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In touching on another part of his learning, as it related to the knowledge of history and books, I shall advance fomething that, at firft fight, will very much wear the appearance of a paradox. For I fhall find it no hard matter to prove, that, from the groffeft blunders in hiftory, we are not to infer his real ignorance of it; nor from a greater use of Latin words, than ever any other English author ufed, muft we infer his intimate acquaintance with that language.

A reader of taste may easily obferve, that though Shakspeare, almost in every scene of his hiftorical plays, commits the groffeft offences against chronology, hiftory, and ancient politicks; yet this was not through ignorance, as is generally fuppofed, but through the too powerful blaze of his imagination, which, when once raised, made all acquired knowledge vanish and disappear before it. But this licence in him, as I have said, must not be imputed to ignorance, fince as often we may find him, when occafion ferves, reafoning up to the truth of history; and throwing out fentiments as juftly adapted to the circumftances of his fubject, as to the dignity of his characters, or dictates of nature in general.

Then to come to his knowledge of the Latin tongue, it is certain, there is a furprizing effufion of Latin words made English, far more than in any one English author I have feen; but we must be cautious. to imagine, this was of his own doing. For the English tongue, in this age, began extremely to fuffer by an inundation of Latin: and this, to be fure, was occafioned by the pedantry of those two monarchs, Elizabeth and James, both

great Latinifts. For it is not to be wondered at, if both the court and fchools, equal flatterers of power, fhould adapt themselves to the royal tafte.

But now I am touching on the queftion (which has been fo frequently agitated, yet fo entirely undecided) of his learning and acquaintance with the languages; an additional word or two naturally falls in here upon the genius of our author, as compared with that of Jonfon his contemporary. They are confeffedly the greateft writers our nation could ever boaft of in the drama. The first, we

fay, owed all to his prodigious natural genius; and the other a great deal to his art and learning. This, if attended to, will explain a very remarkable appearance in their writings. Befides thofe

wonderful mafter-pieces of art and genius, which each has given us; they are the authors of other works very unworthy of them: but with this difference, that in Jonfon's bad pieces we do not difcover one fingle trace of the author of The Fox and Alchemist; but, in the wild extravagant notes of Shakspeare, you every now and then encounter ftrains that recognize the divine compofer. This difference may be thus accounted for. Jonfon, as we faid before, owing all his excellence to his art, by which he fometimes ftrained himself to an uncommon pitch, when at other times he unbent and played with his fubject, having nothing then to fupport him, it is no wonder that he wrote fo far beneath himself. But Shakspeare, indebted more largely to nature than the other to acquired talents, in his moft negligent hours could never fo totally diveft himself of his genius, but that it would frequently break out with aftonifling force and fplendor.

As I have never proposed to dilate farther on the character of my author, than was neceffary to explain the nature and use of this edition, I shall proceed to confider him as a genius in poffeffion of an everlafting name. And how great that merit must be, which could gain it against all the disadvantages of the horrid condition in which he has hitherto appeared! Had Homer, or any other admired author, firft ftarted into publick fo maimed and deformed, we cannot determine whether they had not funk for ever under the ignominy of fuch an ill appearance. The mangled condition of Shakspeare has been acknowledged by Mr. Rowe, who publifhed him indeed, but neither corrected his text, nor collated the old copies. This gentleman had abilities, and fufficient knowledge of his author, had but his industry been equal to his talents. The fame mangled condition has been acknowledged too by Mr. Pope, who publifhed him likewife, pretended to have collated the old copies, and very feldom has corrected the text but to its injury. I congratulate with the manes of our poet, that this gentleman has been sparing in indulging his private fenfe, as he phrafes it; for he, who tampers with an author, whom he does not understand, muft do it at the expence of his fubject. I have made it evident throughout my remarks, that he has frequently inflicted a wound where he intended a cure. He has aced with regard to aur author, as an editor, whom LIPSIUS mentions, did with regard to MARTIAL; Inventus eft nefcio quis Popa, qui non vitia ejus, fed ipfum excidit. He has attacked him like an unhandy flaughterman; and not lopped of the errors, but the poet.

When this is found to be fact, how abfurd muft appear the praises of fuch an editor! It feems a moot point, whether Mr. Pope has done most injury to Shakspeare, as his editor and encomiaft; or Mr. Rymer done him fervice, as his rival and cenfurer. They have both fhewn themselves in an equal impuiffance of fufpecting or amending the corrupted paffages: and though it be neither prudence to cenfure or commend what one does not understand; yet if a man muft do one when he plays the critick, the latter is the more ridiculous office; and by that Shakspeare suffers moft. For the natural veneration which we have for him makes us apt to fwallow whatever is given us as his, and fet off with encomiums; and hence we quit all fufpicions of depravity: on the contrary, the cenfure of fo divine an author fets us upon his defence; and this produces an exact scrutiny and examination, which ends in finding out and difcriminating the true from the fpurious.

It is not with any fecret pleasure that I fo frequently animadvert on Mr. Pope as a critick, but there are provocations, which a man can never quite forget. His libels have been thrown out with fo much inveteracy, that, not to difpute whether they fhould come from a chriftian, they leave it a queftion whether they could come from a man. I should be loth to doubt, as Quintus Serenus did in a like cafe:

"Sive homo, feu fimilis turpiffima beftia nobis
"Vulnera dente dedit.-

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The indignation, perhaps, for being represented a blockhead, may be as ftrong in us, as it is in the

ladies for a reflection on their beauties. It is certain, I am indebted to him for fome flagrant civilities; and I fhall willingly devote a part of my life to the honeft endeavour of quitting fcores: with this exception, however, that I will not return thofe civilities in his peculiar ftrain, but confine myself, at least, to the limits of common decency. I fhall ever think it better to want wit than to want humanity and impartial pofterity may, per

haps, be of my opinion.

But to return to my fubject, which now calls upon me to enquire into those causes, to which the depravations of my author originally may be affigned. We are to confider him as a writer, of whom no authentick manufcript was left extant; as a writer, whofe pieces were difperfedly performed on the feveral flages then in being. And it was the custom of those days for the poets to take a price of the players for the pieces they from time to time furnished; and thereupon it was fupposed they had no farther right to print them without the confent of the players. As it was the interest of the companies to keep their plays unpublished, when any one fucceeded, there was a conteft betwixt the curiofity of the town, who demanded to fee it in print, and the policy of the flagers, who wifhed to fecrete it within their own walls. Hence many pieces were taken down in fhort-hand, and imperfectly copied by ear from a reprefentation: others were printed from piecemeal parts furreptitiously obtained from the theatres, uncorrect, and without the poet's knowledge. To fome of these caufes we owe the train of blemishes, that deform thofe pieces which ftole fingly into the world in our author's life-time.

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