« PředchozíPokračovat »
commis, Francis Gastrell departed from Stratford, ing epitaph, attributed, certainly not on its internal hooted out of the town, and pursued by the execra- evidence, to our Poet. Its subject was, probably, tions of its inhabitants. The fale of New Place the member of a family with the surname of James, has been rather remarkable. After the demolition which once existed in Stratford. of the house by Gastrell, the ground, which it had occupied, was thrown into the contiguous garden,
When God was pleased, the world unwilling yel, and was sold by the widow of the clerical barbarian.
Elias Jannes to nature paid his debt,
And here reposeth; as he lived he died; Having remained during a certain period, as a por
The saying in him strongly verified, -tion of a garden, a house was again erected on it;
Such lite, such death : then, the known truth to tell, and, in consequence also of some dispute about
He lived a godly life and died as well. the parish assessments, that house, like its predeces
WM. SHAKSPEARE. sor, was pulled down, and its site was finally abandoned to Nature, for the production of her fruits Among the monuments in Tonge Church, in the and her flowers : and thither may we imagine the county of Salop, is one raised to the memory of Sir little Elves and Fairies frequently to resort, to trace Thomas Stanley, Knt., who is thought by Malone the footsteps of their beloved poet, now obliterated to have died about the year 1600. With the
prose from the vision of man; to throw a finer perfume inscription on this tomb, transcribed by Sir W. on the violet; to unfold the first rose of the year, Dugdale, are the verses which I am about to copy, and to tinge its cheek with a richer blush ; and, in said by Dugdale to have been made by William their dances beneath the full-orbed moon, to chant Shakspeare, the late famous tragedian. their harmonies, too subtle for the gross ear of mortality, to the fondly cherished memory of their dar
ON THE EAST END OF THE TOMB. ling, THE SWEET SWAN OF AVON.
Ask who lies here, but do not weep: Of the personal history of William Shakspeare, He is not dead, he doth but sleep. as far as it can be drawn, even in shadowy exist- This stony register is for his bones : cnce, from the obscurity which invests it, and of His fame is more perpetual than these stones: whatever stands in immediate connection with it, we
And his own goodness with himself being gone, have now exhibited all that we can collect; and we
Shall live when earthly monument is none. are not conscious of having omitted a single circum
ON THE WEST END. stance of any moment, or worthy of the attention of our readers. We might, indeed, with old Fuller,
Not monumental stone preserves our fame : speak of our Poet's wit-combats, as Fuller calls
Nor sky aspiring pyramids our name.
The memory of him for whom this stands, them, at the Mermaid, with Ben Jonson: but then
Shall outlive marble and defacer's hands. we have not one anecdote on record of either of
When all to time's consumption shall be given, these intellectual gladiators to produce, for not a Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven sparkle of our Shakspeare's convivial wit has travelled down to our eyes; and it would be neither instructive nor pleasant to see him represented as a
As the great works of Shakspeare have engaged light skiff, skirmishing with a huge galleon, and the attention of an active and a learned century either evading or pressing attack as prudence sug- since they were edited by Rowe, little that is new gested, or the alertness of his movements embold on the subject of them can be expected from a pen ened him to attempt. The lover of heraldry may,
of the present day. It is necessary, however, that perhaps, censure us for neglecting to give the blazon we should notice them, lest our readers should be of Shakspeare's arms, for which, as it appears, two compelled to seek in another page than ours for the patents were issued from the herald's office, one in common information which they might conceive 1569 or 1570, and one in 1599; and by him, who themselves to be entitled to expect from us. will insist on the transcription of every word which
Fourteen of his plays were published separately, has been imputed on any authority to the pen of in quarto copies, during our Poet's life ; and, seven Shakspeare, we may be blamed for passing over in years after his death, a complete edition of them silence two very indifferent epitaphs, which have was given to the public in folio by his theatric fels been charged on him. We will now, therefore, give lows, Heminge and Condell. Of those productions the arms which were accorded to him; and we will
, of his, which were circulated by the press while he also, copy the two epitaphs in question. We may was yet living, and were all surreptitious, our great then, without any further impediment, proceed to author seems to have been as utterly regardless as the more agreeable portion of our labours,-the he necessarily was of those which appeared when notice of our author's works.
he was mouldering in his grave.* We have already The armorial bearings of the Shakspeare family are, or rather were,-Or, on a bend sable, a tilting * In his essay on the chronological order of Shakspear of the first, point upwards, headed argent. The title-page of the earliest edition of Hamlet, which he
speare's plays, Malone concludes very properly from Crest, A falcon displayed, argent, supporting a believed then to be extant, that this edition (published in spear in pale, or.
1604) had been preceded by another of a less correct and In a MS. volume of poems, by William Herrick less perfect character. A copy of the elder edition, in and others, preserved in the Bodleian, is the follow- question, has lately been discovered; and is, indeed,
far more remote from perfection than its sucessor, which equally hallowed with that of which we have been was collated by Malone. It obviously appears to have speaking, for Nature has not yet produced a second been printed from the rude draught of the drama, as it Shakspeare; but of genius, which had conversed with was sketched by the Poet from the first suggestions of the immortal Muses, which had once been the delight of his mind. But how this rude and imperfect draught the good and the terror of the bad. I allude to the vio- could fall into the hands of its publisher, is a question lation of Pope's charming retreat, on the banks of the not easily to be answered. Such, however, is the au. Thames, by a capricious and tasteless woman, who thority to be attached to all the early quartos. They has endeavoured to blot out every memorial of the great were obtained by every indirect mean; and the first in. and moral poet from that spot, which his occupation correct MS., blotted again and again by the pens of ig. had made classic, and dear to the heart of his country. norant transcribers, and multiplied by the press, was In the mutability of all human things, and the inevitable suffered, by the apathy of its illustrious author, to be shiftings of property, “From you to me, from me to circulated, without check, among the mulutude. Hence Peter Walter,” these lamentable desecrations, which the grossest anomalies of grammar have been consider. mortify our pride and wound our sensibilities, will of ed, by his far-famed restorers, as belonging to the dia. necessity sometimes occur. The site of the Tusculan lect of Shakspeare ; and the most egregious infractions of Cicero may become the haunt of banditti, or be dis- of rhythm, as the tones of his honey-tongued muse. The graced with the walls of a monastery. The residences variations of the copy of Hamlet immediately before us, of a Shakspeare and a Pope may be devastated and de- which was published in 1603, from the perfect drama, filed by a Parson Gastrell and a Baroness Howe. We as it subsequently issued from the press, are far too nucan only sigh over the ruin when its deformity strikes | merous to be noticed in this place, is indeed this place upon our eyes; and execrate the hands by which it has could properly be assigned io such a purpose. I may, been savagely accomplished.
however, just mention that Corambis and Montano are
observed on the extraordinary,—nay wonderful in- view cured and perfect of their limbs; and all the difference of this illustrious man toward the offspring rest absolute in their numbers as he conceived of his fancy; and we make it again the subject of them.” But notwithstanding these professions, our remark solely for the purpose of illustrating the and their honest resentment against impostors and cause of those numerous and pernicious errors surreptitious copies, the labours of these sole pose which deform all the early editions of his plays. sessors of Shakspeare's MSS. did not obtain the He must have known that many of these, his intel-credit which they arrogated ; and they are charged lectual children, were walking through the commu- with printing from those very quartos, on which nity in a state of gross disease, with their limbs they had heaped so much well-merited abuse. They spotted, as it were, with the leprosy or the plague. printed, as there cannot be a doubt, from their But he looked on them without one parental feeling, prompter's book, (for by what temptation could they and stretched not out his hand for their relief. They be enticed beyond it?) but then, from the same had broken from the confinement of the players, to book, were transcribed many, perhaps, of the surwhose keeping he had consigned them; and it was reptitious quartos ; and it is not wonderful that their business and not his to reclaim them. As for transcripts of the same page should be precisely the rest of his intellectual progeny, they were where alike. These editors, however, of the first folio, he had placed them; and he was uiterly uncon- have incurred the heavy displeasure of some of our cerned about their future fate. How fraught and modern critics, who are zealous on all occasions to glowing with the principle of life must have been depreciate their work. Wherever they differ from their nature to enable them to subsist, and to force the first quartos, which, for the reason that I have themselves into immortality under so many circum- assigned, they must in general very closely resemstances of evil!
ble, Malone is ready to decide against them, and The copies of the plays, published antecedently to defer to the earlier edition. But it is against the to his death, were transcribed either by memory editor of the second folio, published in 1632, that from their recitation on the stage ; or from the sepa- he points the full storm of his indignation. He rate parts, written out for the study of the particu- charges this luckless wight, whoever he may be, lar actors, and to be pieced together by the skill of with utter ignorance of the language of Shakspeare's the editor; or, lastly, if stolen or bribed access time, and of the fabric of Shakspeare's verse; and could be obtained to it, from the prompter's book he considers him and Pope as the grand corrupters itself. From any of these sources of acquisition of Shakspeare's text. Without reflecting that to the copy would necessarily be polluted with very be ignorant of the language of Shakspeare's time flagrant errors; and from every edition, through was, in the case of this hapless editor, to be ignowhich it ran, it would naturally contract more pol- rant of his own, for he who published in 1632 could lution and a deeper stain. Such of the first copies hardly speak with a tongue different from his who as were fortunately transcribed from the prompter's died only sixteen years before, Malone indulges in book, would probably be in a state of greater rela- an elaborate display of the unhappy man's ignotive correctness: but they are all, in different de-rance, and of his presumptuous alterations. He grees, deformed with inaccuracies ; and not one of the editor of the second folio) did not know that the them can claim the right to be followed as an au-double negative was the customary and authorized thority. What Steevens and Malone call the re- dialect of the age of Queen Elizabeth ; (God help storing of Shakspeare's text, by reducing it to the him, poor man! for if he were forty years old when he reading of these early quartos, is frequently the re- edited Shakspeare, he must have received the first storing of it to error and to nonsense, from which it rudiments of his education in the reign of the maidhad luckily been reclaimed by the felícity of conjec- en queen ;) and thus egregiously ignorant (ignotural criticism. One instance immediately occurs rant, by the bye, where Shakspeare himself was to me, to support what I have affirmed; and it may ignorant, for his Twelfth Night,* the clown says, be adduced instead of a score, which might be easi
If your four negatives make your two affirmatives ly found, of these vaunted restorations.
-why then the worse for my friends and the better In that fine scene between John and Hubert, for my foes,” &c.) but thus cgregiously ignorant, where the monarch endeavours to work up his instead of agent to the royal purposes of murder, the former
“ Nor to her bed no homage do I owe.” says,
If thou couldst
this editor has stupidly printed, Without a tongue, using conceit alone, &c. &c.
“Nor to her bed a homage do I owe." Then in despite of brooded, watchful day, I would into thy bosom pour my thoughts, &c. &c. further," this blockhead of an editor has substituted
Again, in As you Like It," for "I cannot go no The passage thus stood in one of these old copies Nothing, for
go no further.” In “Much Ado about of authority: but Pope, not able to discover any meaning in the epithet, brooded, most happily sub
“There will she hide her stituted" broad-eyed" in its stead.
As the com
To listen our purpose." pound was poetic and Shakspearian (for Shakspeare has dull-eyed and fire-eyed,) and was also most pe- this corrupting editor has presumed to relieve the culiarly suited to the place which it was to fill, the halting metre by printing, substitution for a while was permitted to remain ; till Steevens, discovering the reading of the old copy,
“ There will she hide her restored brooded to the station whence it had been
To listen to our purpose." felicitously expelled, and abandoned the line once more to the nonsense of the first editor.
In these instances, I feel convinced that the editor is In 1623, the first complete edition of our author's right, and consequently that the critic is the blockdramatic works was published in folio by his com- head who is wrong. In what follows also, I am rades of the theatre, Heminge and Condell; and in decidedly of opinion that the scale inclines in favour this we might expect a text tolerably incorrupt, if of the former of these deadly opposites. The double not perfectly pure. The editors denounced the comparative is common in the plays of Shakspeare, copies which had preceded their edition as “stolen says Malone :-true, as I am willing to allow; but and surreptitious copies, mained and deformed by always, as I am persuaded, in consequence of tho the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that illiteracy
or the carelessness of the first transcriber : exposed them; even those are now offered to your English than Spenser, Daniel, Hooker, and
for why should Shakspeare write more anomalous the names given in this copy to the Polonius and Rey. or why in his plays should he be guilty of barbanaldo of the more perfect editions; and the young lord, Ourick, is called in it only a braggart gentleman.
* Act y. &C. I.
risms with which those poems of his, * that were plement is as beneficial to the sense, as it is ne. printed under his own inmediate eye, are altoge- cessary to the rhythm. Malone's line is, ther unstained ? But, establishing the double com- " And with the brands fire the traitors' houses :) parative as cne of the peculiar anomalies of Shakspeare's grammar, Malone proceeds to arraign the the editor's unfortunate editor as a criminal, for substituting, in “And with the brands fire all the traitors' houses,“ a passage of Coriolanus, more worthy for more worthier ; in Othello—for," opinion, a sovereign mis- be still more easily repelled. In a noted passage
The next charge, brought against the editor, may tress, throws a more safer voice on you,”." opinion, of Macbeth &c. throws a more safe voice on you;" and, in Hamlet, instead of “Your wisdom should show itself "I would while it was smiling in my face more richer to signify this to the doctor,” “ Your Have pluck'd my nipple from its boneless gums, wisdom should show itself more rich to signify this to
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn the doctor.” Need I express my conviction that in
As you have done to this. these passages the editor has corrected the text into “Not perceiving," says Malone, " that sworn what actually fell from Shakspeare's pen? Can it was used as a dissyllable,” (the devil it was ?) be doubted also that the editor is accurate in his “He (the editor) reads had 'I but so sworn, printing of the following passage in “ A Midsum- much as we think, to the advantage of the sense mer Night's Dream ?” As adopted by Malone it as well
as of the metre ; and supplying, as we constands.
ceive, the very word which Shakspeare had writ“So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
ten, and the carelessness of the transcriber omitEre I will yield my virgin patent up
ted. Charms' our Poet sometimes uses, accordUnto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
ing to Malone, as a word of two syllables.”—No! My soul consents not to give sovereignty."
impossible! Our Poet might, occasionally, be guilty
of an imperfect verse, or the omission of his trani. e., says the critic, to give sovereignty to, &c.-To scriber might furnish him with one: but never be sure—and, without the insertion, in this instance, could he use "charms” as a word of two syllables. of the preposition, the sentence would be nonsense. We feel, therefore, obliged by the editor's supplyAs it is published by the editor, it is,
ing an imperfect line in "The Tempest,” with the "So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
very personal pronoun which, it is our persuasion, Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
was at first inserted by Shakspeare. In the most Unto his lordship, to whose unrish'd yoke
modern editions, the line in question stands My soul consents not to give sovereignty."
“Cursed be I that did so ! all the charms," &c.
but the second folio reads with unquestionable proHaving now sufficiently demonstrated the editor's priety, "Cursed be I that I did so ! all the charms,”; ignorance of Shakspeare's language, let us proceed &c. As 'hour' has the same prolonged sound with his critic to ascertain his ignorance of Shak- with fire, sire, &c. and as it is possible, though, speare's metre and rhythm. In “The Winter's with reference to the fine ear of Shakspeare, i Tale,” | says Malone, we find,
think most improbable, that it might sometimes be
made to occupy the place of two syllables, I shall “What wheels, racks, fires; what flaying, boiling pass over the instance from “Richard II.” in which In leads and oils !”
Malone triumphs, though without cause, over his Not knowing that "fires' was used as a dissyllable, “All's Well that End's Well," in which a defec
adversary; as I shall also pass over that from the editor added the word burning, at the end of tive line has been happily supplied by our editor, the line (I wish that he had inserted it before “boil- in consequence of his not knowing that 'sire' was ing')—
employed as a dissyllable. In the first part of “What wheels, racks, fires ; what slaying, boiling, lish," is prolonged by the editor with a syllable
“Henry VI.” “Rescued is Orleans from the Engburning."
which he deemed necessary because he was ignoIt is possible that fires may be used by Shakspeare rant that the word, 'English,' was used as a trias a dissyllable, though I cannot easily persuade syllable. According to him the line is—“Rescued myself that, otherwise than as a monosyllable, it is Orleans from the English wolves." We rejoice would satisfy an ear, attuned as was his, to the at this result of the editor's ignorance; and we finest harmonies of verse; yet it may be employed wish to know who is there who can believe that as a dissyllable by the rapid and careless bard; 'English' was pronounced, by Shakspeare or his and I am ready to allow that the defective verse contemporaries, as Engerlish, or even as Engleish, was not happily supplied, in that place at least, with three syllables ? Again, not knowing that with the word, burning, yet I certainly believe thai Charles' was used as a word of two syllables, (and Shakspeare did not leave the line in question as he was sufficiently near to the time of Shakspeare Malone has adopted it, and that some word has to know his pronunciation of such a common word : been omitted by the carelessness of the first tran- but the blockhead could not be taught the most scriber. In the next instance, from Julius Cæsar, common things,) this provoking editor instead of I feel assured that the editor' is right, as his sup- “Orleans the bastard, Charles, Burgundy."
has printed, * In his " Venus and Adonis,” and his “Rape of Lu
“Orleans the bastard, Charles, and Burgundy.” crece," printed under his immediate inspection; and in his 154 Sonnets, printed from correct MSS., and no doubt in the next instance, I must confess myself to be with his knowledge, are not to be found any of these ignorant of Malone's meaning. “Astræa being barbarous anomalies. ** The Passionate Pilgrim," and "The Lover's Complaint,” are, also, free from them. used,” he says “ as a word of three syllables," (i Worser and lesser may sometimes occur in these po: conclude that he intended to say, as a word of four ems: but the last of these improprieties will occasionally syllables, the diphthong being dialytically separated find a place in the page of modern composition. In the into its component parts, and the word written and “Rape of Lucrece,” the only anomaly of the double pronounced Astraea,) for “Divinest creature, Asnegative, which I have been able to discover, is the fol. træa's daughter,” the editor has given “Divinest lowing :
creature, bright Astræa's daughter."-Shameless “She touch'd no unknown baits, nor fear'd no hooks." | interpolation! Not aware that sure' is used as a and the same impropriety may be found in three or four dissyllable, this grand corrupter of Shakspearo's instances in the Sonnets. And substituted for nor would text has substituted, "Gloster, we'll meet to thy restore these few passages to perfect grammar.
dear cost, be sure,” for “Gloster, we'll meet to thy
cost, be sure."-Once more, and to conclude an Act iii. sc. 2.
examination which I could extend to a much greater
length in favour of this much-Injured editor, but a few years, another was projected; and that it which I feel to be now becoming tedious, for, might be more adequate to the claims of Shakspeare * And so to arms, victorious father,”
and of Britain, the conduct of it was placed, in
homage to his just cclebrity, in the hands of Pope, as the line is sanctioned by Malone, 'arms,' being Pope showed himself more conscious of the naturo used, as he asserts, for a dissyllable, (arms a dis- of his task, and more faithful in his execution of syllable!) the second folio presents us with
it than his predecesgor. He disclosed to the pub“ And so to arms, victorious, noble father.” lic the very faulty state of his author's text, and
suggested the proper means of restoring it: he I have said enough to convince my readers of the collated many of the earlier editions, and he cleared falsity of the charges of stupidity and gross igno- the page of Shakspeare from many of its deformirance, brought by Malone against the editor of the ties: but his coliations were not sufficiently extensecond folio edition of our Poet's dramatic works. sive; and he indulged, perhaps, somewhat too I am far from assuming to vindicate this editor much in conjectural emendation. This exposed frein the commission of many flagrant errors : but him to the attacks of the petty and minute critics ; he is frequently right, and was unquestionably con- and, the success of his work falling short of his exversant, let Malone assert what he pleases, with peciations, he is said to have contracted that enhis author's language and metre. It was not, mity to verbal criticism, which actuated him during therefore, without cause, that Steevens held his la- the remaining days of his life. His edition was bours in much estimation. Malone was an inval- published in the year 1725. Before this was underuable collector of facts: his industry was indefati- linken, Theobald, a man of no great abilities and of gable : his researches were deep: his pursuit of little learning, had projected the restoration of truth was sincere and ardent : but he wanted the Shakspeare ; but his labours had been suspended, talents and the taste of a critic; and of all the edi
or their result had been withheld from the press, tors, by whom Shakspeare has suffered, I must till the issue of Pope's attempt was ascertained by consider him as the most pernicious, Neither the its accomplishment, and publication. The Shakindulged fancy of Pope, nor the fondness for inno- speare of Theobald's editing was not given to tho sation in Hanner, nor the arrogant and headlong world before the year 1733; when it obtained moro self-confidence of Warburton has inflicted such of the public regard than its illustrious predecessor, cruel wounds on the text of Shakspeare, as the as- in consequence of its being drawn from a somewhat suming dulness of Malone. Barbarism and broken wider field of collation; and of its less frequent and rhythm dog him at the heels wherever he treads. In praise of the third and the fourth folio editions indeed, did not wholly abstain from conjecture
presumptuous admission of conjecture. Theobald, of our author's dramas, printed respectively in 1664 but the palm of conjectural criticism was placed and 1685, nothing can be advanced. Each of these much too high for the reach of his hand. editions implicitly followed its immediate predeces- To Theobald, as an editor of Shakspeare, sucsor, and, adopting all its errors, increased them to ceeded Sir Thomas Hanmer, who, in 1744, publisha frightful accumulation with its own. With the ed a superb edition of the great dramatist from the text of Shakspeare in this disorder, the public of
press of Oxford. But Hanmer, building his work Britain remained satisfied during many years, on that of Pope, and indulging in the wildest and From the period of his death he had not enforced most wanton innovations, deprived his edition of that popularity to which his title was undeniable. all pretensions to authenticity, and, consequently, to Great, though inferior, men, Jonson, Fletcher, merit. Massinger, Shirley, Ford, &c. got possession of The bow of Ulysses was next seized by a the stage, and retained it ull it ceased to exist un- mighty hand-by the hand of Warburton
whose der the puritan domination. On the restoration of Shakspeare was published in 1747. it failed of the monarchy in 1660, the theatre indeed was again success; for, conceiving that the editor intended to opened; but, under the influence of the vicious taste make his author his showman to exhibit his erudiof the new monarch, it was surrendered to a new tion and intellectual power, the public quickly negschool (the French school) of the drama; and its lected his work; and it soon disappeared from cirmastery was held by Dryden, with many subordi- culation, though some of its profitered substitutions nates, during a long succession of years. Through- must be allowed to be happy, and some of its exout this whole period, Shakspeare was nearly for- planations to be just. gotten by his ungrateful or blinded countrymen. His After an interval of eighteen years, Shakspeare splendour, it is true, was gleaming above the horizon; obtained once more an editor of great name, and and his glory, resting in purple and gold upon the seemingly in every way accomplished to assert tho hill-summits, obtained the homage of a select band rights of his author. In 1765 Doctor Samuel John, of his worshippers: but it was still hidden from son presenied the world with his long-promised the eyes of the multitude; and it was long before edition of our dramatist: and the public expectait gained its "meridian tower,” whence it was to tion, which had been highly raised, was again throw its " glittering shafts” over a large portion doomed to be disappointed. Johnson had a powerof the earth. At length, about the commencement ful intellect, and was perfectly conversant with huof the last century, Britain began to open her eyes man life : but he was not sufficiently versed in to the excellency of her illustrious son, THE GREAT black-letter lore; and, deficient in poetic taste, he POET OF Nature, and to discover a solicitude for was unable to accompany our great bard in the the integrity of his works. A new and a more higher flights of his imagination. The public in perfect edition of them became the demand of the general were not satisfied with his commentary or public; and, to answer it, an edition, under the his text: but to his preface they gave the most unsuperintendence of Rowe, made its appearance in limited applause. The array and glitter of its 1709. Rowe, however, either forgetting or shrink-words; the regular and pompous march of its peing from the high and laborious duties, which he riods, with its pervading affectation of deep thought had undertaken, selected, most unfortunately, for and of sententious remark, seem to have fascinated his model, the last and the worst of the folio edi- the popular mind; and to have withdrawn from tions; and, without collating either of the first two the common observation its occasional poverty of folios or any of the earlier quartos, he gave to the meaning; the inconsistency of its praise and cen. disappointed public a transcript much too exact of sure; the falsity in some instances of its critical the impure text which lay opened before him. remarks; and its defects now and then even with Some of its grosser errors, however, he corrected; respect to composition. It has, however, its merits, and he prefixed to his edition a short memoir of and Heaven forbid that I should not be just to them. the life of his author ; which, meagre and weakly It gives a right view of the difficulties to be encounwritten as it is, still constitutes the most authentic tered by the editor of Shakspeare: it speaks mobiography that'wo possess of our mighty bard. dostly of himself, and candidly of those who had
On the failure of this edition, after the pause of proceded him in the path which he was treading :
THE LIFE OF
assigns to Pope, Hanmer, and Warburton, those and was content to lose it !" Shakspeare lost the ctims to the rage of the minute critics, their due world! He won it in an age of intellectual giants oportion of praise : it is honourably just, in short, the Anakims of mind were then in the land ;
all, who come within the scope of its' observa- and in what succeeding period has he lost it? But, ons, with the exception of the editor's great au- not to take advantage of an idle frolic of the edior alone. To him also the editor gives abundant tor's imagination, can the things be which he asraise; but against it he arrays such a frightful serts ? Can the author, whom he thus degrades, ost of censure as to command the field; and to be the man, whom the greater Jonson, of James's eave us to wonder at our admiration of an object reign, hails as, “ The pride, the joy, the wonder -o little worthy of it, though he has been followed of the age !” 'No! it is impossible! and if we by the admiration of more than two entire centuries. come to a close examination of what our preface But Johnson was of a detracting and derogating writer has here alleged against his author, of Epirit. He looked at mediocrity with kindness : which I have transcribed only a part, we shall but of proud superiority he was impatient; and he find that one haif of it is false, and one, somealways seemed pleased to bring down the man of thing very like nonsense, disguised in a garb of tinthe ethereal soul to the mortal of mere clay. His sel embroidery, and covered, as it moves statelily maxim seems evidently to have been that, which along, with a cloud of words :was recommended by the Roman poet to his countrymen,
Infert se septus nebula, mirabile dictu,
Per medios, miscetque viris neque cernitur ulli. “ Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.”
To discover the falsity or the inanity of the ideas, In the pre-eminence of intellect, when it was imme- which strut in our editor's sentences against the diately in his view, there was something which ex- fame of his author, we have only to strip them of cited his spleen ; and he exulted in its abasement. the diction which envelopes them; and then, with In his page, “Shakspeare, in his comic scenes, is a Shakspeare in our hands, to confront them, in seldom successful when he engages his characters their nakedness, with the truth as it is manifested in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sar- in his page. But we have deviated from our casm : their jests are commonly gross, and their straight path to regard our editor as a critic in his pleasantry licentious. In tragedy, his performance preface, when we ought, perhaps, to consider him seems to be constantly worse as his labour is more. only in his notes, as a commentator to explain the The effusions of passion, which exigence forces out, obscurities; or, as an experimentalist to assay are, for the most part, striking and energetic: but the errors of his author's text. As an unfolder of whenever he solicits' his invention or strains his intricate and perplexed passages, Johnson must faculties, the offspring of his throes is tumour, be allowed to excel. His explanations are always meanness, tediousness, and obscurity! In narra- perspicuous; and his proffered amendments of a tion he affects a disproportionate pomp of diction, corrupt text are sometimes successful. But the and a wearisome train of circumlocution, &c. &c. expectations of the world had been too highly His declamations or set speeches are commonly raised to be satisfied with his performance ; and cold and weak, for his power was the power of it was only to the most exceptionable part of it, Nature! when he endeavoured, like other tragic the mighty preface, that they gave their unmingled writers, to catch opportunities of amplification; applause. In the year following the publication of and, instead of inquiring what the occasion demand- Johnson's edition, in 1766, George Sieevens made ed, to show how much his stores of knowledge his first appearance as a commentator on Shakcould supply, be seldom escapes without the pity speare; and he showed himself to be deeply conor resentment of his reader ?” But the admirers versant with that antiquarian reading, of which his of this great poet have never less reason to indulge predecessor had been too ignorant. In 1768, an their hopes of supreme excellence, than when he edition of Shakspeare was given to the public by seems fully resolved to sink them in dejection, and Capell; a man fondly attached to his author, but mollify them with tender emotions by the fall of much too weak for the weighty task which he ungreatness, the danger of innocence, or the crosses dertook. He had devoted a large portion of his of love. He is not long soft and pathetic without life to the collection of his materials: he was an some idle conceit or contemptible equivocation. He industrious collator, and all the merit, which he no sooner moves than he counteracts himself; and possesses, must be derived from the extent and terror and pity, as they are rising in the mind, are the fidelity of his collations. In 1773 was pubchecked and blasted with sudden frigidity!" "The lished an edition of our dramatist by the associaegregious editor and critic then proceeds to con- ted labours of Johnson and Steevens ; and this found his author with his last and most serious edition, in which were united the native powers charge, that of an irreclaimable attachment to the of the former, with the activity, the sagacity, and offence of verbal conceit. This charge the editor the antiquarian learning of the latter, still forms illustrates and enforces, to excite our attention and the standard edition for the publishers of our Poet. to make an irresistible assault on our assent, with In 1790 Malone entered the lists against them as a variety of figurative and magnificent allusion. a competitor for the editorial palm. After this First, “a quibble is to Shakspeare, what luminous publication, Malone seems to have devoted the vapours (a Will o' the wisp) are to travellers : he remaining years of his life to the studies requisite follows it at all adventures : it is sure to lead him out for the illustration of his author; and at his death of his way, and sure to ingulf him in the mire. It he bequeathed the voluminous papers, which he has some malignant power over his mind, and its had prepared, to his and my friend, James Bosfascinations are irresistible,” &c. It then becomes well, the younger son of the biographer of Johna partridge or a pheasant; for “ whatever be the son; and by bim these papers were published in dignity or the profundity of his disquisition, &c. &c. twenty octavo volumes, just before the close of let but a quibble spring up before him and he leaves his own valuable life.' That the fund of Shakhis work unfinished.” It next is the golden apple spearian information has been enlarged by this of Atalanta :--"A quibble is to Shakspeare the publication, cannot reasonably be doubted: that golden apple for which he will always turn aside the text of Shakspeare has been injured by it, may from his career, or stoop from his elevaron. A confidently be asserted. As my opinion of Maquibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such lone, as an annotator on Shakspeare, has been delight that he was content to purchase it at the already expressed, it would be superfluous to resacrifice of reason, propriety, and truth;' and, peat it. His stores of antiquarian knowledge were lastly, the meteor, the bird of game, and the golden at least equal to those of Steevens : but he was apple are converted into the renowned queen of not equally endowed by Nature with that popular Egypt: for “a quibble is to him (Shakspeare) commentator: Malone's intellect was unquestionthe fatal Cleopatra, for which he lost the world, ably of a subordinate class. He could collect and