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THE

PLAYS

OF

WILLIAM SHAKSPEA R E.

IN TEN VOLUME S.

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ΤΗΣ ΦΥΣΕΩΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΕΥΣ ΗΝ, ΤΟΝ ΚΑΛΑΜOΝ ΑΠΟ ΒΡΕΧΩΝ ΕΙΣ ΝΟΥΝ.

Vet. Auct. apud Suidam. MULTA DIES, VARIUSQUE LABOR MUTABILIS ÆVI RETULIT IN MELIUS, MULTOS ALTERNA REVISENS LUSIT, ET IN SOLIDO RURSUS FORTUNA LOCAVIT.

Virgil,

LONDON, Printed for C. Bathurst, W. Strahan, J. F. and C. Rivington,

J. Hinton, L. Davis, W. Owen, T. Cason, E. Johnson, S. Crowder, B. White, T. Longman, B. Law, E. and Č. Dilly, C. Corbett, T. Cadell, H. L. Gardener, J. Nichols, J. Bew, J. Beecroft, W. Stuart, T. Lowndes, J. Robson, T. Payne, T. Becket, F. Newbery, G. Robinson, R. Baldwin, J. Williams, J. Ridley, T. Evans, W. Davies, W. Fox, and J. Murray,

MDCCLXXVIII.

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PRE FAC E.

(HAT praises are without reason lavished on

the dead, and that the honours due only to;

excellence are paid to antiquity, is a com. , plaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard, which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time. .

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly. votaries that ; reverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice, Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the fun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticisin. is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.

VOL. I.

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To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observe' ation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often examined and compared, and if they persist to value. the poffeffion, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers; so in the productions of genius, nothing can be stiled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the same kind. Demonstration immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux of years; but works tentative and experimental must be estimated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long succession of endeavours. Of the first building that was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean fcale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; but the poeins of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments,

Ours.

The

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