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which yesterday he knew with intuitive readliness, and which will come uncalled into his thoughts tomorrow.
In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much likewise is performed ; and though no book was ever spared out of tenderness to the aethor, and the world is little solicitous to know whence proceeded the faults of that which it condemns ; yet it may gratify curiosity to inform it, that the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great ; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academic bowers, but amid inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow. It may repress the triumph of malignant criticism to observe, that if our language is not here fully displayed, I have only failed in an attempt which no human powers have hitherto completed. If the lexicons of ancient tongues, now immutably, fixed, and comprised in a few volumes, be yet, after the toil of successive ages, inadequate and delusive ; if the aggregated knowledge, and cooperating diligence of the Italian academicians, did not secure them from the censure of Beni ; if the embodied critics of France, when fifty years had been spent upon their work; were obliged to change its economy, and give their second edition another form, I may surely be contented without the praise of perfection, which, if I could obtain, in this gloom of solitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds. I therefore dismiss it with
frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.*
* Dr. Johnson's Dictionary was published on the 15th. day of April, 1755, in two vols. folio, price four pounds ten shillings bound. The booksellers who engaged in this national work were the Knaptons, Longman, Hitch & Co. Millar, and Dodsley.
TRAGEDY OF MACBETH ;
ON SIR THOMAS HANMER'S EDITION OF SHAKSPEARE.
First printed in the year 1745.
“......As to all those things which have been published under the titles of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakspeare, 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.” Warburton's Preface to Shakspeare.
In order to make a true estimate of the abilities and merit of a writer, it is always necessary to examine the genius of his age, and the opinions of his contemporaries. A poet who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the assistance of supernatural agents,
would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability, he would be banished from the theatre to the nursery, and condemned to write fairy tales instead of tragedies ; but a survey of the notions that prevailed at the time when this play was written will prove that Shakspeare was in no danger of such censures, since he only turned the system that was then universally admitted to his advantage, and was far from overburthening the credulity of his audience.
The reality of witchcraft or enchantment, which, though not strictly the same, are confounded in this play, has in all ages and countries been credited by the common people, and in most by the learned themselves. These phantoms have indeed appeared more frequently, in proportion as the darkness of ignorance has been more gross; but it cannot be shown, that the brightest gleams of knowledge have at any time been sufficient to drive them out of the world. The time in which this kind of credulity was at its height, seems to have been that of the holy war, in which the christians imputed all their defeats to enchantment or diabolical opposition, as they ascribe their success to the assistance of their military saints ; and the learned Mr. Warburton appears to believe (Suppl. to the Introduction to Don Quixote) that the first accounts of enchantments were brought into this part of the world by those who returned from their eastern expeditions. But there is always some distance between the birth and maturity of folly as of wickedness ; this opinion had long existed, though perhaps the application of it had in no foregoing age been so frequent, nor the reception so general. Olympiodorus, in Photius's
Extracts, tells us of one Libanius, who practised this kind of military magic, and having promised xapes of 1870v *476 Bapagay triggsy, to perform great things against the barbarians without soldiers, was, at the instances of the empress Placidia, put to death, when he was about to have given proofs of his abilities. The empress shewed some kindness in her anger by cutting him off at a time so convenient for his reputation.
But a more remarkable proof of the antiquity of this notion
may be found in St. Chrysostom's book de Sacerdotio, which exhibits a scene of enchantments not exceeded by any romance of the middle age ; he supposes a spectator, overlooking a field of battle, attended by one that points out all the various objects of horror, the engines of destruction, and the arts of slaughter. AuxVUTA δε ετι παρά τους εναντιος και σελομενες ιππας δια την μαγιανειαι, και οπλίτας δι αορα φερομενές, και ανασην γοήθειας δυναμιν και ιδεαν. Let him then proceed to show him in the opposite armies horses flying by enchantment, armed men transported through the air, and every power and form of magic. Whether St. Chrysostom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured to enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such notions were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age ; the wars with the Saracens, however, gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers prodigies, but as the scene of action was removed to a greater distance, and distance either of time or place is