Page images

its margins were made before it was subjected to all the illusage it experienced. When it first came into my hands, and indeed for some time afterwards, I imagined that the binding was the original rough calf in which many books of about the same date were clothed ; but more recent examination has convinced me, that this was at least the second coat it had worn. It is, nevertheless, in a very shabby condition, quite consistent with the state of the interior, where, besides the loss of some leaves, as already mentioned, and the loosening of others, many stains of wine, beer, and other liquids are observable : here and there, holes have been burned in the paper, either by the falling of the lighted snuff of a candle, or by the ashes of tobacco. In several places it is torn and disfigured by blots and dirt, and every margin bears evidence to frequent and careless perusal. In short, to a choice collector, no book could well present a more forbidding appearance.

I was tempted only by its cheapness to buy it, under the following circumstances :—In the spring of 1849 I happened to be in the shop of the late Mr. Rodd, of Great Newportstreet, at the time when a package of books arrived from the country: my impression is that it came from Bedfordshire, but I am not at all certain upon a point which I looked upon as a matter of no importance. He opened the parcel in my presence, as he had often done before in the course of my thirty or forty years' acquaintance with him, and looking at the backs and title-pages of several volumes, I saw that they were chiefly works of little interest to me. Two folios, however, attracted my attention, one of them gilt on the sides, and the other in rough calf: the first was an excellent copy of Florio's “New World of Words," 1611, with the name of Henry Osborn (whom I mistook at the moment for his celebrated namesake, Francis) upon the first leaf; and the other a copy of the second folio of Shakespeare's Plays, much cropped, the covers old and greasy, and, as I saw at a glance on opening them, imperfect at the beginning and end. Concluding hastily that the latter would complete another poor copy of the second folio, which I had bought of the same bookseller, and which I had had for some years in my possession, and wanting the former for my use, I bought them both, the Florio for twelve, and the Shakespeare for thirty shillings.

formerly the property of the poet Southerne, with his autograph upon the title-page: of the notes it contains I was able, by the kindness of the then proprietor, to avail myself, when formerly editing the Shakespeare to which the present work is a Supplement.

As it turned out, I at first repented my bargain as regarded the Shakespeare, because, when I took it home, it appeared that two leaves which I wanted were unfit for my purpose, not merely by being too short, but damaged and defaced : thus disappointed, I threw it by, and did not see it again, until I made a selection of books I would take with me on quitting London. In the mean time, finding that I could not readily remedy the deficiencies in my other copy of the folio, 1632, I had parted with it; and when I removed into the country, with my family, in the spring of 1850, in order that

, I might not be without some copy of the second folio for the purpose of reference, I took with me that which is the foundation of the present work.

It was while putting my books together for removal, that I first observed some marks in the margin of this folio ; but it was subsequently placed upon an upper shelf,' and I did

• I paid the money for them at the time. Mr. Wilkinson, of Wellingtonstreet, one of Mr. Rodd's executors, has several times obligingly afforded me the opportunity of inspecting Mr. Rodd's account-books, in order, if possible, to trace from whence the package came, but without success. Mr. Rodd does not appear to have kept any stock-book, showing how and when volumes came into his hands, and the entries in his day-book and ledger are not regular nor particular: his latest memorandum, on 19th April, only a short time before his sudden death, records the sale of “three books,” without specifying their titles, or giving the name of the purchaser. His memory was very faithful, and to that, doubtless, he often trusted. I am confident that the parcel was from the country; but any inquiries, regarding sales there, could hardly be expected to be satisfactorily answered.

[ocr errors]

not take it down until I had occasion to consult it. It then struck me that Thomas Perkins, whose name, with the addition of “his Booke,” was upon the cover, might be the old actor who had performed in Marlowe's “Jew of Malta,” on its revival shortly before 1633. At this time I fancied that the binding was of about that date, and that the volume might have been his; but in the first place, I found that his name was Richard Perkins, and in the next I became satisfied that the rough calf was not the original binding. Still, Thomas Perkins might have been a descendant of Richard; and this circumstance and others induced me to examine the volume more particularly: I then discovered, to my surprise, that there was hardly a page which did not present, in a handwriting of the time, some emendations in the pointing or in the text, while on most of them they were frequent, and on many numerous.

Of course I now submitted the folio to a most careful scrutiny; and as it occupied a considerable time to complete the inspection, how much more must it have consumed to make the alterations? The ink was of various shades, differing sometimes on the same page, and I was once disposed to think that two distinct hands had been employed upon them: this notion I have since abandoned ; and I am now decidedly of opinion that the same writing prevails from beginning to end, but that the amendments must have been introduced from time to time, during, perhaps, the course of several years. The changes in punctuation alone, always made with nicety and patience, must have required a long period, considering their number ; the other alterations, sometimes most minute, extending even to turned letters and typographical trifles of that kind, from their very nature could not have been introduced with rapidity, while many

of the errata must have severely tasked the industry of the old corrector.

6 It ought to be mentioned, in reference to the question of the authority of the emendations, that some of them are upon erasures, as if the cor

Then comes the question, why any of them were made, and why such extraordinary pains were bestowed on this particular copy of the folio, 1632 ? To this inquiry no complete reply, that I am aware of, can be given; but some circumstances can be stated, which may tend to a partial solution of the difficulty.

Corrections only have been hitherto spoken of; but there are at least two other very peculiar features in the volume. Many passages, in nearly all the plays, are struck out with a pen, as if for the purpose of shortening the performance”; and we need not feel much hesitation in coming to the conclusion, that these omissions had reference to the representation of the plays by some company about the date of the folio, 1632. To this fact we may add, that hundreds of stage-directions have been inserted in manuscript, as if for the guidance and instruction of actors, in order that no mistake might be made in what is usually denominated stage-business. It is known that in this respect the old printed copies are very deficient"; and sometimes the written additions of this kind seem even more frequent, and more

rector had either altered his mind as to particular changes, or had obliterated something that had been written before-possibly, by some person not so well informed as himself.

7 “Antony and Cleopatra” is the only drama that is entirely exempt from this treatment: possibly, the old corrector never witnessed the performance of it. In all the other plays, more or less is “cut out,” generally, it should seem, in proportion to popularity.

8 In a few cases these manuscript stage-directions are of the highest importance in illustrating the wonderful judgment and skill of Shakespeare in conducting the business of his scenes. This matter cannot well be explained in the compass of a note; but if the reader will turn to p. 5, it will be seen of what consequence the mere words, Put on robe again, are to understanding in what way the sudden somnolency of Miranda, which has always excited remark, had been produced, and was to be accounted for. It would be easy to point out other instances, but they will occur in the course of the volume.

9 There is, I think, but one printed note of aside in the whole of the six-and-thirty plays; but in manuscript the utmost care is taken so to mark all speeches intended to be heard by the audience, but not by the characters engaged in the scene.


explicit, than might be thought necessary. The erasures of passages and scenes are quite inconsistent with the notion that a new edition of the folio, 1632, was contemplated; and how are they, and the new stage-directions, and "asides,” to be accounted for, excepting on the supposition that the volume once belonged to a person interested in, or connected with, one of our early theatres ? The continuation of the corrections and emendations, in spite of, and through the erasures, may show that they were done at a different time, and by a different person ; but who shall say which was done first, or whether both were not, in fact, the work of the same hand?

Passing by these matters, upon which we can arrive at no certain result, we must briefly advert to another point upon which, however, we are quite as much in the dark :-we mean the authority upon which these changes, of greater or of less importance, were introduced. How are we warranted in giving credit to any of them ?

The first and best answer seems to be that which one of the most acute of the commentators applied to an avowedly conjectural emendation—that it required no authority—that it carried conviction on the very face of it?. Many of the most valuable corrections of Shakespeare's text are, in truth, selfevident; and so apparent, when once suggested, that it seems wonderful how the plays could have passed through the hands of men of such learning and critical acumen, during the last century and a half (to say nothing of the period occupied by the publication of the four folios), without the detection of such indisputable blunders. Let us take an instance from “ The Taming of the Shrew,” Act I, Scene I., where Lucentio, arriving in Padua, to read

· Some expressions and lines of an irreligious or indelicate character are also struck out, evincing, perhaps, the advance of a better, or purer, taste about the period when the emendator went over the volume.

2 Monk Mason, in a note upon “ Troilus and Cressida,” Act III. Scene III. ; which, however, was there singularly inapt.

« PreviousContinue »