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and another stage took place, in which Shakspeare had little fhare. Dryden had then the lead, and maintain'd it for half a century: though his government was fometimes difputed by Lee, Tate, Shadwell, Wytcherley, and others; weaken'd much by The Rehearfal; and quite overthrown in the end by Otway, and Rowe: what the caft of their plays was, is known to every one: but that Shakfpeare, the true and genuine Shakspeare, was not much relish'd, is plain from the many alterations of him, that were brought upon the ftage by fome of thofe gentlemen, and by others within that period.
But, from what has been faid, we are not to conclude that the poet had no admirers: for the contrary is true; and he had in all this interval no inconfiderable party amongst men of the greatest understanding, who both faw his merit, in despite of the darkness it was then wrapt up in, and spoke loudly in his praise; but the stream of the publick favour ran the other way. But this too coming about at the time we are fpeaking of, there was a demand for his works, and in a form that was more convenient than the folio's: in confequence of which, the gentleman laft mentioned was fet to work by the booksellers; and, in 1709, he put out an edition in fix volumes octavo, which, unhappily, is the bafis of all the other moderns for this editor went no further than to the edition nearest to him in time, which was the folio of 1685, the laft and worft of thofe impreffions: this he republifh'd with great exactnefs; correcting here and there fome of it's groffeft miftakes, and dividing into acts and scenes the plays that were not divided before.
But no fooner was this edition in the hands of
the publick, than they faw in part its deficiencies, and one of another fort began to be required of them; which accordingly was fet about fome years after by two gentlemen at once, Mr. Pope and Mr. Theobald. The labours of the first came out in 1725, in fix volumes quarto: and he has the merit of having firft improv'd his author, by the infertion of many large paffages, fpeeches, and fingle lines, taken from the quarto's; and of amending him in other places, by readings fetch'd from the fame but his materials were few, and his collation of them not the most careful; which, join'd to other faults, and to that main one-of making his predeceffor's the copy himself follow'd, brought his labours in difrepute, and has finally funk them in neglect.
His publication retarded the other gentleman, and he did not appear 'till the year 1733, when his work too came out in feven volumes, octavo. The oppofition that was between them feems to have enflam'd him, which was heighten'd by other motives, and he declaims vehemently against the work of his antagonist: which yet ferv'd him for a model; and his own is made only a little better, by his having a few more materials; of which he was not a better collator than the other, nor did he excel him in use of them; for, in this article, both their judgments may be equally call'd in question; in what he has done that is conjectural, he is rather more happy; but in this he had large affiftances.
But the gentleman that came next, is a critick of another ftamp: and purfues a track, in which it is greatly to be hop'd he will never be follow'd in the publication of any authors whatfoever for this were, in effect, to annihilate them,
if carry'd a little further; by deftroying all marks of peculiarity and notes of time, all eafinefs of expreffion and numbers, all juftnefs of thought, and the nobility of not a few of their conceptions: The manner in which his author is treated, excites an indignation that will be thought by fome to vent itself too ftrongly; but terms weaker would do injuftice to my feelings, and the cenfure shall be hazarded. Mr. Pope's edition was the groundwork of this over-bold one; fplendidly printed at Oxford in fix quarto volumes, and publifh'd in the year 1744: the publisher difdains all collation of folio, or quarto; and fetches all from his great felf, and the moderns his predeceffors: wantoning in very licence of conjecture; and fweeping all before him, (without notice, or reafon given,) that not fuits his tafte, or lies level to his conceptions. But this juftice should be done him as his conjectures are numerous, they are oftentimes not unhappy; and fome of them are of that excellence, that one is ftruck with amazement to fee a perfon of fo much judgment as he fhows himself in them, adopt a method of publishing that runs counter to all the ideas that wife men have hitherto entertain'd of an editor's province and duty.
The year 1747 produc'd a fifth edition, in eight octavo volumes, publifh'd by Mr. Warburton ; which though it is faid in the title-page to be the joint work of himself and the fecond editor, the third ought rather to have been mention'd, for it is printed from his text. The merits of this performance have been fo thoroughly difcufs'd in two very ingenious books, The Canons of Criticifm, and Revifal of Shakspeare's Text, that it is needless to fay any more of it: this only fhall be added to what may be there met with,-that the edition is
not much benefited by fresh acquifitions from the old ones, which this gentleman feems to have neglected.5
Other charges there are, that might be brought against these modern impreffions, without infringing the laws of truth or candour either: but what is faid, will be fufficient; and may fatisfy their greatest favourers, that the fuperftructure cannot be a found one, which is built upon fo bad a foundation as that work of Mr. Rowe's; which all of them, as we see, in fucceffion, have yet made their corner-stone: The truth is, it was impoffible that such a beginning fhould end better than it has done the fault was in the fetting-out; and all the diligence that could be us'd, join'd to the difcernment of a Pearce, or a Bentley, could never purge their author of all his defects by their method of proceeding.
The editor now before you was appriz'd in time of this truth; faw the wretched condition his author was reduc'd to by these late tamperings, and thought seriously of a cure for it, and that fo long ago as the year 1745; for the attempt was firft fuggefted by that gentleman's performance, which
It will perhaps be thought ftrange, that nothing should be faid in this place of another edition that came out about a twelvemonth ago, in eight volumes, octavo; but the reasons for it are thefe :-There is no ufe made of it, nor could be; for the prefent was finifh'd, within a play or two, and printed too in great part, before that appear'd: the first sheet of this work (being the firft of Vol. II.) went to the press in September 1760 and this volume was follow'd by volumes VIII. IV. IX. 1. VI. and VII; the last of which was printed off in August 1765: In the next place, the merits and demerits of it are unknown to the present editor even at this hour: this only he has perceiv'd in it, having look'd it but flightly over, that the text it follows is that of its neareft predeceffor, and from that copy it was printed.
came out at Oxford the year before which when he had perus'd with no little astonishment, and confider'd the fatal confequences that must inevitably follow the imitation of fo much licence, he refolv'd himself to be the champion; and to exert to the uttermoft fuch abilities as he was mafter of, to fave from further ruin an edifice of this dignity, which England muft for ever glory in. Hereupon he poffefs'd himself of the other modern editions, the folio's, and as many quarto's as could presently be procur'd; and, within a few years after, fortune and induftry help'd him to all the reft, fix only excepted; adding to them withal twelve more, which the compilers of former tables had no knowledge of. Thus furnish'd, he fell immediately to collation, which is the first step in works of this nature; and, without it, nothing is done to purpose,-firft of moderns with moderns, then of moderns with ancients, and afterwards of ancients with others more ancient: 'till, at the laft, a ray of light broke forth upon him, by which he hop'd to find his way through the wilderness of these editions into that fair country the poet's real habitation. He had not proceeded far in his collation, before he faw caufe to come to this resolution ;to stick invariably to the old editions, (that is, the
But of one of these fix, (a 1. Henry IV. edition 1604) the editor thinks he is poffeffed of a very large fragment, imperfect only in the first and last sheet; which has been collated, as far as it goes, along with others: And of the twelve quarto editions, which he has had the good fortune to add to those that were known before, fome of them are of great value; as may be feen by looking into the Table.
[As this table relates chiefly to Mr. Capell's defiderata, &c. (and had been anticipated by another table equally comprehenfive, which the reader will find in the next volume,) it is here omitted.]