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In adducing the opinions of the commentators, he may suppress part of their words that would not serve his purpose, but controvert his own; and he may use the very same reasons for confirming his own observations, that he has concealed or disallowed.
He may parade as original emendations of a favorite corrector, readings that were proposed long ago by other commentators, and that have even formed part of the text of current editions for years.
Of these Canons, Mr. Collier's Notes and Emendations will afford ample illustration; and it is to endeavour to stem the torrent of corruption with which the text of our great poet is threatened, under the sanction of a name which ought to have been a guarantee against such doings, that the following pages have been hastily written.
The amusing author of De la Charlatanerie des Savans,' Menken, has graphically described the correctors of Mr. Collier's volume-" Bien loin de s'y proposer de faire des Restitutions heureuses, qui repandent de la clarté sur les passages obscurs, ils cherchent des difficultez où il n'y en a point; ils raportent sans choix et sans jugement les differens leçons d'un vieux Manuscrit, et ils font ensuite main basse sur tout qui se rencontre malheureusement sur leur passage.
I am happy to find that I do not stand alone in the view I have taken of Mr. Collier's volume, and the mischief which might result from his advocacy of such reckless innovations on the text of Shakespeare's dramas, if unchecked and unanswered, and that many are ready to exclaim with me
Annius or Ireland 'tis to me the same.
But who could have expected that Mr. Collier would have been so inconsiderate of the due reverence in which the writings of Shakespeare ought always to be held, as to engraft upon the text the whole batch of these crudities and inanities, without a note or mark to designate the interpolation! In his preface to his PseudoShakespeare, in one volume, he says, "It is not to be understood that the Editor approves of all the changes in the text of the plays contained in the ensuing volume; but while he is doubtful regarding some, and opposed to others, it is his deliberate opinion, that the great majority of them assert a well-founded claim to a place in every future edition of Shakespeare!"
So, although he does not approve of some, is opposed to others, and doubtful about many of these readings, he does not hesitate to vitiate the text by their insertion! without the slightest mark by which the corruption might be distinguished from the genuine text! Of such a garbled book as this we may be assured that he or his booksellers may have occasion to say, in the words of Sir Philip Sidney, "What fools were we, to mingle such driveling speeches amongst noble thoughts." The only means by which any one can truly appreciate the extent of these unwarrantable corruptions, is to follow the course indicated by Mr. Collier; and, after having paid their guinea for the Pseudo-Shakespeare, to purchase Mr. Collier's eight volume edition, costing some four or five pounds more; and even then, to possess themselves of his reasons for vitiating the text, they must also procure his volume of Notes and Emendations!
It has been justly said, that "the mislayer of a mere
stone is to blame; but it is the erroneous and untrue critic that is the capital remover of land-marks, when he altereth or defineth amiss words and sentences. Mr. Collier will recollect the anathema imprecated upon him who should disturb the mortal remains of the poet, inscribed on his grave-stone: surely to vitiate and interpolate
His well-torned and true-filed lines,
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance—
would not be less reprehensible! it would be to disturb his immortal remains :
Dear son of Memory, great heir of Fame
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment,
Hast built thyself a live-long monument :
Doth make us marble with too much conceiving;
I have been impelled to this ungrateful and wearisome task* of exposing the little claim Mr. Collier's vo
* Regretting as I do the necessity of this self-imposed task, I may yet presume that it was in some degree expected at my hands, Mr. Collier having appealed to me with an assurance that he "shall at any time be happy to be set right, especially by Mr. Singer." I trust, therefore, that it will be accepted only as it is meant, simply as a Vindication of Shakespeare's Text from threatened corruption, and that Mr. Collier will recollect what Steevens has said on a similar occasion; "Success is not in every instance proportionable to zeal and effort; and he who shrinks from controversy should also have avoided the vestibulum ipsum primasque fauces of the school of Shakespeare."
lume has to be considered an important accession to the means of correcting the text of our great poet; and at the same time pointing out the mischief which might arise from reliance upon the claim set up for it, from a sense of duty, and of heartfelt gratitude to that "myriad-minded" being, whose magic pages have been the delight of my youth, and the solace of my declining years; of whose transcendent productions it may be said, in his own words, "Age cannot wither, nor custom stale the infinite variety." And I feel assured, that if I have succeeded in removing a few of the spots which threatened to obscure his radiant language, my time will not have been misspent.
Mickleham, May 5th, 1853.