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But nothing will give the common reader a better idea of the value of Mr. Pope's edition, than the two attempts which
have been fince made by Mr. Theobald and Sir Thomas Hanmer in opposition to it; who, although they concerned themselves only in the first of these three parts of criticism, the restoring the text, (without any conception of the second, or venturing even to touch upon the third,) yet fucceeded so very ill in it, that they left their author in ten times a, worse condition than thy found him. But, as it was my ill fortune to have some accidental connections with these two gentlemen, it will be incumbent on me to be a little more particular concerning them.
The one was recommended to me as a poor man; the other as a poor critick: and to each of them, at different times, I communicated a great number of observations, which they managed, as they saw fit, to the relief of their several distresses. Mr. Theobald, who wanted money, I allowed him to print. what I gave him for his own advantage ; and he allowed himself in the liberty of taking one part for his own and fequeftering another for the benefit, as I' supposed of some future edition. But, as to the Oxford editor, who wanted nothing but what he might very well be without, the reputation of a critick, I could not so easily forgive him for a traffick with my papers without my knowledge; and, when that project failed, for employing a number of my conjectures in his edition against my express desire not to have that honour done unto nie.
Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to industry and labour, What he read he could transcribe:
but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on;' and by that means got a character of learning without risquing, to every observer, the imputation of wanting a better talent.
By a punctilious collation of the old books, he corrected what was manifestly wrong in the latter editions, by what was manifestly right in the earlier. And this is his real merit; and the whole of it. For where the phrase was very obsolete or licentious in the common books, or only flightly corrupted in the other, he wanted sufficient knowledge of the progress and various stages of the English, tongue, as well as acquaintance with the peculiarity of Shakspeare's language, to understand what was right; nor had he either common judgment to see, or critical fagacity to amend, what was manifestly faulty. Hence he generally exerts his conje&ural talent in the wrong place; he tampers with what is found in the common books; and, in the old ones, omits all notice of variations, the sense of which he did not understand.
How the Oxford editor came to think him felf qualified for this office, from which his whole course of life had been so reinote, is still more difficult to conceive. For whatever parts he might have either of genius or erudition, he was absolutely ignorant of the art of criticism, as well as of the poetry of that time, and the language of his author. And so far from a thought of examining the first editions, that he even neglected to compare Mr. Pope's, from which he printed his own, with Mr. Theobald's; whereby he lost the advantage of many fine lines, which the other had recovered from the old quartos, Where he trusts
to his own fagacity, in what affects the sense, his conjectures are generally abfurd and extravagant, and violating every rule of criticism. Though, in this rage of correcting, he was not absolutely des, titute of all art. For, having a number of my conjectures before him, he took as many of them as he saw fit, to work upon; and by changing them to something, he thought, synonymous or similar, he made them his own; and so became a critick at a cheap expence. But how well he hath fucceeded in this, as likewise in his conjectures, which are properly his own, will be seen in the course of my remarks: though, as he hath declined to give the reasons for his interpolations, he hath not afforded me fo fair a hold of him as Mr. Theobald hath done, who was lefs cautious. But his principal object was to reform his author's numbers; and this, which he hath done, on every occasion, by the insertion or omiffion of a set of harmless unconcerning expletives, makes up the gross body of his innocent corrections. And so, in spite of that extreme negligence in numbers, which distinguishes the first dramatick writers, he hath tricked up the old bard, from head to foot, in all the finical exa&ness of a modern measurer of fyllables.
For the rest, all the corre&tions, which these two editors have made on any reasonable foundation, are here admitted into the text; and carefully alfigned to their respective authors; a piece of justice which the Oxford editor never did; and which the other was not always fcrupulous in observing towards me.
To conclude with them in a word, they separately possessed those two qualities which, more than any other, have contributed to bring the art of criticism into disrepute, dulness of apprehenfon, and extravagance of conje&turc.
I am now to give some account of the present undertaking. For as to all those things which have been published under the titles of Essays, Remarks, Observations, Úc. on Shakspeare, (if you except fome critical notes on Macbeth, given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as appears, by a nian of parts and genius,) the rest are absolutely below a serious notice.
The whole a critick can do for an author, who deserves his service, is to correct the faultý text: to remark the pecularities of language; to illustrate the obscure allusions; and to explain the beauties and defects of sentiment or composition. And surely, if ever author had a claim to this fervice, it was our Shakspeare; who, widely excelling in the knowledge of human nature, hath given to his infinitely varied pictures of it, such truth of. design, such force of drawing, such beauty of colouring, as was hardly ever equalled by any writer, whether his aim was the use, or only the entertainment of mankind. The notes in this edition, therefore, take in the whole compass of criticism.
I. The first sort is employed in restoring the poet's genuine text; but in those places only where it labours with inextricable nonsense. In which how much soever I may have given scope to critical conjecture, where the old copies failed me, I have indulged nothing to fancy or imagination;
6 Published in 1745, by Dr. Johnson. Reed.
but have religiously observed the fevere canons of literal criticism, as may be seen from the reasons accompanying every alteration of the common text, Nor would a different conduct have become a critick, whose greatest attention, in this part, was to vindicate the established reading from interpolations occasioned by the fanciful extravagancies of others. I once intended to have given the reader a body of canons, for literal criticism, drawn out in form; as well such as concern the art in general, as those that arise from the nature and circuinstances of our author's works in particular. And this for two reasons. First, to give the unlearned reader a just idea, and confequently a better opinion of the art of criticism, now funk very low in the popular esteem, by the attempts of fome who would needs exercile it without either natural or acquired talents; and by the ill succefs of others, who seeined to have lost both, when they came to try them upon English authors. Secondly, To deter the unlearned writer from wantonly trifling with an art he is a stranger to, at the expence of his own reputation, and the integrity of the text of established authors. But these uses
But these uses may be well fupplied by what is occafionally faid upon the fubjee, in the course of the following remarks.
II. The fecond sort of notes consists in an explanation of the author's meaning, when by one or more of these causes it becomes obscure ; either from a licentious use of terms, or a hard or ungrammatical construction ; or lastly, from far-fetched or quaint allusions,
1. The licentious use of words is almost peculịar to the language of Shakspeare. To common