« PreviousContinue »
To the other evils of our civil war must be added the interruption of polite learning, and the suppreffion of many dramatick and poetical names, which were plunged in obscurity by .tumults and revolutions, and have never since attracted curiosity. The utter neglect of ancient English literature continued fo long, that many books may be supposed to be loft; and that curiosity, which has been now for some years increasing among us, wants materials for its operations. Books and pamphlets, printed originally in small numbers, being thus neglected, were soon destroyed; and though the capital authors were preserved, they were preserved to languith without regard. How little Shakspeare himself was
speare , did not amount to many more than an hundred, mained entire in the hands of the late Mr. Tonson, till the time of his death. It does not appear that any
other collection but the Harleian was at that time formed; nor does Mr. Theobald's edition contain any intrinsick evidences of fo comprehensive an examination of our eldest dramatick writers, as he assumes to himself the merit of having made. STEKVENS,
Whatever Mr. Theobald might venture to affert, there is fufficient evidence existing that at the time of his death he was not possessed of more than 295 quarto plays in the whole, and some of these, it is probable, were different editions of the same play. He died shortly after the 6th of September, 1744. On the 20th of October his library was advertized to be sold by auction, by Charles Corbett, and on the third day was the following lot: 66295 Old English Plays in quarto, fome of them so scarce as not to be had at any price: to many of which are MSS. notes and remarks by Mr. Theobald, all done up neatly in boards in single plays. They will all be fold in one lot.” REED.
There were about five hundred and fifty plays printed before the Restoration, exclusive of those written by Shakspearez, Jonson, and Fletcher. MALONE.
once read, may be understood from Tate,' who, in his dedication to the altered play of King Lear, speaks of the original as of an obscure piece , recomniended to his notice by a friend; and the author of the Tatler, having occasion to quote a few lines
a out of Macbeth, was content to receive them from D'Avenant's alteration of that celebrated drama, in which almost every original beauty is either aukwardly disguiled, or arbitrarily omitted. So little were the defects or peculiarities of the old writers
? In the year 1707 Mr. N. Tate published a tragedy called Injured Love, or the Cruel Husband, and in tlie title-page calls himself 66 Author of the tragedy called King Lear."
In a book called The Aflor, or a Treatise on the Art of Playing, 12mo, published in 1750, and imputed to Dr. Hill, is the following pretended extract from Romeo and Juliet, with the author's remark on it:
66 The faints that heard our vows and know our love,
66 And court them all for my dear Juliet's safety. ' 6. The reader will pardon us on this and some other occafions, that where we quote passages from plays, we give them as the author gives them, not as the butcherly hand of a blockkead prompter may have lopped them, or as the unequal genius of some bungling critic may have attempted to mend ihem. Whoever remembers the merit of the player's speaking the things we celebrate them for, we are pretty confident will wish he spoke them abjolutely as we give them, that is, as the author gives them."
Perhaps it is unneceffary to inform the reader that not one of the lines above quoted is to be found in the Romeo and Juliet'of Shakspeare. They are copied from the Gaius Marius of Otway, STEVENS.
known, even at the beginning of our century, that though the custom of alliteration had prevailed to that degree in the time of Shakspeare, that it becamo contemptible and ridiculous, yet it is made one of Waller's praises by a writer of his life, that he first introduced this practice into English versification.
It will be expected that some notice should be taken of the last editor of Shakspeare, and that his merits should be estimated with those of his predeceffors. Little, however, can be faid of a work, to the completion of which, both a large proportion of the commentary and various readings is as yet' wanting. The Second Part of King Henry VI. is the only play from that edition, which has been consulted in the course of this work; for as several passages there are arbitrarily omitted, and as wo notice is given when other deviations are made from the old copies , it was of little consequence to examine any further. This circumstance is mentioned, leit such'accidental coincidences of opinion, as may be discovered hereafter, should be interpreted into plagiarism.
It may occasionally happen, that some of the remarks long ago produced by others , are offered again as recent discoveries. It is likewise absolutely impossible to pronounce with any degree of certainty, whence all the hints, which furnish matter for a commentary, have been collected, as they lay scattered in many books and papers, which were probably never read but once, or the particulars which they contain received only in the course of common conversation; nay, what is called plagiarism, is often no more than the result of having thought alike with others on the same subject.
The dispute about the learning of Shakspeare being now finally settled, a catalogue is added of those translated authors, whom Mr. Pope has thought proper to call
6. The classicks of an age that heard of none. The reader may not be displeased to have the Greek and Roman poets, orators, &c. who had been rendered accessible to our author, exposed at one view; * especially as the list has received the advantage of being corrected and amplified by the Reverend Dr. Farmer, the substance of whose
pamphlet is interspersed through the notes which are added in this revisal of Dr. Johnson's Shakspeare.
To those who have advanced the reputation of our poet, it has been endeavoured, by Dr. Johnson, in a foregoing preface, impartially to allot their dividend of fame; and it is with great regret that we now add to the catalogue, another, the consequence of whose death will perlaps affect not only the works of Shakspeare, but of many other writers. Soon after the first appearance of this edition, a disease, rapid in its progress, deprived the world of Mr. Jacob Tonson; a man, whose zeal for the improvement of English literature, and whose liberality to men of learning, gave him a juft title to all the honours which men of learning can bestow. To suppose that a person employed in an extensive trade, lived in a state of indifference to loss and gain, would be to conceive a character incredible and romantick; but it may be justly faid of Mr. Tonson, that he had enlarged his mind beyond folicitude about petty losses, and refined it from the desire of unreasonable profit. He was willing to admit those with whom he contracted, to the just advantage of their own labours; and had never learned to consider the author as an under-agent to the bookseller. The wealth which he inherited or acquired, he enjoyed like a man conscious of the dignity of a profession subservient to learning. His domestick life was clegant, and his charity was liberal. His manners were soft, and his conversation : delicate; nor is, perhaps, any quality in him more to be censured, than that reserve which confined his acquaintance to a small number, and made his example less useful, as it was less extensive. He was the last commercial name of a family which will be long remembered; and if Horace thought it not improper to convey the Sosii to posterity; if rhetorick suffered no dishonor from Quintilian's dedication to TRYPHO; let it not be thought that we disgrace Shakspeare, by appending to his works the name of TONSON.
* See Vol. II.
To this prefatory advertisement I have now subjoined: a chapter extracted'from the Guls Hornbook, (a fatirical pamphlet written by Decker in the
year 1609) as it affords the reader a more complete idea of the customs peculiar to our ancient theatres, than any other publication which has hitherto fallen in my way. See this performance, page 27.
8 This addition to Mr. Steevens's Advertisement was made in 1778. MALONE.