« PreviousContinue »
Venus and Adonis, of which I have not been able to procure the first impreffion. The fecond edition, printed in 1596, was obligingly tranfmitted to me by the late Reverend Thomas Warton, of whose friendly and valuable correspondence I was deprived by death, when these volumes were almoft ready to be iffued from the prefs. It is painful to recollect how many of (I had almost faid) my coadjutors have died fince the present work was begun :-the elegant scholar, and ingenious writer, whom I have juft mentioned; Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Tyrwhitt: men, from whose approbation of my labours I had promised myself much pleasure, and whose stamp could give a value and currency to any work.
With the materials which I have been fo fortunate as to obtain, relative to our poet, his kindred, and friends, it would not have been difficult to have formed a new Life of Shakspeare, lefs meagre and imperfect than that left us by Mr. Rowe: but the information which I have procured having been obtained at very different times, it is neceffarily difperfed, partly in the copious notes fubjoined to Rowe's Life, and partly in the Hiftorical Account of our old actors. At fome future time I hope to weave the whole into one uniform and connected narrative.
My inquiries having been carried on almoft to the very moment of publication, fome circumftances relative to our poet were obtained too late to be introduced into any part of the present work. Of thefe due ufe will be made hereafter.
The prefaces of Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton, I have not retained, because they appeared to me to throw no light on our author or his works: the room which they would have taken up, will,
I truft, be found occupied by more valuable
As fome of the preceding editors have juftly been condemned for innovation, fo perhaps (for of objections there is no end,) I may be cenfured for too ftrict an adherence to the ancient copies. I have conftantly had in view the Roman fentiment adopted by Dr. Johnson, that "it is more honourable to fave a citizen than to deftroy an enemy,' and, like him, "have been more careful to protect than to attack."-" I do not wifh the reader to forget, (fays the fame writer,) that the most commodious (and he might have added, the most forcible and elegant,) is not always the true reading."5 On this principle I have uniformly proceeded, having refolved never to deviate from the authentick copies, merely because the phraseology was harsh or uncommon. Many paffages, which have heretofore been confidered as corrupt, and are now fupported by the ufage of contemporary writers, fully prove the propriety of this caution."
5 King Henry IV. Part II.
See particularly The Merchant of Venice, Vol. VII. p. 297:
with the note there.
We undoubtedly fhould not now write
"But, left myself be guilty to felf-wrong,-"
yet we find this phrafe in The Comedy of Errors, A& III.
Vol. XX. See alfo The Winter's Tale, Vol. IX. p. 420 :
This your fon-in-law,
And fon unto the king, (whom heavens directing,) "Is troth-plight to your daughter."
Meafure for Meafure, Vol. VI. p. 358: "-to be fo bared,-." Coriolanus, Vol. XVI. p. 148, n. 2:
"Which often, thus, correcting thy ftout heart," &c. Hamlet, Vol. XVIII. p. 40:
"That he might not beteem the winds of heaven," &c.
The rage for innovation till within thefe laft thirty years was fo great, that many words were difmiffed from our poet's text, which in his time were current in every mouth. In all the editions fince that of Mr. Rowe, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. the word channel has been rejected, and kennel fubftituted in its room, though the former term was commonly employed in the fame fense in the time of our author; and the learned Bishop of Worcefter has ftrenuously endeavoured to prove that in Cymbeline the poet wrote-not fhakes, but fhuts or checks, "all our buds from growing;" though the authenticity of the original reading is established beyond all controverfy by two other paffages of Shakspeare. Very foon, indeed, after his death, this rage for innovation feems to have feized his editors; for in the year 1616 an edition of his Rape of Lucrece was published, which was faid to be newly revifed and corrected; but in which, in fact, feveral arbitrary changes were made, and the ancient diction rejected for one fomewhat more modern. Even in the first complete collection of his plays published in 1623,
As you like it, Vol. VIII. p. 59, n.7:
My voice is ragged,
Cymbeline, Vol. XVIII. p. 647, n.2:
"Whom heavens, in justice, (both on her and hers,) "Have laid moft heavy hand."
A& II. fc. i: "-throw the quean in the channel." that paffage, as in many others, I have filently restored the original reading, without any obfervation; but the word in this fenfe, being now obfolete, should have been illustrated by a note. This defect, however, will be found remedied in K. Henry VI. P. II. A& II. fc. ii:
"As if a channel fhould be call'd a fea."
Hurd's HoR. 4th. edit. Vol. I. p. 55.
some changes were undoubtedly made from ignorance of his meaning and phrafeology. They had, I fuppofe, been made in the playhoufe copies after his retirement from the theatre. Thus in Othello, Brabantio is made to call to his domefticks to raise "fome special officers of might," instead of " officers of night;" and the phrase "of all loves,” in the fame play, not being understood, “for love's fake" was fubftituted in its room." So, in Hamlet, we have ere ever for or ever, and rites inftead of the more ancient word, crants. In King Lear, Act I. fc. i. the substitution of-" Goes thy heart with this?" instead of " Goes this with thy heart?” without doubt arose from the fame cause. In the plays of which we have no quarto copies, we may be fure that. fimilar innovations were made, though we have now no certain means of detecting them.
After what has been proved concerning the fophiftications and corruptions of the Second Folio, we cannot be furprized that when thefe plays were republished by Mr. Rowe in the beginning of this century from a later folio, in which the interpolations of the former were all preserved, and many new errors added, almost every page of his work was disfigured by accumulated corruptions. In Mr. Pope's edition our author was not lefs mifreprefented; for though by examining the oldeft copies he detected fome errors, by his numerous fanciful alterations the poet was fo completely modernized, that I am confident, had he "re-vifited the glimpfes of the moon," he would not have understood his own works. From the quartos indeed a few valuable restorations were made; but all the advantage that was thus obtained,
was outweighed by arbitrary changes, tranfpofitions, and interpolations.
The readers of Shakspeare being difgufted with the liberties taken by Mr. Pope, the fubfequent edition of Theobald was juftly preferred; because he profeffed to adhere to the ancient copies more ftrictly than his competitor, and illuftrated a few. paffages by extracts from the writers of our poet's age. That his work fhould at this day be confidered of any value, only fhows how long impreffions will remain, when they are once made; for Theobald, though not fo great an innovator as Pope, was yet a confiderable innovator; and his edition being printed from that of his immediate predeceffor, while a few arbitrary changes made by Pope were detected, innumerable fophiftications were filently adopted. His knowledge of the contemporary authors was fo fcanty, that all the illuftration of that kind difperfed throughout his volumes, has been exceeded by the researches which have fince been made for the purpose of elucidating a fingle play.
Of Sir Thomas Hanmer it is only neceffary to say, that he adopted almost all the innovations of Pope, adding to them whatever caprice dictated.
To him fucceeded Dr. Warburton, a critick, who (as hath been faid of Salmafius) feems to have erected his throne on a heap of ftones, that he might have them at hand to throw at the heads of all those who paffed by. His unbounded licence in fubftituting his own chimerical conceits in the place of the author's genuine text, has been fo fully fhown by his revifers, that I fuppofe no critical reader will ever again open his volumes. An hundred ftrappadoes, according to an Italian co