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frequently observed, he was a close and accurate Copier where ever his Fable was founded on History.
Where-ever the Author's Sense is clear and discoverable, (tho', perchance, low and trivial ;) I have not by any Innovation tampered with his Text; out of an Oftentation of endeavouring to make him speak better than the old Copies have done.
Where, thro' all the former Editions, a Passage has laboured under flat Nonsense and invincible Darknefs, if, by the Addition or Alteration of a Letter or two, or a Transposition in the Pointing, I have restored to him both Sense and Sentiment; fuch Corrections, I am persuaded, will need no Indulgence.
And whenever I have taken a greater Latitude and Liberty in amending, I have constantly endead voured to support my Corrections and Conjectures by parallel Paffages and Authorities from himself, the surest Means of expounding any Author whatfoever. Cette voie d'interpreter un Autheur par luimême est plus fure que tous les Commentaires, says a very learned French Critick. - As to my Notes, (from which the common and learned Readers of our Author, I hope, will derive fome Satisfaction;) I have endeavoured to give them a Variety in fome Proportion to their Number. Where-ever I have ventured at an Emendation, a Nate is constantly fubjoined to justify and affert the Reason of it. Where I only offer a Conjecture,
and do not disturb the Text, I fairly set forth my Grounds for such Conjecture, and submit it to Judgment. Some Remarks are spent in explaining Paflages, where the
Wit or Satire depends on an obscure Point of History: Others, where Allufions are to Divinity, Philosophy, or other Branches of Science. Some are added to shew, where there is a Suspicion of our Author having borrowed from the Ancients: Others, to fhew where he is rallying his Contemporaries; or where he himself is rallied by them. And some are necessarily thrown in, to explain an obscure and obsolete Term, Phrase, or Idea. I once intended to have added a complete and copious Gloffary; but as I have been importuned, and am prepared to give a correct Edition of our Author's Poems, (in which many Terms occur that are not to be met with in his Plays,) I thought a Glossary to all Shakespeare's Works more proper to attend that Volume.
In reforming an infinite Number of Passages in the Pointing, where the Sense was before quite loft, I have frequently subjoined Notes to fhew the depraved, and to prove the reformed, Pointing: Part of Labour in this Work which I could very willingly have spared myself. May it not be objected, why then have you burdened us with thefe Notes The Answer is obvious, and, if I mistake not, very material. Without such Notes, these Passages in fubsequent Editions would be liable, thro’the Ignorance of Printers and Correctors, to fall into the
old Confufion: Whereas, a Note on every one hinders all poflible Return to Depravity; and for ever secures them in a State of Purity and Integrity not to be lost or forfeited.
Again, as some Notes have been necessary to point out the Detection of the corrupted Text, and establish the Restoration of the genuine Readings; some others have been as necessary for the Explanation of Passages obscure and difficult. To understand the Necesity and Use of this part of my Talk, some Particulars of my Author's Character are previously to be explained. There are Obscurities in him, which are common to him with all Poets of the fame Species; there are Others, the Iffue of the Times he lived in; and there are others, again, peculiar to himself. The Nature of Comic Poetry being entirely satirical, it busies itself more in exposing what we call Caprice and Humour, than Vices cognizable to the Laws. The English, from the Happiness of a free Constitution, and a Turn of Mind peculiarly speculative and inquisitive, are observed to produce more Humourists and a greater Variety of original Charaflers, than any other People whatsoever: And these owing their immediate Birth to the peculiar Genius of each Age, an infinite Number of Things alluded to, glanced at, and exposed, must needs become obscure, as the Characters themselves are antiquated, and disused. An Editor therefore should be well versed in the History and Manners of his
Author's Age, if he aims at doing him a Service in this Refpect.
Besides, Wit lying mostly in the Assemblage of Ideas, and in the putting those together with Quickness and Variety, wherein can be found any Resemblance, or Congruity, to make up pleasant Pictures, and agreeable Visions in the Fancy; the Writer, who aims at Wit, must of course range far and wide for Materials. Now, the Age, in which Shakespeare lived, having, above all others, a wonderful Affection to appear Learned, they declined vulgar Images, such as are immediately fetched from Nature, and ranged thro' the Circle of the Sciences to fetch their Ideas from thence, But asthe Refeinblances of such Ideas to the Subject muft necessarily lie very
much out of the common Way, and every Piece of Wit appear a Riddle to the Vulgar; This, that should have taught them the forced, quaint, unnatural Tract they were in, (and induce them to follow a more natural one,) was the very Thing that kept them attached to it. The oftentatious Affectation of abftrufe Learning, peculiar to that Time, the Love that Men naturally have to every Thing that looks like Mystery, fixed them down to this Habit of Obfcurity. Thus became the Poetry of DONNE (tho' the wittiest Man of that Age,) nothing but a continued Heap of Riddles. And our Shakespeare, with all his easy Nature about him, for want of the Knowledge of the true Rules of Art, falls frequently into this vicious Manner.
The third Species of Obscurities, which deform our Author, as the Effects of his own Genius and Character, are those that proceed from his peculiar Manner of Thinking, and as peculiar a Manner of cloathing those Thoughts. With regard to his Thinking, it is certain, that he had a general Knowledge of all the Sciences : But his Acquaintance was rather that of a Traveller, than a Native. Nothing in Philosophy was unknown to him; but every Thing in it had the Grace and Force of Novelty. And as Novelty is one main Source of Admiration, we are not to wonder that He has perpetual Allusions to the most recondite Parts of the Sciences: and This was done not so much out of Affectation, as the Effect of Admiration begot by Novelty. Then, as to his Style and Diction, we may much more justly apply to SHAKESPEARE, what a celebrated Writer has faid of MILTON; Our Language funk under hiṁ, and was unequal to that Greatness of Soul which furnifred him with such glorious Conceptions. He therefore frequently uses old Words, to give his Diction an Air of Solemnity; as he coins others, to express the Novelty and Variety of his Ideas.
Upon every distinct Species of these Obscurities I have thought it my Province to employ a Note, for the Service of my Author, and the Entertainment
Readers. A few transient Remarks too I have not scrupled to intermix, upon the Poet's Nega