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Conscious that any attempt to treat with levity the works of our IMMORTAL Poet is in some danger of being received with displeasure, the following production is submitted to the public with that diffidence which the delicacy of its subject must, naturally, excite. In order, however, to remove such objections as may arise, solely out of partiality or of prejudice, a few observations may not be, altogether, unnecessary.
The objection most commonly urged against burlesques and parodies in general, is, that they tend to bring into ridicule and contempt those authors against whose works they are directed. That this objection will hold, when applied to works of inferior merit, or to such as are deficient in sense or genius, is freely admitted ; but, when used with reference to such writings as, from their intrinsic merit, have long been established in the public estimation, its futility is evident, HOMER and Virgil have both been the subjects of strong burlesques, but they are still read with unabated admiration ; the bay that adorns them still flourishes, and its verdure remains undiminished : and it would be an insult to the high character of our PoET, were it supposed that the wreath is so loosely twined around his brows as to be endangered
by so mere a trifle as that which gives rise. to these remarks. Whilst the beauties of poetry shall continue to delight, the works of SHAKSPEARE will be read with enthusiasm ; and any serious attempt to tarnish his fame, or to degrade him from his exalted station, must ever be considered as weak and as ridiculous in the design, as it would certainly be found unavailing and impossible in the execution.
But whatever apology or extenuation may be deemed necessary for the liberty that is taken with the poet, it is presumed that neither will be required for the freedom that is used in the treatment of his annotators: for no real admirer of SHAKSPEARE but must feel indignant at finding his sense per
verted, and his meaning obscured,* by the false' lights, and the fanciful and arbitrary illustrations, of Black-letter Critics and Coney-catching Commentators. And it had been well if some able satirist had exposed and punished their folly, their affectation, and their arrogance, at the time when the rage for editing, and commenting on, SHAKSPEARE was at its height, and every pedant in Black-letter lore assumed the prerogative of an authorised pollutor of his text.+
* The poets of the present day have wisely provided against injuries of this nature; for, with the assistance of an abundance of notes, they have so clearly explained their own meanings (which, it must be confessed, would, otherwise, be frequently unintelligible) as to supersede the labours of future critics.
+. From this general reprorch must the great Dr. Johnson be excepted, who, even as a Shuksperian Commentator, is entitled to our