« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Shakfpeare, among those which he supposed to be fpurious. Dr. Warburton has fixed a ftigma on the three parts of Henry the Sixth, and some others :
** Inde Dollabella, 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 serap of his author fo 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 trisyllable; 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 feveral detached and broken fentences, the gleanings from scholiafts, 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 classick ? But if the custom of preferving all, whether worthy of it or not, be more honoured in the breach than the observance, the suppression at least fhould not be confidered 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
volumes that came out since Dr. Hawkefworth's édition, not to look on them as a tax levied on the publick (which I think one might without injustice;) contain no more than sufficient to have made one of real value; and there is a kind of disingenuity, not to give it a harfher title, in exhibiting what the author never meant should see the light; for no motive, but a sordid onė, can betray the survivers 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 secrets revealed; and by the temptation by which traffick solicies avarice to betray the weaknesses of passion, or the confidence of friendship:
I cannot forbear to think these posthumous publications injurious to society. A man conscious 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 flightest 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 fufficient evidence, that most of the plays in question unequal as they may be to the reit, were written by Shakspeare; but the
Volumes XIII. XIV. XV. and XVI. in large Svo. Nine more have since been added. REED.
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, then when we only see him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and pracices otherwise. For what is all this to fhow, but that every man. is more dull at one time than another? fact which the world would easily have admitted; without afking 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 fatisfaction of knowing it to be so may be obtained from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expectations of corre&tness, and through 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 exhibited, the first folio is a common book. This advantage will at least arise, that future editors, having equally recourse to the fame copies, can challenge distinction and preference only by genius, capacity, industry, and learning.
As I have only colleaed materials for future artists, I consider what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for 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 confolation, 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 aflistance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST POET."
is said of the ostrich, that she drops her egg at random, to be difpos'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 genius: they conceive and produce with ease thọfe noble issues of human understanding; but incubation the
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.
dull work of putting them correctly upon paper and afterwards publishing, is a task they can nog 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 în abundance of the justness of what is here afferted: but the author now before us shall fuffice 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 deformd, 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 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-fix 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 the IV. King Lear, Love's La bour's Loft, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Richard II. and III. Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Criffida.” Some oqhers, that came out in the fame period, bear indeed the titles of — " Henry'V. King
John, Merry Wives of Windsor, and Taming of the Shrew; 5"
but are no other than either first
6. This is meant of the first quarto edition of Fine Taming of the Shrew; for the second was printed from the folio. But