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and Comedy, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be said without partiality to bave equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the best writers of any age or country who have thought it glory enough to diftinguish themselves in either.
Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their most celebrated poets with the fairest impressions beautified with the ornaments of sculpture, well may our Shakespear be thought to deserve no less consideration : and as a fresh acknowledgment hatb lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his statue at a publick expence; so it is depred that this new edition of his works, which bath cost some attention and care, may be looked upon as another small monument designed and dedicated to his honour.
MR POPE'S PREFACE.
T is not my design to enter into a criticism upon this author ;
though to do it effectually and not fuperficially, would be the best occasion that any just writer could take, to form the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English poets Shakespear must be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as most conspicuous instances, both of beauties and faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his works,and the disadvantages under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not: a design, which, though it can be no guide to future criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.
I CANNOT, however, but mention some of his principal and characteristick excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly and universally elevated above all other dramatick writers. Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.
If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Ægyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some caft of the models, of those before him. The
poetry of Shakespear was inspiration indeed: he is not so much an imitator, as an instrument, of nature; and 'tis not so just to say, that he speaks from her, as that she speaks through him.
His characters are so much nature herself, that 'tis a sort of jnjury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shows that they receiv’d them from one another, and were but multipliers of the same image: each picture, like a mock-rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. But every single character in Shakespear is as much an individual, as those in life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that, had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe, one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.
The power over our passions was never possess’d in a more eminent degree, or display'd in so different instances. Yet all along, there is seen no labour, no pains to raise them ; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it: but the heart swells, and the tears burst out, just at the proper places: we are surpriz’d, the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the passion so just, that we should be surpriz’d if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How astonishing is it again, that the passions directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, are no less at his commands that he is not more a master of the great, than of the ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!
Nor does he only excel in the passions : in the coolness of reflection and reasoning he is full as admirable. His sentiments