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often superimposed upon the slender column of a single word, that seems to twist under it, but does not, - like the quaint shafts in cloisters, - a weight of meaning which the modern architects of sentences would consider wholly unjustifiable by correct principle.
“ It would be unreasonable to expect a union of all these qualifications in a single man, but we think that Mr. White combines them in larger proportion than any editor with whose labors we are acquainted. He has an acuteness in tracing the finer fibres of thought worthy of the keenest lawyer on the scent of a devious trail of circumstantial evidence ; he has a sincere desire to illustrate his author rather than himself ; he is a man of the world, as well as a scholar; he comprehends the mastery of imagination, and that it is the essential element as well of poetry as of profound thinking; a critic of music, he appreciates the importance of rhythm as the higher mystery of versification. The sum of his qualifications is large, and his work is honorable to American letters."
The first article containing this passage was substantially an appreciation of Shakespeare. The second contained a detailed criticism of Mr. White's labors, and in that, Mr. Lowell in conclusion says:
“ After such conscientious examination of his work as the importance of it demands, after a painful comparison, note by note, and reading by reading, of his edition with those of Messrs. Knight, Collier, and Dyce, our opinion of his ability and fitness for his task has been heightened and confirmed. Not that we always agree with him, - not that we do not think that in respect of the folio text he has sometimes erred on the side of superstitious reverence for it, and sometimes in too rashly abandoning it, - but, making all due exceptions, we think that his edition is, in the phrase of our New England fathers in Israel, for substance, scope, and aim, the best hitherto published. The chief matter must in all cases be the text, and the faults we find in him do not, as a general rule, affect that. Some of them are faults which his own better judgment, we think, will lead him to avoid in his forthcoming volumes, and in regard to some, he
will probably honestly disagree with us as to their being faults at all.”
Mr. White did not rest in his Shakespearean studies at this point, but continued his ardent pursuit through a laborious life. In printing his work he had come into friendly relations with the late Mr. H. 0. Houghton, and in 1883 Mr. Houghton, then at the head of the house of Houghton, Mifflin & Co., proposed to him that he should distil the essence of his now ripe Shake spearean scholarship into a new edition of the poet, where both editor and printer should study how to produce a compact, not a voluminous Shakespeare. Mr. White worked at his task with enthusiasm and affection. He was now an acknowledged authority in this field, and he could therefore give the condensed results of his mature judgment without defending himself in full discussion. The spirit in which he undertook his work and the principles he adopted appear in his Preface. His relations with his publisher are hinted at in his Dedication.
On his part Mr. Houghton studied with great care the problem of presenting a Shakespeare which should lack nothing that a printer could do for it. Mr. White, following the example of the first folio, had made the groups of Comedies, Histories and Poems, and Tragedies, and thus the work fell naturally into three volumes. Mr. Houghton aimed to use a large, per fectly readable type, and to aid the eye in every possible way in the distribution of matter. This necessarily led to a large number of pages, but he hoped to overcome any objection on this score by using a thin, opaque paper.
The edition was issued therefore in three volumes, but the result was not wholly satisfactory from a mechanical point of view, and afterward the work was re-issued in six volumes. But the conditions which were not favorable in 1883 have been reversed in recent years, and it has become possible to secure a paper so thin that a light handy volume of 900 pages can be made, and yet so opaque that the print does not show through. The publishers have therefore reverted to the original design and issued a three volume edition, taking advantage of the opportunity thus afforded to amplify Mr. White's very compact
biographical sketch of Shakespeare, by means of footnotes. Since Mr. White's death some interesting studies in this field have been made by scholars, of whom Mr. Sidney Lee is one of the most conspicuous, and it seemed a pity not to make use of these studies. In both editions of the Riverside Shakespeare, however, the text and critical apparatus have been left as finally determined by one of the most accomplished Shakespeareans of America.