Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

one up to this task in fome future time, by fhewing the poffibility of it; which he may be further convinc'd of, if he reflects what great things have been done, by criticks amongst ourselves, upon fubjects of this fort, and of a more remov'd antiquity than he is concern'd in. A Life thus conftructed, interfpers'd with fuch anecdotes of common notoriety as the writer's judgment fhall tell him-are worth regard; together with fome memorials of this poet that are happily come down to us; fuch as, an inftrument in the Heralds' Office, confirming arms to his father; a Patent preferv'd in Rymer, granted by James the First; his last Will and Teftament, extant now at Doctors Commons; his Stratford monument, and a monument of his daughter which is faid to be there also;-fuch a Life would rife quickly into a volume; especially, with the addition of one proper and even neceffary epifode-a brief hiftory of our drama, from its origin down to the poet's death: even the ftage he appear'd upon, it's form, dreffings, actors fhould be enquir'd into, as every one of those circumftances had fome confiderable effect upon what he compos'd for it: The fubject is certainly a good one, and will fall (we hope) ere it be long into the hands of fome good writer; by whose abilities this great want may at length be made up to us, and the world of letters enrich'd by the happy acquifition of a mafterly Life of Shakspeare. CAPELL.

MR. STEEVENS'S

ADVERTISEMENT

TO THE

READER.'

THE HE want of adherence to the old copies, which has been complained of, in the text of every modern republication of Shakspeare, is fairly deducible from Mr. Rowe's inattention to one of the firft duties of an editor.6 Mr. Rowe did not print from the earliest and most correct, but from the most remote and inaccurate of the four folios. Between the years 1623 and 1685 (the dates of the

5 First printed in 1773. MALONE.

"I must not (fays Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the Duke of Somerfet) pretend to have reftor'd this work to the exactness of the author's original manufcripts: thofe, are loft, or, at least, are gone beyond any enquiry I could make; fo that there was nothing left, but to compare the feveral editions, and give the true reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many places intelligible, that were not fo before. In some of the editions, efpecially the laft, there were many lines (and in Hamlet one whole fcene) left out together; these are now all supply'd. I fear your grace will find some faults, but I hope they are moftly literal, and the errors of the prefs." Would not any one, from this declaration, suppose that Mr. Rowe (who does not appear to have confulted a fingle quarto) had at leaft compared the folios with each other? STEEVENS,

first and last) the errors in every play, at least, were trebled. Several pages in each of thefe ancient editions have been examined, that the affertion might come more fully fupported. It may be added, that as every fresh editor continued to make the text of his predeceffor the ground-work of his own (never collating but where difficulties occurred) fome deviations from the originals had been handed down, the number of which are lef fened in the impreffion before us, as it has been conftantly compared with the most authentick copies, whether collation was abfolutely neceffary for the recovery of fenfe, or not. The person who undertook this tafk may have failed by inadvertency, as well as those who preceded him; but the reader may be affured, that he, who thought it his duty to free an author from fuch modern and unneceffary innovations as had been cenfured in others, has not ventured to introduce any of his own.

It is not pretended that a complete body of various readings is here collected; or that all the diverfities which the copies exhibit, are pointed out; as near two thirds of them are typographical mistakes, or fuch a change of infignificant particles, as would croud the bottom of the page with an oftentation of materials, from which at last nothing ufeful could be felected.

The dialogue might indeed sometimes be lengthened by other infertions than have hitherto been made, but without advantage either to its spirit or beauty as in the following inftance:

"Lear. No.

"Kent. Yes.

"Lear. No, I fay. "Kent. I fay, yea."

Here the quartos add :

"Lear. No, no, they would not.
"Kent. Yes, they have."

By the admiffion of this negation and affirmation, has any new idea been gained?

The labours of preceding editors have not left room for a boaft, that many valuable readings have been retrieved; though it may be fairly afferted, that the text of Shakspeare is reftored to the condition in which the author, or rather his firft publishers, appear to have left it, fuch emendations as were abfolutely neceffary, alone admitted: for where a particle, indifpenfably neceffary to the fense was wanting, fuch a supply has been filently adopted from other editions; but where a fyllable, or more, had been added for the fake of the metre only, which at firft might have been irregular," fuch interpolations are here constantly retrenched, *fometimes with, and fometimes without notice. Those speeches, which in the elder editions are printed as profe, and from their own conftruction are incapable of being compreffed into verse, without the aid of fupplemental fyllables, are restored to profe again; and the meafure is divided afresh in others, where the mafs of words had been inharmoniously feparated into lines.

The fcenery, throughout all the plays, is regulated in conformity to a rule, which the poet, by his general practice feems to have proposed to himfelf. Several of his pieces are come down to us, divided into scenes as well as acts. Thefe divifions were probably his own, as they are made on fettled

7 I retract this fuppofition, which was too haftily formed. See note on The Tempest, Vol. IV. p. 73. STEEVENS.

principles, which would hardly have been the cafe, had the task been executed by the players. A change of scene, with Shakspeare, moft commonly implies a change of place, but always an entire evacuation of the ftage. The custom of distinguifhing every entrance or exit by a fresh scene, was adopted, perhaps very idly, from the French theatre.

For the length of many notes, and the accumulation of examples in others, fome apology may be likewife expected. An attempt at brevity is often found to be the fource of an imperfect ex planation. Where a paffage has been conftantly misunderstood, or where the jeft or pleasantry has been fuffered to remain long in obfcurity, more inftances have been brought to clear the one, or elucidate the other, than appear at first fight to have been neceffary. For thefe it can only be faid, that when they prove that phrafeology or fource of merriment to have been once general, which at present seems particular, they are not quite impertinently intruded; as they may serve to free the author from a fufpicion of having employed an affected fingularity of expreffion, or indulged himself in allufions to tranfient cuftoms, which were not of fufficient notoriety to deferve ridicule or reprehenfion. When examples in favour of contradictory opinions are affembled, though no attempt is made to decide on either part, fuch neutral collections fhould always be regarded as materials for future criticks, who may hereafter apply them with fuccefs. Authorities, whether in refpect of words, or things, are not always producible from the most celebrated writers; yet fuch

8 Mr. T. Warton in his excellent Remarks on the Fairy Queen of Spenser, offers a fimilar apology for having introduced illuf

« VorigeDoorgaan »