« PreviousContinue »
Bat, when these helps were administer'd, there was yet behind a very great number of passages,
a labouring under various defects and those of various degree, that had their cure to seek from some other sources, that of copies affording it no more: For these he had recourse in the first place to the affıstance of modern copies: and, where that was incompetent, or else absolutely deficient, which was very often the case, there he fought the remedy in himself, using judgment and conjecture; which, he is bold to say, he will not be found to have exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establish'd rules of critique with foberness and temperance. These emendations, (whether of his own, or other gentlemen' ) carrying in themselves a face of certainty, and coming in aid of places that were apparently corrupt, are admitted into the text, and the rejected reading is always put below; some others, ---that have neither that certainty, nor are of that necessity, but are specious and plausible,
In the manuscripts from which all these plays are printed, the emendations are given to their proper owners by initials and other marks that are in the margin of those manuscripts ; but they are suppressed in the print for two reafons : First, their number, in some pages, makes them a little unsightly; and the editor professes himself weak enough to like a well-printed book : In the next place, he does declare - that his only object has been, to do service to his great author; which provided it be done, he thinks it of small importance by what hand the service was administerd: If the partizans of former editors shall chance to think them injur'd by this fuppreffion, he must upon this occasion vio-, late the rules of modesty, by declaring that he himself is the most injur’d by it; whose emendations are equal, at least in number, 10 all theirs if put together; to say nothing of his recover'd readings, which are more considerable fill.
and may be thought by some to mend the passage they belong to, — will have a place in the collection that is spoken of above. But where it is said, that the rejected reading is always put below, this must be taken with some restriction: for some of the emendations, and of course the ancient readings upon which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, the general method was there inconvenient; and, for these few, you are refer'd to a note which will be found among the rest: and another sort there are, that are simply insertions ; these are effectually pointed out by being printed in the gothick or black character.
Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions have been of such a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and submit to his judgment the remedies that are apply'd to them n; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in some note that is to follow: but there are some behind that would not be so manag’d; either by reason of their frequency, or difficulty of subjecting them to the rules under which the others are brought; they have been spoken of before at p. 280, where the corruptions are all enumerated, and are as follows; a want of
;proper exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, throughout the work in general, and, in some of the plays, a want of division; and the errors are those of measure, and punctuation; all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and filently; but the reasons for so doing, and the method observ'd in doing it, shall be a little enlarg'd upon, that, the fidelity of the editor, and
that which is chiefly to distinguish him from those who have gone before, may stand sacred and unimpeachable; and, first, of the division.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the list of titles that may be seen at p. 283, was, - to show which plays were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and which of them were not divided at all; and the number of the first class is eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. i Henry VI. Love's Labour's Lof, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is some division aim'd át; yet it is so lame and erroneous that it was thought best to consider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the first class as those of the third, the plays of the second class were studiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this division: which rule might easily have been discover'd before, had but any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, since neither can the representation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjusted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own settling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him foilowing establish'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of some other dramarick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was best acquainted with: his Icene divisions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he observes a method in which perhaps he is fingular, and he
is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of scene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a fucceffion of new perfons : that liaison of the scenes, which Jonson seems to have attempted, and upon which the French stage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of: of the other unities he was perfe&tly well appriz'd; and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great stricłness and greater happiness than can perhaps be met with in any other writer: the play meant is The Comedy of Errors; in which the adion is one, the place one, and the time such as even Aristotle himself would allow of the revolution of half a day: but even in this play, the change of scene arifes from change of persons, and by that it is regulated; as are also all the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for whoever will take the trouble to examine those that are divided, (and they are pointed out for him in the lift) will see them conform exactly to the rule above-mention'd; and can then have but little doubt, that it should be apply'd to all the rest. To have distinguish'd these divisions, --made (indeed) without the authority, but following the example of the folio, - had been useless and troublesome; and the editor fully persuades himself, that what he has said will be
6 The divisions that are in the folio are religiously adherd to, except in two or three instances which will be spoken of in their place; so that, as is said before, a perufal of those old-divided plays will put every one in a capacity of judging whether the present editor has proceeded righily or no: the current editions are divided in such a manner, that nothing like a rule can be collected from any of them.
sufficient, and that he shall be excus’d by the ingenious and candid for overpassing them without further notice: whose pardon he hopes also to have for some other unnotic'd matters that are related to this in hand, such as —-marking the place of action, both general and particular; fupplying scenical directions; and due regulating of exits, and entrances: for the first, there is no tittle in the old editions; and in both the latter, they are so deficient and faulty throughout, that it would not be much amiss if we look'd upon them as wanting too; and then all these several articles might be confider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out then a declaration that they are so: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon some parts of them, --such as, the battle scenes throughout; Cæsar's passage to the senate-house, and subsequent assassination; Antony's death; the surprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition, will justify these insertions; and may, poffibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great aids which they afford to his conception.
It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies which are here amended without notice, to wit--the pointing, and wrong division of much of them respecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is so extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that small regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (instead of being influenc'd by such a punctuation, or even casting his eyes upon it,) to attend closely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point