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IT might reasonably be imagined, after the
of Speare, by poetical or critical editors, within the compass of less than half a century; that no room should be left for emendations either of the text or meter, or other improvements of any kind whatsoever. And yet
I must take the liberty of thinking, that no dramatic poet, either antient or modern, has had the hard fare of our author ; or contains still more mistakes, than the plays of the most celebrated Shakespeare.
Every editor has done a great deal towards the emendation of the text, and contributed largely to the clearing of several'obscure parfages : but most of the historical incidents referred to by Shakespeare, as happening within his own time: and a great many laws then well known, but now in a great measure obsolete, have been overlook'd, or not known, or perhaps not thought worthy of notice : though they certainly tend to the making our author much more clear and intelligible, than he seems to be at present.
Mr. Rowe the poet, was the first who (in the diction of a celebrated modern writer) “ had “ his appointment as an editor of Shakespeare “ in form." And he was certainly poffefs’d of talents sufficient to haye enabled him to go through the work with credit; yet, for want of
collating of the most anţient copies, he has left most things in the same obscurity in which he found them.
His being a wit, and a poet, were certainly no disqualifications, if we may give in to Ben Jobnon's opinion; who observes, (in his Explorata, or Discoveries) “ That to judge of
poets is only the faculty of poets, and not " of all poets, but the best
Mr. Pope's abilities as a poet and a critic, should not have been called in question by any one; and yet Mr. Theobald (a person seemingly in other respects very modeft) has treated him in his notes in a manner so unbecoming, as cannot reasonably be warranted, even from the severe usage he complains to have met with from that (a) gentleman,
Though it may be granted, that Mr, Theobald in many respects fell short of the two foregoing editors, yet he made no small amends by his industry; and has thrown a great deal of light upon the obscurities of our author ; but not so much (6) as to have restored to the publick " this greatest of poets in his original purity; after
(a) He observes in his Preface, p. 37.
" That he “ was indebted to Mr. Pope for some flagrant civilities, " and was willing to devo:e some part of his life to the “ honest endeavour of quitting scores with him ; but not in “ the return of those civilities in his own peculiar ftrain i " but he confined himself to the rules of common decency."
b) Mr. Tkeobald's Preface to his first edition of Shakes Atrare, p. 29:
* he had laid long in a condition that was a dis.
grace to common sense.” He is now and then guilty of mistakes, (and he that is free from them, let him cast the first stone); but this will not justify a subsequent editor, who has created him in a much severer (a) manner, than he had done Mr. Pope. What the provocation was, I am at a loss to understand : to some persons, indeed, the smallest omission in a punctilio of respect, is a fufficient provocation, and a crime not easy to be forgiven. But Mr. Theobald was so far from aspiring to an equality, that he has treated the other throughout his whole work, with that deference, and regard, that the gena
(a) In Mr. Warburton's 2d. volume, p. 92: Mr.-Theobald is styled a mock critic.
" Mr. Theobald (says he) cannot for his heart comprehend the sense of “ this phrase, but it was not his beart, but his head food “ in his way. p. 349. This is finely said, but Mr. Theobald says, “ the words give him no ideas ; and 'tis “ certain, words will never give men what nature hath “ denied.”
3d. Vol. p. 63. Our, right spelt by Mr. Theobald.
Vol. 6. p. 5. 'Tis our faf intent.] « This is an inter" polation of Mr. Tbeobald's, for want of knowing the “ meaning of the reading of the Old Quarto, of 1608, " and Folio 1623, where we find it, and 'tis our firft intent:
('Tis faft intent in Folio 1623, as has been elsewhere obo
served.) P. 94. Stelled, spelt Tight by Mr. Theobald. 6th. “ Vol. p. 464• Bilson, blind, spelt right by Mr. Theobald. “ 7th. Vol. p. 306. Deferings, spelt right by Mr. Theo“ bald.” Many more powers of the like kind may be gathered from Mr. Warburton's notes on Shakespeare,