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poet's intention is immediately difcovered, and that dexterity of intellect which defpatches its work by the eafieft means. He had undoubtedly read much; his acquaintance with cuftoms, opinions, and traditions, feems to have been large; and he is often learned without fhow. He feldom paffes what he does not understand, without an attempt to find or to make a meaning, and fometimes haftily makes what a little more attention would have found. He is folicitous to reduce to grammar, what he could not be fure that his author intended to be grammatical. Shakspeare regarded more the feries of ideas, than of words; and his language, not being defigned for the reader's defk, was all that he defired it to be, if it conveyed his meaning to the audience.
Hanmer's care of the metre has been too violently cenfured. He found the measure reformed in fo many paffages, by the filent labours of fome editors, with the filent acquiefcence of the rest, that he thought himself allowed to extend a little further the licence, which had already been carried fo far without reprehenfion; and of his corrections in general, it must be confeffed, that they are often juft, and made commonly with the leaft poffible violation of the text.
But, by inferting his emendations, whether invented or borrowed, into the page, without any notice of varying copies, he has appropriated the labour of his predeceffors, and made his own edition of little authority. His confidence, indeed, both in himself and others, was too great; he fuppofes all to be right that was done by Pope and Theobald; he feems not to fufpect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reafonable that he should claim what he fo liberally granted.
As he never writes without careful enquiry and diligent confideration, I have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will with for
Of the last editor it is more difficult to fpeak. Respect is due to high place, tenderness to living reputation, and veneration to genius and learning; but he cannot be juftly offended at that liberty of which he has himself fo frequently given an example, nor very folicitous what is thought of notes, which he ought never to have confidered as part of his ferious employments, and which, I fuppofe, fince the ardour of compofition is remitted, he no longer numbers among his happy effufions.
The original and predominant error of his commentary, is acquiefcence in his first thoughts; that precipitation which is produced by confcioufnefs of quick difcernment; and that confidence which prefumes to do, by furveying the furface, what labour only can perform, by penetrating the bottom. His notes exhibit fometimes perverfe interpretations, and fometimes improbable conjectures; he at one time gives the author more profundity of meaning than the fentence admits, and at another difcovers abfurdities, where the fenfe is plain to every other reader. But his emendations are likewife often happy and juft; and his interpretation of obfcure paffages learned and ̧ fagacious.
Of his notes, I have commonly rejected thofe, against which the general voice of the publick has exclaimed, or which their own incongruity immediately condemns, and which, I fuppofe the author himself would defire to be forgotten. Of the rest, to part I have given the highest approbation, by inferting the offered reading in the text; part I
have left to the judgment of the reader, as doubtful, though fpecious; and part I have cenfured without reserve, but I am fure without bitterness of malice, and, I hope, without wantonnefs of infult.
It is no pleasure to me, in revifing my volumes, to observe how much paper is wafted in confutation. Whoever confiders the revolutions of learning, and the various queftions of greater or less importance, upon which wit and reafon have exercised their powers, muft lament the unfuccessfulnefs of enquiry, and the flow advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of the labour of every writer is only the deftruction of those that went before him. The first care of the builder of a new fyftem is to demolish the fabricks which are ftanding. The chief defire of him that comments an author, is to fhow 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 rife 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 invafion. 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 fudden withdraw their luftre, and leave mortals again to grope their
These elevations and depreffions of renown, and the contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge muft for ever be expofed, fince they are not
escaped by the higheft and brightest of mankind' may furely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themselves 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 muft another day be fuffered by Achilles ?
Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity on thofe who could exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raised a clamour too loud to be diftinct. His chief affailants are the authors of The Canons of Criticism, and of The Revifal 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 2 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 pits, 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,
Let me however do them juftice. One is a wit, and one a scholar.3 They have both shown acute
2 See Bofwell's Life of Dr. Johnson, Vol. I. p. 227, 3d. edit. REED.
3 It is extraordinary that this gentleman fhould attempt fo vo
nefs fufficient in the discovery of faults, and have both advanced some probable interpretations of obfeure paffages; but when they afpire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falfely we all eftimate 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 tafte. Many of his explanations are curious and ufeful, but he likewife, though he profeffed to oppofe the licentious confidence of editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to reftrain the rage of emendation, though his ardour is ill feconded by his fkill. Every cold empirick, when his heart expanded by a fuccessful experiment, fwells into a theorist, and the laborious collator at fome 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 ufeful obfervations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticifm, he employs rather his memory
luminous a work, as the Revifal of Shakspeare's text, when he tells us in his preface, "he was not fo fortunate as to be furnished with either of the folio editions, much lefs any of the ancient quartos: and even Sir Thomas Hanmer's performance was known to him only by Dr. Warburton's representation."
4 Republifhed by him in 1748, after Dr. Warburton's edition, with alterations, &c. STEEVENS.