« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE SECOND EDITION,
HE author of the following ESSAY was foliShakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reafon to complain of occafional criticks, or criticks by profes fion. The very FEW, who have been pleafed 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 against 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, δ ̓ ἤν πείσῃς is the motto of every poles mick: 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 fhewn, (fays fome one) that the old bard borrowed all his allufions from English books then publifhed, our Effayift might have poffibly established his fyftem."In good time!This had fcarcely been attempted
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 fhould I meet with a reader? When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not eafily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before: a very little analogy will do the bufinefs. 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 sermons on the thirtieth of January, "an anfwer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the fubject.
But "this method of reasoning 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 courfe of education-whofe contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewife, agree in his want of what is ufually called literature-whofe miftakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot poffibly be accounted for otherwise, -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 raise 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 erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, " got only from poffum to
poffet," and yet will throw out a line occafionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.—If, however, the old editions be trufted in this paffage, our author's memory fomewhat failed him in point of concord.
The rage of parallelifms is almoft over, and in truth nothing can be more abfurd. "THIS WAS ftolen from one claffick,-THAT from another;" and had I not stept in to his refcue, poor Shakspeare had been stript as naked of ornament, as when he first held borfes at the door of the playhouse.
The late ingenious and modeft Mr. DodЛley declared himfelf
"Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome :"
yet let us take a paffage at a venture from any of his performances, and a thoufand to one, it is ftolen. Suppose it be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-fhop: "A good wife makes the cares of the world fit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures; fhe is a man's best companion in profperity, and his only friend in adverfity; the carefulleft preferver of his health, and the kindest attendant in his fickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a comforter in affliction, and a prudent manager in all his domeftick affairs." Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by
Malvolio in the Twelfth Night of Shakspeare hath fome expreffions very fimilar to Aluafchar tin he
Arabian Tales: which perhaps may be fufficient for Jome criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic!
It feems however, at laft, that "Tafle fhould determine the matter." This, as Bardolph expreffes it, is a word of exceeding good command: but I am willing, that the standard itself be fomewhat better afcertained before it be oppofed to demonftrative evidence. Upon the whole, I may confider myself as the pioneer of the commentators: I have removed a deal of learned rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakspeare's track in the ever-pleafing paths of nature. This was neceffarily a previous inquiry; and I hope I may affume with fome confidence, what one of the first criticks of the age was pleased to declare on reading the former edition, that "The queftion is now for ever decided."
** I may juft remark, left they be mistaken for Errata, that the word Catherine in the 45th page is written, according to the old Orthography for Catharine; and that the paffage in the 48th page is copied from Upton, who improperly calls Horatio and Marcellus in Hamlet, "the Centinels.”
THE THIRD EDITION,
IT may be neceffary to apologize for the republication of this pamphlet. The fact is, it has been for a good while extremely scarce, and fome mercenary publishers were induced by the extravagant price, which it has occafionally borne, to project a new edition without the confent of the author.
A few corrections might probably be made, and many additional proofs of the argument have neceffarily occurred in more than twenty years: some of which may be found in the late admirable editions of our POET, by Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed.
But, perhaps enough is already faid on fo light a fubject:-A fubject, however, which had for a long time pretty warmly divided the criticks upon Shakspeare.