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At the same time it must be observed, that it is the impartial, uninfluenced, opinion of men of learning, that commands the public judgement; not that of such men of learning as are friends of the author: for such decisions. the public, however highly it may rate the abilities of him who pronounces them, yet has always discernment enough to set aside.
Seldom does it even happen, that the opinion of cotemporary men of learning influences the public: which is the reason that the works of any living writer are very feldom justly appreciated. Yet it may so happen that a writer, from a happy circumstance, may acquire a reputation as just as it is instantaneous. This was the case with the late Mr. Gray, who by his happening to be conversant in fashionable company, gained a complete century in point of reputation. For, tho fashion- . able writers are most justly set in opposition to good, the very epithet implying that their works will not last; yet fashion is now and then in the right, as well as other fools.
It is above observed, that the opinion of cotemporary judges, decides not that of the public. The truth is, there are works of superlative merit, of which the most learned cotemporary can form 110 true estimate ; for works of uncommon excellence require to be viewed at a certain distance, and in a certain light, to have their due effect. Set a picture of Raphael's against the blaze of the noonday fun, and its beauties will be as little discerned as at midnight. Let me add, that an eminent writer is seldom the writer of his own times : his mature mind precedes the advancement of his art and language very often by a full century: so that one hundred years, and sometimes more, muft elapse, ere the public has acquired intelligence enough to judge of him,
S I know your admiration of Shakfpere,
and your fondness for any new remarks illustrative of the works of that wonderful poet, I shall make no apology for laying before
such obfervations as have occurred to me, in reading the last edition of his Plays 1778.
. I shall follow the order of volume and page, as in that edition ; and must beg leave, in commenting upon Shakspere, likeways to comment upon his commentators.
Vol. I. p. 39. TEMPE$T. Upon this line,
Thy nerves are in their infancy again, is this note: “ So Milton in his Masque at Ludlow castle,
Thy nerves are all bound up in alabaster.”
What in the name of wonder has this
quotation to do with the line in the text? It might as well have been noted, Mo So Milton in his Sonnets, A book was writ of late call'd Tetrachordon."
Most of the notes of this writer begin with So, let it be pertinent or not; which gave a wag occasion to observe, that all his notes were fo, fo.
P. 269. Merry Wives of WINDSOR. I'approve of the reading “ Will you go on, heris?" Warburton, with his usual rafhness of half knowledge, calls beris an old Scotish word for master. It is the plural of bere, an old Scotish word for master or lord, from the Latin berus, Bilhop Douglas often uses it in his translation of Virgil:
Hyarbas king and other heris all.
Vol. II, p. 257. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Who is his companion now. He hath every month 2 new fworn brother.
This alludes to the ancient practice of chivalry, of the young warriors vowing a mutual friendship and aid of each other. Such were called brothers at arms. This custom exifted in France so late as the close of the last century: witness this paffage in the Letters of Madame de Sevigné :
J'estime fort Barban“ tanne: c'est un des plus braves hommes du
monde, d'une valeur presque romanesque “ d'ont j'ai oui parler mille fois a Busli; ils * font freres d'armes.” Tome II. See more in M. Du Cange's Dissertation, annexed to Joinville, Des freres d'armes; and St. Palaye, Notes sur la IIIme Partie de ses Mem. sur l'ancienue Chevalerie.
P, 328. An two men ride of a horse one must ride behind.
The note on this passage, informing us that Shakspere may have caught this idea from the common feal of the Knights Templars, the device of which was two riding upon one borse, is truly in the spirit of a man who has lost his