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THE LEARNING OF SHAKSPEARE.
RICHARD FARMER, D. D.
MASTER OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,
Though our commentaries on the following Plays have
been enriched by numerous extracts from this celebrated Effay, the whole of it is here reprinted. I fhall hazard no contradiction relative to the value of its contents, when I add
profunt fingula, juncla juvant. STEEVENS.
THE SECOND EDITION,
HE author of the following ESSAY was folicitous only for the honour of Shakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reafon to complain of occafional criticks, or criticks by profeffion. The very FEW, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his doctrine, have favoured him with better manners, than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonftrating the futility of theoretick reafoning againft matter of fact. It is indeed ftrange, that any real friends of our immortal POET fhould be ftill willing to force him into a fituation, which is not tenable: treat him as a learned man, and what fhall excufe the moft grofs violations of hiftory, chronology, and geography?
Οὐ πείσεις, εδ ̓ ἦν πείσης, is the motto of every polemick like his brethren at the amphitheatre, he, holds it a merit to die hard; and will not fay, enough, though the battle be decided. "Were it fhown, (fays fome one) that the old bard borrowed all his allufions from English books then published, our Effayift might have poffibly established his fyftem." -In good time!This had fcarcely been at
tempted by Peter Burman himself, with the library of Shakspeare before him" Truly, (as Mr. Dogberry fays,) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this fubject:" but where should I meet with a reader?-When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in courfe: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before a very little analogy will do the business. I fhall therefore have no occafion to trouble myself any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against fermons on the thirtieth of January," an anfwer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the subject.'
But this method of reafoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when tranflations were extant." -Shade of Burgerfdicius !-does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a course of education-whofe contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewife, agree in his want of what is ufually called literature-whose mistakes from equivocal tranflations, and even typographical errors, cannot poffibly be accounted for otherwife,-that Locke, to whom not one of these circumftances is applicable, understood no Greek?—I fufpect, Rollin's opinion of our philofopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakspeare wanted not the ftilts of languages to raife him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, ftrongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneoufly from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the