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THE LEARNING OF SHAKSPEARE.
RICHARD FARMER, D. D.
MASTER OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, AND PRINCIPAL LIBRARIAN OF THAT UNIVERSITY.
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 shall hazard no contradiction relative to the value of its contents, when I add
·prosunt singula, juncta juvant. STEEVENS.
THE SECOND EDITION,
THE author of the following ESSAY was solicitous only for the honour of Shakspeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reason to complain of occasional criticks, or criticks by profession. 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 demonstrating the futility of theoretick reasoning against matter of fact. It is indeed strange, that any real friends of our immortal POET should be still willing to force him into a situation, which is not tenable: treat him as a learned man, and what shall excuse the most gross violations of history, chronology, and geography?
Οὐ πείσεις, εδ ̓ ἦν πείσης, is the motto of every polemick like his brethren at the amphitheatre, he holds it a merit to die hard; and will not say, enough, though the battle be decided. "Were it shown, (says some one) that the old bard borrowed all his allusions from English books then published, our Essayist might have possibly established his system."-In good time!
-This had scarcely been at
tempted by Peter Burman himself, with the library of Shakspeare before him" Truly, (as Mr. Dogberry says,) for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this subject:" but where should I meet with a reader?-When the main pillars are taken away, the whole building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed; or rather which was not virtually removed before a very little analogy will do the business. I shall therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further; and may venture to call my pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant declaimer against sermons on the thirtieth of January," an answer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the subject.'
But this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the languages, who hath written when translations were extant.". -Shade of Burgersdicius!-does it follow, because Shakspeare's early life was incompatible with a course of education-whose contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually called literature-whose mistakes from equivocal translations, and even typographical errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise,that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek ?—I suspect, Rollin's opinion of our philosopher was not founded on this argument.
Shakspeare wanted not the stilts of languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly 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