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with fome, to be Exequutor to his own writings) you will use the same indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Book choose Patrones, or finde them: This hath done both. For, so much were your L. L. likings of the severall paris, when they were acted, as before they were published, the Volumne alk'd to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition either of self-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, and Fellow alive, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his Playes, to your most Noble Patronage. Wherein, as we have justiy observed, no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addresse; it hath been the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the Present worthy of your H. H. by the Perfection. But, there we muit al o crave our abilities to be considered, my Lords. We cannot goe beyond our owne powers. Countrey hands, reach forth Milke, Creame, Fruits, or what they have: and many Nations (we have heard) that had not Gummes and Incense, obtained their requells with a leavened Cake; It was no fault to approach their gods, by what meanes they could: And the most, though meanelt, of things, are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name therefore, we inost humbly consecrate to your H. H. thele remaines of your servant SHAKESPEARE; that what delight is in them, may be ever your L. L, the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a paire so carefull to Mew their gratitude both to the living, and the dead, as is
Your Lordships most bounden
were weigh’d. Especially, when the fate of all
THE P R E F A СЕ
OF THE P L A Y ER S. To the great variety of Readers. IROM the most able, to him that can but spell:
There you are number’d, we had rather you
Bookes depends upon your capacities : and not of your heads alone, but of your Purses. Well, it is now publike, and you will 1 and for your priviledges, we know: to reade, and censure. Doe so, but buy it first. That doch best commend a Booke, the Statio. ner sayes. Then, how odde foever your braines be, or your wisdomes, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your fixe-penny'orth, your shillings worth, your five shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the juít' rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, or make the Jacke goe. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit, on the Stage at BlackFryers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dayly, know, these Playes have had their tryall already, and stood out all Appeales ; and doe now come forch quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any purchas'd letters of commendation.
It had been a thing, we confesse, worthy to have been wished, that the Author himselfe had liv'd to have set forth, and overseene his owne writings ; But since it
hath been ordain'd otherwise, and he by death depart-
MR. P O PE's
P R E FACE.
T is not my design to enter into a Criticism upon
this Author ; tho' to do it effectually and not su
perficially, would be the best occasion that any just Writer could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English Poets Shakespear must be confessed to be the fairelt and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a Preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his Works, and the disadvantages under which they have been transmitted
We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not : A design, which tho' it can be no guide to future Criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.
I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteristic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly and universally elevated above all other Dramatick Writers. Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.
If ever any Author deserved the name of an Original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his
art so immediately from the fountains of Nature, it proceeded through Ægyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The Poetry of Shakespear was inspiration indeed: he is not so much an Imitator, as an Instrument, of Nature ; and ʼtis not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks through him.
His Chara&ters are so much Nature herself, that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her. Those of other Poets have a conftant resemblance, which shews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multipliers of the same inage: each picture like a mock-rainbow is but the reflection of a reflection. But every single character in Shakespear is as much an Individual, as those in Life itself; it is as impoffible to find any two alike ; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his Plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very names of the Perfons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.
The Power over our Paffions was never possess’d in a more eminent degree, or display'd in so different instances. Yet all along, there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them ; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or to be perceiv'd co lead toward it. But the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places: We are surpriz’d the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the pallion so juít, that we fhou'd be surpriz'd if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How astonishing is it again, that the Passions directly opposite to these, Laughter and Spleen, are no less at his command! that he is not more a master of