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than appear at first sight to have been necessary. For these, it can only be said, that when they prove that phraseology or source of merriment to have been once general, which at present seems particular, they are not quite impertinently intruded; as they may serve to free the author from a suspicion of having employed an affected fingularity of exprefsion, or indulged himself in allusions to tranfient customs, which were not of sufficient notoriety to deserve ridicule or reprehenfion. When examples in favour of contradictory opinions are afsembled, though no attempt is made to decide on either part, such neutral collections should always be regarded as materials for future criticks, who may hereafter apply them with success. Authorities, whether in refpeót of words, or things, are not always producible from the most celebrated writers; s yet
5 Mr. T. Warton in his excellent Remarks on the faery Queen of Spenjer, offers a similar apology for having intro
а duced illustrations from obsolete literature. 66 I fear (says he) I shall be censured for quoting too many pieces of this fort, But experience has fatally proved, that the commentator on Spenser, Jonson, and the rest of our elder poets, will in vain give fpecimens of his classical erudition, unless, at the same time, he brings to his work a mind intimately acquainted with those books, which, though now forgotten, were yet in common use and high repute about the time in which his authors respectively wrote, and which they consequently must have read. While these are unknown, many allusions and many imitations will either remain obfcure, or lose half their beauty and propriety: 66 as the figures vanish when the canvas is decayed."
- Pope langhs at Theobald for giving us, in his edition of Shakspeare, a sample of
all fuch READING as was never read. But these strange and ridiculous books which Theobald
such circumstances as fall below the notice of history, can only be fought in the Jest-book, the fatire, or the play; and the novel, whose fashion did not outlive a week, is sometimes necessary to throw light on those annals which take in the compass of an age. Those, therefore, who would wish to have the peculiarities of Nym familiarized to their ideas, must excuse the insertion of such an epigram as best suits the purpose, however tedious in itself; and such as would be acquainted with the propriety of Falstaff's allusion to stewed prunes, should not be disgufted at a multitude of instances, which, when the point is once known to be established, may be diminished by any future editor. An author who catches (as Pope expresses it) at the Cynthia of a minute, and does not furnish notes to his own works, is sure to lose half toe praise which he might have claimed, had he dealt in allusions less temporary, or cleared
quoted, were unluckily the very books which SHAKSPEARE himself had studied; the knowledge of which enabled that usetul extitor to explain so many difficult allusions and 'obsolete customs in his poet, which otherwise could never have been understood. For want of this sort of literature, Pope telis us that the dreadful Sagittary in Troilus and Creffida, fignifies Teucer, so celebrated for his skill in archery. Had he deigned to consult an old history, called The Destruktion of Troy, a book which was the delight of SHAKSPEARE and of his age, he would have found that this formidable archer, was no other than an imaginary beast, which the Grecian army brought against Troy. If SHAKSPEARE is worth reading, he is worth explaining; and the researches used for so valuable and elegant a purpose, merit the thanks of genius and candour, not the fatire of prejudice and ignorance. That labour, which so essentially contributes to the service of true taste, deserves a more honourable repository than The Temple of Dullness." STEEVENS.
up for himself those difficulties which lapse of time must inevitably create.
The author of the additional notes has rather been desirous to support old readings, than to claim the merit of introducing new ones. He defires to be regarded as one, who found the task he undertook more arduous than it seemed, while he was yet feeding his vanity with the hopes of introducing himself to the world as an editor in form He, who has discovered in himself the power to rectily a few milakes with ease, is naturally led to imagine, that all difficulties must yield to the efforts of future labour; and perhaps feels a reluctance to be undeceived at last.
Mr. Steevens defires it may be observed, that he has firictly complied with the terms exhibited in his proposals, having appropriated all such asistances, as he received, to the ule of the present editor, whose judgment has, in every instance, determined on their respective merits.' While he enumerates his obligations to his correspondents, it is necessary that one comprehensive remark should be made onsuch communications as are omitted in this edition, though they might have proved of great advantage to a more daring commentator. The majority of these were founded on the supposition, that Shakspeare was originally an author correct in the utmost degree, but maimed and interpolated by the neglect or presumption of the players. In consequence of this belief, alterations have been proposed wherever a verse could be harmonized, an epithet exchanged for one more apposite, or a sentiment rendered less perplexed. Had the general current of advice been followed, the notes would have been
filled with attempts at emendation apparently unnecessary, though sometimes elegant, and as frequently with explanations of what none would have thought difficult. A constant peruser of Shakspeare will suppose whatever is ealy to his own apprehension, will prove so to that of others, and consequently may país over some real perplexities in filence. On the contrary, if in consideration of the different abilities of every class of readers, he should offer a comment on all harsh inversions of phrase, or peculiarities of expression, he will at once excite the disgust and displeasure of such as think their own knowledge or fagacity undervalued. It is difficult to fix a medium between doing too little and too much in the task of mere explanation. There are yet many passages unexplained and unintelligible, which may be reformed, at hazard of whatever licence, for exhibitions on the stage, in which the pleasure of the audience is chiefly to be considered; but must remain untouched by the critical editor, whose conje&tures are limited by narrow bounds, and who gives only what he at least fuppofes his author to have written.
If it is not to be expected that each vitiated paffage in Shakspeare can be restored, till a greater latıtude of experiment shall be allowed; fo neither can it be fupposed that the force of all his allusions will be pointed out, till such books are thoroughly exau mined, as cannot easily at present be collected, if at all. Several of the most correct lists of our dramatick pieces exhibit the titles of plays, which are not to be met with in the completest collections. It is almost unnecessary to mention any other than
Mr. Garrick's, which , curious and extensive as it is, derives its grcatest value from its accessibility.“
6 There is reason to think that about the time of the Reformation, great numbers of plays were printed, though few of that age are now to be found; for
part of Queen Elizabeth's INJUNCTIons in 1559, are particularly directed to the suppressing of 5. Many pamphlets, PLAYES, and ballads : that no manner of person shall enterprize to print any such, &c. but under certain restrictions." Vid. Sect. V. This observation is taken from Dr. Percy's Additions to his Essay on the Origin of the English Stage. It appears likewise from a page at the conclusion of the second Vol. of the entries belonging to the Stationers' company, that in the 41st year of Queen Elizabeth, many new restraints on booksellers were laid. Among these are the following , " That no playes be printed excepte they bee allowed by such as have auctoritye. The records of the Stationers however contain the entries of some which have never yet been met with by the most fuccefsful collectors; nor are their titles to be found in any registers of the stage, whether ancient or modern. It should seem from the same volumes that it was cuitomary for the Stationers to seize the whole impression of any work that had given offence, and burn it publickly at their hall, in obedience to the edicts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London, who fometimes enjoyed these literary executions at their respective palaces. Among other works condemned to the flames by these discerning prclates, were the complete Satires of Bishop Hall.
Mr. Theobald, at the conclusion of the preface to his first edition of Shakspeare , asserts, that exclusive of the dramas of Ben Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher, he had read, o above 800 of old Englith plays." He omitted this affertion, however, on the republication of the fame work, and, I hope, he did so, through a consciousness of its utter falshood; for if we except the plays of the authors already mentioned, it would be difficult to discover half the number that were written early enough to serve the purpose for which he pretends to have perused this imaginary stock of ancient literature.
I might add , that the private collection of Mr. Theobald, which, including the plays of Jonson, Fletcher, and Shak