« PreviousContinue »
it accordingly: was ii the business of this editionto make parade of discoveries, this article alone would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of passages are now first set to rights by this only, which, before, had either no sense at all, or one unsuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it: but all the emendations of this sort, though inferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are consign'd to filence; some few only excepted, of passages that have been much contested, and whose present adjustment might possibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in some note, and a reason given for embracing them : all the other parts of the work have been examin'd with equal diligence, and equal attention; and the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has follow'd, (into which he has admitted fome novelties,?) will be found of so much benefit to his author, that those who run may read, and that with profit and understanding. The other
great mistake in these old editions, and which is very insufficiently re&tify'd in any of the new ones, relates to the poet's numbers; his verse being often wrong divided, or printed wholly as prose, and his profe as often printed like verse: this, though not so universal as their wrong pointing, is yet so extenfive an error in the old copies, and so impossible to be pointed out otherwise than by a note, that
? If the use of these new pointings, and also of certain marks that he will meet with in this edition, do not occur immediately to the reader, (as we think it will) he may find it explain'd to him at large in the preface to a little octavo volume intitl'd - Prolusions, or, sele & Pieces of ancient Poetry'; publich'd in 1760 by this editor, and printed for Mr. Tonfon,
an editor's silent amendment of it is surely pardonable at least; for who would not be disgusted with that perpetual sameness which must necessarily have been in all the notes of this fort ? Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require proying; every good ear does immediately adopt them, and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that accession of beauty which results to him from them: it is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet standing in his works much unpleasing mixture of prosaic and metrical dialogue, and sometimes in places seemingly, improper, as--in Othello, p. 59; and some others which men of judgment will be able to pick out for themselves : but these blemishes are not now to be wip'd away, at least not by an editor, whose province it far exceeds to make a change of this nature; but must remain as marks of the poet's negligence, and of the haste with which his pieces were compos'd: what he manifestly intended prose, (and we can judge of his intentions only from what appears in the editions that are come down to ús,) should be printed as prose, what verse as verse; which it is hop'd, is now done, with an accuracy that leaves no great room for any further considerable improvements in
Thus have we run through, in as brief a manner as possible, all the several heads, of which it was thought proper and even necessary that the publick should be appriz'd; as well those that concern preceding editions, both old and new; as the other which we have just quitted, -the method obfery'd in the edition that is now before them; which though not fo entertaining, it is confefs’d, VOL. I.
nor affording so much room to display the parts and talents of a writer, as some other topicks that have' generally supply'd the place of them; such as, criticisms or panegyricks upon the author, historical anecdotes, essays, and fiorilegia ; yet there will, be found some odd people, who may be apt to pronounce of them ---that they are suitable to the place they stand in, and convey all the instruction that should be look'd for in a preface. Here, therefore, we might take our leave of the reader, bidding him welcome to the banquet that is set before him; were it not apprehended, and reasonably, that he will expect some account why it is not serv'd up to him at present with it's accustom'd and laudable garniture, of “ Notes, Glossaries,” &c. Now though it might be reply'd, as a reason for what is done,
- that a very great part of the world, amongst whom is the editor himself, profess much dislike to this paginary intermixture of text and comment; in works merely of entertainment, and written in the language of the country; as also--that he, the editor, does not possess the secret of dealing out notes by measure, and distributing them amongst his volumes so nicely that the equality of their bulk shall not be broke in upon
the thickness of a sheet of paper; yet, having other matter at hand which he thinks may excuse him better, he will not have recourse to these abovemention'd: which matter is no other, than his very strong desire of approving himself to the publick a man of integrity; and of making his future present more perfect, and as worthy of their acceptance as his abilities will let him. For the explaining of what is said, which is a little wrap'd
up in myflery at present, we must inform that publick — that another work is prepar'd, and in great foiwardness, having been wrought upon many years; nearly indeed as long as the work which is now before them, for they have gone hand in hand almost from the first: this work, to which we have given for title The School of Shakspeare, consists wholly of extracts, (with obfervations upon some of them, interspers’d occasionally,) from books that may properly be callid-- his school; as they are indeed the sources from which he drew the greater part of his knowledge in mythology and classical matters, ' his fable, his history, and even
8 Though our expressions, as we think, are fufficiently guarded in this place, yet, being fearful of misconstruction, we desire to be heard further as to this affair of his learning. It is our firm belief then, that Shakspeare was very well grounded, at least in Latin, at school: It appears from the clearest evidence possible, that his father was a man of no little substance, and very well able to give him such education; which, perhaps, he might be inclin'd to carry further, by sending him to a university ; but was prevented in this design (if he had it) by his fon's early marriage, which, from monuments and other like evidence, it appears with no lefs certainty, must have happen'd before he was seventeen, or very
foon after: the displeasure of his father, which was the consequence of this marriage, or else fome excesses which he is said to have been guilty of, it is probable, drove him up town; where he engag'd early in some of the theatres, and was honour'd with the
patronage of the Earl of Southampton: his Venus and Adonis is address'd to that earl in a very pretty and modeft dedication, in which he calls it -- " the fivit heire
first of his invention;" and ushers it to the world with this lingular motto,
“ Vilia miretur vulgus, mili flavus Apollo
“ Pocula Castalia plena minifiret aqua ;' and the whole poem, as well as his Lucrece, which follow'd it foon after, together with his choice of those subjects, are
the seeming peculiarities of his language: to furnish out these materials, all the plays have been
plain marks of his acquaintance with some of the Latin claf-
proper occasion; and so well cemented, as it were, and join'd to the passage it stands in, as to deal conviction to the judicious. - that the whole was wrought up together, and fetch'd from his own little store, upon the sudden and without study.
The other languages which he has sometimes made use of, that is the Italian and French, are not of such difficult conquest that we should think them beyond his reach: an acquaintance with the first of them was a fori of fashion in his time; Surrey and the fonnet-writers set it on foot, and it was continu'd by Sidney and Spenser: all our poetry iffu'd from that school; and it would be wonderful indeed, if he, whom we saw a little before putting himself with so much zeal under the banner of the muses, should not have been tempted to taste at least of that fountain to which of all his other brethren there was such a continual refort: let us conclude then, that he did taste of it; but, happily for himself, and more happy for the world that enjoys him now, he did not find it to his relish, and threw away the cup: metaphor apart, it is evident that he had some knowledge of the Italian : perhaps, just as much as enabl’d him to read a novel or a poem; and to put some few fragments of it, with which his memory furnish'd him, into the mouth of a pedant, or fine gentleman.
How or when he acquir’d it we must be content to be ignorant, but of the French language he was somewhat a greater
master than of the two that have gone before ; yet,