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finely drawn by Lucian, in his Auction of the Philosophers; and how well Shakspeare has copied it.
WAR BURTON. -angry wit to be a lord.] The meaning may be, I should hate myself for patiently enduring to be a lord. This is ill enough expressed. Perhaps some happy change may set it right. I have tried, and can do nothing.
JOHNSON I confess my inability either to explain or amend this passage, which must be left for some more successful commentator.
If I hazard one conjecture, it is with the smallest degree of confidence. By an angry wit Apemantus may mean the poet, who has been provoking him. The sense will then be this: I should hate myself, because I could find no captious wit (like him) to take the title in my stead.
use of quittance.] All customary returns made in discharge of obligations.
so many dip their meat In one man's blood ;-] The allusion is to a pack of hounds trained to pursuit by being gratified with the blood of the animal which they kill, and the won. der is that the animal on which they are feeding cheers them to the chase.
JOHNSON. 17-wind-pipe's dangerous notes:] The notes of the wind-pipe seem to be only the indications which shew where the wind-pipe is.
JOHNSON. Shakspeare is very fond of making use of musical
terms, when he is speaking of the human body, and wind-pipe and notes savour very strongly of a quibble.
18 Why have you that charitable title, &c ] The meaning is probably this. Why are you distinguished from thousands by that title of endearment, was there not a particular connection and intercourse of tenderness between you and me.
19 O joy, e'en made away, &c.] For this Hanmer writes, O joy, e'en made a joy, ere't can be born; and is followed by Dr. Warburton. I am always inclinable to think well of that which is approved by so much learning and sagacity, yet cannot receive this alteration. Tears being the effect both of joy and grief, supplied our author with an opportunity of conceit, which he seldom fails to indulge. Timon, weeping with a kind of tender pleasure, cries out, O joy, e'en made away, destroyed, turned to tears, before it can be born, before it can be fully possessed.
JOHNSON 20 Like madness is the glory of this life-] The glory of this life is very near to madness, as may be made appear from this pomp, exhibited in a place where a philosopher is feeding on oil and roots. When we see by example how few are the necessaries of life, we learn what madness there is in so much superfluity.
21 Advance this jewel;] Raise it to honour by wearing it.
R2 Serving of becks-) A beck is a salutation with
the head. To serve a beck means, therefore, to pay proper attention to such becks when they are given.
25 Which flashes-] Which for who.
24 Enter APEMANTUs and a fool.] I suspect some scene to be lost, in which the entrance of the fool, and the
that follows him, was prepared by some introductory dialogue, in which the audience was informed that they were the fool and page of Phrynia, Timandra, or some other courtesan, upon the knowledge of which depends the greater part of the ensuing jocularity.
JOHNSON. 25 She's e'en setting on water to scald, &c.] The old name for the disease got at Corinth was the brenning, and a sense of scalding is one of its first symptoms.
26 more than his artificial one.] Meaning the celebrated philosopher's stone, which was in those times much talked of. Sir Thomas Smith was one of those who lost considerable sums in seeking of it.
JOHNSON. Sir Richard Steele was one of the last eminent men who entertained hopes of being successful in this pursuit. His laboratory was at Poplar, a village near London, and is now converted into a garden house.
to a wasteful cock,] i. e, a cockloft, a garret. And a wasteful cock, signifies a garret lying in waste, neglected, put to no use.
Hanmer's explanation is received by Dr. Warburton, yet I think them both apparently mistaken. A wasteful cock, is a cock or pipe with a turning stopple
running to waste. In this sense, both the terms have their usual meaning; but I know not that cock is ever used for cockloft, or wasteful for lying in waste, or that lying in waste is at all a pbrase.
JOHNSON had he mistook him,-) i. e. mistook himself. Had he confounded me with him, and sent to me for the money.
29 He does deny him, in respect of his, &c.] That is, in respect of his fortune, what Lucius denies to Timon is in proportion to what Lucius possesses, less than the usual alms given by good men to beggars.
he cross'd himself by't: and I cannot think, but in the end the villainies of man will set him clear.] Set him clear does not mean acquit him before heaven; for then the devil must be supposed to know what he did: but it signifies puzzle him, outdo him at his own weapons.
How the devil, or any other being, should be set clear by being puzzled and outdone, the commentator has not explained. When in a crowd we would have an opening made, we say, Stand clear, that is, out of the way of danger. With some affinity to this use, though not without great harshness, to set clear, may be to set aside. But I believe the original corruption is the insertion of the negative, which was obtruded by some transcriber, who supposed crossed to mean thwarted, when it meant, erempted from evil. The use of crossing, by way of protection or purification, was probably not worn out in Shakspeare's time. The sense of set clear is now easy; he has no longer the
guilt of tempting man. To cross himself may mean, in a very familiar sense, to clear his score, to get out of debt, to quit his reckoning. He knew not what he did, may mean, he knew not how much good he was doing himself. There is then no need of emendation.
JOHNSON. Si Enter ServiLIUS.] It may be observed that Shakspeare has unskilfully filled his Greek story with Roman names.
JOHNSON. 32 Upon that were my thoughts tiring,] A hawk, I think, is said to tire, when she amuses herself with pecking a pheasant's wing, or any thing that puts her in mind of prey. To tire upon a thing is, therefore, to be idly employed upon it.
JOHNSON. 33 minute-jacks;] A minute-jack is what was called formerly a Jack of the clock-house; an image whose office was the same as one of those at St. Dunstan's church in Fleet-street.
34 Strange unusual blood,] Of this passage, I suppose, every reader would wish for a correction; but the word, harsh as it is, stands fortified by the rhyme, to which, perhaps, ii owes its introduction. I know not what to propose. Perhaps,
-strange unusual mood, may, by some, be thought better, and by others worse.
JOHNSON. I should suppose, that the poet meant to apostrophize Timon's ungrateful and unnatural friends, by calling them
strange unusual brood!