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Richard Farmer: An Essay On The Learning Of Shakespeare
by [?]

Richard Farmer: an Essay On the Learning of Shakespeare: Addressed to Joseph Cradock, Esq. 1767

Preface to the Second Edition, 1767.

THE AUTHOR of the following ESSAY was solicitous only for the honour of Shakespeare: he hath however, in his own capacity, little reason to complain of occasional Criticks, or Criticks by profession. The very Few, who have been pleased to controvert any part of his Doctrine, have favoured him with better manners than arguments; and claim his thanks for a further opportunity of demonstrating the futility of Theoretick reasoning against Matter of Fact. It is indeed strange that any real Friends of our immortal POET should be still willing to force him into a situation which is not tenable: treat him as a learned Man, and what shall excuse the most gross violations of History, Chronology, and Geography?

{~GREEK CAPITAL LETTER OMICRON~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH PSILI~} {~GREEK SMALL LETTER PI~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA~} {~GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH PSILI~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA~}{~GREEK KORONIS~} {~GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA WITH PSILI AND OXIA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER NU~} {~GREEK SMALL LETTER PI~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA WITH YPOGEGRAMMENI~}{~GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA~} is the Motto of every Polemick : like his Brethren at the Amphitheatre, he holds it a merit to die hard ; and will not say, Enough, though the Battle be decided. “Were it shewn,” says some one, “that the old Bard borrowed all his allusions from English books then published, our Essayist might have possibly established his System.”–In good time!–This had scarcely been attempted by Peter Burman himself, with the Library of Shakespeare before him.–“Truly,” as Mr. Dogberry says, “for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a King, I could find in my heart to bestow it all on this Subject”: but where should I meet with a Reader?–When the main Pillars are taken away, the whole Building falls in course: Nothing hath been, or can be, pointed out, which is not easily removed; or rather, which was not virtually removed before: a very little Analogy will do the business. I shall therefore have no occasion to trouble myself any further; and may venture to call my Pamphlet, in the words of a pleasant Declaimer against Sermons on the thirtieth of January, “an Answer to every thing that shall hereafter be written on the Subject.”

But “this method of reasoning will prove any one ignorant of the Languages, who hath written when Translations were extant.”–Shade of Burgersdicius!–does it follow, because Shakespeare’s early life was incompatible with a course of Education–whose Contemporaries, Friends and Foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually called Literature –whose mistakes from equivocal Translations, and even typographical Errors, cannot possibly be accounted for otherwise,–that Locke, to whom not one of these circumstances is applicable, understood no Greek?–I suspect, Rollin’s Opinion of our Philosopher was not founded on this argument.

Shakespeare wanted not the Stilts of Languages to raise him above all other men. The quotation from Lilly in the Taming of the Shrew, if indeed it be his, strongly proves the extent of his reading: had he known Terence, he would not have quoted erroneously from his Grammar. Every one hath met with men in common life, who, according to the language of the Water-poet, “got only from Possum to Posset,” and yet will throw out a line occasionally from their Accidence or their Cato de Moribus with tolerable propriety.–If, however, the old Editions be trusted in this passage, our Author’s memory somewhat failed him in point of Concord.