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It is no pleasure to me, in revifing my volumes, to obferve how much paper is wasted in confutation. Whoever confiders the revolutions of learning, and the various questions of greater or lefs importance, upon which wit and reafon have exercised their powers, muft lament the unsuccessfulness of inquiry, and the flow advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of the labour of every writer is only the deftruction of thofe that went before him. The first care of the builder of a new fyftem, is to domolish the fabricks which are ftanding. The chief defire of him that comments an author, is to how how much other commentators have corrupted and obfcured him. The opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach of controverfy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rise again to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion without progrefs. Thus fometimes truth and error, and fometimes contrarieties of error, take each other's place by reciprocal invasion. The tide of feeming knowledge, which is poured over one generation, retires and leaves another naked and barren; the fudden meteors of intelligence, which for a while appear to fhoot their beams into the regions of obfcurity, on a sudden withdraw their luftre, and leave mortals again to grope their way.

These elevations and deprefions of renown, and the contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge must for ever be expofed, fince they are not escaped by the highest and brighteft of mankind, may furely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themfelves but as the fatellites of their authors. How canft thou beg for life, fays Homer's hero to his captive, when thou knoweft that thou art now to fuffer only what must another day be fuffered by Achilles ?

Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity

on those who could exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too loud to be distinct. His chief affailants are the authors of The canons of criticism, and of The revisal of Shakspeare's text; of whom one ridicules his errors with airy petulance, fuitable enough to the levity of the controverfy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to justice an affaffin or incendiary. The one ftings like a fly, fucks a little blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more; the other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and gangrene behind him. When I think on one, with his confederates, I remember the danger of Coriolanus, who was afraid that girls with spits, and boys with ftones, fhould flay him in puny battle; when the other croffes my imagination, I remember the prodigy in Macbeth:

A falcon tow'ring in his pride of place,

Was by a moufing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.

Let me however do them justice. One is a wit, and one a scholar. They have both fhewn acuteness sufficient in the discovery of faults, and have both advanced fome probable interpretations of obfcure paffages; but when they afpire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falfely we all climate our own abilities, and the little which they have been able to perform might have taught them more candour to the endeavours of others.

Before Dr. Warburton's edition, Critical Obfervations on Shakspeare had been published by Mr. Upton, a man skilled in languages, and acquainted with books, but who feems to have had no great vigour of genius or nicety of taste. Many of his explanations are curious and useful, but he likewife, though he profeffed to oppofe the licen

tious confidence of editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to restrain the rage of emendation, though his ardour is ill feconded by his skill. Every cold empirick, when his heart is expanded by a fuccefsful experiment, fwells into a theorist, and the laborious collator at some unlucky moment frolicks in conjecture.

Critical, hiftorical, and explanatory notes have been likewife published upon Shakspeare by Dr. Grey, whofe diligent perufal of the old English writers has enabled him to make fome useful obfervations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticifm, he employs rather his memory than his fagacity. It were to be wished that all would endeavour to imitate his modefty, who have not been able to surpass his knowledge.

I can fay with great fincerity of all my predeceffors, what I hope will hereafter be said of me, that not one has left Shakspeare without improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been indebted for affiftance and information. Whatever I have taken from them, it was my intention to refer to its original author, and it is certain, that what I have not given to another, I believed when I wrote it to be my own. In fome perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour, be it more or lefs, fhould be transferred to the first claimant, for his right, and his alone, ftands above difpute; the fecond can prove his pretenfions only to himself, nor can himself always diftinguish invention, with fufficient certainty, from recollection.

They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been careful of obferving to one another. It is not eafy to discover from what cause the acrimony of a fcholiaft can naturally proceed. The fubjects to be difcuffed

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difcuffed by him are of very fmall importance; they involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the intereft of fect or party. The various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a paffage, feem to be questions that might exercife the wit, without engaging the passions. But whether it be, that small things make mean men proud, and vanity catches finall occafions; or that all contrariety of opinion, even in those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there is often found in commentaries a spontaneous strain of invective and contempt, more eager and venomous than is vented by the most furious controvertist in politicks against those whom he is hired to defame.

Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to be investigated is fo near to inexiftence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation: that to which all would be indifferent in its original state, may attract notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temptations to fupply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a fpacious furface, to work that to foam which no art or diligence can exalt to fpirit.

The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illuftrative, by which difficulties are explained; or judicial, by which faults and beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which depravations are corrected.

The explanations tranfcribed from others, if I do not fubjoin any other interpretation, I fuppofe commonly to be right, at least I intend by acquiefcence to confefss, that I have nothing better to propose.

After the labours of all the editors, I found many paffages which appeared to me likely to obftruct the greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to facilitate

their paffage. It is impoffible for an expofitor not to write too little for fome, and too much for others. He can oly judge what is neceffary by his own experience; and how long foever he may deliberate, will at laft explain many lines which the learned will think impoffible to be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help. Thefe are cenfures merely relative, and must be quietly endured. I have endeavoured to be neither fuperfluously copious, nor fcrupulously reserved, and hope that I have made my author's meaning acceffible to many, who before were frighted from perufing him, and contributed fomething to the publick, by diffufing innocent and rational pleasure.

The complete explanation of an author not systematick and confequential, but defultory and vagrant, abounding in cafual allufions and light hints, is not to be expected from any fingle fcholiaft. All perfonal reflections, when names are fuppreffed, must be in a few years irrecoverably obliterated; and cuftoms, too minute to attract the notice of law, fuch as modes of dress, formalities of conversation, rules of vifits, difpofition of furniture, and practices of ceremony, which naturally find places in familiar dialogue, are so fugitive and unsubstantial, that they are not easily retained or recovered. What can be known will be collected by chance, from the receffes of obfcure and obfolete papers, perused commonly with fome other view. Of this knowledge every man has fome, and none has much; but when an author has engaged the publick attention, thofe who can add any thing to his illuftration, communicate their discoveries, and time produces what had eluded diligence.

To time I have been obliged to refign many paffages, which, though I did not understand them, will perhaps hereafter be explained, having, I hope, illuftrated fome,

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