the Romans followed the Grecian steps, and here fee a Scipio and Laelius joining with an African flave in polishing the Latin language, and translating the politest of the Attic authors; and some time after read of a Cicero himself, that he, when his country was distracted with civil commotions, should trouble his head with such pedantic accuracies, as whether he should write ad Piraeea, Piraeeum, or in Piraeeum-When, I say all this is considered, and then turn our eyes homeWard, and behold every thing the reverfe ; can we wonder that the ancients should have a politę language, and that we should hardly emerge out of our pristine and Gothic barbarity ?
See Plato in Cratyl and Xen. mom. L. III. c. 13. and L. IV. c. 6. 2 Cicer, in Epist. ad Att. VII. 3.
Amongst many other things we want a good grammar and dictionary: we must know what is proper, before we can know what is elegant and polite : by the use of these, the meaning of words might be prefixed, the Proteus-nature, if poflible, of ever-shifting language might in some measure be ascertained, and vague phrafes and ambiguous sentences brought under fome rule and regulation. But a piece of idle wit fhall laugh all fuch learning out of doors : and the notion of being thought a dull and pedantic fellow, has made many a man continue a blockhead all his life. Neither words nor grammar are such arbitrary and whimsical things, as some imagine : and for my own part, as I have been taught from other kind of philosophers, so I believe, that right and wrong, in the minutest subjects, have their standard in nature, not in whim, caprice or arbitrary will : so that if our grammarian, or lexicographer, should by chance be a disciple of modern philosophy ; should he glean from France and the court his refinements of our tongue, he would render the whole af. fair, bad as it is, much worse by his ill manages ment. No one can write without some kind of rules : and for want of rules of authority, many learned men have drawn them up for
themselves. Ben Johnson printed his English Grammar. If Shakespeare and Milton never published their rules, yet they are not difficult to be traced from a more accurate consideration of their writings. Milton's rules I shall omit at present ; but some of Shakespeare's, which favour of peculiarity, I shall here mention : be. cause when these are known, we shall be less liable to give a loose to fancy, in indulging the licentious spirit of criticism ; nor shall we then so much presume to judge what Shakespeare ought to have written, as endeavour to discover and retrieve what he did write.
Shakespeare alters proper names according to the Englity pronunciation.
Coneerning this liberty of altering proper names, Milton thus ápologizes in Smectymnuus, “ If in dealing with an out-landish name, they ç thought it best not to screw the English mouth " to a harsh foreign termination, so they kept 56 the radical word, they did no more than the " elegant authors among the Greeks, Romans, ļ and at this day the Italians in scorn of such a & servility use to do. Remember how they
“ mangle our British names abroad; what tref"pass were it if we in requital should as much
neglect theirs ? And our learned Chaucer did «6. not stick to do so, writing Semyramus for “ Semiramis, Amphiorax for Amphigraus, K. Seies “ for K. Ceyx the husband of Alcyone, with
many other names strangely metamorphis'd " from true orthography, if he had made any
account of that in these kind of words.” Milton's observation is exceeding true ; and to this affectation of the Romans is owing the difficulty of antiquarians tracing the original names and places. Our Cafwell, Bowdich and Cotes, in a Roman mouth are Casívellanus, Boadicia and Cotifo. The Portus Itius mention'd in Cae
Chaucer's transcribers have plainly corrupted some words, as AE they have tuşned into G. In the house of Fame, p. 466. ¥. 116. Edit. Urry.
• Yfatte the Harpir Orion,
One máy venture I think to write
“ Æacides, and Chirion."
1. Achilles and Chiron : both famous for their skill in Mu. fick. " Again Senior they have changed into Semor. In the Chanon's Yeman's tale. 1471. p. 127. edit. Urry. :“ As in his boke Semor [r. Senior] will bear witness." Senior de Chemią, viz. Senior Zadith.