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« have reflected on themselves, had these brangling “ critics sociably united; and, instead of putting them
selves in a posture of defence against one another,
jointly taken the field, and united all their efforts, as to rescue so inimitable an author from the Gothic
outrage of dull players, duller printers, and still 66 duller editors ?”
Amidst such a variety of editors, and fuch different characters of them, no one could be implicitly followed. We have therefore consulted them all; and, of the various readings and conjectures, those only have been adopted, and inserted in the text, that seemed to agree belt with the meaning of the author. No scope has been given to conjecture or imagination ; not a fingle line, not even a single word, is inserted, but what is warranted by the authority of preceeding editors. No regard has been had to the Oxford editor's reformation of SHAKESPEAR's numbers, or to his other almost innumerable conjectures and interpolations, farther than as some of the latter have received the fanction of succeeding critics. But the reader will see from a list subjoined to the Indexes in the last volume, what conjectures or alterations of the critics are adopted in this edition; and perhaps it may not be loft lahour to consult the various readings in that list, as it may give those who have not seen former editions, some idea of the art of literal criticism, so long hackneyed among the learned; and they may reject to prefer as they judge proper.-The utmost care has been taken to print this edition correctly, especially with refpect to the pointing. As to which, due regard has always been had to the several instances of false or depraved pointing, whereby the sense was marred, and fome paffages rendered almost quite unintelligible, as observed by Meff. Theobald and Warburton. And tho' it is not intended to affirm, that this edition is free from faults, yet such care has been taken, that 'tis thought it may well vie with any of those hitherto published in England; at least, we flatter ourselves, it will not be found inferior either in beauty or correctnefs.
The acts and scenes are divided according to Pope's and Warburton's editions; and not according to Theobald's or Hanmer's, the former of whom has not numbered the scenes.
In Pope's edition, the passages which he thought the most beautiful and striking, are distinguished with inyerted commas. In imitation of him, Mr. Warburton did the same by as many others as he thought most deserving of the readers attention. All these have been attended to in this edition; the Beauties observed by Mr. Pope being marked with a single comma, and those by Mr. Warburton with a double one.
Befides thefe, the Beauties, as regularly selected from each play by Mr. Dodd, are pointed out, p. alix. & feqq. These beauties are here marked in the order of the volumes and plays; and the reader is directed to the
and lines where every one of them occur. Upon examination, he will find many of them coincide with those which had been before observed by Pope and Warburton. Mr. Dodd's titles of the beauties are likewise given, generally in his own words, and some notes are added.
Suspected passages or interpolations are degraded to the bottom of the page, with proper marks referring to the places of their insercion. The greatest part are so stigmatized on the authority of Mr. Pope; and a few on that of the Oxford editor, and Mr. Warburton. Some lines in different places are inclosed within hooks or crotchets, as, in Mr. Warburton's opinion, foisted into the text by the players, or of fpurious issue, and noted as such at the bottom of the page; and a few chasms or defects are pointed out by asterisks, with probable conjectures for supplying some of them.
Several fhort notes are put at the bottom of the pages in all the volumes, tending to explain licentious terms, uncouth phrases, quaint allusions, antiquated customs, and obscure passages. These have been chiefly taken from Pope, Hanmer, and Warburton ; and but a very few from Theobald and Dodd. Though most of them are given in the words of the authors; yet some have been abridged, in order to adapt them to this edition, in which breyity has been all along studied.
The Glossary annexed, is considerably improved, by the addition of many words and phrases ; errors are corrected, and false interpretations thrown out. Words not to be met with in SHAKESPEAR, but evidently the editor's interpolations into the text, have been discarded, and additions made to the meanings of words still retained. Warburton's and Pope's notes have been consulted for that purpose; and some assistance has been got from Mr. Dodd's notes on the beauties.
The Index, besides being here reduced to a striet alphabetical order, and put into a quite different form, has been considerably enlarged, especially in the first fection, and cleared from several blunders. To all which is added, an Index of the Beauties as selected by Mr. Dodd, more full and correct than his own.
This preface shall be concluded with presenting to the reader a few of the many encomiums bestowed upon our author by his critics; from which a person unacquainted with his writings, may form fome judge ment of his merit.
“ As in great piles of building, (fays Mr. Theobald); “ fome parts are often finished up to hit the taste of “ the connoisseur; others more negligently put togesi ther, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearn" ed beholder: some parts are made ftupendiously * magnificent and grand, to surprise with the valt de
fign and execution of the architect; others are con" tracted, to amuse you with his neatness and ele
gance in little: So, in SHAKESPEAR, we find traits * that will stand the test of the severelt judgment; es and strokes as carelessly hit off, to the level of the “ more ordinary capacities : fome descriptions raised
to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with “ the compafs and elevation of his thought; and o" thers copying nature within fo narrow, fo confined as a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at draw
ing in miniature.--In how many points of light
“ mult we be obliged to gaze at this great poet! in " how many branches of excellence to consider and « admire him! Whether we view him on the side of “ art or nature, he ought equally to engage our at“ tention : whether we respect the force and greatnefs ss of his genius, the extent of his knowledge and read
ing, the power and address with which he throws
out and applies either nature or learning, there “ iş ample scope both for our wonder and pleasure. 55 If his diction and the cloathing of his thoughts at. “ tract us, how much more must we be charmed with “ the richness and variety of his images and ideas !
If his images and ideas steal into our souls, and strike “ upon our fancy, how much are they improved in
price, when we come to reflect with what propriety " and jultness they are applied to character ! If we * look into his characters, and how they are furnished “ and proportioned to the employment he cuts out " for them, how are we taken up with the mastery of “ his portraits ! What draughts of nature! what va" riety of originals, and how differing each from the “ other ! How are they dressed from the stores of his “ own luxurious imagination; without being the apes «s of mode, or borrowing from any foreign wardrobe ! • Each of them are the standards of fashion for them. “ felves; like gentlemen that are above the direction "s of their tailors, and can adorn themselves without “ the aid of imitation. If other poets draw more than
fool comb, there is the same resemblance “ in them; as in that painter's draughts, who was
happy only at forming a rose; you find them all “ younger brothers of the fame family, and all of them “ have a pretence to give the fame crest. But SHAKE“ SPEAR's clowns and fops come all of a different “ house : they are no farther allied to one another, “ than as man to man, members of the same species ; “ but as different in features and lineaments of cha" racter, as we are from one another in face or com“ plexion."
" SHAKESPEAR, (fays Mr. Warburton), widely exVOL.I.
celling in the knowledge of human nature, hath gi
ven to his infinitely-varied pictures of it, such truth “ of design, such force of drawing, such beauty of
colouring, as was hardly ever equalled by any wri
ter, whether his aim was the ule, or only the en“ tertainment of mankind.-- And (says he) of all the
literary exercitations of speculative men, whether
designed for the use or entertainment of the world, « there are none of so much importance, or what are
more our immediate concern, than those which let
us into the knowledge of our nature. “ exercise the reason, or amuse the imagination; but “ these only can improve the heart, and form the “ human mind to wisdom. Now, in this science, our “ SHAKESPEAR is confessed to occupy the foremost “ place; whether we consider the amazing sagacity “ with which he investigates every hidden spring and “ wheel of human action; or his happy manner of “ communicating this knowledge, in the just and liv
ing paintings which he has given us of all our pas“ fions, appetites, and pursuits These afford a ler. “ fon which can never be too often repeated, or too * constantly inculcated.”
“ I shall not (fays Mr. Dodd) attempt any laboured « encomiums on SHAKESPEAR, or endeavour to set “ forth his perfections, at a time when such universal “ and just applause is paid him, and when every tongue “ is big with his boundless fame. He himself tells us,
“ To gild refined gold, to paint the. lily.
“ Is wasteful and ridiculous excess. vol. 3. P. 338. « And wasteful and ridiculous indeed it would be, to “ say any thing in his praise, when presenting the * world with such a collection of BEAUTIES, as per
haps is no where to be met with, and, 'I may very “ safely affirm, cannot be parallelled from the pro“ ductions of any other single author, ancient or mo