Imagini ale paginilor

felect that which - fuits with the ftate, opinions, and modes of language prevailing in every age, and with his authour's particular caft of thought, and, turn of expreffion. Such must be his knowledge, and fuch his tale. Conjectural criticifm demands. more than humanity poffeffes, and he that exercifes it with most praife has very frequent need of indulgence. Let us now be told no more of the dull duty of an editor.

Confidence is the common confequence of fuccefs. ' They whofe excellence of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude, that their their powers are univerfal. Pope's edition fell below his own expectations, and he was fo much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for others to do, that he past the latter part of his life in a ftate of hoftility with verbal criticifm.

[ocr errors]

I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of fo great a writer may be loft; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of compofition and juftnefs of remark, and containing a general criticifm on his authour, fo extenfive that little can be added, and fo exact, that little can be difputed, every editor has an intereft to fupprefs, but that every reader would de

mand its infertion.

Pope was fucceeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehenfion and fimall acquifitions, with no native and intrin@ck fplendour of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in purluing it. He colVOL. I.



lated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man fo anxiously fcrupulous might have been expected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.

In his reports of copies and editions he is not to be trufted, without examination. He fpeaks fometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio as of middle authority; but the truth is, that the first is equivalent to all others, and that the rest only deviate from it. by the printer's negligence. Whoever has any of the folios has all, excepting thofe diverfities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first.


Of his notes I have generally retained those which he retained himself in his fecond edition, except when they were confuted by fubfequent annotators, or were too minute to merit prefervation. I have fometimes adopted his restoration of a comma, without inferting the panegyrick in which he celebrated himself for his atchievement. The exuberant excrefcence of diction I have often lopped, his triumphant exultations over Pope and Rowe I have fometimes fuppreffed, and his contemptible oftentation I have frequently concealed; but I have in fome places fhewn him, as he would have fhewn himself, for the reader's diverfion, that the inflated emptiness of fome notes may justify or excufe the contraction of the reft.


Theobald, thus weak and ignorant, thus mean and faithlefs, thus petulant and oftentatious, by the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and efcaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. So willingly does the world fupport those who folicite favour, against those who command reverence; and fo eafily is he praised, whom no man can envy.

Our authour fell then into the hands of Sir Tho mas Hanmer, the Oxford editor, a man, in my opinion, eminently qualified by nature for fuch ftudies. He had, what is the first requifite to emendatory cri ticifm, that intuition by which the poet's intention is immediately difcovered, and that dexterity of intellect which dispatches its work by the eafieft means. He had undoubtedly read much; his acquaintance with customs, opinions, and traditions, feems to have been large; and he is often learned without fhew. He feldom paffes what he does not understand, without an attempt to find or to make a meaning, and fometimes hastily makes what a little more attention would have found. He is folicitous to reduce to grammar, what he could not be fure that his authour intended to be grammatical. Shakespeare regarded more the feries of ideas, than of words; and his language, not being defigned for the reader's defk, was all that he defired it to be, if it conveyed his meaning to the audience.

Hanmer's care of the metre has been too violently cenfured. He found the measures reformed in fo many paffages, by the filent labours of fome editors,

[blocks in formation]


with the filent acquiefcence of the reft, that he thought himself allowed to extend a little further the licenfe, which had already been carried fo far without reprehenfion; and of his corrections in general, it must be confeffed, that they are often just, and made commonly with the leaft poffible violation of the text.

But, by inferting his emendations, whether invented or borrowed, into the page, without any notice of varying copies, he has appropriated the labour of his predeceffors, and made his own edition of little authority. His confidence indeed, both in himself and others, was too great; he fuppofes all to be right that was done by Pope and Theobald; he feems not to fufpect a critick of fallibility, and it was but reasonable that he fhould claim what he fo liberally granted.

As he never writes without careful enquiry and diligent confideration, I have received all his notes, and believe that every reader will wish for more.

Of the last editor it is more difficult to fpeak. ReSpect is due to high place, tenderness to living reputation, and veneration to genius and learning; but he cannot be juftly offended at that liberty of which he has himfelf fo frequently given an example, nor very folicitous what is thought of notes, which he ought never to have confidered as part of his ferious employments, and which, I fuppofe, fince the ardour of compofition is remitted, he no longer numbers among his happy effufions.


The original and predominant errour of his commentary, is acquiefcence in his first thoughts; that precipitation which is produced by confcioufness of quick difcernment; and that confidence which prefumes to-do, by furveying the furface, what labour only can perform, by penetrating the bottom. His notes exhibit fometimes perverfe interpretations, and fometimes improbable conjectures; he at one time gives the authour more profundity of meaning than the fentence admits, and at another difcovers abfurdities, where the fenfe is plain to every other reader. But his emendations are likewife often happy and juft; and his interpretation of obfcure paffages learned and fagacious.

Of his notes, I have commonly rejected thofe, against which the general voice of the publick has exclaimed, or which their own incongruity immediately condemns, and which, I fuppofe, the authour himself would defire to be forgotten. (Of the reft, to part I have given the highest approbation, by inferting the offered reading in the text; part I have left to the judgment of the reader, as doubtful, though fpecious; and part I have cenfured without reserve, but I am fure without bitterness of malice, and, I hope, without wantonnefs of infult.

It is no pleasure to me, in revifing my volumes, to obferve how much paper is wafted in confutation, Whoever confiders the revolutions of learning, and the various questions of greater or less importance, upon which wit and reafon have exercifed their powers,

[blocks in formation]
« ÎnapoiContinuă »