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Page:Samuel Johnson (1911).djvu/117

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It is seldom that authors, though more studious of fame than Shakspeare, rise much above the standard of their own age ; to add a little to what is best, will always be sufficient for pre- sent praise, and those who find themselves exalted into fame are willing to credit their encomiasts, and to spare the labour of con- tending with themselves.

It does not appear that Shakspeare thought his works worthy of posterity, that he levied any ideal tribute upon future times, or had any further prospect, than of present popu- larity and profit. When his plays had been acted, his hope was at an end; he solicited no addition of honour from the reader. . . .

It is no pleasure to me, in revising my volumes, to observe how much paper is wasted in confutation. Whoever considers the revo- lutions of learning, and the various questions of greater or less importance, upon which wit and reason have exercised their powers, must lament the unsuccessfulness of inquiry, and the slow advances of truth, when he reflects that great part of the labour of every writer is only the destruction of those that went before him. The first care of the builder of a new system is to demolish the fabrics which are standing. The chief desire of him that comments an author is to show how much

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