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HE prefent age, though it has done honour
to its own discernment by the applauses paid to Shakespeare, has, at the same time, too grossly neglected the other great masters in the same fchool of writing. The pieces of Beaumont and Fletcher in particular, (to say nothing of Jonson, Maslinger, Shirley, &c.) abound with beauties, so much of the fame colour with those of Shakespeare, that it is almost unaccountable, that the very age which admires one, even to idolatry, Thould pay so little attention to the others; and, while almost every poet or critick, at all eminent in the literary world, has been ambitious of appearing as an editor of Shakespeare, no more than two solitary editions of Beaumont and Fletcher, and one of those of a very late date, have been published in the present century.
The truth is, that Nature indeed is in all ages the fame; but modes and customs, manners and languages, are subject to perpetual variation. Time insensibly renders writings obsolete and uncouth, and the gradual introduction of new words
and idioms brings the older forms into disrepide and difuse. But the intrinsick merit of any work though it may
be obscured, must for ever remains as antique coins, or old plate, though not current or fashionable, still have their value, according to their weight.
· The injuries of modern innovation in the states of letters may be in a great measure repaired, by rendering the writings of our old authors familiar to the publick, and bringing them often before them. How many plays are there of Shakespeare; now in constant acting, of which the directors of the theatres would scarce hazard the representa tion, the lang-continued, and, as it were, trai ditional approbation of the publick had not given à sanction to their irregularities, and familiarized the diction! The language even of our Liturgy
arid Bible, if we may venture to mention them on this.occasion, would perhaps soon become obfoletė. and unintelligible to the generality, if they were not constantly read in our churches. The stile of our authors, especially in this play, is often remarkably plain and simple, and only raised or enriched by the sentiments. It is the opinion of Dryden, that even “ Shakespeare's language is a little obfolete in comparison of theirs; and that thre
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