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rectness, might have restrained some of that be no very hard task to find a great many fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful ex- faults; but, as Shakspeare lived under a travagance, which we admire in Shakspere: kind of mere light of nature, and had never and I believe we are better pleased with been made acquainted with the regularity of those thoughts, altogether new and uncom- those written precepts, so it would be hard mon, which his own imagination supplied to judge him by a law he knew nothing of. him so abundantly with, than if he had | We are to consider him as a man that lived given us the most beautiful passages out of in a state of almost universal licence and the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the ignorance : there was no established judge, most agreeable manner that it was possible but every one took the liberty to write acfor a master of the English language to cording to the dictates of his own fancy. deliver them.” Rowe also falls into the When one considers that there is not one notion that Shakspere did not arrive at his play before him of a reputation good enough perfection by repeated experiment and as- to entitle it to an appearance on the presiduous labour,-a theory which still has its sent stage, it cannot but be a matter of believers :-“ It would be without doubt a great wonder that he should advance drapleasure to any man, curious in things of matic poetry so far as he did.” A second this kind, to see and know what was the edition of Rowe's 'Shakespeare' appeared first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. in 1714. Perhaps we are not to look for his be- In 1725 Pope produced his edition, magniginnings, like those of other authors, among ficent as far as printing went, in six volumes their least perfect writings; art had so little quarto. Of its editorial merits we may say a and nature so large a share in what he did, few words when we have to speak of Theobald. that, for aught I know, the performances of His Preface is a masterly composition, conhis youth, as they were the most vigorous, taining many just views elegantly expressed. and had the most fire and strength of ima- The criticism is neither profound nor original; gination in them, were the best. I would but there is a tone of quiet sense about it not be thought by this to mean that his which shows that Pope properly appreciated fancy was so loose and extravagant as to Shakspere's general excellence. He believes, be independent on the rule and government in common with most of his time, that this exof judgment; but that what he thought was cellence was attained by intuition, and that commonly so great, so justly and rightly the finest results were produced by felicitous conceived in itself, that it wanted little or accidents : no correction, and was immediately approved “ If ever any author deserved the name of by an impartial judgment at the first sight.” | an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himHe then enters into a brief criticism of some self drew not his art so immediately from of the leading plays. In speaking of "The the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Tempest,' he mentions the observation upor Egyptian strainers and channels, and came to the character of Caliban “which three very him not without some tincture of the learngreat men concurred in making”-telling us ing, or some cast of the models, of those in a note that these were Lord Falkland, before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, and Mr. Selden inspiration indeed: he is not so much an _“That Shakspeare had not only found out imitator as an instrument of Nature; and it a new character in his Caliban, but had is not so just to say that he speaks from her also devised and adapted a new manner of as that she speaks through him. language for that character.” Of Shakspere's “ His characters are so much Nature herplays, with reference to their art, he thus self, that it is a sort of injury to call them speaks :—“If one undertook to examine the by so distant a name as copies of her. Those greatest part of these by those rules which of other poets have a constant resemblance, are established by Aristotle and taken from which shows that they received them from the model of the Grecian stage, it would one another, and were but multipliers of
the same image: each picture, like a mock- | for a very new opinion—that the philosopher, rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. and even the man of the world, may be born But every single character in Shakspeare is as well as the poet." as much an individual as those in life itself; These are the excellences of Shakspere ; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and but Pope holds that he has as great defects, such as from their relation or affinity in any and he sets himself to excuse these by arguing respect appear most to be twins, will, upon that it was necessary to please the populace. comparison, be found remarkably distinct. He then proceeds :To this life and variety of character we must “ To judge, therefore, of Shakspeare by add the wonderful preservation of it; which Aristotle's rules, is like trying a man by the is such throughout his plays, that, had all laws of one country who acted under those of the speeches been printed without the very another. He wrote to the people, and wrote at names of the persons, I believe one might first without patronage from the better sort, have applied them with certainty to every and therefore without aims of pleasing them; speaker.
without assistance or advice from the learned, “The power over our passions was never as without the advantage of education or acpossessed in a more eminent degree, or dis- quaintance among them; without that knowplayed in so different instances. Yet all | ledge of the best models, the ancients, to inalong there is seen no labour, no pains to spire him with an emulation of them; in a raise them; no preparation to guide or guess word, without any views of reputation, and to the effect, or be perceived to lead toward of what poets are pleased to call immortality; it; but the heart swells, and the tears burst some or all of which have encouraged the out, just at the proper places: we are sur-vanity, or animated the ambition, of other prised the moment we weep; and yet upon writers. reflection find the passion so just, that we “ Yet it must be observed, that, when his should be surprised if we had not wept, and performances had merited the protection of wept at that very moment.
his prince, and when the encouragement of “How astonishing it is again that the pas- the court had succeeded to that of the town, sions directly opposite to these, laughter and the works of his riper years are manifestly spleen, are no less at his command! That he raised above those of his former. The dates is not more a master of the great than of the of his plays sufficiently evidence that his ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest productions improved in proportion to the tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of respect he had for his auditors. And I our strongest emotions, than of our idlest make no doubt this observation would be sensations!
found true in every instance, were but edi. “Nor does he only excel in the passions; tions extant from which we might learn the in the coolness of reflection and reasoning he exact time when every piece was composed, is full as admirable. His sentiments are not and whether wrote for the town or the court. only in general the most pertinent and ju- “ Another cause (and no less strong than dicious upon every subject; but, by a talent the former) may be deduced from our poet's very peculiar, something between penetration being a player, and forming himself first upon and felicity, he hits upon that particular the judgments of that body of men whereof point on which the bent of each argument he was a member. They have ever had a turns, or the force of each motive depends. standard to themselves, upon other prinThis is perfectly amazing from a man of no ciples than those of Aristotle. As they live education or experience in those great and by the majority, they know no rule but that public scenes of life which are usually the of pleasing the present humour, and complysubject of his thoughts; so that he seems to ing with the wit in fashion—a consideration have known the world by intuition, to have which brings all their judgment to a short looked through human nature at one glance, point. Players are just such judges of wbat and to be the only author that gives ground | is right as tailors are of what is graceful. And in this view it will be but fair to allow | Jonson borrowed everything. Because Jonson that most of our author's faults are less to did not write extempore, he was reproached be ascribed to his wrong judgment as a poet with being a year about every piece ; and, than to his right judgment as a player.” because Shakspeare wrote with ease and
Of Shakspere's learning his editor thus rapidity, they cried, he never once made a speaks :
blot. Nay, the spirit of opposition ran so “As to his want of learning it may be ligh, that whatever those of the one side necessary to say something more: there is objected to the other was taken at the certainly a vast difference between learning rebound, and turned into praises, as injuand languages. How far he was ignorant of diciously as their antagonists before had the latter I cannot determine; but it is plain made them objections.” he had much reading at least, if they will Much of Pope's Preface is then occupied not call it learning. Nor is it any great with illustrations of his opinion that Shakmatter, if a man has knowledge, whether he spere's works have come down to us defaced bas it from one language or from another. with innumerable blunders and absurdities Nothing is more evident than that he had a which are not to be attributed to the author. taste of natural philosophy, mechanics, We cannot at all yield our consent to this ancient and modern history, poetical learning, opinion, which goes upon the assumption and mythology: we find him very knowing that, whenever there is an obscure passage ; in the customs, rites, and manners of an- whenever “mean conceits and ribaidries" tiquity.
The manners of other are found ; whenever “low scenes of mobs, nations in general, the Egyptians, Venetians, plebeians, and clowns” are very prominent ; French, &c., are drawn with equal propriety. there the players have been at work; and he Whatever object of nature or branch of thus argues upon the assumption :-“If we science he either speaks of or describes, it is give in to this opinion, how many low and always with competent if not extensive vicious parts and passages might no longer knowledge ; his descriptions are still exact; reflect upon this great genius, but appear all his metaphors appropriated, and remark- unworthily charged upon him! And, even ably drawn from the true nature and inherent in those which are really his, how many qualities of each subject. When he treats faults may have been unjustly laid to his of ethic or politic, we may constantly observe account from arbitrary additions, expunca wonderful justness of distinction as well as tions, transpositions of scenes and lines, extent of comprehension. No one is more a confusion of characters and persons, wrong master of the poetical story, or has more application of speeches, corruptions of infrequent allusions to the various parts of it. numerable passages by the ignorance, and Mr. Waller (who has been celebrated for this wrong corrections of them again by the last particular) has not shown more learning impertinence, of his first editors ! From one this way than Shakspeare.
or other of these considerations I am verily “I am inclined to think this opinion pro- persuaded that the greatest and the grossest ceeded originally from the zeal of the parti- part of what are thought his errors would zans of our author and Ben Jonson, as they vanish, and leave his character in a light endeavoured to exalt the one at the expense very different from that disadvantageous one of the other. It is ever the nature of parties in which it now appears to us.” There is a to be in extremes; and nothing is so probable larger question even than this that Pope as that, because Ben Jonson had much the propounds. Are these parts and passages more learning, it was said on the one hand low and vicious ? Have we these corruptions that Shakspeare had none at all; and, because and imperfections ? We believe not. Pope Shakspeare had much the most wit and accepted Shakspere in the spirit of his time, fancy, it was retorted on the other that and that was not favourable to the proper Jonson wanted both. Because Shakspeare understanding of him. His concluding obborrowed nothing, it was said that Ben servations are characteristic of his critical power :-“I will conclude by saying of decimos. The title-page of Theobald's ShakShakspeare, that, with all his faults, and with spere bore that it was collated with the all the irregularity of his drama, one may oldest copies, and corrected, with Notes.' look upon his works, in comparison of those Pope's edition was not again reprinted in that are more finished and regular, as upon London ; but of Theobald's there have been an ancient majestic piece of Gothic archi- many subsequent editions, and Steevens astecture compared with a neat modern build- serts that of his first edition thirteen thousand ing; the latter is more elegant and glaring, copies were sold. Looking at the advantage but the former is more strong and more which Pope possessed in the pre-eminence of solemn. It must be allowed that in one of his literary reputation, the preference which these there are materials enough to make was so decidedly given to Theobald's editions many of the other. It has much the greater is a proof that the public thought for themvariety, and much the nobler apartments; selves in the matter of Shakspere. Pope was though we are often conducted to them by not fitted for the more laborious duties of an dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does editor. He collated, indeed, the early copies, the whole fail to strike us with greater but he set about the emendation of the text reverence, though many of the parts are in a manner so entirely arbitrary, suppressing childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its passage after passage upon the principle that grandeur." man
the players had been at work here, and In 1726 LEWIS THEOBALD published a tract a blundering transcriber there, that no reader entitled 'Shakespear Restored, or Specimens of Shakspere could rely upon the integrity of Blunders Committed and Unamended in of Pope's version. Theobald states the conPope's Edition of this Poet.' In Pope's second trary mode in which he proceeded :edition of Shakspere, which appeared in “ Wherever the author's sense is clear 1728, was inserted this contemptuous notice: and discoverable (though, perchance, low -“Since the publication of our first edition, and trivial), I have not by any innovation there having been some attempts upon tampered with his text, out of an ostentation Shakspeare published by Lewis Theobald of endeavouring to make him speak better (which he would not communicate during than the old copies have done. the time wherein that edition was preparing “Where, through all the former editions, for the press, when we, by public advertise- a passage has laboured under fiat nonsense ments, did request the assistance of all lovers and invincible darkness, if, by the addition of this author), we have inserted, in this or alteration of a letter or two, or a transimpression, as many of 'em as are judged of position in the pointing, I have restored to any the least advantage to the poet; the him both sense and sentiment, such corwhole amounting to about twenty-five words.” rections, I am persuaded, will need no In the same year came out “The Dunciad,' indulgence. of which Theobald was the hero :
“And whenever I have taken a greater “ High on a gorgeous seat that far outshone
latitude and liberty in amending, I have Henley's gilt tub, or Flecknoe's Irish throne, constantly endeavoured to support my cor
rections and conjectures by parallel passages Great Tibbald nods."
and authorities from himself, the surest means In a few years Theobald was deposed from of expounding any author whatsoever." this throne, and there, then, “Great Cibber Dr. Johnson accurately enough describes sate." The facility with which Theobald the causes and consequences of Pope's was transformed to Cibber is one of the many failure :-“Confidence is the common conproofs that Pope threw his darts and dirt sequence of success. They whose excellence about him at random. But Theobald took a of any kind has been loudly celebrated are just revenge. In 1733 he produced an ready to conclude that their powers are edition of Shakspere, in seven volumes octavo, universal. Pope's edition fell below his ova which annihilated Pope's quartos and duo-| expectations, and he was so much offended,
when he was found to have left anything for this great poet! In how many branches of others to do, that he passed the latter part excellence to consider and admire him! of his life in a state of hostility with verbal Whether we view him on the side of art or criticism." Bat Johnson does not exhibit nature, he ought equally to engage our his usual good sense and knowledge of man- attention : whether we respect the force and kind when he attributes Theobald's success greatness of his genius, the extent of his to the world's compassion. He calls him knowledge and reading, the power and weak and ignorant, mean and faithless, address with which he throws out and applies petulant and ostentatious; but he affirms either nature or learning, there is ample that this editor, " by the good luck of having scope both for our wonder and pleasure. If Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and escaped his diction and the clothing of his thoughts alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. attract us, how much more must we be So willingly does the world support those charmed with the richness and variety of his who solicit favour against those who command images and ideas! If his images and ideas reverence; and so easily is he praised whom steal into our souls and strike upon our no can envy.” This is mere fine fancy, how much are they improved in price writing. The real secret of Theobald's when we come to reflect with what propriety success is stated by Johnson himself:-- and justness they are applied to character ! “Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of If we look into his characters, and how they narrow comprehension and small acquisitions, are furnished and proportioned to the emwith no native and intrinsic splendour of ployment he cuts out for them, how are we genius, with little of the artificial light of taken up with the mastery of his portraits ! learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, What draughts of nature ! What variety and not negligent in pursuing it. He collated of originals, and how differing each from the the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. other !” A man so anxiously scrupulous might have Undeterred by the failure of Pope in his been expected to do more, but what little he slashing amputations, Sir Thomas HANMER did was commonly right.” It was because appeared, in 1744, with a splendid edition in Theobald was “anxiously scrupulous,” be- six volumes quarto, printed at the Oxford cause he did not attempt “ to do more” than University Press. Nothing can be more an editor ought to do, that he had the public satisfactory than the paper and the type. support. Nearly every succeeding editor, in The work was intended as a monument to his scorn of Theobald, his confidence in the memory of Shakspere; one of the modes himself, and, what was the most influential, in which the national homage was to be his want of reverence for his author, en- expressed :—“As a fresh acknowledgment deavoured to make Shakspere “speak better hath lately been paid to his merit, and a than the old copies have done." Each for high regard to his name and memory, by a while had his applause, but it was not a erecting his statue at a public expense ; so lasting fame.
it is desired that this new edition of his There is little in Theobald's Preface to works, which hath cost some attention and mark the progress of opinion on the writings care, may be looked upon as another small of Shakspere. Some parts of this Preface monument designed and dedicated to his are held to have been written by Warburton; honour.” Capell, who came next but, if so, his arrogance must have been greatly editor, says truly of Hanmer that he “purmodified by Theobald's judgment. There is sues a track in which it is greatly to be not much general remark upon the character hoped he will never be followed in the of the poet's writings ; but what we find is publication of any authors whatsoever, for sensibly conceived and not inelegantly ex- this were in effect to annihilate them if pressed. We shall. content ourselves with carried a little further.” Collins's “Epistle extracting one passage :—“In how many to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of points of sight must we be obliged to gaze at | Shakspeare's Works' is an elegant though