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EN of Learning and Leifure have ufually bu fied themselves in reprinting the Works of the celebrated antient Authors in the Greek and Latin Languages: By which means it happens, that of many of these we have more than we need, and Numbers of no Use at all; the Editors being so very inconfiderable, as to drive Gentlemen of Taste back to the earliest Impreffions of Books, where the genuine Sense appears in a truer Light than in the idle Comments of our modern Publishers. First Editions are rarely to be feen, but like Jewels in the Cabinets of the richly Curious; and many new ones bear little Value, either from their Commonness, or Coarseness. What then has been done by the really Learned to the dead Languages, by treading backwards into the Paths of Antiquity, and reviving and correcting good old Authors, we in Juftice owe to our own great Writers, both in Prose, and Poetry. They are in fome degree our Claffics; on their Foundation we must build, as the Formers and Refiners of our Language.
IN reforming old Palaces, we find that Time and Carelesness have kept equal Pace in spreading Ruin; and so it fares
with Authors, who carry with the Ruft of Antiquity, the Blemishes of Neglect and ill Ufage. Of this, SHAKESPEAR is a very remarkable Inftance, who has been handed down from Age to Age very incorrect, his Errors increafing by Time, and being almoft conftantly republish'd to his Disgrace. Whatever were the Faults of this great Poet, the Printers have been hitherto as careful to multiply them, as if they had been real Beauties; thinking perhaps with the Indians that the disfiguring a good Face with Scars of artificial Brutes, had improv'd the Form and Dignity of the Person. A fine Writer thus treated looks like Deiphobus among the Shades, fo maim'd by his pretended Friend, that the good Æneas hardly knew him again; and with him we may cry out,
Quis tam crudeles optavit fumere Pœnas?
The Answer is eafy, the Tribe of Editors, Correctors, and Printers, who have ufually as little Pity for a Helen, as she had for her Husband.
THESE Abominations of the Prefs, with feveral others, we fhall no doubt find remov'd in the new Edition of his Plays. When a Genius of fimilar Fire and Fancy, temper'd with a learned Patience, fits down to confider what SHAKESPEAR would Think, as well as what he could Write, we may then expect to fee his Works answer our Idea of the Man.
FAR be it from any Hopes of mine, that this Edition of his Poems fhould equal his curious Correctness: a less faulty one than the former is all the Reader is to expect. A fhort History, and some few occafional Remarks will be added, to give Light to fome Paffages, as well of the Author, as of Mr. Gildon.
THIS Gentleman republish'd these Poems from an old Impreffion, in the Year 1710. at the fame time with Mr. Rowe's
Publication of his Plays. He uses many Arguments to prove them genuine, but the best is the Style, Spirit, and Fancy of SHAKESPEAR, which are not to be mistaken by any tolerable Judge in these Matters. Venus and Adonis, Tarquin and Lucrèce, are out of Difpute, they being put to the Press, and dedicated by the Author himself to the Earl of Southampton his great Patron. So that Mr. Rowe is evidently mistaken when he fays, That his Venus and Adonis was the only Piece of Poetry be publish'd himself; there being the fame Authority for his Tarquin and Lucrece, as for the other.
IF we allow the rest of these Poems to be genuine (as I think Mr. Gildon has prov'd them) the Occafional ones will appear to be the first of his Works. A young Muse must have a Mistress to play off the beginnings of Fancy, nothing being fo apt to raise and elevate the Soul to a pitch of Poetry, as the Paffion of Love. We find, to wander no farther, that Spenfer, Cowley, and many others paid their First-fruits of Poetry to a real, or an imaginary Lady. Upon this occafion I conjecture, that SHAKESPEAR took fire on reading our admirable Spenfer, who went but juft before him in the Line of Life, and was in all probability the Poet moft in Vogue at that time. To make this Argument the stronger, Spenfer is taken notice of in one of thefe little Pieces as a Favourite of our Author's. He alludes certainly to the Fairy Queen,when he mentions his Deep Conceit; that Poem being entirely Allegorical. It has been remark'd, that more Poets have fprung from Spenfer than all our other English Writers; to which let me add an Obfervation of the late Dr. Garth, That most of our late ones have been spoil'd by too early an Admiration of Milton. Be it to Spenfer then that we owe SHAKESPEAR!
The Fairest Scyon of the Fairest Tree.
In Metaphor, Allusion, Description, and all the strongest and highest Colourings of Poetry, they both are certainly without Equals. Spenfer indeed trod more in the Paths of Learning, borrow'd,
borrow'd, improv'd, and heighten'd all he imitated: But SHAKESPEAR'S Field is Nature, and there he undoubtedly triumphs without a Rival. His Imagination is a perpetual Fountain of Delight, and all drawn from the fame Source: even his Wildneffes are the Wildneffes of Nature. So that Milton feems to have hit his Character best, when he says,
-Shakespear, Fancy's fweetest Child,
The Child of Fancy, with the additional Epithet of sweetest, is an
AND yet I cannot place his Learning fo low as others have done, there being evident Marks thro all his Writings of his Knowledge in the Latin Language, and the Roman Hiftory. The Tranflation of Ovid s two Epiftles, Paris to Helen, and her Answer, gives a sufficient Proof of his Acquaintance with that Poet. Nor are thefe Letters fo very easy for a common Trans lator: For there is a good deal of the Heathen Mythology and Poetical Fictions, of which SHAKESPEAR miffes none, but is ever faithful to the Original. How they may be receiv'd in these Days of flowing Verfification I know not; but I have a Tranflation of the Metamorphofes of the fame Age, far inferior to these Epistles.
BUT to return to Mr. Gildon, the Republifher of these Poems. He has prefix'd to them an Essay on the Rife and Progrefs of the Stage, and added Remarks on all his Plays, in order to let the Reader into the Beauties, and Defects of SHA K ESPEAR. As to the Effay, tho there have been many Things wrote in a loose unconnected manner on the fame Subject, yet I have seen nothing in our Tongue fo regular, fo fully explanatory, or so well fupported by Inftances from the antient Tragic Poets. One may fafely say, that this was the Study of