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crated to immortality by his virtue and eloquence, is known to have been fo fond of Ariftophanes, as to wake with him at his studies, 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 those times of pure zeal and primitive religion. Yet, in refpect of Shakspeare's great fenfe, Aristophanes'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 taste 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 difpenfed the chief honours of the learned world, thought good letters fo much interested in correct editions of the best 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 use 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 reason, or amuse the imagination; but thefe only can improve the heart, and form the human mind to wifdom. Now, in this science, our Shakspeare is confeffed to occupy the foremost place; whether we confider the amazing fagacity with which he investigates 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. These 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 greatest men of antiquity never thought themselves 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.
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 beft 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. 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 ftudy, of almost every curious and learned foreigner, fo as to be thought even a part of literary accomplishment. This must needs make it deferving of a critical attention and its being yet deftitute of a teft or standard 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 fhould we? fince both are to be compofed and finished on the authority of our best established writers. But their authority can be of little ufe, till the text hath been correctly fettled, and the phrafeology 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 condescending 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 cause both them and me to make a better figure to pofterity. A very mediocre poet, one Drayton, is yet taken notice of becaufe Selden writ a few notes on one of his poems." Pope's Works, Vol. IX. p. 350, 8vo. 1751.
examined. As, then, by these aids, a Grammar and Dictionary, planned upon the beft rules of logick and philofophy (and none but fuch will deferve the name,) are to be procured; the forwarding of this will be a general concern: for, as Quintilian obferves, "Verborum proprietas ac differentia omnibus, qui fermonem curæ habent, debet effe communis." By this way, the Italians have brought their tongue to a degree of purity and stability, which no living language ever attained unto before. It is with pleasure I obferve, that these things now begin to be understood among ourselves; and that I can acquaint the publick, we may foon expect very elegant editions of Fletcher and Milton's Paradife Loft, from gentlemen of diftinguished abilities and learning. But this interval of good fenfe, as it may be fhort, is indeed but new.
I remember to have heard of a very learned man, who, not long fince, formed a defign, of giving a more correct edition of Spenfer; and, without doubt, would have performed it well; but he was diffuaded from his purpose by his friends, as beneath the dignity of a profeffor of the occult fciences. Yet these very friends, I fuppofe, would have thought it added luftre to his high ftation, to have newfurnished out fome dull northern chronicle, or dark Sibylline ænigma. But let it not be thought that what is here said infinuates any thing to the difcredit of Greek and Latin criticifm. If the follies of particular men were fufficient to bring any branch of learning into difrepute, I do not know any that would ftand in a worse fituation than that for which I now apologize. For I hardly think there ever appeared, in any learned language, fo execrable a heap of nonfenfe, under the name of commentaries, as
hath been lately given us on a certain fatyrick poet, of the laft age, by his editor and coadjutor.3
I am fenfible how unjustly the very best classical criticks have been treated. It is faid, that our great philofopher 4 fpoke with much contempt of the two fineft fcholars of this age, Dr. Bentley and Bishop Hare, for fquabbling, as he expreffed it, about an old play-book; meaning, I fuppofe, Terence's comedies. But this story is unworthy of him; though well enough fuiting the fanatick turn of the wild writer that relates it; fuch cenfures are amongst the follies of men immoderately given over to one science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the reft. Thofe learned criticks might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn (though still, fure, with the fame indecency and indiscretion,) at that incomparable man, for wearing out a long life in poring through a telescope. Indeed, the weakneffes of fuch are to be mentioned with reverence. But who can bear, without indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling writer, whofe infipidity paffes, with himself, for politenefs, for pretending to be fhocked, forfooth, with the rude and favage air of vulgar criticks; meaning fuch as Muretus, Scaliger, Cafaubon, Salmafius, Spanheim, Bentley When, had it not been for the deathlefs labours of fuch as thefe, the western world, at the revival of letters, had foon fallen back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity, as deplorable as that from which Providence had juft redeemed it.
3 This alludes to Dr. Grey's edition of Hudibras published in 1744. REED.
4 Sir Ifaac Newton. See Whifton's Hiftorical Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Clarke, 1748, 8vo. p. 113. REED.