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learning this way than Shakespear. We have Translations from Ovid published in his name, among those Porms which pafs for his, and for fome of which we have undoubted authority, (being published by himfelf, and dedicated to his noble Patron the Earl of Southampton :) He appears alfo to have been converfant in Plautus, from whom he has taken the plot of one of his plays: he follows the Greek Authors, and particularly Dares Phrygius, in another (although I will not pretend to fay in what language he read them) The modern Italian writers of Novels he was manifeftly acquainted with; and we may conclude him to be no lefs converfant with the Ancients of his own country, from the ufe he has made of Chaucer in Troilus and Creffida, and in the Two Noble Kinfmen, if that Play be his, as there goes a Tradition it was, (and indeed it has little refemblance of Fletcher, and more of our Author than fome of those which have been received as genuine.)
I am inclined to think, this opinion proceeded originally from the zeal of the Partizans of our Author and Ben Johnson; as they endeavoured to exalt the one at the expence of the other. It is ever the nature of Parties to be in extremes; and nothing is fo probable, as that because Ben Johnson had much the more learning, it was faid on the one hand that Shakespear had none at all; and because Shakespear had much the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that Johnson wanted both. Because Shakespear borrowed nothing, it was faid that Ben Johnson borrowed every thing. Becaufe Johnfon did not write extempore, he was reproached with being a year about every piece; and because Shakespear wrote with ease and rapidity, they cry'd, he never once made a blot. Nay the fpirit of oppofition ran fo high, that whatever thofe of the one fide objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into Praites, as injudi
ciously, as their antagonists before had made them Objections.
Poets are always afraid of Envy; but fure they have as much reafon to be afraid of Admiration. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of Authors; thofe who elcape one, often fall by the other. Peffimum genus inimicorum Laudantes, fays Tacitus and Virgil defires to wear a charm against those who praife a Poet without rule or reason.
Si ultra placitum laudârit, baccare frontem
But however this contention might be carried on by the Partizans on either fide, I cannot help thinking thefe two great Poets were good friends, and lived on amicable terms and in offices of fociety with each other. It is an acknowledged fact, that Ben Johnson was introduced upon the Stage, and his firit works encouraged, by Shakespear. And after his death, that Author writes To the memory of his beloved Mr. William Shakespear, which fhows as if the friendship had continued thro' life. I cannot for my own part find any thing Invidious or Sparing in thofe verfes, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts him not only above all his Cotemporaries, but above, Chaucer and Spenfer, whom he will not allow to be great enough to be rank'd with him, and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Efchylus, nay all Greece and Rome at once, to equal him; and (which is very particular) exprefly vindicates him from the imputation of wanting Art, not enduring that all his excellencies fhould be attributed to Nature. It is re-. markable too, that the praise he gives him in his Difcoveries feems to proceed from a perfonal kindness;: he tells us, that he lov'd the man, as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honefty, opennels, and frankness of his temper; and only diitinguishes, as he reafonably ought, between the real merit of the Au-,
thor, and the filly and derogatory applaufes of the Players. Ben Johnson might indeed be sparing in his Commendations (tho' certainly he is not fo in this inftance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praifing him juftly, than lavishly, I fay, I would fain believe they were friends, tho' the violence and ill-breeding of their followers and Flatterers were enough to give rife to the contrary' report. I would hope that it may be with Parties both in Wit and State, as with thofe Monsters defcribed by the Poets; and that their Heads at least may have fomething human, tho' their Bodies and Tails are wild beasts and ferpents.
As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rife to the opinion of Shakespear's want of learning; fo what has continued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first Publishers of his works. In thefe Editions their ignorance fhines in almost every page; nothing is more common than Altus tertia. Exit omnes. Enter three Witches folus. Their French is as bad as their Latin, both in con-' ftruction and spelling; Their very Welsh is false. Nothing is more likely than that thofe palpable blunders of Helor's quoting Aristotle, with others of that grofs kind, fprung from the fame root; it not being at all credible that thefe could be the errors of any man who had the least tincture of a School, or the leaft conversation with fuch as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) ailows him at least to have had fome Latin, which is utterly inconfiftent with mistakes like thefe. Nay the conftant blunders in proper names of perfons and places, are fuch as must have proceeded from a man, who had not fo much as read any history, in any language: fo could not be Shakespear's.
I fhall now lay before the reader fome of thofe almoft innumerable Errors, which have arifen from one
fource, the ignorance of the Players, both as his actors, and as his Editors. When the nature and kinds of thefe are enumerated and confidered, I dare to fay that not Shakespear only, but Ariftotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the fame fate, might have appear'd to want fenfe as well as learning.
It is not certain that any one of his Plays was publifhed by himself. During the time of his employment in the Theatre, feveral of his pieces were printed feparately in Quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not publish'd by him, is the exceffive carelessness of the prefs: every page is fo fcandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned or unufual words fo intolerably mangled, that it's plain there either was no Corrector to the press at all, or one totally illiterate. If any were fupervised by himfelf, I fhould fancy the two parts of Henry the 4th, and Midfummer-Night's Dream might have been fo: because I find no other printed with any exactnefs; and (contrary to the reft) there is very little variation in all the fubfequent editions of them. There are extant two Prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Creffida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the firft was published without his knowledge or confent, and even before it was acted, fo late as feven or eight years before he died: and that the latter was not printed 'till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of fome of these, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trafh different from the other: which I fhould fancy was occafion'd by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different Play-houfes.
The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his, were firit collected) was published by two Players, Heminges and Condell, in 1623, feven years after his deceafe. They declare, that all the other
lxxxviii Mr. POPE's PREFACE.
editions were stolen and furreptitious, and affirm theirs. to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the litteral errors, and no other; for in all refpects elfe it is far worse than the Quarto's.
First, because the editions of trifling and bombast paffages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, fince thofe Quarto's, by the actors, or had ftolen from their mouths into thewritten parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the Author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the Clowns wou'd fpeak no more than is fet down for them. (A& 3. Sc. 4.) But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet there is no hint of a great number of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In others, the low fcenes of Mobs, Plebeians and Clowns, are vaftly fhorter than at prefent: And I have seen one in particular (which feems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the Actors names in the margin) where feveral of thofe very paffages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio.
In the next place, a number of beautiful paffages which are extant in the firft fingle editions, are omitted in this as it feems without any other reason, than their willingness to fhorten fome fcenes: Thefe men (as it was laid of Procruftes) either lopping, or ftretching an Author, to make him juft fit for their Stage.
This edition is faid to be printed from the Original Copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever fince the Author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the Quarto's, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the Prompter's Book, or Piecemeal Parts written.