Gambar halaman

Letters, while he is giving that to Merit, which only Letters can bestow. But I need not be asham'd to fay, that the Knowledge of you, has, at the fame time, abridged my Labour, and rewarded the Integrity of my Purpose. For if Friendship, Generofity, and the Benevolence of Charity, added to every female Virtue that most adorns your Sex, demand this Acknowledgment, it would be hard to find where it should be earlier paid, or to whom, in fuller Measure, returned.

If any now should affect to ask, What Stranger this is, of whom fo much is faid? Let him know, that this his Ignorance is your fupreme Praife; whose Matron-modesty of Virtue declines all Notice, but where the Influence of your domestic Character extends. If, haply, you have any further Ambition, it is only this, the being known to conftitute the domestic Happiness of a Man A 3 who

who does Honour to human Nature. The mention of whofe Relation to you, reminds me of my own Happiness; who enjoy fo equal and so perfect a Share in both your Friendships. This too is my Fame and Reputation, as well as Happiness; for Ambition would lofe its Aim, were I to wish that any thing of me, or mine, fhould laft longer than the Memory of that Friendship. I am,


Your most obliged

and most faithful Servant,




T hath been no unufual thing for Writers, when diffatisfied with the Patronage or Judgment of their own Times, to appeal to Pofterity for a fair Hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the firft Inftance; and to decline Acquaintance with the Public till Envy and Prejudice had quite fubfided. But, of all the Trufters to Futurity, commend me to the Author of the following Poems, who not only left it to Time to do him Juftice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For, what between too great Attention to his Profit as a Player, and too little to his Reputation as a Poet, his Works, left to the Care of Door-keepers and Prompters, hardly escaped the common Fate of thofe Writings, how good foever, which are abandoned to their own Fortune, and unprotected by Party or Cabal. At length, indeed, they ftruggled into Light; but fo disguised and travested, that no claffic Author, after having run ten fecular Stages thro' the blind Cloisters of Monks and Canons, ever came out in half fo maimed and mangled a Condition. But for a full Account of his Disorders, I refer the Reader to the excellent Difcourfe which follows, and turn myfelf to confider the Remedies that have been applied to them.


A 4

Shakespear's Works, when they escaped the Players, did not fall into much better Hands when they came amongst Printers and Bookfellers: who, to say the Truth, had, at first, but fmall Encouragement for putting him into a better Condition. The stubborn Nonsense, with which he was incrufted, occafioned his lying long neglected amongst the common Lumber of the Stage. And when that refiftlefs Splendor, which now shoots all around him, had, by degrees, broke thro' the Shell of those Impurities, his dazzled Admirers became as fuddenly infenfible to the extraneous Scurf that ftill ftuck upon him, as they had been before to the native Beauties that lay under it. So that, as then, he was thought not to deserve a Cure, he was now fuppofed not to need any.

His growing Eminence, however, required that he should be ufed with Ceremony: And he foon had his Appointment, of an Editor in form. But the Bookfeller, whofe dealing was with Wits, having learnt of them, I know not what filly Maxim, that none but a Poet should prefume to meddle with a Poet, engaged the ingenious Mr. Rowe to undertake this Employment. A Wit indeed he was; but fo utterly unacquainted with the whole Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or confult the firft Editions of the Work he undertook to publish; but contented himself with giving us a meagre Account of the Author's Life, interlarded with fome common-place Scraps from his Writings. The Truth is, Shakespear's Condition was yet but ill understood.

understood. The Nonfenfe, now, by confent, received for his own, was held in a kind of Reverence for its Age and Author: and thus it continued, till another great Poet broke the Charm; by fhewing us, that the higher we went, the lefs of it was ftill to be found.

For the Proprietors, not difcouraged by their first unsuccessful Effort, in due time, made a second; and, tho' they still stuck to their Poets, with infinitely more Succefs in their Choice of Mr. POPE. Who by the mere force of an uncommon Genius, without any particular Study or Profeffion of this Art, discharged the great Parts of it fo well as to make his Edition the best Foundation for all further Improvements. He feparated the genuine from the fpurious Plays: And, with equal Judgment, tho' not always with the fame Succefs, attempted to clear the genuine Plays from the interpolated Scenes: He then confulted the old Editions; and, by a careful Collation of them, rectified the faulty, and fupplied the imperfect Reading, in a great number of Places: And lastly, in an admirable Preface, hath drawn a general, but very lively, Sketch of ShakeSpear's poetic Character; and, in the corrected Text, marked out thofe peculiar Strokes of Genius which were most proper to fupport and illuftrate that Character. Thus far Mr. POPE. And altho' much more was to be done before Shakespear could be restored to himself, (fuch as amending the corrupted Text where the printed Books afford no Affiftance; plaining his licentious Phrafeology and obfcure Allufions; and illuftrating the Beauties



« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »