« PředchozíPokračovat »
What remains to be added concerning this republication is, that a considerable number of fresh remarks are both adopted and supplied by the present editors. They have persisted in their former track of reading for the illustration of their author, and cannot help observing that those who receive the benefit of explanatory extracts from ancient writers, little know at what expence of time and labour such atoms of intelligence have been collected.-That the foregoing information, however, may communicate no alarm, or induce the reader to suppose we have "bestowed our whole tediousness" on him, we should add, that many notes have likewise been withdrawn. A few, manifestly erroneous, are indeed retained, to show how much the tone of Shakspearian criticism is changed, or on account of the skill displayed in their confutation; for surely every editor in his turn is occasionally entitled to be seen, as he would have shown himself, with his vanquished adversary at his feet. We have therefore been sometimes willing to "bring a corollary, rather than want a spirit." Nor, to confess the truth, did we always think it justifiable to shrink our predecessors to pigmies, that we ourselves, by force of comparison, might assume the bulk of giants. The present editors must also acknowledge, that unless in particular instances, where the voice of the publick had decided against the remarks of Dr. Johnson, they have hesitated to displace them; and had rather be charged with a superstitious reverence for his name, than censured for a presumptious disregard of his opinions.
As a large proportion of Mr. Monck Mason's strictures on a former edition of Shakspeare are here inserted, it has been thought necessary that as much of his preface as was designed to introduce them, should accompany their second appearance. Any formal recommedation of them is needless, as their own merit is sure to rank their author among the most diligent and sagacious of our celebrated poet's annotators.
It may be proper, indeed, to observe, that a few of these remarks are omitted, because they had been anticipated; and that 2 few others have excluded themselves by their own immoderate length; for he who publishes a series of comments unattended by the text of his author, is apt to "overflow the measure" allotted to marginal criticism. In these cases, either the commentator or the poet must give way, and no reader will patiently endure to see 66 Alcides beaten by his page."-Inferior volat umbra deo-Mr. M. Mason will also forgive us if we add, that a small number of his proposed amendments are suppressed through honest commiseration. ""Tis much he dares, and he has a wisdom that often guides his valour to act in safety;" yet occasionally he forgets the prudence that should attend conjec
Watson, however, declares on this occasion that he imitated Ronsard; and it must be confessed, with equal truth, that in the present instance Ronsard had been a borrower from Anacreon.
ture, and therefore, in a few instances, would have been produced only to have been persecuted.-May it be subjoined, that the freedom with which the same gentleman has treated the notes of others, seems to have authorized an equal degree of licence respecting his own? And yet, though the sword may have been drawn against him, he shall not complain that its point is "unbated and envenomed;" for the conductors of this undertaking do not scruple thus openly to express their wishes that it may have merit enough to provoke a revision from the acknowledged learning and perspicacity of their Hibernian coadjutor.-Every re-impression of our great dramatic master's works must be considered in some degree as experimantal; for their corruptions and obscurities are still so numerous, and the progress of fortunate conjecture so tardy and uncertain, that our re mote descendants may be perplexed by passages that have perplexed us; and the readings which have hitherto disunited the opinions of the learned, may continue to disunite them as long as England and Shakspeare have a name. In short, the peculiarity once ascribed to the poetick isle of Delos,* may be exemplified in our author's text, which, on account of readings alternately received and reprobated, must remain in an unsettled state, and float in obedience to every gale of contradictory criticism. Could a perfect and decisive edition of the following scenes be produced, it were to be expected only (though we fear in vain) from the hand of Dr. Farmer,† whose more serious avocations forbid him to undertake what every reader would delight to possess.
But as we are often reminded by our "brethren of the craft," that this or that emendation, however apparently necessary, is not the genuine text of Shakspeare, it might be imagined that we had received this text from its fountain head, and were therefore certain of its purity. Whereas few literary occurrences are better understood, than that it came down to us discoloured by "the variation of every soil" through which it had flowed, and that it stagnated at last in the muddy reservoir of the first folio.‡ In
nec instabili famâ superabere Delo."
He died September 8th, 1797.
Stat. Achill. I, 388.
It will perhaps be urged, that to this first folio we are indebted for the only copies of sixteen or seventeen of our author's plays: True: but may not our want of yet earlier and less corrupted editions of these very dramas be solely attributed to the monopolizing vigilance of its editors, Messieurs Hemings and Condell? Finding they had been deprived of some tragedies and comedies which, when opportunity offered, they designed to publish for their own emolument, they redoubled their solicitude to withhold the rest, and were but too successful in their precaution. "Thank fortune (say the original putterforth of Troilus and Cressida) for the scape it hath made amongst you;
plainer terms, that the vitiations of a careless theatre were seconded by those of as ignorant a press. The integrity of dramas thus prepared for the world, is just on a level with the innocence of females nursed in a camp and educated in a bagnio.As often therefore as we are told, that by admitting corrections warranted by common sense and the laws of metre, we have not rigidly adhered to the text of Shakspeare, we shall entreat our opponents to exchange that phrase for another more germane," and say instead of it, that we have deviated from the text of the publishers of single plays in quarto, or their successors, the editors of the first folio; that we have sometimes followed the suggestions of a Warburton, a Johnson, a Farmer, or a Tyrwhitt, in preference to the decisions of a Hemings or a Condell, notwithstanding their choice of readings might have been influenced by associates whose high-sounding names cannot fail to enforce respect, viz. William Ostler, John Shanke, William Sly, and Thomas Poope.*
To revive the anomalies, barbarisms and blunders of some ancient copies, in preference to the corrections of others almost equally old, is likewise a circumstance by no means honourable to our author, however secure respecting ourselves. For what is it, under pretence of restoration, but to use him as he used the tinker in The Taming of a Shrew,-to re-clothe him in his pristine rags? To assemble parallels in support of all these deformities, is no insuperable labour; for if we are permitted to avail ourselves of every typographical mistake, and every provincial vulgarism and offence against established grammar, that may be met with in the coëval productions of irregular humourists and ignorant sectaries and buffoons, we may aver that every casual combination of syllables may be tortured into meaning, and every species of corruption exemplified by corresponding depravities of language; but not of such language as Shakspeare, if compared with himself where he is perfect, can be supposed to have written. By similar reference it is that the style of many an ancient building has been characteristically restored. The members of architecture left entire, have instructed the renovator how to supply the loss of such as had fallen into decay. The poet, therefore, whose dialogue has often, during a long and uninterrupted series of lines, no other peculiarities than were common to the works of his most celebrated contemporaries, and whose general ease and sweetness of versification are hitherto unrivalled, ought not so often to be suspected of having produced ungrammatical nonsense, and such rough and defective numbers as
since by the grand possessors' wills, I believe, you should have pray'd for it, rather than beene pray'd."-Had quartos of Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, All's Well that Ends Well, &c. been sent into the world, from how many corruptions might the text of all these dramas have been secured!
* See first folio, &c. for the list of actors in our author's plays
would disgrace a village school-boy in his first attempts at English poetry. It may also be observed, that our author's earliest compositions, his Sonnets, &c. are wholly free from metrical imperfections.
The truth is, that from one extreme we have reached another. Our incautious predecessors, Rowe, Pope, Hanmer, and Warburton, were sometimes justly blamed for wanton and needless deviations from ancient copies; and we are afraid that censure will as equitably fall on some of us for a revival of irregularities which have no reasonable sanction, and few champions but such as are excited by a fruitless ambition to defend certain posts and passes that had been supposed untenable. The "wine of collation," indeed, had long been "drawn," and little beside the mere lees was left" for very modern editors "to brag of." It should, therefore, be remembered, that as judgment, without the aid of collation, might have insufficient materials to work on, so collation, divested of judgment, will be often worse than thrown away, because it introduces obscurity instead of light. To render Shakspeare less intelligible by the recall of corrupt phraseology, is not, in our opinion, the surest way to extend his fame and multiply his readers; unless (like Curll the bookseller, when the Jews spoke Hebrew to him,) they happen to have most faith in what they least understand. Respecting our author, therefore, on some occasions, we cannot join in the prayer of Cordelia :Restoration hang
It is unlucky for him, perhaps, that between the interest of his readers and his editors a material difference should subsist. The former wish to meet with as few difficulties as possible, while the latter are tempted to seek them out, because they afford opportunities for explanatory criticism.
Omissions in our author's works are frequently suspected, and sometimes not without sufficient reason. Yet, in our opinion, they have suffered a more certain injury from interpolation; for almost as often as their measure is deranged, or redundant, some words, alike unnecessary to sense and the grammar of the age, may be discovered, and, in a thousand instances, might be expunged, without loss of a single idea meant to be expressed; a liberty which we have sometimes taken, though not (as it is hoped) without constant notice of it to the reader. Enough of this, however, has been already attempted, to show that more on the same plan might be done with safety.*-So far from under
* Sufficient instances of measure thus rendered defective, and in the present edition unamended, may be found in the three last Acts of Hamlet, and in Othello. The length of this prefatory advertisement has precluded their exemplification, which was here meant to have been given.-We wish, however, to impress the foregoing circumstance on the memory of the judicious reader.
standing the power of an ellipsis, we may venture to affirm that the very name of this figure in rhetorick never reached the ears of our ancient editors. Having on this subject the support of Dr. Farmer's acknowledged judgment and experience, we shall not shrink from controversy with those who maintain a different opinion, and refuse to acquiesce in modern suggestions if opposed to the authority of quartos and folios, consigned to us by a set of people who were wholly uninstructed in the common forms of style, orthography, and punctuation.-We do not there. fore hesitate to affirm, that a blind fidelity to the eldest printed copies, is on some occasions a confirmed treason against the sense, spirit, and versification of Shakspeare.
All these circumstances considered, it is time, instead of a timid and servile adherence to ancient copies, when (offending against sense and metre) they furnish no real help, that a future editor, well acquainted with the phraseology of our author's age, should be at liberty to restore some apparent meaning to his corrupted lines, and a decent flow to his obstructed versification. The latter (as already has been observed) may be frequently effected by the expulsion of useless and supernume. rary syllables, and an occasional supply of such as might fortutuitously have been omitted, notwithstanding the declaration of Hemings and Condell, whose fraudulent preface asserts that they have published our author's plays "as absolute in their numbers as he conceived them.” Till somewhat resembling the process above suggested be authorized, the publick will ask in vain for a commodious and pleasant text of Shakspeare. Nothing will be lost to the world on account of the measure recommended, there being folios and quartos enough remaining for the use of antiquarian or critical travellers, to whom a jolt over a rugged pavement may be more delectable than an easy passage over a smooth one, though they both conduct to the same object.
To a reader unconversant with the licenses of a theatre, the charge of more material interpolation than that of mere syllables, will appear to want support; and yet whole lines and pas sages in the following plays incur a very just suspicion of hav ing originated from this practice, which continues even in the present improved state of our dramatick arrangements; for the propensity of modern performers to alter words, and occasion. ally introduce ideas incongruous with their author's plan, will not always escape detection. In such vagaries our comedians have been much too frequently indulged; but to the injudicious tragical interpolator no degree of favour should be shown, not even to a late Matilda, who, in Mr. Home's Douglas thought fit to change the obscure intimation with which her part should have concluded
such a son,
"And such a husband, make a woman bold.
into a plain avowal, that
such a son,
"And such a husband, drive me to my fate."