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dulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination; but have religiously oblerved the severe Canons of literal Criticilm; as may be seen from the Reasons accompany. ing every Alteration of the common Text. Nor would a different Conduct have become a Critic, whose greatest Attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established Reading from Interpolations occasioned by the fanciful Extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given the Reader a body of Canons, for literal Criticism, drawn out in form; as well such as concern the Art in general, as those that arise from the Nature and Circumstance of our Author's Works in particular. And this for two Reasons. First, To give the unlearned Reader a just Idea, and consequently a better Opinion of the Art of Criticism, now funk very low in the popular Esteem, by the Attempts of some who would needs exercise it without either natural or acquired Talents ; and by the ill Success of others, who seemed to have lost both, when they came to try them upon English Authors. Secondly, To deter the unlearned Writer from wantonly triling with an Art he is a Stranger to, at the Expence of his own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text of eftablished Authors. But these Uses may be well supplied by what is occasionally suid upon the Subject, in the Course of the following Remarks.
II. The second fort of Notes consists in an Explanation of the Author's Meaning, when, by one or more of these Causes, it becomes obscure ; either from a liceutious Use of Terms ; or a hard or ungrammatical Confirullion; or lastly, from far-fetch'd or quaint Allufions.
1. This licentious Use of Words is almost peculiar to the Language of Shakespear. To common Terms he hath affixed Meanings of his own, unauthorised by Use, and not to be justified by Analogy. And this Liberty he hath taken with the noblest Parts of Speech, such as Mixed modes; which, as they are most luscep
tible of Abuse, so their Abuse most hurts the Clearness of the Discourse. The Critics (to whom ShakeSpear's Licence was still as much a Secret as his Meaning, which that Licence had obscured) fell into two contrary Mistakes; but equally injurious to his Reputation and his Writings. For some of them ob. serving a Darkness, that pervaded his whole Expression, have censured him for Confusion of Ideas and Inaccuracy of reasoning. In the Neighing of a Horse, (says Rymer) or in iha Growling of a Mastif, there is a Meaning, there is a lively Expresion, and, may I say, more Humanity than many times in the tragical Flighis of Shakespear. The Ignorance of which Censure is of a piece with its Brutality. The Truth is, no one thought clearer, or argued more closely than this immorial Bard. But this Superiority of Genius less needing the Intervention of Words in the Act of Thinking, when he came to draw out his Contemplations into Discourse, he took up (as he was hurried on by the Torrent of his Matter) with the first Words that lay in his way, and if, amongst these, there were two Mixed-modes that had but a principal Idea in common, it was enough for him ; le regarded them as synonymous, and would use the one for the other without Fear or Scruple. Again, there have been others, such as the two last Editors, who have fallen into a contrary Extreme ; and regarded Shakespear's Anomalies (as we may call chem) amongst the Corruptions of his Text; which, therefore, they have cashiered in great numbers, to make room for a Jargon of their
This hath put me to additional Trouble ; for I had not only their Interpolations to throw out again, but the genuine Text to replace, and establish in its ftead; which, in many Cases, could not be done without fhewing the peculiar Sente of the Terms, and explaining the Caules which led the Poet to so perverse an use of them. I had it once, indeed, in my Delign, to give a general alphabetic Glossary of these
Terms; but as each of them is explained in its pro, p:r Place, there seemed the less Occasion for such an Index.
2. The Pot's hard and unnatural Construction had a different Original. This was toe Effect of mistaken Art ani Design The Public Taste 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 vu gar expremion with hard and forced conftruction, whereby the sentence frequently becomes cloudy and dark. Here, his Critics shew their modesty, and leave him to himself. For the arbitrary change of a Word doth little towards dispelling an obicurity that arifeth, not from the licentious use of a single Teim, but from the unnarural arrangement of a whole Sentence. And they risquid nothing by their silence. For Siak (pear 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 Critic to find it out. Not but, in his best works, we must allow, he is often fo natural and flowing, so pure and corre, that he is even a model for stile and language.
3. As to his far-fetched and quaint Allusions, these are often a cover to common thoughts; just as his hard construction is to common expreflion. When they are not so, the Explanation of them has this fur. ther advantage, thar, in clearing the Obs urity, you frequently dilcover fonie latent conceit not unworthy of his Genius.
II). The third and last sort of Notes is concerned in a critical explanation of the Author's Beauties and Defects ; but chiefly of his Beauties, whether in Stile, Thought, Sentiment, Character or Composition. An odd humour of finding fault hath long prevailed amongst the Critics; as if nothing were worth reireiking that did not, at the same time, deserve to be reproved. Whereas the public Judgment hath less ised to be affifted in what it shall reject, than in what
it ought to prize ; men being generally more ready in spying Faults than in discovering Beauties. Nor is the Value they set upon a Work, a certain Proof that they understand it. For ’ris ever seen, 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 sure to follow. Hence it is that the true Critick hath so frequently attached himself to Works of established Reputation ; not to teach the World to admire, which, in those circumstances, to say the Truth, they are apt enough to do of themselves; but to teach them how, with reason to admire : No easy Matter, I will assure you, on the subject in question : for tho' it be very true, as Mr. Pope hath observed, that Shakespear is the fairest and fullest subject for criticism, yet it is not such a Sort of criticism as may be raised mechanically on the Rules which Dacier, Rapin, and Bossu have collected from Antiquity ; and of which, such Kind of Writers as Rymer, Gildon, Dennis and Oldmixon, have only gathered and chewed the Husks: nor on the other hand is it to be formed on the Plan of those crude and superficial Judgments, on books and things, with which a certain celebrated Paper so much abounds; too good indeed to be named with the Writers lait mentioned, but being unluckily mistaken for a Model, because it was an Original, it hath given rise to a deluge of the worst fort of critical Jargon; I mean that which looks most like sense. But the kind of criticism here required is such as judgeth our Author by those only Laws and Principles on which he wrote NATURE and CommonSense.
Our Observations, therefore, being thus extensive, will, I presume, enable the Reader to form a right judgment of this favourite Foet, without drawing out his Character, as was once intended, in a continued discourse.
These, such as they are, were amongst my younger amusements, when, many years ago, I used to turn over these sort of Writers to unbend myself from more serious applications: And what, certainly, the Public, at this time of day, had never been troubled with, but for the conduit of the two last Editors, and the perfuafions of dear Mr. Pope; whose memory and name,
semiper acerbum, Sempor lonoratum (fic Di voluistis) habebo. He was desirous I should give a new Edition of this Peet, as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to a prevailing folly of altering the Text of celebrated Authors without Talents or Judgment. And he was willing that bis Edition lould be melted down into mine, as it would, he said, afford him (fo great is the modesty of an ingenuous temper) a fit opportunity of confeffing his Mistakes *. In memory of our Friendhip, I have therefore, made it our joint Edition. His admirable Preface is here added ; all his Notes are given, with his name annexed; the Scenes are dis vided according to his regulation ; and the most beautiful passages distinguished, as in his book, with inverted commas. In imitation of him, I have done the same by as many others as I thought most deserving of the Rcader's attention, and have marked them with double commas.
If, from all this, Shokofpear or good Letters have received any advantage, and the Public any benefit, or entertainment, the thanks are due to the Proprietors, who have been at the expence of procuring this Edition. And I should be unjust to several defcrving Men of a reputable and useful Profeflion, if I did not, on this occafion, acknowledge the fair cealing I have always found amongst them; and profess my sense of the unjust Prejudice which lies against them; whereby
• See his Letters to me.