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on the Roman satirist, who could understand the expression of his author, stans pede in uno, in only a literal sense.
Theob. This is really very extraordinary. This language towards a man who
Warb. Who" dares say"* the public will be charmed with his emendations. But I see one of your admirers: seek him, and you may possibly receive some consolation from his lips; for certainly it may be said of Mr. Theobald, and in his own words, "None but himself can be his parallel."+
Edw. He is gone, and seemingly in anger. Earthly animosities are still subsisting in his bosom. Strange! "I thought," as Macbeth says, "that when the brains were out, the man would die." But all the mortal seems still to reign in him.
Warb. Others have vainly endeavoured to build themselves a name on the works of Shakspeare.
Edw. Like unskilful architects, they only mar the edifice they undertake to adorn. But, thanks to fortune, there have been others to stop their clumsy hands, and save the truly noble pile.
Warb. The critic who undertakes to write comments and observations on so great and distinguished a poet as Shakspeare, should, like his master in criticism, Longinus, feel the inspiration of poetry within himself, and catch a spark from the same blaze which illumined the pile.
Edw. Johnson, who was a good and competent judge of merit, was never very lavish in his commendations : in his remark on a truly philosophical explication and correction of a passage in Hamlet, he says—" This is a noble emendation which almost sets the critic on a level with his author." A commendation of which you may be proud.
Warb. I am for Johnson, as you observe, was niggardly in bestowing his praise.
* See Theobald's Notes on Shakspeare.
See Pope, Mart. Scrib.
Edw. You have just made known to us the qualifications which belong to a critic, and shown what he ought to be by your actual labours. Thus, as has been so happily and forcibly observed of the great rhetorical sophist, "Your own example strengthens all your laws." This is surely the height of the art. To think of improving it, to endeavour to render it more perfect, is "to gild refined gold, to paint the lily." Example is generally more powerful than precept." Example strikes where precept fails."-Joined, however, the master-work will be acknowledged by all.
Warb. You are then of opinion that I have attained to excellence in the art of criticism.
Edw. I am; and that you have, in several instances, shown an acuteness and refinement as an annotator, which very few have equalled, various and many as have been the attempts.
Heath. I must beg to observe of Warburton, and I believe it will be generally acknowledged, that, whatever his acuteness and refinement might be, they were by no means lawfully employed. The alterations in the text of his author, the innovations in his expression, call loudly for reprehension from the lovers of Shakspeare. If the annotator is to indulge in conjectural criticism, adieu at once to the original writer. To do it is to arrogate too much to himself: it is forcibly to take place of his superior; a liberty, no more allowable in the literary circle than in the world at large.
Edw. Your pardon, good brother. The original writer cannot possibly be injured while the annotator confines his conjectures to the margin. Criticism, if rightly exercised, is indisputably genius. Authors are not always to be ranked so much above critics as you may perhaps imagine. A celebrated poet says of them—
Both must alike from Heaven derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Thus, you perceive a coincidence of opinion on the matter in Warburton and Pope.
Heath. And why are the notions of Pope and Warburton to prevail above all others? Why are they to have the force and obligation of laws?
Edw. Simply because they excel the criticisms of all others: the comments of Warburton, as I have said, are excellent; but it is not from this alone, it is not from his mastery in the art of criticism, neither from his annotations on two of our most distinguished poets, that we are to estimate his abilities, and ultimately to fix his character. In this opinion I am not singular. The like is maintained and elegantly expressed by his learned friend" For, after all I have said and think of your critical abilities, it might seem almost as strange in a panegyrist on Mr. Warburton to tell of his admirable criticisms on Pope and Shakspeare, as it would be in him, who should design an encomium on Socrates, to insist on his excellent sculpture of Mercury and the Graces."*
Warb. It is not by turning over black-letter books, in order to find seemingly parallel passages with those in Shakspeare, that he can possibly be explained. Yet this, by the way, has been most ridiculously pursued by many. I say "seemingly parallel passages;" because, though they are actually similar in expression,-yet, by reason of the different significations and acceptations of words, such passages cannot, with certainty, be produced in illustration of each other, but, on the contrary, give rise to innumerable errors. The critic, who would make the "eternal blazon," which so great a poet seems to demand at his hands, must be of a kindred genius and spirit: he must be at once judicious and acute: Vir maximè limatus et subtilis, as the Roman orator expresses it. He should, to speak in the language of Akenside, be "tremblingly alive to each fine impulse;" he should himself have the enthusiasm of the poet,-" feel all the god, and live along each line."
Edw. Much still remains for elucidation in Shak*Bp. Hurd, Dedication.
speare. I hope that they who may attempt to give him clearness will possess the sentiments and feelings of Warburton: and that we shall see no more of those petty commentators, who
Each dark passage shun,
And hold their farthing candle to the sun.-YOUNG.
But, see, Theobald is returning towards us, seemingly in an angry mood.
Warb. Away! and leave him to bluster with the winds.
SCENE-THE ELYSIAN FIELDS.
SAMUEL JOHNSON and RICHARD SAVAGE.
Sav. WELCOME to these eternal realms, my firm old friend and sincere admirer!
Johns. Peace, peace; no more of that: friendship! admiration! the first, we are told, is the virtue, the second, the vice of fools; I have lately been taught to disclaim them both. Has not a nice observer informed us, that men are, generally speaking,—
Our friends eternal, during interest;
Our foes implacable when worth their while.
And has not another remarked,
In all distresses of our friends
We first consult our private ends.
Sav. Your pardon, good doctor; these, I conceive, apply to nothing but the deceit of mankind.
Johns. Sir, you are altogether wrong; they apply particularly to the wisdom of human kind; they show it fully self-interest, or avarice, is unquestionably the main spring in the breast of the provident, and, con
sequently, the sensible, man; all other passions and affections are regulated by it. Thus it is evident that there can be no lasting friendships but among fools, who, either insensible, or indifferent to their own good, are necessarily to be depended on in whatever professions they may make.
Sav. And yet, in early life, you were not without your friendships?
Johns. True; but I was, at that time, unacquainted with the world. I once conceived friendship to be a type of that bliss which angels enjoy, and rapturously exclaimed, with the ancient philosophers, "This affords as warm an influence as the sun itself; this is the chiefest good." Afterwards, however, I adopted the sentiment of the wary Spaniard, and calmly repeated with him, "Defend me from my friends, and from my enemies I will defend myself." To escape the "heartache, and the many shocks that flesh is heir to,-" endeavour to become the favourite of fortune and not of man: it is on this principle that the Frenchman is ever exclaiming, "Vive la bagatelle!"
Sav. You renounce the vices, and even the virtues, of the far-famed goddess; you refuse to wear her cap and bells, and yet seem to dwell with satisfaction on her placidities and exemption from cares. You surely mean to enter the lists with Erasmus, and to give, while disclaiming the friendship, another panegyric upon the votaries, of folly that truly witty writer, I remember, says, "It is folly that both makes friends and keeps them so; I speak of mortal man only: if we pass to the gods we shall find that they have so much of wisdom, that they have very little of friendship; nay, nothing of that which is true and hearty.”
Johns. Aye, Sir; and the truth of his positions I will strenuously maintain, as far as mankind are concerned: of the same complexion is the passage in Horace, Nil admirari, &c.—
Not to admire, is all the art I know,