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of knowledge is often tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not what to demand, or those who demand by design what they think impossible to be done. I have indeed disappointed no opinion more than my own; yet I have endeavoured to perform my talk with no sight solicitude. Not a single passage in the whole work has appeared to me corrupt, which I have not attempted to restore ; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to illustrate. In many I have failed like others; and from many, after all my efforts, I have retreated, and confessed the repulse. I have not passed over, with affected fuperiority, what is equally difficult to the reader and to myself, but where I could not instruct him, have owned my ignorance. I might easily have accumulated a mass of seeming learning upon easy scenes; but it ought not to be imputed to negligence, that, where nothing was necessary, nothing has been done, or that, where others have said enough, I have said no more.
Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him, that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Tbeoe bald and Pope. Let him read on through brightness
and obscurity, through integrity and corruption ; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness ; and read the commentators.
Particular passages are cleared by notes, but the general effect of the work is weakened. The mind is refrigerated by interruption ; the thoughts are diverted from the principal subject; the reader is weary, he suspects not why; and at last throws away the book, which he has too diligently studied.
Parts are not to be examined till the whole has been surveyed; there is a kind of intelletual remoteness necessary for the comprehension of any great work in its full design and its true proportions ; a close approach fhews the smaller niceties, but the beauty of the whole is discerned no longer.
It is not very grateful to consider how little the fucceffon of editors has added to this authour's power of pleasing. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all the improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him ; while the reading was yet not rectified, nor his allusions understood; yet then did Dryden pronounce " that Shakesfcare was the man, " who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, “ had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All " the images of nature were still present to him, " and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily : “When he describes any thing, you more than see
« it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to “ have wanted learning, give him the greater com“ mendation : he was naturally learned : he needed “ not the spectacles of books to read nature; he “ looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot
say he is every where alike; were he so, I should “ do him injury to compare him with the greatest " of mankind. He is many times flat and insipid; “ his comick wie degenerating into clenches, his se" rious swelling into bombast. But he is always
great, when some great occasion is presented to “ him : No man can say, he ever had a fit subject “ for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high " above the rest of poets,
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cúpréfi.”
It is to be lamented, that such a writer should want a commentary ; that his language should become obsolete, or his sentiments obscure. But it is vain to carry wishes beyond the condition of human things; that which must happen to all, has happen. ed to Shakespeare, by accident and time; and more than has been suffered by any other writer since the use of types, has been suffered by him through his own negligence of fame, or perhaps by that fuperiority of mind, which despised its own performances, when it compared them with its powers, and judged those works unworthy to be prelerved, which the criticks of foilowing ages were to contend for the fame of restoring and explaining.
Among these candidates of inferiour fame, I am now to stand the judgment of the publick; and wish that I could confidently produce my commentary as equal to the encouragement which I have had the honour of receiving. Every work of this kind is by its nature deficient, and I should feel little solicitude about the sentence, were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and the learned.
VV received from your L. L. we are falne
and our fingular good LORDS.
Right Honourable, 1
HILST we study to be thankful in our
particular, for the many favors we have
upon the ill fortune, to mingle tvo the most divers things that can be, feare, and rashoeffe ; rashneile in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when we value the places your H. H sustaine, wee cannot but know their dignicy greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles : and, while we name them trifles, we have depriv'd ourselves of the Defence of our Dedication. But since your L. L. have been pleas'd to thinke these trifles something, heretofore ; and have profequuted both them, and their Author living, with so much favour : we hope, (that they put-living him, and he not having the fate, common