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must lament the unfuccefsfulness of enquiry, and the flow advances of truth, when he reflects, that great part of the labour of every writer is only the deftruction of thofe that went before him. The first care of the builder of a new fyftem, is to demolish the fabricks which are ftanding. The chief defire of him that comments an authour, is to fhew how much other commentators have corrupted and obfcured him. The opinions prevalent in one age, as truths above the reach of controverfy, are confuted and rejected in another, and rife again to reception in remoter times. Thus the human mind is kept in motion without progrefs. Thus fometimes truth and errour, and fometimes contrarieties of errour, take each others place by reciprocal invafion. The tide of feeming knowledge which is poured over one generation, retires and leaves another naked and barren; the fudden meteors of intelligence which for a while appear to fhoot their beams into the regions of obfcurity, on a fudden withdraw their luftre, and leave mortals again to grope their way.
Thefe elevations and depreffions of renown, and the contradictions to which all improvers of knowledge must for ever be expofed, fince they are not efcaped by the highest and brighteft of mankind, may furely be endured with patience by criticks and annotators, who can rank themfelves but as the fatellites of their authours. How canft thou beg for life, fays Achilles to his captive, when thou knoweft that thou art now to fuffer only what muft another day be suffered by Achilles?
Dr. Warburton had a name fufficient to confer celebrity on those who could exalt themselves into antagonists, and his notes have raifed a clamour too loud to be diftinct. His chief affailants are the authours of the Canons of criticism and of the Review of Shakespeare's text; of whom one ridicules his errours with airy petulance, fuitable enough to the levity of the controverfy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to justice an affaffin or incendiary. The one ftings like a fly, fucks a little blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more; the other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and gangrene behind him. When I think on one, with his confederates, I remember the danger. of Coriolanus, who was afraid that girls with fpits, and boys with ftones, fhould flay him in puny battle; when the other croffes my imagination, I remember the prodigy in Macbeth,
An eagle tow'ring in his pride of place,
Let me however do them juftice. One is a wit, and one a scholar. They have both fhewn acuteness fufficient in the difcovery of faults, and have both advanced fome probable interpretations of obfcure paffages; but when they afpire to conjecture and emendation, it appears how falfely we all eftimate our own abilities, and the little which they have been able to perform might have taught them more candour to the endeavours of others.
Before Dr. Warburton's edition, Critical obfervations. on Shakespeare had been published by Mr. Upton, a man skilled in languages, and acquainted with books, but who seems to have had no great vigour of genius or nicety of tafte. Many of his explanations are curious and useful, but he likewife, though he profeffed to oppofe the licentious confidence of editors, and adhere to the old copies, is unable to reftrain the rage of emendation, though his ardour is ill feconded by his fkill. Every cold empirick, when his heart is expanded by a fuccefsful experiment, fwells into a theorift, and the laborious collator at fome unlucky moment frolicks in conjecture.
tical, biftorical and explanatory notes have been He published upon Shakespeare by Dr. Grey, whofe duigen, perufal of the old English writers has enabled him to make fome ufeful obfervations. What he undertook he has well enough performed, but as he neither attempts judicial nor emendatory criticifm, he employs rather his memory than his fagacity. It were to be wished that all would endeavour to imi, tate his modesty who have not been able to furpafs his knowledge.
I can fay with great fincerity of all my predeceffors, what I hope will hereafter be said of me, that not one has left Shakespeare without improvement, nor is there one to whom I have not been indebted for affiftance and information, Whatever I have taken from them it was my intention to refer to its origi nal authour, and it is certain, that what I have not
given to another, I believed when I wrote it to be my own. In some perhaps I have been anticipated; but if I am ever found to encroach upon the remarks of any other commentator, I am willing that the honour, be it more or lefs, fhould be transferred to the first claimant, for his right, and his alone, ftands above difpute; the fecond can prove his pretenfions only to himself, nor can himself always distinguish invention, with fufficient certainty, from recollection.
They have all been treated by me with candour, which they have not been careful of obferving to one another. It is not eafy to difcover from what cause the acrimony of a fcholiaft can naturally proceed. The fubjects to be difcuffed by him are of very small importance; they involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the interest of fect or party. The various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a paffage, feem to be questions that might exercife the wit, without engaging the paffions. But, whether it be, that fmall things make mean men proud, and vanity catches fmall occafions; or that all contrariety of opinion, even in thofe that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there is often found in commentaries a fpontaneous ftrain of invective and contempt, more eager and venomous than is vented by the most furious controvertist in politicks against those whom he is hired to defame:
Perhaps the lightnefs of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to
be investigated is fo near to inexistence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation: That to which all would be indifferent in its original ftate, may attract notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temptations to fupply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a fpacious furface, to work that to foam which no art or diligence can exalt to fpirit.
The notes which I have borrowed or written are either illuftrative, by which difficulties are explained; or judicial, by which faults and beauties are remarked; or emendatory, by which depravations are corrected.
The explanations tranfcribed from others, if I do not fubjoin any other interpretation, I fuppofe commonly to be right, at least I intend by acquiefcence to confefs, that I have nothing better to propofe.
After the labours of all the editors, I found many, paffages which appeared to me likely to obftruct the greater number of readers, and thought it my duty to facilitate their paffage. It is impoffible for an expofitor not to write too little for fome, and too much for others. He can only judge what is neceffary by his own experience; and how long foever he may deliberate, will at laft explain many lines which the learned will think impoffible to be mistaken, and omit many for which the ignorant will want his help. These are cenfures merely relative, and must be quietly endured,