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In imitation of him, I have done the fame by as many others as I thought moft deferving of the reader's attention, and have marked them with double commas.
But fuch kind of
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 unjust 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 unjuft prejudice which lies against them; whereby they have been, hitherto, unable to procure that fecurity for their property, which they fee the rest of their fellowcitizens enjoy. A prejudice in part arifing from the frequent piracies (as they are called) committed by members of their own body. members no body is without. hard that this fhould be turned to the difcredit of the honeft 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 caufe profane or facred; or in any scandal 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.
And it would be
But I fhould now, perhaps, rather think of my own apology, than bufy myfelf 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 profession. "Well, but (fays a friend) why not take fo candid an intiination 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 eafier terms. It is only to write no more.
-Good gentlemen! and fhall I not oblige them? They would gladly obftruct my way to thofe things which every man, who endeavours well in his profeffion, muft needs think he has fome claim to, when he fees them given to thofe who never did endeavour; at the fame time that they would deter me from taking thofe advantages which letters enable me to procure for myfelf. 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 fcrutiny of our feveral applications of this profane profit and their purer gains,) if, I fay, I fay, I am to write no more, let me at leaft give the publick, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, fome reason for my prefenting them with thefe amufements: which, if I am not much mistaken, may be excused by the best and faireft examples; and, what is more, may be juftified on the furer reafon of things.
The great Saint CHRYSOSTOM, a name confe
crated to immortality by his virtue and eloquence, is known to have been fo fond of Ariftophanes, as to wake with him at his ftudies, and to fleep with him under his pillow: and I never heard that this was objected either to his piety or his preaching, not even in thofe times of pure zeal and primitive religion. Yet, in refpect of Shakspeare's great fenfe, Ariftophanes's beft wit is but buffoonery; and, in comparison of Ariftophanes's freedoms, Shakspeare writes with the purity of a veftal. But they will fay, St. Chryfoftom contracted a fondness for the comick poet for the fake of his Greek. To this, indeed, I have nothing to reply. Far be it from me to infinuate fo unfcholar-like a thing, as if we had the fame ufe for good English, that a Greek had for his Attick elegance. Critick Kufter, in a tafte and language peculiar to grammarians of a certain order, hath decreed, that the history and chronology of Greek words is the moft SOLID entertainment of a man of letters.
I fly then to a higher example, much nearer home, and ftill more in point, the famous univerfity of OXFORD. This illuftrious body, which hath long so justly held, and with fuch equity difpensed the chief honours of the learned world, thought good letters fo much interested in correct editions of the beft English writers, that they, very lately, in their publick capacity, undertook one of this very author by fubfcription. And if the editor hath not discharged his task with suitable abilities for one fo much honoured by them, this was not their fault, but his, who thruft himself into the employment. After fuch an example, it would be weakening any defence to feek further for authorities. All that can be now decently urged, is the reafon of the thing; and this I fhall
do, more for the fake of that truly venerable body than my own.
Of all the literary exercitations of fpeculative men, whether defigned for the ufe or entertainment of the world, there are none of fo much importance or what are more our immediate concern, than those which let us into the knowledge of our nature. Others may exercise the reafon, or amuse the imagination; but thefe only can improve the heart, and form the human mind to wisdom. Now, in this fcience, our Shakspeare is confeffed to occupy the foremost place; whether we confider the amazing fagacity with which he inveftigates every hidden fpring and wheel of human action; or his happy manner of communicating this knowledge, in the juft and living paintings which he has given us of all our paffions, appetites, and purfuits. Thefe afford a leffon which can never be too often repeated, or too conftantly inculcated; and, to engage the reader's due attention to it, hath been one of the principal objects of this edition.
As this fcience (whatever profound philofophers may think) is, to the reft, in things; fo, in words, (whatever fupercilious pedants may talk) every one's mother tongue is to all other languages. This hath ftill been the fentiment of nature and true wisdom. Hence, the greateft men of antiquity never thought themfelves better employed, than in cultivating their own country idiom. So, Lycurgus did honour to Sparta, in giving the first complete edition of Homer; and Cicero to Rome, in correcting the works of Lucretius. Nor do we want examples of the fame good fenfe in modern times, even amidst the cruel inroads that art and VOL. I. . R
fashion have made upon nature and the fimplicity of wisdom. Menage, the greatest name in France for all kinds of philologick learning, prided himfelf in writing critical notes on their best lyrick poet Malherbe: and our greater Selden, when he thought it might reflect credit on his country, did not difdain even to comment a very ordinary poet, one Michael Drayton.2 But the English tongue, at this juncture, deferves and demands our particular regard. It hath, by means of the many excellent works of different kinds compofed in it, engaged the notice, and become the study, of almost every curious and learned foreigner, fo as to be thought even a part of literary accomplishment. This muft needs make it deferving of a critical attention and its being yet deftitute of a teft or ftandard to apply to, in cafes of doubt or difficulty, fhows how much it wants that attention. For we have neither GRAMMAR nor DICTIONARY, neither chart nor compafs, to guide us through this wide fea of words. And indeed how should we? fince both are to be compofed and finished on the authority of our beft established writers. But their authority can be of little ufe, till the text hath been correctly fettled, and the phraseology critically
our greater Selden, when he thought he might reflect credit on his country, did not difdain to comment a very ordinary poet, one Michael Drayton.] This compliment to himself for condefcending to write notes on Shakspeare, Warburton copied from Pope, who facrificed Drayton to gratify the vanity of this flattering editor: "I have a particular reafon (fays Pope in a Letter to Warburton) to make you intereft yourself in me and my writings. It will caufe both them and me to make a better figure to pofterity. A very mediocre poet, one Drayton, is yet taken notice of because Selden writ a few notes on one of his poems." Pope's Works, Vol. IX. p. 350, 8vo. 1751. HOLT WHITE.