« السابقةمتابعة »
for the authority of Dr. Johnson than I have; but he has been misunderstood, or misrepresented, as if these words contained a general caution to all the readers of this poet. Dr. Johnson, in the part of his preface here alluded to, is addressing the young reader, to whom Shakspeare is new; and him he very judiciously counsels to “read every play from the first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators.--Let him read on, through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehenfion of the dialogue, and his interest in the fable.” But to much the greater and more enlightened part of his readers, (for how few are there comparatively to whom Shakspeare is new ?) he gives a very different advice : Let them to whom the pleasures of novelty have ceased, attempt exactness, and read the commentators.'
During the era of conjectural criticism and capricious innovation, notes were indeed evils; while one page was covered with ingenious sophistry in support of some idle conjecture, and another was walted in its overthrow, or in erecting a new fabrick equally unsubstantial as the former. But this era is now happily paft away ; and conjecture and emendation have given place to rational explanation. We shall never, I hope, again be told, that “ as the best guesser was the belt diviner, lo he may be said in fome measure to be the best editor of Shakspeare. Let me not, however, be supposed an enemy to all conjectural emendation ; sometimes undoubtedly we must have recourse to it ; but, like the machinery of the ancient drama, let it not be resorted to except in cases of difficulty
I Newton's Preface to his edition of Milton.
nih dignus vindici nodus. “ I wish (fays Dr. Johnfon) we all conjectured less, and explained more.” When our poet's entire library shall have been discovered, and the fables of all his plays traced to their original source, when every temporary allusion shall have been pointed out, and every obscurity elucidated, then, and not till then, let the accumulation of notes be complained of. I scarcely remember ever to have looked into a book of the age of Queen Elizabeth, in which I did not find fomewhat that tended to throw a light on these plays. While our object is, to support and establish what the poet wrote, to illustrate his phraseology by comparing it with that of his contemporaries, and to explain his fugitive allusions to customs long since disused and forgotten, while this object is kept steadily in view, if even every line of his plays were accompanied with a comment, every intelligent reader would be indebted to the industry of him who produced it. Such uniformly has been the object of the notes now presented to the publick. Let us then hear no more of this barbarous jargon concerning Shakspeare's having been elucidated into obfcurity, and buried under the load of his commentators. Dryden is said to have regretted the success of his own instructions, and to have lamented that at length, in consequence of his critical prefaces, the town had become too skilful to be easily satisfied. The same observation may be made with respect to many of these objectors, to whom the meaning of some of our poet's most difficult paflages is now become so familiar, that they fancy they originally understood them “ without a prompter ;” and with great gravity exclaim against the unnecessary illustrations furnished by his Editors : nor ought we much to wonder at this ; for our poet himself has
-'tis a common proof,
I have constantly made it a rule in revising the notes of former editors, to compare such paffages as they have cited from any author, with the book from which the extract was taken, if I could
procure it ; by which fome inaccuracies have been rectified. The incorrect extract made by Dr. Warburton from Saviola's treatise on Honour and Honourable Quarrels, to illustrate a passage in As you like it, fully proves the propriety of such a collation.
At the end of the tenth volume I have added an Appendix, containing corrections, and supplemental observations, made too late to be annexed to the plays to which they belong. Some object to an Appendix ; but, in my opinion, with very little reason. No book can be the worse for such a supplement; since the reader, if such be his caprice, need not examine it. If the objector means, that he wishes that all the information contained in an Appendix, were properly disposed in the preceding volumes, it must be acknowledged that such an arrangement would be extremely defirable: but as well might he require from the elephant the sprightliness and agility of the squirrel, or from the squirrel the wisdom and strength of the elephant, as expect, that an editor's latest thoughts, suggested by discursive reading while the sheets that compose his volumes were passing through the press, should form a part of his original work ; that information acquired too late to be employed in its proper place, should yet be found there.
That the very few stage-directions which the old copies exhibit, were not taken from our author's manuscripts, but furnished by the players, is proved by one in Macbeth, Act IV. sc. i. where “ A pow of eight kings" is directed," and Banquo last, with a glass in his hand;" though from the very words which the poet has written for Macbeth, it is manifest that the glass ought to be borne by the eighth king, and not by Banquo. All the stagedirections therefore throughout this work I have considered as wholly in my power, and have regulated them in the best manner I could. The reader will also, I think, be pleased to find the place in which every scene is supposed to pass, precisely ascertained: a species of information, for which, though it often throws light on the dialogue, we look in vain "in the ancient copies, and which has been too much neglected by the modern editors.
The play of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, which is now once more restored to our author, I originally intended to have subjoined, with Titus Andronicus, to the tenth volume; but, to preserve an equality of size in my volumes, have been obliged to give it a different place. The hand of Shakspeare being indubitably found in that piece, it will, I doubt not, be considered as a valuable acceffion; and it is of little consequence where it appears.
It has long been thought, that Titus Andronicus was not written originally by Shakspeare; about seventy years after his death, Ravenscroft having mentioned that he had been “ told by some anciently conversant with the stage, that our poet only gave some master-touches to one or two of the Vol. I.
principal parts or characters.” The
curious papers lately discovered in Dulwich College, from which large extracts are given at the end of the History of the Stage, prove, what I long since sufpected, that this play, and The First Part of King Henry VI. were in possession of the scene when Shakspeare began to write for the stage ; and the same manuscripts show, that it was then very common for a dramatick poet to alter and amend the work of a preceding writer. The question therefore is now decisively fettled ; and undoubtedly some additions were made to both these pieces by Shakspeare. It is observable that the second scene of the third act of Titus Andronicus is not found in the quarto copy printed in 1611. It is therefore highly probable, that this scene was added by our author; and his hand may be traced in the preceding act, as well as in a few other places. The additions which he made to Pericles are much more numerous, and therefore more strongly entitle it to a place among the dramatick pieces which he has adorned by his pen.
With respect to the other contested plays, Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, &c. which have now for near two centuries been falsely ascribed to our author, the manuscripts above mentioned completely clear him from that imputation; and prove, that while his great modesty made him fet but little value on his own inimitable productions, he could patiently endure to have the miserable trash of other writers publickly imputed to him, without taking any measure to vindicate
? If ever the account-book of Mr. Heminge shall be discovered, we fall probably find in it-" Paid to William Shakspeare for mending Titus Andronicus." See Vol. III.