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P. 95. O, poverty in wit! kingly poor flout!
"Of which," says Mr. Collier, " readers have been left to make what sense they could. The old corrector clearly saw no sense in it, and has furnished us with other words so well qualified for the place that we cannot hesitate to approve them. The enemy had been utterly routed and destroyed, and the Princess, in the excess of her delight, breaks out,
O poverty in wit! kill'd by pure flout."
Now the succeeding line, had it been attended to by the corrector, would have shown him that kill'd could not be the misprinted word, for the Princess continues,—
Will they not, think you, hang themselves to-night?
O poverty in wit! stung by poor flout.
Stung by, as written, might easily be mistaken for kingly.
The extreme parts of time extremely forms
Thus the old copies. Mr. Collier says this is "a passage hitherto passed over, but which evidently requires the emendation which it has received from the corrector, who thus sets it right, and renders the sense distinct: the Princess is on the point of hastily quitting Navarre, on the news of the death of her father, and the King observes,
The extreme parting time expressly forms
Mr. Collier has forgotten Mr. Field's observations on this passage, in which he approves a silent deviation from the first 4to. and folio, made by Mr. Collier, in reading form for forms; but which last is the true reading. The corrector has not succeeded, in substituting parting for parts of, as it destroys the personification; and to substitute expressly for extremely destroys the meaning. The most probable reading is,
The extreme haste of time extremely forms
And often, at his very loose, decides
That which long process could not arbitrate.
Parts was an easy misprint for haste. The hasty flight of time in the end "forms all causes to the purpose of his speed," &c.
P. 96. "Another error occurs in the answer of the Princess to the request of the King, that she would not forget his lovesuit; the reading has been,
I understand you not: my griefs are double.
She did not understand him, because her sorrows had deadened her faculties, and the line as we find from the manuscript correction in the folio, 1632, ought to be,
I understand you not: my griefs are dull.”
Specious but incorrect; the error lies in the small word are, which is a misprint for see. Read,
I understand you not: my griefs see double.
The Princess's griefs were too recent to have dulled her wits, but her tears might make her see double. She uses the expression metaphorically, as an evasive answer.
Ib. "Biron then takes up the subject, and when, among other things, he says,
As love is full of unbefitting strains,
we ought to read strangeness for "strains," which is quite consistent with what he adds just afterwards, when he tells us that love is
Full of strange shapes, of habits, and of forms,
instead of 'straying shapes,' as it is misprinted in the folios. Both these words are altered by the old corrector."
Here the "old corrector" has manifested again his ignorance of the language of Shakespeare, and his unfitness to assume the office of correcting it. Strains here signifies wanton, light, unbecoming behaviour.-"Skipping and vain, full of strange shapes, of habits, and of forms," deviations from propriety of conduct; such as Mrs. Ford, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, alludes to, when she says of Falstaff, “unless he knew some strain in me, he would never have boarded me in this manner." See the note on Winter's Tale, Act iii. Sc. 2.
P. 97. The corrector would here again change "dear groans" to "dire groans;" but dear was unquestionably the
Poet's word, for this is not a solitary instance of its use. "Johnson and Malone," says Tooke, "who trusted to their Latin to explain Shakespeare's English, for dear and dearest would have us read dire and direst; not knowing that Dene and Deɲiend meant hurt and hurting mischief, and mischievous ; and that their Latin, dirus, is from our Anglo-Saxon Dene, which they would expunge."
That the corrector should fall into the error we are not surprised, but that Mr. Collier should advocate the mischievous interference with the Poet's language is not a little surprising.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
T the opening of this play we have some of those manifold "coincidences" with the corrected text of the variorum editions, which excite no little surprise and some misgiving, but I pass them over, as needing no other notice.
ACT I. SCENE I.
P. 100. The corrector would substitute for Bottom's common colloquial phrase," and so grow to a point," to "and so go on to appoint." What but the pruritus emendandi could induce him to interfere with this passage, which is much. better than his substitution, we are at a loss to imagine.
Ib. The same observation will apply to the proposed change of "I will move storms" to "I will move stones." Bottom had said, "let the audience look to their eyes," and his meaning, in his bombastic style, was, "I will move storms of passion in them, let them look to their eyes."
ACT II. SCENE I.
Ib. The next is a most mischievous piece of meddling with a fine passage full of fancy, full of fancy, as it stands in the old authentic
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
The corrector would have it,
The cowslips all her pensioners be;
The passage has reference to the band of gentlemen pensioners, in which Queen Elizabeth took much pride. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men of the best families and fortune, and their dress of remarkable splendour; their coats might well be said to be of gold. Mrs. Quickly's notice of them, as among the suitors of Mrs. Ford, will be remembered: "And yet there has been earls, nay, what is more, pensioners." Mr. Collier's objection, that "cowslips are never tall," is a strange one. Drayton, in his Nymphidia, thought otherwise, and surely a long stalked cowslip would be well designated by a fairy as tall. Thus Drayton :
For the queen a fitting tower,
Quoth he, is that fair cowslip flower,—
Much of a piece with this objection is the notion that "Rubies would be singular decorations for a coat!!" Mr. Collier seems to have no notion of the splendid jewelled dresses of our ancestors. Every one who has imagination enough to follow Shakespeare in his exquisite fanciful imagery, would pronounce this attempt at improving upon the Poet, as impertinent and unwarrantable.
P. 102. Love takes the meaning in love's conference.
The corrector changes conference to confidence, to the utter destruction of the meaning.
The passage evidently means, " Let no suspicion of ill enter thy mind. In the conversation of those who are assured of each other's kindness, not suspicion, but love, takes the meaning."
ACT III. SCENE II.
You spend your passion on a mispris'd mood:
which the corrector would change to
You spend your passion in a mispris'd flood.
This certainly does not add to the force or intelligibility of
"On a mispris'd mood," is, in a mistaken manOn was frequently used where we should now use in.
P. 104. "The conjecture hazarded in note 6," (Mr. C.'s edit. of Shakesp. p. 431,) " that, princess of pure white,' ought to be read 'impress of pure white,' is confirmed by the manuscript corrector of the folio, 1632, and the quotation ought in future to stand,
O, let me kiss
This impress of pure white.
In fact, the use of the word impress, in the beginning of the line, naturally led to the word seal, at the end of it."
There is no valid reason for the conjecture, and consequently not the slightest ground for the substitution. Mr. Collier's argument is easily answered by a parallel passage in Antony and Cleopatra :—
My playfellow, your hand: this kingly seal
Hanmer's proposal to read "pureness of pure white," might probably suggest to some follower that change was necessary, and hence the needless interference with the passage.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
Fairies, be gone, and be all ways away.
The corrector here again unnecessarily interferes, and would read, and be a while away. Mr. Collier's observation is, that "Titania does not wish her attendants to be permanently, but only temporarily, absent." But Titania only means to tell the attendant fairies to disperse themselves, and watch that no danger may approach. This is the sensible view Theobald takes of the passage; which, but for such meddling, would disturb no reader of the Poet for a moment.
ACT V. SCENE I.
P. 108. That is, hot ice and wonderous strange snow.
The corrector would substitute wond'rous seething snow. There is not the slightest necessity for the alteration.