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Shakspeare, among thofe which he fuppofed to be fpurious. Dr. Warburton has fixed a ftigma on the three parts of Henry the Sixth, and fome others:
"Inde Dollabella, eft, atque hinc Antonius;
and all have been willing to plunder Shakspeare, or mix up a breed of barren metal with his pureft ore. Jofhua Barnes, the editor of Euripides, thought every fcrap of his author fo facred, that he has preferved with the name of one of his plays, the only remaining word of it. The fame reafon indeed might be given in his favour, which caufed the preservation of that valuable trifyllable; which is, that it cannot be found in any other place in the Greek language. But this does not feem to have been his only motive, as we find he has to the full as carefully published feveral detached and broken fentences, the gleanings from fcholiafts, which have no claim to merit of that kind; and yet the author's works might be reckoned by fome to be incomplete without them. If then this duty is expected from every editor of a Greek or Roman poet, why is not the fame infifted on in refpect of an English claffick? But if the cuftom of preferving all, whether worthy of it or not, be more honoured in the breach than the obfervance, the fuppreffion at least fhould not be confidered as a fault. The publication of fuch things as Swift had written merely to raise a laugh among his friends, has added fomething to the bulk of his works, but very little to his character as a writer. The four
volumes that came out fince Dr. Hawkefworth's edition, not to look on them as a tax levied on the publick (which I think one might without injustice,) contain no more than fufficient to have made one of real value; and there is a kind of difingenuity, not to give it a harfher title, in exhibiting what the author never meant should see the light; for no motive, but a fordid one, can betray the furvivers to make that publick, which they themselves must be of opinion will be unfavourable to the memory of the dead.
Life does not often receive good unmixed with evil. The benefits of the art of printing are depraved by the facility with which fcandal may be diffused, and fecrets revealed; and by the temptation by which traffick folicits avarice to betray the weakneffes of paffion, or the confidence of friendfhip.
I cannot forbear to think thefe pofthumous publications injurious to fociety. A man confcious of literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his fifter, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the flighteft occafion, or moft preffing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and grammatical severity. That efteem which preserves his letters, will at laft produce his difgrace when that which he wrote to his friend or his daughter fhall be laid open to the publick.
There is perhaps fufficient evidence, that most of the plays in queftion unequal as they may be to the reft, were written by Shakspeare; but the
4 Volumes XIII. XIV. XV. and XVI. in large 8vo. Nine more have fince been added. REED.
reafon generally given for publishing the lefs correct pieces of an author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's talents or way of thinking, then when we only fee him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and practices otherwise. For what is all this to fhow, but that every man is more dull at one time than another? a fact which the world would easily have admitted, without afking any proofs in its fupport that might be deftructive to an author's reputation.
To conclude; if the work, which this publication was meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the fatisfaction of knowing it to be fo may be obtained from hence; if otherwife, let thofe who raised expectations of correctness, and through negligence defeated them, be juftly expofed by future editors, who will now be in poffeffion of by far the greatest part of what they might have enquired after for years to no purpose; for in refpect of fuch a number of the old quartos as are here exhibited, the firft folio is a common book. This advantage will at leaft arife, that future editors, having equally recourfe to the fame copies, can challenge diftinction and preference only by genius, capacity, induftry, and learning.
As I have only collected materials for future artifls, I confider what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for their ufe. If the publick is inclined to receive it as fuch, I am amply rewarded for my trouble; if otherwife, I fhall fubmit with cheerfulnefs to the cenfure which fhould equitably fall on an injudicious attempt; having this confolation, however, that my defign
amounted to no more than a wifh to encourage others to think of preferving the oldest editions of the English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; and to afford the world all the affiftance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST POET.'
Ir is faid of the oftrich, that the drops her egg at random, to be difpos'd of as chance pleases; either brought to maturity by the fun's kindly warmth, or elfe crufh'd by beafts and the feet of paffers-by: fuch, at leaft, is the account which naturalifts have given us of this extraordinary bird; and admitting it for a truth, fhe is in this a fit emblem of almost every great genius: they conceive and produce with eafe thofe noble iffues of human understanding; but incubation the
"As the foregoing Advertisement appeared when its author was young and uninformed, he cannot now abide by many fentiments expreffed in it: nor would it have been here reprinted, but in compliance with Dr. Johnson's injunction, that all the relative Prefaces fhould continue to attend his edition of our author's plays. STEEVENS.
dull work of putting them correctly upon paper and afterwards publishing, is a task they can not away with. If the original ftate of all fuch authors' writings, even from HOMER downward, could be enquir'd into and known, they would yield proof in abundance of the juftnefs of what is here afferted but the author now before us fhall fuffice for them all; being at once the greatest inftance of genius in producing noble things, and of negligence in providing for them afterwards. This negligence indeed was fo great, and the condition in which his works are come down to us fo very deform'd, that it has, of late years, induc'd feveral gentlemen to make a revifion of them: but the publick feems not to be fatisfy'd with any of their endeavours; and the reafon of it's difcontent will be manifeft, when the flate of his old editions, and the methods. that they have taken to amend them, are fully lay'd open, which is the firft bufinefs of this Introduction.
Of thirty-fix plays which Shakspeare has left us, and which compofe the collection that was afterwards fet out in folio, thirteen only were publifh'd in his life-time, that have much refemblance to thofe in the folio; thefe thirteen are "Hamlet, Firft and fecond Henry the IV. King Lear, Love's Labour's Loft, Merchant of Venice, Midfummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Richard II. and III. Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Creffida." Some others, that came out in the fame period, bear indeed the titles of "Henry V. King John, Merry Wives of Windfor, and Taming of the Shrew;" but are no other than either firft
This is meant of the first quarto edition of The Taming of the Shrew; for the fecond was printed from the folio. But