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Though our commentaries on the following Plays have been enriched by numerous extracts from this celebrated Essay, the whole of it is here reprinted. I fhall hazard no contradiction relative to the value of its contents, when I add
-profunt fingula, juncta juvant. STEEVENS.
THE SECOND EDITION,
HE author of the following ESSAY was folicitous only for the honour of Shakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reafon to complain of occafional criticks, or criticks by profeffion. The very FEW, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his doctrine, have favoured him with better manners, than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonftrating the 'futility of theoretick reafoning against matter of fact. It is indeed ftrange, that any real friends of our immortal POET fhould be still willing to force him into a fituation, which is not tenable treat him as a learned man, and what fhall excufe the moft grofs violations of history, chronology, and geography?
Οὐ πείσεις, εδ ̓ ἤν τείσης, is the motto of every pole, mich like his brethren at the amphitheatre, he, holds it a merit to die hard; and will not fay, enough, though the battle be decided. "Were it fhown, (fays fome one) that the old bard borrowed all his allufions from English books then published, our Effayift might have poffibly established his fyftem." -In good time!This had scarcely been at
tempted by Peter Burman himself, with the library of Shakspeare before him" Truly, (as Mr. Dogberry fays,) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this fubject:" but where fhould I meet with a reader?-When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in courfe: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not eafily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before a very little analogy will do the bufinefs. I shall therefore have no occafion to trouble myself any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against fermons on the thirtieth of January," an answer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the subject.
But this method of reafoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when tranflations were extant."-Shade of Burgerfdicius !-does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a courfe of education-whofe contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewife, agree in his want of what is ufually called literature-whose mistakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot poffibly be accounted for otherwife,-that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek?—I suspect, Rollin's opinion of our philofopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakspeare wanted not the ftilts of languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, ftrongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the
language of the Water-poet, “got only from pofsum to posset," and yet will throw out a line occafionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.If, however, the old editions be trufted in this paffage, our author's memory fomewhat failed him in point of concord.
The rage of parallelifms is almoft over, and in truth nothing can be more abfurd. "THIS WAS ftolen from one claffick,-THAT from another ;". and had I not stept into his refcue, poor Shakspeare had been ftript as naked of ornament, as when he first held horfes at the door of the playhouse.
The late ingenious and modeft Mr. DodЛley declared himself
“ Γυνὴ γὰρ ἐν κακοῖσι καὶ νόσοις πόσει
“ Ηδισόν ἐξι, δωματ ̓ ἦν οἰκῆ καλῶς,
Οργήν τε πραύνεσα, καὶ δυσθυμίας
"Untutor'd in the lore of Greece or Rome."
yet let us take a paffage at a venture from any of his performances, and a thousand to one, it is ftolen. Suppose it to be his celebrated compliment to the ladies, in one of his earliest pieces, The Toy-shop: "A good wife makes the cares of the world fit eafy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures; fhe is a man's beft companion in profperity, and his only friend in adverfity; the carefulleft preferver of his health, and the kindeft attendant in his fickness; a faithful adviser in diftrefs, a comforter in affliction, and a prudent manager in all his domeftick affairs." Plainly, from a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobæus:
Malvolio in the Twelfth-Night of Shakspeare hath
fome expreffions very fimilar to Alnafchar in the Arabian Tales: which perhaps may be fufficient for fome criticks to prove his acquaintance with Arabic!
It seems, however, at laft, that " Taste should determine the matter." This, as Bardolph, expreffes it, is a word of exceeding good command: but I am willing, that the ftandard itself be fomewhat better afcertained before it be oppofed to demonftrative evidence. Upon the whole, I may confider myself as the pioneer of the commentators: I have removed a deal of learned rubbish, and pointed out to them Shakspeare's track in the everpleafing paths of nature. This was neceffarily a previous inquiry; and I hope I may affume with fome confidence, what one of the first criticks of the age was pleased to declare on reading the former edition, that "The question is now for ever decided."
*** I may juft remark, left they be mistaken for Errata, that the word Catherine in the 47th page is written, according to the old Orthography for Catharine; and that the paffage in the 50th page is copied from Upton, who improperly calls Horatio and Marcellus in Hamlet, "the Centinels."