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agreeable vifions in the fancy; the writer, who aims at wit, muft of course range far and wide for materials. Now the age in which Shakspeare lived, having, above all others, a wonderful affection to appear learned, they declined vulgar images, fuch as are immediately fetched from nature, and ranged through the circle of the fciences, to fetch their ideas from thence. But as the resemblances of fuch ideas to the fubject must neceffarily lie very much out of the common way, and every piece of wit appear a riddle to the vulgar; this, that fhould 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 the habit of obfcurity. Thus became the poetry of DONNE (though the wittiest man of that age,) nothing but a continued heap of riddles. And our Shakspeare, with all his eafy nature about him, for want of the knowledge of the true rules of art, falls frequently `into this vicious manner.
The third species of obfcurities 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 clothing those thoughts. With regard to his think ing, it is certain, that he had a general knowledge of all the fciences: but his acquaintance was rather that of a traveller than a native. Nothing in philofophy was unknown to him; but every thing in it had the grace and force of novelty. And as novelty is one main fource of admiration, we are not to wonder that he has perpetual allufions to the
most recondite parts of the fciences: and this was done not fo 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 SHAKSPEARE, what a celebrated writer faid of MILTON Our language funk under him, and was unequal to that greatness of foul which furnished him with fuch glorious conceptions. He therefore frequently ufes old words, to give his diction an air of folemnity; as he coins others, to exprefs the novelty and variety of his ideas.
Upon every diftinct fpecies of these obfcurities, I have thought it my province to employ a note for the fervice of my author, and the entertainment of my readers. A few tranfient remarks too I have not fcrupled to intermix, upon the poet's negligences and omifsions in point of art; but I have done it always in fuch a manner, as will teftify my deference and veneration for the immortal author. Some cenfurers of Shakspeare, and particularly Mr. Rymer, have taught me to diftinguish betwixt the railer and critick. The outrage of his quotations is fo remarkably violent, fo puthed beyond all bounds of decency and fober reafoning, that it quite carries over the mark at which it was levelled. Extravagant abuse throws off the edge of the intended difparagement, and turns the madman's weapon into his own bofom. In fhort, as to Rymer, this is my opinion of him from his criticisms on the tragedies of the laft age. He writes with great vivacity, and appears to have been a scholar : but as for his knowledge of the art of poetry, I cannot perceive it was any deeper than his acquaintance with Boffu and Dacier, from whom hẹ has tranfcribed many of his beft reflections. The late Mr. Gildon was one attached to Rymer by a
fimilar way of thinking and ftudies. They were both of that species of criticks who are defirous of difplaying their powers rather in finding faults, than in confulting the improvement of the world; the hypercritical part of the science of criticism.
I had not mentioned the modeft liberty I have here and there taken of animadverting on my author, but that I was willing to obviate in time the fplenetick exaggerations of my adverfaries on this head. From past experiments I have reafon to be confcious, in what light this attempt may be placed: and that what I call a modeft liberty will, by a little of their dexterity, be inverted into downright impudence. From a hundred mean and dishoneft artifices employed to difcredit this edition, and to cry down its editor, I have all the grounds in nature to beware of attacks. But though the malice of wit, joined to the smoothness of verfification, may furnish fome ridicule; fact, I hope, will be able to stand its ground against banter and gaiety.
It has been my fate, it feems, as I thought it my duty, to discover fome anachronisms in our author; which might have flept in obfcurity but for this Reftorer, as Mr. Pope is pleased affectionately to ftyle me as for inftance, where Ariftotle is mentioned by Hector in Troilus and Crefsida; and Galen, Cato, and Alexander the Great, in Coriolanus. Thefe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, are blunders, which the illiteracy of the firft publishers of his works has fathered upon the poet's memory: it not being at all credible, that thefe could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tincture of a fchool, or the leaft converfation with fuch as had. But I have fufficiently proved, in the course of my notes, that fuch anachronisms were the effect of poetick licence, rather than of ignorance in our poet. And if I
may be permitted to ask a modeft question by the way, why may not I reftore an anachronism really made by our author, as well as Mr. Pope take the privilege to fix others upon him, which he never had it in his head to make; as I may venture to affirm he had not, in the inftance of Sir Francis Drake, to which I have spoke in the proper place?
But who fhall dare make any words about this freedom of Mr. Pope's towards Shakspeare, if it can be proved, that, in his fits of criticifm, he makes no more ceremony with good Homer himfelf? To try, then, a criticifm of his own advancing in the 8th Book of The Odyssey, where Demodocus fings the episode of the loves of Mars and Venus; and that, upon their being taken in the net by Vulcan,
The god of arms
Mr. Pope is fo kind gravely to inform us, "That Homer in this, as in many other places, feems to allude to the laws of Athens, where death was the punishment of adultery." But how is this fignificant obfervation made out? Why, who can poffibly object any thing to the contrary?Does not Paufanias relate that Draco, the lawgiver to the Athenians, granted impunity to any perfon that took revenge upon an adulterer? And was it not alfo the inftitution of Solon, that if any one took an adulterer in the fact, he might use him as he pleafed? These things are very true: and to fee what a good memory, and found judgment in conjunction, can achieve! though Homer's date is not determined down to a fingle year, yet it is pretty generally agreed that he lived above three hundred years be
fore Draco and Solon: and that, it seems, has made him feem to allude to the very laws, which these two legiflators propounded above three hundred years after. If this inference be not fomething like an anachronism or prolepfis, I will look once more into my lexicons for the true meaning of the words. It appears to me, that fomebody befides Mars and Venus has been caught in a net by this episode and I could call in other inftances, to confirm what treacherous tackle this net-work is, if not cautiously handled.
How juft, notwithstanding, I have been in detecting the anachronisms of my author, and in defending him for the use of them, our late editor feems to think, they should rather have flept in obfcurity and the having difcovered them is fneered at, as a fort of wrong-headed fagacity.
The numerous corrections which I have made of the poet's text in my SHAKSPEARE Reftored, and which the publick have been fo kind to think well of, are, in the appendix of Mr. Pope's last edition, flightingly called various readings, gueffes, &c. He confeffes to have inferted as many of them as he judged of any the leaft advantage to the poet; but fays, that the whole amounted to about twenty five words and pretends to have annexed a complete lift of the reft, which were not worth his embracing. Whoever has read my book will, at one glance, fee how in both these points veracity is ftrained, fo an injury might be done. Malus, eth obeffe non pote, tamen cogitat.
Another expedient to make my work appear of a trifling nature, has been an attempt to depreciate literal criticism. To this end, and to pay a fervile compliment to Mr. Pópe, an anonymous writer has,
David Mallet. See his poem Of Verbal Criticifm, Vol. I. of his works, 12mo. 1759. REED.