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will, in our judgment, contribute to its eulogium ; at least cannot fail to rescue it from his prefatory imputations of “being of no value whatever," and afterwards of_" not being worth--three shillings.” See Mr. Malone's Preface, and List of Editions of Shakspeare.
Our readers, it is hoped, will fo får honour us as to observe, that the foregoing opinions were not fuggested and defended through an ambitious spirit of contradiction. Mr. Malone's Preface, indeed, will abfolve us from that cenfure; for he allows them to be of a date previous to his own edition.
PLYMŚÉLL. This do&trine, however, appears to have made few profelytes : at least, some late catalogues of our good friends the booksellers, have expressed their dissent from it in terms of uncommon force. I must add, that on the 34th day of the auction of the late Dr. Farmer's library, this profcribed volume was fold for THREE GUÍNEAS ; and that in the sale of Mr. Allen's library, April the 15th, 1799, at Leigh and Sotheby's, York Street, Covent Garden, the four folió editions of our author's plays were disposed of af the following prices :
440 19 0. 61. 2d do.
5 10 0. 62. 3d do.
5 15 6. 63. Ath do.
3 lá 6, Vol. I,
He, therefore, on this subject, is the assailant, and not the conductors of the present republication.
But though, in the course of succeeding strictures, several other of Mr. Malone's positions may be likewise controverted, fome with seriousness, and fome with levity, (for our discussions are not of quite so solemn a turn as those which involve the interests of our country,) we feel an undissembled pleasure in avowing, that his remarks are at once so numerous and correct, that when criticism “.has done its worst,” their merit but in a small degree can be affected. We are confident, however, that he himself will hereafter join with us in considering no small proportion of our contested readings as a mere game at literary push-pin; and that if Shakspeare looks down upon our petty squabbles over his mangled scenes, it must be with feelings similar to those of Lucan's hero :
fui ludilria trunci.
In the Preface of Mr. Malone, indeed, a direct cenfure has been levelled at incorrectness in the text of the edition 1778. The justice of the imputation is unequivocally allowed; but, at the same time, might not this acknowledgement be seconded by somewhat like a retort ? For is it certain that the collations, &c. of 1790 are wholly secure from similar charges ? Are they accompanied by no unauthorized readings, no omission of words, and transpositions ? Through all the plays, and especially those of which there is only a single copy, they have been with some diligence retraced, and the frailties of their collator, such as they are, have been ascertained. They shall not, however, be oftentatiously pointed out, and for this only reason:
-Thąt as they decrease but little, if at all, the vigour of Shakspeare, the critick who in general has performed with accuracy one of the heaviest of literary tasks, ought not to be molested by a display of petty faults, which might have eluded the most vigilant faculties of fight and hearing that were ever placed as spies over the labours of each other. They are not even mentioned here as a covert mode of attack, or as a “note of preparation” for future hoftilities. The office of a devising brave punishments” for faithless editors, is therefore strenuously declined, even though their guilt should equal that of one of their number, (Mr. Steevens,) who stands convicted of having given winds instead of wind, stables instead of stable, Sessions instead of session, fins instead of hin, and (we shudder while we recite the accusation) my instead of mine.»
Such small deer
so long, in truth, that any further pursuit of them is here renounced, together with all triumphs founded on the detection of harmless synonymous particles that accidentally may have deserted their proper places and wandered into others, without injury to Shakfpeare.--A few chipped or disjointed stones will not impair the shape or endanger the stability of a pyramid. We are far from wishing to depreciate exactness, yet cannot persuade ourselves but that a single lucky conjecture or illustration, should outs, weigh a thousand fpurious haths deposed in favour of legitimate has's, and the like insignificant recoveries, which may not too degradingly be termed
2 See Mr. Malone's Preface,
the haberdashery of criticism; that “stand in number, though in reckoning none;" and are as unimportant to the poet's fame,
“ As is the morn-dew on the myrtle-leaf
We shall venture also to affert, that, on a minute scrutiny, every editor, in his turn, may be charged with omission of some preferable reading ; so that he who drags his predecessor to justice on this score, will have good luck if he escapes ungalled by recrimination.
If somewhat, therefore, in the succeeding volumes has been added to the correction and illustration of our author, the purpose of his present editors is completely answered. On any thing like perfection in their labours they do not presume, being too well convinced that, in defiance of their best efforts, their own incapacity, and that of the original quarto and folio-mongers, have still left fufficient work for a race of commentators who are yet unborn. Nos, (says Tully, in the second Book of his Tufculan Queftions,) qui fequimur probabilia, nec ultra quàm id quod verismile occurrerit, progredi possumus ; et refellere hne pertinacia, et refelli fine iracundia, parati fumus.
Be it remembered also, that the assistants and adversaries of editors, enjoy one material advantage over editors themselves. They are at liberty to lelect their objects of remark:
Desperant tractata nitescere pole, relinquunt.
The fate of the editor in form is less propitious. He is expected to combat every difficulty from which his auxiliaries and opponents could secure an honourable retreat. It should not, therefore, be wondered at, if some of his enterprizes are unsuccessful.
Though the foregoing Advertisement has run out into an unpremeditated length, one circumstance remains to be mentioned. The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged since it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful custom the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn : but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr., SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a distinction which malevolence cannot obfcure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour,
It may possibly be expected, that a list of Errata should attend fo voluminous a work as this, or that cancels should apologize for its more material inaccuracies. Neither of these measures, however, has in the present instance been adopted, and for reasons now submitted to the publick.
In regard to errata, it has been customary with not a few authors to acknowledge small mistakes,