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are affixed to the votes, has suffered little abatement. T'he same persevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the saine laborious search into the literature, the manners, and the customs of the times, which was formerly to successfully employed, has remained uudiminished. By thefe aids some new information has been obtained, and some new materials collected. From the affistance of such writers, even Shakspeare will receive no difcredit,

When the very great and various talents of the last Editor, particularly for this Work, are considered, it will occasion much regret to find, that having superiutended two Editions of his favourite' Author through the prefs, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the present Edition to one who laments with the rest of the world the secession of his predeceffor; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority, as of the injury the publication will sustain by the change.

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As some alterations have been made in the present Edition, it may be thought necefiary to point thein out. These are of two kinds, additions and omiffions. The additions are such as have been supplied by the last Editor, and the principal of the living, Commentators. To mention these artistances, is sufficient to excite expectation ; but to speak any thing in their praise will be fuperfluous to those who are acquainted with their former labours.


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Some remarks are also added from new Com. mentators, and some notices extracted from books which have been published in the course of a few years past.

Of the omissions, the most important are fome notes which have been demonstrated to be ill founded, and some which were supposed to add to the size of the volumes without increasing their value. It may probably have happened that a few are rejected which ought to have been retained ; and in that case the present Editor, who has been the occasion of their removal, will feel some concern from the in-justice of his proceeding. He is however inclined to believe that what he has omitted will be pardoned by the Reader; and that the liberty which he has taken will not be thought to have been licentiously indulged. In all events, that the censure may fall where it ought, he desires it to be understood that no person is answerable for any of these innovations but himself.

It has been observed by the last Editor, that the multitude of instances which have been produced to exemplify particular words, and explain obsolete customs, may, when the point is once known to be established, be diminished by any future Editor, and, in conformity to this opinion, several quotations, which were heretofore properly introduced, are now curtailed. Were an apology required on this occasion, the 3

present present Editor might shelter himself under the authority of Prior, who long ago has said,

That when one's proofs are aptly chosen,

Four are as valid as four dozen. The present Editor thinks it unnecessary to say any thing of his own share in the Work, except that he undertook it in consequence of an application which was too flattering and too honourable to him to decline. He mentions this only to have it known that he did not intrude himself into the situation. He is not in. sensible, that the task would have been better executed by many other gentlemen, and particularly by tome whose names appear to the

He has added but little to the bulk of the volumes from his own observations, having, upon every occasion, rather chosen to avoid a note, than to court the opportunity of inserting one. The liberty he has taken of omitting some remarks, he is confident, has been exercised without prejudice and without partiality; and therefore, trusting to the candour and indulgence of the public, will forbear to detain them any longer from the entertainment they may receive from the greatest Poet of this or any other nation.

Nov, 10, 1785.



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HAT praises are without reason lavished on

the dead, and that the honours due only to

excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard, which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, « not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever las been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the fun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best. VOL. I. [A]


To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long pofleffed they have often examined and compared; and if they perfift to value the possession, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works, of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many: mountains, and many rivers; so, in the productions of genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the fame kind, Demonstration immediately displays its power, and bas nothing to hope or fear from the flux of years ; but works tentative and experimental must be estiinated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long succession of endeavours. Of the first building that was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be

per• feet; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century,

has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new-name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.


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