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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 defign. The publick tafte was in its infancy; and delighted (as it always does during that state) in the high and turgid; which leads the writer to disguise a vulgar expreffion with hard and forced conftruction, whereby the fentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here his criticks fhow 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 muft allow, he is often fo natural and flowing, fo pure and correct, that he is even a model for style 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 less 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 difcovering 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 publick 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 established reputation; not to teach the world to admire, which, in those circumftances, to say the truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with reafon to admire: no easy matter, I will affure you, on the fubject in queftion: for though it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath obferved, that Shakspeare is the fairest and fulleft fubject for criticism, yet it is not fuch a fort of criticifm as may be raised mechanically 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 hufks 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 moft like fenfe. But the kind of criticism
• The Spectator. REED.
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 discourse.
These, such as they are, were among my younger amufements, 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,
"Semper honoratum (fic Di voluiftis) habebo."
He was defirous I fhould give a new edition of this poet, as he thought it might contribute to put a ftop to a prevailing folly of altering the text of celebrated authors without talents or judgment. And he was willing that his edition fhould be melted down into mine, as it would, he said, afford him (fo great is the modefty of an ingenuous temper) a fit opportunity of confeffing his mistakes.1 In memory of our friendship, I have, therefore, made it our joint edition. His admirable preface is here added; all his notes are given, with his name annexed; the fcenes are divided according to his regulation; and the most beautiful paffages distinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas.
I See his Letters to me.
In imitation of him, I have done the fame by as many others as I thought most deserving of the reader's attention, and have marked them with double commas.
If, from all this, Shakspeare or good letters have received any advantage, and the publick any ́benefit, or entertainment, the thanks are due to the proprietors, who have been at the expence of procuring this edition. And I fhould be unjuft to feveral deferving men of a reputable and useful profeffion, if I did not, on this occafion, acknowledge the fair dealing I have always found amongst them; and profefs my fenfe of the unjust prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have been, hitherto, unable to procure that fecurity for their property, which they fee the reft of their fellowcitizens enjoy. A prejudice in part arifing from the frequent piracies (as they are called) committed by members of their own body. But fuch kind of members no body is without. And it would be hard that this fhould be turned to the difcredit of the honest part of the profeffion, who fuffer more from fuch injuries than any other men. It hath, in part too, arisen from the clamours of profligate fcribblers, ever ready, for a piece of money, to prostitute their bad fenfe for or against any cause profane or facred; or in any fcandal publick or private these meeting with little encouragement from men of account in the trade (who, even in this enlightened age, are not the very worft judges or rewarders of merit,) apply themselves to people of condition; and fupport their importunities by falfe complaints against bookfellers.
But I fhould now, perhaps, rather think of my own apology, than bufy myself in the defence of others. I fhall have fome Tartuffe ready, on the
first appearance of this edition, to call out again, and tell me, that I fuffer myself to be wholly diverted from my purpose by these matters lefs fuitable to my clerical profefsion. "Well, but (fays a friend) why not take fo candid an intimation in good part? Withdraw yourself again, as you are bid, into the clerical pale; examine the records of facred and profane antiquity; and, on them, erect a work to the confufion of infidelity." Why, I have done all this, and more: and hear now what the fame men have faid to it. They tell me, I have wrote to the wrong and injury of religion, and furnished out more handles for unbelievers. "Oh! now the fecret is out; and you may have your pardon, I find, upon easier terms. It is only to write no more. -Good gentlemen! and fhall I not oblige them? They would gladly obftruct my way to those things which every man, who endeavours well in his profeffion, must needs think he has fome claim to, when he fees them given to those who never did endeavour; at the same time that they would deter me from taking those advantages which letters enable me to procure for myself. If then I am to write no more (though as much out of my profeffion as they may please to reprefent this work, I fufpect their modefty would not infift on a scrutiny of our feveral applications of this profane profit and their purer gains,) if, I fay, I am to write no more, let me at least give the publick, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, fome reafon for my prefenting them with these amufements: which, if I am not much mistaken', may be excused by the beft and faireft examples; and, what is more, may be justified on the furer reason of things.
The great Saint CHRYSOSTOM, a name confe