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Jhall leave it therefore at present : and the reader will think it, I believe, bigh time for us to go and bury the miserable remains of this our critic and commentator.
ONE word more to the reader before I conclude this preface.--I have long intended to publish my thoughts concerning the subjet of critics and criticism : which art has been strangely misapplied, if not misunderstood, by two of the greatest critics that ever appeared on the learned ftage of the world, Aristarcbus and Dr. Bentley ; for both of these altered passages, for no other reason, oftentimes, than because they disiked them. Sir Thomas Hanmer had just served Shakespeare, exa&tly after these models, when I drew up my critical observations, to put some stop, if possible, to this licentious praćtice. But before I criticised our poet, 'twas worth while inquiring whether, or no, be deserved to be criticised. And this is chiefly the subject of the First Book, where I have very fully examined into bis art and skill in forming and planning bis dramatic poems. And, because Aristotle drew bis observations from Nature and the most perfect models of antiquity, I bave, in a great meafure, been directed by this great Master ; whose treatise of poetry, tho' imperfe&tly handed down to us, is one of the noblest remains of ancient criticism. The edition,
which I use, was formerly printed under the direction of Dr. Hare ; wbo, tben rising in the world, with others of his school and college; yet tamely could see bis learned pupil sent into an obscure part of the world to teach the first rudiments of literature to boys, when he might bave instructed the scholars of Europe.
His faltem adcumulem donis, et fungar inani
Perhaps what I have written in this firft book, whilf it does justice to Shakespeare, may at the same time be looked on as no bad comment on Arifotle.
Having found our poet worthy of criticism in a larger and more extensive view : 'lis worth our while doubtless to know more minutely his very words and genuine expressions. This is the subje&t of the Second Book. And how is bis genuine text to be discovered and retrieved? How but by consulting the various copies of authority? By comparing the author with himself ? And by that previous knowledge on which : elsewhere I bave laid such a stress? To discover therefore the corruptions that have crept into the context, I have considered the various ways that books generally be
i See above, xlv, xlvi. below, 137.
come corrupted. Hence the reader will fee many alterations of the printed copies ; which are fubmitted to his judgment. I think a scholar could not belp, by the bye, to mention some few of the like kind of errors in other books ; nor does indeed this Stand in need of any apology. The corrections propofed on several passages of the New Testament are all omitted in this second edition ; because, with many additions, I intend soon to print them, as most proper, by themselves. The reader may perceive that by little and little I rise upon him, 'till I demand the giving up, as spurious, no less than three plays, which are printed among Shakespeare's genuine works.
Confidering therefore the incroaching spirit of criticism, the reader cannot but see the expediency of checking its licentious humour. And how can it be checked better, than by considering what rules the poet laid down to himself when he commenced author and writer in form ? And this is the subjeet of the Third Book : which, as it treats of words and grammatical construktion, is very dry, (as 'tis called ;) and will scarcely be red, but by those, who are willing thoroughly, and not fuperficially, to understand the di&tion of our poet. Every rule, there drawn up, is Shakespeare's rule ; and tho' visibly, and apparently Juch to every scholar-like reader, yet there has
not been one editor of our poet, but has erred against every one of these rules.
This is the plan, of those critical observations which I drew up, “ as well to do justice to this our o ancient dramatic poet, as to put some ftop, if
possible, to the vague and licentious fpirit of cri«
ticism." And if this plan, bere proposed, was followed, “ the world might expect a much better, ss at least a less altered edition from Shakespeare's
own words, than has yet been published."
Is observable, that critics generally set out with these two maxims ; the
one, that the author must always dictate what is best ; the other, that the critic is to determine what that beft is. There is an assertion not very unlike this, that Dr. Bentley has made in his late edition of Milton: “I have “ such an esteem for our poet, that which of the
two words is the better, that I say was dictated
by Milton.” And from a similar cast of reasoning, in a preface prefixed to his edition of Horace, , he says, that those emendations
1 See his first note on Milton's Paradise loft.
2 Plura igitur in Horatianis his curis ex conje&tura exhi. bemus, quàm ex codicum fubfidio ; et, nis me omnia fallunt, plerumque certiora.