« ElőzőTovább »
parately; and which seems borrowed by the latter with his usual judgment, it being the most natural passage in the whole play; and is introduced in such a manner, as to make it fairly his own. The ingenious editor of The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry having never met with this play, and as it is not preserved in Mr. Garrick's collection, I thought it a curiosity worthy the notice of the publick.
I have likewise reprinted Shakspeare's Sonnets, from a copy published in 1609, by G. Eld, one of the printers of his plays; which, added to the consideration that they made their appear. ance with his name, and in his life-time, seems to be no slender proof of their authenticity. The same evidence might operate in favour of several more plays which are omitted here, out of respect to the judgment of those who had omitted them before.
It is to be wished that some method of publication most fa. vourable to the character of an author were once established; whether we are to send into the world all his works without distinction, or arbitrarily to leave out what may be thought a disgrace to him. The first editors, who rejected Pericles, re. tained Titus Andronicus; and Mr. Pope, without any reason, named The Winter's Tale, a play that bears the strongest marks of the hand of Shakspeare, among those which he supposed to be spurious. Dr. Warburton has fixed a stigma on the three parts of Henry the Sixth, and some others :
“Inde Dolabella, est, atque hinc Antonius;" and all have been willing to plunder Shakspeare, or mix up a breed of barren metal with his purest ore.
Joshua Barnes, the editor of Euripides, thought every scrap of his author so sacred, that he has preserved with the name of one of his plays, the only remaining word of it. The same reason indeed might be given in his favour, which caused the preservation of that valuable trissyllable; which is, that it cannot be found in any other place in the Greek language. But this does not seem to have been his only motive, as we find he has to the full as carefully published several detached and broken sentences, the gleanings from scholiasts, which have no claim to merit of that kind; and yet the author's works might be reckoned by some to be incomplete without them. If then this duty is expected from every editor of a Greek or Roman poet, why is not the same insisted on in respect of an English Clas. sick? But if the custom of preserving all, whether worthy of it or not, be more honoured in the breuch, than the observance, the suppression at least should not be considered as a fault. The publication of such things as Swift had written merely to raise a laugh among his friends, has added something to the bulk of his works, but very little to his character as a writer. The four
* Locrine, 1595. Sir John Oldcastle, 1600. London Prodigal, 1605. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609. Puritan, 1600. Thomas Lord Cromwell, 1613. Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608.
Folumes that came out since Dr. Hawkesworth's edition, not to look on them as a tax levied on the publick, (which I think one might without injustice,) contain not more than sufficient to have made one of real value; and there is a kind of disingenu. ity, not to give it a harsher title, in exhibiting what the author never meant should see the light; for no motive, but a sordid one, can betray the survivors to make that publick, which they themselves must be of opinion will be unfavourable to the me. mory of the dead.
Life does not often receive good unmixed with evil. The be. nefits of the art of printing are depraved by the facility with which scandal may be diffused, and secrets revealed; and by the temptation by which traffick solicits avarice to betray the weaknesses of passion, or the confidence of friendship.
I cannot forbear to think these posthumous publications inju. rious to society. A man conscious of literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his sister, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the slightest occasion, or most pressing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and grammatical severity. That esteem which preserves his letters, will at last produce his disgrace; when that which he wrote to his friend or his daughter shall be laid open to the publick.
There is perhaps sufficient evidence, that most of the plays in question, unequal as they may be to the rest, were written by Shakspeare; but the reason generally given for publishing the less correct pieces of an author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's talents or way of thinking, than when we only see him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and practises otherwise. For what is all this to show, but that every man is more dull at one time than another? a fact which the world would easily have ad. mitted, without asking any proofs in its support that might be destructive to an author's reputation.
To conclude; if the work, which this publication was meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the satisfaction of knowing it to be so may be obtained from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expectations of correctness, and througla negligence defeated them, be justly exposed by future editors, who will now be in possession of by far the greatest part of what they might have enquired after for years to no purpose; for in respect of such a number of the old quartos as are here exhi. bited, the first folio is a common book. This advantage will at least arise, that future editors, having equally recourse to the same copies, can challenge distinction and preference only by genius, capacity, industry, and learning.
As I have only collected materials for future artists, I consi. der what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for
* Volumes XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI, in large 8vo. Nine more have since been added. Reed.
their use. If the publick is inclined to receive it as such, I am amply rewarded for my trouble; if otherwise, I shall submit with cheerfulness to the censure which should equitably fall on an injudicious attempt; having this consolation, however, that my design amounted to no more than a wish to encourage others to think of preserving the oldest editions of the English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; and to afford the world all the assistance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST POET.*
It is said of the ostrich, that she drops her egg at random, to be dispos’d of as chance pleases; either brought to maturity by the sun's kindly warmth, or else crush'd by beasts and the feet of passers-by: such, at least, is the account which naturalists have given us of this extraordinary bird; and admitting it for a truth, she is in this a fit emblem of almost every great ge. nius: they conceive and produce with ease those noble issues of human understanding; but incubation, the dull work of putting them correctly upon paper and afterwards publishing, is a task they can not away with. If the original state of all such authors' writings, even from Homer downward, could be enquir'd into and known, they would yield proof in abundance of the justness of what is here asserted: but the author now before us shall suffice for them all; being at once the greatest instance of genius in producing noble things, and of negligence in providing for them afterwards. This negligence indeed was so great, and the condition in which his works are come down to us so very deform'd, that it has, of late years, induc'd several gentlemen to make a revision of them: but the publick seems not to be satisfy'd with any of their endeavours; and the reason of it's discontent will be manifest, when the state of his
* As the foregoing Advertisement appeared when its author was young and uninformed, he cannot now abide by many sentiments expressed in it: nor would it have been here reprinted, but in compliance with Dr. Johnson's injunction, that all the relative Prefaces should continue to attend his edition of our author's plays. Steevens.
† Dr. Johnson's opinion of this performance may be known from the following passage in Mr. Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, second edit. Vol. III, p. 251: “If the man would have come to me, I would have endeavoured to endow his purpose with words for as it is, he doth gabble monstrously.”
old editions, and the methods that they have taken to amend them, are fully lay'd open, which is the first business of this Introduction.
Of thirty-six plays which Shakspeare has left us, and which compose the collection that was afterwards set out in folio, thirteen only were publish'd in his life-time, that have much resemblance to those in the folio; these thirteen are—" Hamlet, First and Second Henry IV, King Lear, Love's Labour's Lost, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Richard II, and III, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida.” Some others, that came out in the same period, bear indeed the titles of—“Henry V, King John, Merry Wives of Windsor, and Taming of the Shrew ;*" but are no other than either first draughts, or mutilated and perhaps surreptitious impressions of those plays, but whether of the two is not easy to determine : King John is certainly a first draught, and in two parts; and so much another play, that only one line of it is retain’d in the second: there is also a first draught of the Seconi' and Third Parts of Henry VI, published in his life-time under the following title,-“ The whole Contention betweene the two famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke :" and to these plays, six in number, may be added--the first impression of Romeo and Juliet, being a play of the same stamp: The date of all these quarto's, and that of their several re-impressions, may be seen in a table that follows the Introduction. Othello came out only one year before the folio; and is, in the main, the same play that we have there: and this too is the case of the first-mention'd thirteen; notwithstanding there are in many of them great variations, and particularly in Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet.
As for the plays, which, we say, are either the poet's first draughts, or else imperfect and stolen copies, it will be thought, perhaps, they might as well have been left out of the account: but they are not wholly useless: some lucune, that are in all the other editions have been judiciously filld up in modern impressions by the authority of these copies; and in some particular passages of them, where there happens to be a greater conformity than usual between them and the more perfect edi.
* This is meant of the first quarto edition of The Taming of the Shrew; for the second was printed from the folio. But the play in this first edition appears certainly to have been a spurious one, from Mr. Pope's account of it, who seems to have been the only editor whom it was ever seen by: great pains has been taken to trace who he had it of, (for it was not in his collection) but without success.
[Mr. Capell afterwards procured a sight of this desideratum, a circumstance which he has quaintly recorded in the note annexed to the MS, catalogue of his Shaksperiana : " lent by Mr. Malone, an Irish gentleman, living in Queen Ann Street East.”]
tions, there is here and there a various reading that does honour to the poet's judgment, and should upon that account be presum'd the true one; in other respects, they have neither use nor merit, but are merely curiosities.
Proceed we then to a description of the other fourteen. They all abound in faults, though not in equal degree; and those faults are so numerous, and of so many different natures, that nothing but a perusal of the pieces themselves can give an ade. quate conception of them; but amongst them are these that fol. low. Division of acts and scenes, they have none; Othello only excepted, which is divided into acts: entries of persons are extremely imperfect in them, (sometimes more, sometimes fewer than the scene requires) and their Exits are very of. ten omitted; or, when mark’d, not always in the right place; and few scenical directions are to be met with throughout the wbole: speeches are frequently confounded, and given to wrong persons, either whole, or in part; and sometimes, instead of the person speaking, you have the actor who presented him: and in two of the plays, (Love's Labour's Lost, and Troilus and Cressida,) the same matter, and in nearly the same words, is set down twice in some passages; which who sees not to be only a negligence of the poet, and that but one of them ought to have been printed? But the reigning fault of all is in the measure: prose is very often printed as verse, and verse as prose; or, where rightly printed verse, that verse is not al. ways right divided : and in all these pieces, the songs are in every particular still more corrupt than the other parts of them. These are the general and principal defects: to which if you add-transposition of words, sentences, lines, and even speech. es; words omitted, and others added without reason; and a punctuation so deficient, and so often wrong, that it hardly de. serves regard; you have, upon the whole, a true but melancho. ly picture of the condition of these first printed plays: which bad as it is, is yet better than that of those which came after; or than that of the subsequent folio impression of some of these which we are now speaking of.
This folio impression was sent into the world seven years after the author's death, by two of his fellow-players; and con. tains, besides the last-mention'd fourteen, the true and genuine copies of the other six plays, and sixteen that were never publish'd before:* the editors make great professions of fide.
* There is yet extant in the books of the Stationers' Company, an entry bearing date-Feb. 12, 1624, to Messrs. Jaggard and Blount, the proprietors of this first folio, which is thus worded: “ Mr. Wm. Shakspear's Comedy's History's & Tragedy's 80 many of the said Copy's as bee not enter'd to other men : and this en. try is follow'd by the titles of all those sixteen plays that were first printed in the folio: The other twenty plays (Othello, and King John, excepted; which the person who furnished this transcript, thinks he may have overlook'd,) are enter'd tog in