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was absolutely ignorant of the Art of Criticism,
up the gross Body of his innocent Correc-
from Head to Foot, in all the finical Exactness of a modern Measurer of Syllables.
For the reft, all the Corrections which these two Editors have made on any reasonable Foundation, are here admitted into the Text; and carefully assigned to their respective Authors. A piece of Justice which the Oxford Editor never did; and which the Other was not always scrupulous in observing towards me. To conclude with them in a word, They separately possessed those two Qualities which, more than any other, have contributed to bring the Art of Criticism into difrepute, Dulness of Apprehension, and Extravagance of Conjecture.
I am now to give some Account of the present Undertaking. For as to all those Things, which have been published under the titles of Esays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakespear, (if you except some critical Notes on Macbeth, given as a Specimen of a projected Edition, and written, as appears, by a Man of Parts and Genius) the rest are absolutely below a serious Notice.
The whole a Critic can do for an Author who deserves his Service, is to correct the faulty Text; to remark the Peculiarities of Language ;
to illustrate the obscure Allusions; and to explain the Beauties and Defects of Sentiment or Composition. And surely, if ever Author had a Claim to this Service, it was our Shakespear: Who, widely excelling in the Knowledge of Human Nature, hath given to his infinitely varied Pictures of it, such Truth of Design, such Force of Drawing, such Beauty of Colouring, as was hardly
ever equalled by any Writer, whether his Aim was the Use, or only the Entertainment of Mankind. The Notes in this Edition, therefore, take in the whole Compass of Criticism.
I. The first fort is employed in restoring the Poet's genuine Text; but in those Places only where it labours with inextricable Nonsense. In which, how much soever I may have given Scope to critical Conjecture, where the old Copies failed
me, I have indulged nothing to Fancy or Imagination; but have religioully observed the severe Canons of literal Criticism ; as may be seen from the Reasons accompanying 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 Circumstances of our Author's Works in particular. And this for two Reasons. First, Togive the unlearned keader a just Idea, and consequently a better Opinion of the Art of Criticism, now sunk 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 trifling with an Art he is a Stranger to, at the Expence of his
own Reputation, and the Integrity of the Text of established Authors. But these Uses may
be well supplied by what is occasionally said upon 1 the subject, in the Course of the following
II. The second sort 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 licentious Use of Terms; or a bard or ungrammatical Construction ; 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 Mixedmodes; which, as they are most susceptible of Abuse, fo 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 observing a Darkness, that pervaded his whole Expression, have censured him for Confufion of Ideas and Inaccuracy of reasoning. In the Neighing of a Horse, (fays Rymer) or in the Growling of a Mastiff there is a Meaning, there is a lively Expreson, and, may I say, more Humanity than many times in the tragical Flights 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 immortal Bard. But his 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 ; he regarded them as synonimous, 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 them) amongst the Corruptions of his Text; which, therefore, they have cashiered in great numbers; to make room for a Jargon of their own.
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 stead, which, in many cases, could not be done without Thewing the peculiar Sense of the Terms, and explaining the Causes which led the Poet to so perverse an use of them. I had it once, indeed, in my Design, to give a general alphabetic Glosary of these Terms; but as each of them is explained in its proper Place, there feemed the less Occasion for such an Index.
2. The Poet's hard and unnatural Construction had a different Original. This was the Effect of mistaken Art and Design. The Public Taste was in its Infancy; and delighted, (as it