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who does Honour to human Nature. The mention of whose Relation to you, reminds me of my own Happiness; who enjoy fo equal and so perfect a Share in both your Friendships. . This too is my fame and Reputation, as well as Happiness ; for Ambition would lose its Aím, were I to wish that any thing of me, or mine, should laft longer than the Memory of that Friendship. I am,
PREF A C E.
T hath been no unusual thing for Writers, when dissatisfied with the Patronage or Judge
ment of their own Times, to appeal to Pofterity for a fair Hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the first Instance; and to decline Acquaintance with the Public till Envy and Prejudice had quite subsided. But, of all the Trusters to Futurity, commend me to the Author of the following Poems, who not only left it to Time to do him Justice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For, what between too great Attention to his Profit as a Player, and too little to his Reputation as a Poet, his Works, left to the Care of Door-keepers and Prompters, hardly escaped the common Fate of those Writings, how good foever, which are abandoned to their own Fortune, and unprotected by Party or Cabal. At length, indeed, they struggled into Light; but so disguised and travested, that no classic Author, after having run ten secular Stages thro' the blind Cloisters of Monks and Canons, ever came out in half fo maimed and mangled a Condition. But for a full Aca count of his Disorders, I refer the Reader to the excellent Discourse which follows, and turn myself to consider the Remedies that have been applied to them.
tented himself with giving us a menore Account
ingung Shakespear's Works, when they escaped the Players, did not fall into much better Hands when they came amongst Printers and Booksellers sa who, to fay the Truth, had, at first, but finall Encouragement for putting him into a better Condition. The stubborn Nonsense, with which he was incrusted, occafioned his lying long neglected amongst the common Lumber of the Stage. And when that refiftless Splendor, which now shoots all around him, had, by degrees, broke thro' the Shell of those Impurities, his dazzled Admirers became as suddenly insensible to the extraneous Scurf that still stuck upon him, as they had been before to the native Beauties that lay under it. So that, as then, he was thought not to deserve a Cure, he was now fupposed not to need any.
His growing Eminence, however, required that he should be used with Ceremony: And he soon had his Appointment, of an Editor in form. But the Bookseller, whose dealing was with Wits, having learnt of them, I know not what filly Maxim, that none but a Poet should prefume to meddle with a Poet, engaged the ingenious Mr. Rowe to undertake this Employment. A Wit indeed he was; but fo utterly unacquainted with the whole Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the firft Editions of the Work he undertook to publish ; but conof the Author's Life, interlarded with fome common-place Scraps from his Writings. The Truth is, Shakespear's Condition was yet but ill
Insin brid understood.
understood: The Nonsense, now, by consent, received for his own, was held in a kind of Reverence for its Age and Author: and thus it continued, till, another great Poet broke the Charm by Shewing us, that the higher we went the less of it was still to be found,
Holt For the Proprietors, not discouraged by their furst unsuccessful Effort, in due time, made a second ; and, tho' they still stuck to their Poets, with infinitely more Success in their Choice of Mr. Pope. Who by the mere force of an un common Genius, without any particulat Study or Profession of this Art, discharged the great Parts of it so well as to make his Edition the belt Foundation for all further Improvements. He separated the genuine from the spurious Plays*: And, with equal Judgment, tho' not always with the same Success, attempted to clear the genuine Plays from the interpolated Scenes: He then consulted the old Editions ; and, by a careful Collation of them, rectified the faulty, and supplied the imperfect Reading, in a great number of Places: And lastly, in an admirable Preface, hath drawn a general, but very lively, Sketch of Shakespear's poetic Character; and, in the corrected Text, marked out those peculiar Strokes of Ge· nius which were most proper to support and
illustrate that Character. Thus far Mr. POPE. And altho' much more was to be done ibe1. fore Shakespear could be restored to himself,
(such as amending the corrupted Text where
i lexplaining his liçentious Phraseology and obfcure Allusions; and illustrating the Beauties
of his Poetry ::) yet, with great, Modesty and Prudence, our illustrious Editor left this to the Critic by Profession.
But nothing will give the common Reader a better Idea of the Value of Mr. Pope's Edition, than the two Attempts which have been fince made, by Mr. Theobald and Sir Thomas Hanmer, in Opposition to it. Who, altho' they concerned themselves only in the first of these three Parts of Criticism, the restoring the Text; (without any Conception of the second, or venturing even to touch upon the third) yet fucceeded so very ill in it, that they left their Author in ten times a worse Condition than they found him. But, as it was my ill Fortune to have some accidental Connexions with these two Gentlemen, it will be incumbent on me to be a little more particular concerning them.
The One was recommended to me as a poor Man; the Other as a poor Critic: and to each of them, at different times, I communicated a great number of Observations, which they managed, as they saw fit, to the Relief of their several Distresses. As to Mr. Theobald, who wanted Money, I allowed him to print what I gave him for his own Advantage: and he allowed himself in the Liberty of taking one Part for his own, and fequeftering another for the Benefit, as I supposed, of some future Edition. But, as to the Oxford Editor, who wanted nothing, but what he might very well be without; the Reputation of a Critic, I could not so easily forgive him for trafficking with my Papers without