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pauses, interposed as often as the scene is changed,

any considerable time is required to pass. This method would at once quell a thousand absurdities

In restoring the author's works to their integrity, I have considered the punctuation as wholly in my power; for what could be their care of colons and commas, who' corrupted words and sentences. Whatever could be done by adjusting points, is therefore filently performed, in some plays, with much diligence, in others with less; it is hard to keep a busy eye steadily fixed upon evanescent atoms, or a discursive mind upon evanescent truth.

The same liberty has been taken with a few particles, or other words of flight effect. I have sometimés inserted or omitted them without notice. I have done that sometimes, which the other editors have done always, and which indeed the state of the text may fufficiently juflify.

The greater part of readers, instead of blamingus for passing trifles, will wonder that on mere trifies so much labour is expended, with such im-, portance of debate, and such solemnity of diction. To these I answer with confidence, that they are judging of an art which they do not understand;. yet cannot much reproach them with their ignorance, nor promise that they would become in general, by learning criticism, more useful, hapa pier, or wiser.

As I practised conjecture more, I learned to trust it less; and after I had printed a few plays, refolved to insert none of my own readings in the text. Upon this caution I now congratulate myself, for every day encreases

doubt of

my emendations.

Since I have confined my imagination to the margin, it must not be considered as very reprehensible, if I have suffered it to play some freaks in its own dominion. There is no danger in conje&ture, if it be proposed as conjecture; and while the text remains uninjured, those changes may be safely offered, which are not considered even by him that offers them as necessary or safe.

If my readings are of little value, they have not been ostentatiously displayed or importunately obtruded. I could have written longer protes, for the art of writing notes is not of difficult attainment. The work is performed, first by railing at the stupidity, negligence, ignorance, and afinine tastelesfuess of the former editors, and shewing, from all that goes before and all that follows, the in elegance and absurdity of the old reading; then by proposing something, which to superficial readers would seem specious, but which the editor rejects with indignation; then by producing the true reading, with a long paraphrase, and concluding with loud acclamations on the discovery, and a fober wish for che advancemeni and prosperity of genuine criticisin.

All this may be done, and perhaps done fometimes without impropriety. But I have always suspected that the reading is right, which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot without so inuch labour appear to be right. The justness of a happy restoration strikes at once, and the moral precept may be well applied to criticism, quod dubitas ne feceris.

To dread the shore which he sees spread with wrecks, is natural to the failor.

1 had before my eye, so many critical adventures ended in mif

fo carriage, that caution was forced upon me. I encountered in every page wit struggling with its own fophiftry, and learning confused by the multiplicity of its views. I was forced to censure those whom I admired, and could not but reflect, while I was dispossessing their emendations, how soon the same fate might happen to my own, and how many of the readings which I have corrected may be by some other editor defended and eftablished.

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66 Criticks I saw, that other's names efface,
" And fix their own, with labour, in the place ;
" Their own, like others, foon their place reggn'd,
Or disappear'd, and left the first behind." POPE.

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That a conje&ural critick should often be miltaken, cannot be wonderful, either to others or himself, if it be considered, that in his art there is no system, no principal and axiomatical truth that regulates subordinate positions. His chance of error is renewed at every attempt; an oblique view of the passage, a slight misapprehension of a phrase, a casual inattention to the parts connected, is sufficient to make him not only fail, but fail ridiculously; and when he succeeds best he produces perhaps but one reading of many probable, and he that suggests another will always be able to dispute his claims.

It is an unhappy state, in which danger is hid under pleasure.

The allurements of emendation are scarcely resistible. Conjecture has all the joy

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and all the pride of invention, and he that has once started a happy change, is too much delighted to consider what objections may arise against it.

Yet conjectural criticism has been of great use * in the learned world; nor is it my intention to

depreciaté a study, that has exercised so many mighty minds, from the revival of learning to our own age, from the Bishop of Aleria' to English Bentley. The criticks on ancient authors have, in the exercise of their fagacity, many assistances, which the editor of Shakspeare is condemned to want. They are employed upon grammatical and settled languages, whose construcion contributes so much to perfpicuity, that Homer has fewer passages unintelligible than Chaucer. The words have not only a known regimen, but invariable quantities, which direct and confine the choice. There are commonly more manuscripts than one; and they do not often conspire in the fame mistakes. Yet Scaliger could confess to Salmasius how little satisfaction his emendations gave him. Illudunt nobis conježluræ noftræ quarum nos pudet, posteaquam in meliores codices incidimus. And Lipfius could complain, that criticks were making faults, by trying to remove them, Ut olim vitiis ita nunc

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the bishop of Aleria - 1 John André. He was fecretary to the Vatican Library during the papacies of Paul II. and Sixtus IV. By the former he was employed to füperintend fuch works as were to be multiplied by the new art of printing, at that time brought into Rome. He published Herodotus, Strabo, Livy, Aulus Gellius, &c. His schoolfellow, Cardinal de Cufa, procured him the bishoprick of Accia, a province in Corsica, and Paul II. afterwards appointed him to that of Aleria in the fame island, where he died in 1493. STEEVENS. VOL. I.


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remediis laboratur. And indeed, where mere conjecture is to be used, the emendations of Scaliger and Lipfius, notwithstanding their wonderful sagacity and erudition, are often vague and disputable, like mine or Theobald's.

Perhaps I may not be more censured for doing wrong, than for doing little; for raising in the publick expectations, which at last I have not answered. The expectation of ignorance is indefinite, and that of knowledge is often tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not what to demand, or those who demand by design what they think impossible to be done. I have indeed dirappointed no opinion more than my own; yet I have endeavoured to perform my talk with no flight solicitude. Not a single passage in the whole work has appeared to me corrupt, which I have not attempted to restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to illustrate. In many I have failed like others; and from many after all my efforts, I have retreated, and confessed the repulse. I have not passed over, with affected superiority, what is equally difficult to the reader and to myself, but where I could not inftru&t him, have owned my ignorance. I might easily have accumulated a mass of seeming learning upon easy scenes ; but it ought not to be imputed to negligence, that, where nothing was necessary, nothing has been done, or that, where others have said enough, I have said no more.

Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him, that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakspeare, and who defires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every

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