« ÎnapoiContinuă »
they have been, hitherto, unable to procure that fecurity for their Property, which they fee, the rest of their Fellow-Citizens enjoy. A prejudice in part arising from the frequent Piracies, (as they are called) committed by Members of their own Body. But fuch kind of Members no Body is without. And it would be hard that this fhould be turned to the difcredit of the honest part of the profeffion, who fuffer more from fuch Injuries than any other men. It hath, in part too, arifen from the clamours of profligate Scriblers, ever ready, for a piece of Money, to prostitute their bad fenfe for or against any Cause prophane or facred; or in any Scandal public or private: Thefe meeting with little encouragement from Men of account in the Trade, (who even in this enlightened Age are not the very worst Judges or Rewarders of merit) apply themfelves to People of Condition; and fupport their importunities by falfe complaints against Bookfellers.
But I fhould now, perhaps, rather think of my own Apology, than bufy myself in the defence of others. I hall have fome Tartuffe ready, on the first appearance of this Edition, to call out again, and tell me, that I fuffer myself to be wholly diverted from my purpofe by these matters lefs fuitable to my clerical Profeffion. Well, but fays a Friend, why not take fo candid an intimation in good part? Withdraw yourself, again, as you are bid, into the clerical Pale; exa"mine the Records of facred and prophane Anti"quity; and, on them, erect a Work to the con"fufion of Infidelity." Why, I have done all this, and more: And hear now what the fame Men have faid to it. They tell me, I have wrote to the wrong and injury of Religion, and furnished out more handles for Unbelievers. "Oh now the fecret's out; and you
may have your pardon, I find upon easier terms, " 'Tis only, to write no more.". -Good Gentlemen! and fhall I not oblige them? They would glad
ly obftruct my way to thofe things which every Man, who endeavours well in his Profeffion, muft needs think he has fome claim to, when he fees them given to those who never did endeavour; at the fame time that they would deter me from taking thofe advantages which Letters enable me to procure for myfelf. If then I am to write no more; (tho' as much out of my Profeffion as they may please to represent this Work, I fufpect their modefty would not infift on a scrutiny of our feveral applications of this prophane profit and their purer gains) if, I fay, I am to write no more, let me at least give the Public, who have a better pretence to demand it of me, fome reafon for my prefenting them with thefe amufements. Which, if I am not much mistaken, may be excused by the beft and fairest Examples; and, what is more, may be justified on the furer reason of things.
. The great Saint CHRYSOSтOм, a name confecrated to immortality by his Virtue and Eloquence, is known to have been fo fond of Aristophanes as to wake with him at his studies, and to fleep with him under his pillow and I never heard that this was objected either to his Piety or his Preaching, not even in thofe times. of pure Zeal and primitive Religion. Yet, in respect of Shakespear's great fenfe, Aristophanes's beft wit is but buffoonry; and, in comparison of Aristophanes's Freedoms, Shakespear writes with the purity of a Veftal. But they will fay, St. Chryfoftom contracted a fondness for the comic Poet for the fake of his Greek. To this, indeed, I have nothing to reply. Far be it from me to infinuate fo unfcholarlike a thing, as if We had the fame Ufe for good English that a Greek had for his Attic elegance. Critic Kufter, in a taste and language peculiar to Grammarians of a certain order, hath decreed, that the Hiftory and Chronology of Greek Words is the moft SOLID entertainment of a Man of Letters.
I fly, then, to a higher Example, much nearer home, and still more in point, The famous Univerfity of OXFORD. This illuftrious Body, which hath long so justly held, and, with fuch equity, difpenfed, the chief honours of the learned World, thought good Letters fo much interested in correct Editions of the best English Writers, that they, very lately, in their public Capacity, undertook one, of this very Author, by subscription. And if the Editor hath not dif charged his Tafk with fuitable abilities for one fo much honoured by them, this was not their fault but his, who thrust himself into the employment. After fuch an example, it would be weakening any defence to seek further for Authorities. All that can be now decently urged is the reason of the thing; and this I fhall do, more for the fake of that truly venerable Body than my own..
Of all the literary exercitations of fpeculative Men, whether defigned for the use or entertainment of the World, there are none of fo much importance, or what are more our immediate concern, than those which let us into the Knowledge of our Nature. Others may exercise the Reason or amufe the Imagination; but these only can improve the Heart, and form the human Mind to Wifdom. Now, in this Science, our Shakespear is confeffed to occupy the foremost place; whether we confider the amazing fagacity with which he investigates every hidden fpring and wheel of human Action; or his happy manner of communicating this knowledge, in the just and living paintings which he has given us of all our Paffions, Appetites and Pursuits. Thefe afford a leffon which can never be too often repeated, or too conftantly inculcated: And, to engage the Reader's due attention to it, hath been one of the principal objects of this Edition.
As this Science (whatever profound Philofophers may think) is, to the reft, in Things; fo, in Words, (whatever fupercilious Pedants may talk) every one's
mother tongue is to all other Languages. This hath ftill been the Sentiment of Nature and true Wisdom. Hence, the greatest Men of Antiquity never thought themselves better employed than in cultivating their own country idiom. So Lycurgus did honour to Sparta, in giving the firft compleat Edition of Homer; and Cicero, to Rome, in correcting the Works of Lucretius. Nor do we want Examples of the fame good fense in modern Times, even amidst the cruel inrodes that Art and Fashion have made upon Nature and the fimplicity of Wisdom. Menage, the greatest name in France for all kinds of philologic Learning, prided himself in writing critical Notes on their beft lyric Poet, Malherbe: And our greater Selden, when he thought it might reflect Credit on his Country, did not difdain even to comment a very ordinary Poet, one Michael Drayton. But the English tongue, at this Juncture, deferves and demands our particular regard. It hath, by means of the many excellent Works of different kinds compofed in it, engaged the notice, and become the study, of almost every curious and learned Foreigner, fo as to be thought even a part of literary accomplishment. This mult needs make it deferving of a critical attention: And its being yet deftitute of "a Teft or Standard to apply to, in cafes of doubt or difficulty, fhews how much it wants that attention. For we have neither GRAMMAR nor DICTIONARY, neither Chart nor Compafs, to guide us through this wide fea of Words. And indeed how fhould we? fince both are to be compofed and finished on the Authority of our best established Writers. But their Authority can be of little use till the Text hath been correctly fettled, and the Phrafeology critically examined. As, then, by these aids, a Grammar and Dictionary, planned upon the best rules of Logic and Philofophy, (and none but fuch will deserve the name) are to be procured; the forwarding of this will be a general concern: For, as Quintilian obferves, " Verborum pro
“prietas ac differentia omnibus, qui fermonem cura habent, debet effe communis." By this way, the Italians have brought their tongue to a degree of Purity and Stability which no living Language ever attained unto before. It is with pleasure I observe, that these things now begin to be understood amongst ourfelves; and that I can acquaint the Public, we may foon expect very elegant Editions of Fletcher and Milton's Paradife Loft from Gentlemen of diftinguished Abilities and Learning. But this interval of good fenfe, as it may be fhort, is indeed but new. For I remember to have heard of a very learned Man, who, not long fince, formed a design of giving a more correct Edition of Spenfer; and, without doubt, would have performed it well; but he was diffuaded from his purpose by his Friends, as beneath the dignity of a Profeffor of the occult Sciences. Yet thefe very Friends, I fuppofe, would have thought it had added luftre to his high Station, to have new-furbished out fome dull northern Chronicle, or dark Sibylline Ænigma. But let it not be thought that what is here faid infinuates any thing to the difcredit of Greek and Latin criticism. If the follies of particular Men were fufficient to bring any branch of Learning into difrepute, I don't know any that would stand in a worfe fituation than that for which I now apologize. For I hardly think there ever appeared, in any learned Language, fo execrable a heap of nonfenfe, under the name of Commentaries, as hath been lately given us on a certain fatiric Poet, of the last Age, by his Editor and Coadjutor.
I am fenfible how unjustly the very best claffical Critics have been treated. It is faid, that our great Philofopher spoke with much contempt of the two finest Scholars of this Age, Dr. Bentley and Bifhop Hare, for fquabbling, as he expreffed it, about an old Playbook; meaning, I fuppofe, Terence's Comedies. But this Story is unworthy of him; tho' well enough fuit