Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

sc. i. the subliitution of-"Goes thy heart with this?'binilead of-" Goes this with thy heart?" without doubt arose from the same cause. In the plays of which we have no quarto copies , we may be sure that fimilar innovations were made, though we have now no certain means of detecling them.

After what has been proved concerning the sophisiications and corruptions of the Second Folio, we cannot be surprized that when these plays were re-published by Mr. Rowe in the beginning of this century from a- later folio, in which the interpolations of the former were all preserved, and many new errors added, almosl every page of his work was disfigured by accumulated corruptions. In Mr. Pope's edition our author was not less misrepresented; for though by examining the oldesticopies he detefted some errors, by his numerous sanciful alterations the poet was so completely modernized , that I am confident , had he " re-visited the glimpses of the moon," he would not have understood this own works. Froin the quartos indeed a few valuable reslorations were made; but all the advantage that was thus obtained, was outweighed by arbitrary changes, transpofitions, and interpolations.

The readers of Shakspeare being disgusted with the liberties taken by Mr. Pope, the subsequent edition of Theobald was juslly preferred; because he professed to adhere to the ancient copies more striftly than his competitor , and illustrated a few passages by extrafts from the writers of our'poet's age. That his work should at this dav be con

[ocr errors]

sions will remain, when they are once made: for Theobald, though notx so great aninngwtor as Pope , was yeta considerable innovator; and his edition being printed from that of his immediate predecessor, while a few arbitrary changes made by Pope were detecfted, innumerable sophistications were silently adopted. His knowledge of the contemporary authors was so scanty, that all the illustration of that kind dispersed throughout his volumes. has been exceeded by the researches which have since been made sorthe purpose of elucidating a single play.

Of Sir Thomas I-Ianmer it is only necessary to say, that he adopted almost all the innovations of Pope, adding to them whatever caprice dictated.

To him succeeded Dr. Warbourton, a critick, who (as hath been said of Salmasius) seems to have erected his throne on a heap of Pcones, that he might have them at hand to throw a the heads of all those who passed by. His unbounded licericc in subflituting his own chimerical conceits in the place of the author's genuine text, has been so fully shewn by his revisers , that I suppose no critical reader will ever again open his volumes. An hundred flrappadoes, according to an Italian comick writer , would not have induced Petrarch, were he living, to subscribe to the meaning which certain commentators after his death had by their glolses extorted from his works. It is a curious spcculation to consider how many thousand would have been requisite for this editor to have inflicted on our great dramatick poet for the same purpose. The defence which has been made sor Dr. War'durton on this subject, by some of his friends, is

[ocr errors]

singular. "He well knew," it has been said, " that much the greater part of his notes do not throw any light on the poet of whose works he undertook the revilion, and that he frequently imputed to Shakspeare a meaning of which he never thought; but the editor's great objecft was to display his own learning, not to illulirate his author, and this end he obtained; for in spite of all the clamour against him, his work added to his reputation as a scholar."-Be it so then; but let none of his admirers ever dare to unite his name with that of Shakspeare; and let us at least-be allowed to wonder, that the learned editor flrould have had so little respeel for the greatest poet that has appeared since the days of Homer, as to use a commentary on his works merely as " aflalking-horsc , under the prqscntation ofwhich he might-shoot his wit."

At length the talk of revifing these plays was undertaken by one , whose extraordinary powers of mind, as they rendered him the admiration of his contemporarics, will transmit his name to poflerity as the brightesi: Ornament of the eighteenth century; and will transmit it without competition, if we except a great orator, philosopher , and flatesrnans' now living, whose talents and virtues are an honour to human nature. In 1765 Dr.]ohns0n's edition, which had long been impatiently expecfled, was given to the publick. His admirable preface, (perhaps the finesi compolition in our language,) his happy, and in general just, charaflers of these plays, his refutation of the false glolses osTheobald and Warburton, and his numerous explica

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

tions of involved and diflicult pallages , are too well lznowny to be here enlarged upon; and therefore I shall only add, that his vigorous and comprehcnfive underflanding threw more light on his author than all his predecellors had done.

In one observation, however, concerning our poet, I do not entirely concur with him , "It is not (he remarks) very grateful to consider how little the succelhon of editors has added to this author's power of pleafing. He was read, admired, fiudied, and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all the improprieties which ignorance and negleft could accumulate upon him."

He certainly was read , admired, fludied , and imitated, at the period mentioned; but surely not in the same degree as at present. The succelhon of editors has effefied this; it has made him understood; it has made him popular; it has shewn every one who is capable of reading, how much superior he is not only to jonlion and Fletcher, whom the badvtasle of the last age -from the time of the Restoration to the end of the century set above- him , but to all' the dramatick poets of antiquity: "


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »