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props of this new king's throne wereFletcher, Shirley, Middleton, Mallinger, Broome, and others; and how unequal they all were, the monarch and his subjects too, to the poet they came after, let their works teftify: yet they had the vogue on their fide, during all those blessed times that preceded the civil war, and Shakespeare was held in dilesteem. The war, and medley government that followed, swept all these things away: but they were restored with the king; and another stage took place, in which Shakespeare had little share. Dryden had then the lead, and maintain’d it for half a century : though his government was sometimes disputed by Lee, Tate, Shadwell, Wycherley, and others; weakened much by “ The Rehearsal ;" and quite overthrown in the end by Otway and Rowe: what the cast of their plays was, is known to every one : but that Shakespeare, the true and genuine Shakespeare, was not much relish'd, is plain from the many alterations of him, that were brought upon the stage by some of those gentlemen, and by others within that period.
But, from what has been said, we are not to concludethat the poet had no admirers : for the contrary is true; and he had in this interval no inconsiderable party amongst men of the greatest understanding, who both saw his merit, in spite of the darkness it was then wrapt up in, and spoke
Ν ο Τ Ε. along with them that London, in Shakespeare's time, had a multitude of play-houses ; erected some in inn-yards, and such like places, and frequented by the lowest of the people; fuch audiences as might have been seen some years ago in Southwark and Bartholomew, and may be seen at this day in the country; to which it was also a custom for players to make excursion, at wake times and festivals : and for such places, and such occafions, might these pieces be composed in the author's early time; the worst of them fuiting well enough to the parties they might be made for :-And this, or something nearly of this fort, may have been the care too of some plays in his great collection, which shall be spoken of in their place.
loudly in his praise; but the Atream of the publick favour ran the other way. But this too coming at the time we are speaking of, there was a demand for his works, and in a form that was more convenient than the folios : in consequence of which, the gentleman laft mentioned was set to work by the booksellers; and, in 1709, he put out an edition in fix volumes octavo, which, unhappily, is the basis 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 last and worst of those impreffions: this he republish'd with great exactness; correcting here and thure some of its grofseft miftakes, and dividing into acts and scenes the plays that were not divided before.
But no sooner was this edition in the hands of the publick, than they saw in part its deficiencies, and one of another sort began to be required of them; which accordingly was set about some years after by two gentlemen at one, Mr. Pope and Mr. Theobald. The labours of the firft came out in 1725, in fix volumes quarto: and he has the merit of having first improved his author, by the insertion of many large paflages, speeches, and fingle lines, taken from the quartos, and of amending him in other places, by readings fetched from the same: but his materials were few, and his collation of them not the most careful; which, joined to other faults, and to that main one of making his predecessor's the copy himself follow'd, brought his labours into disrepute, 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 seven volumes octavo. The opposition that was between them seems to have enflamed him, which was heightened by other motives, and he declaims vehemently against the work
of his antagonift: which yet served 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 called in question : in what he has done that is conjectural, he is rather more happy; but in this he had large asistances.
But the gentleman that came next, is a critick of another stamp; and pursues a track, in which it is greatly to be hoped he will never be followed in the publication of any authors whatsoever : for this were, in effect, to annihilate them, if carry'd a little further; by destroying all marks of peculiarity and notes of time, all easiness of expression and numbers, all justness 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 some to vent itself too strongly; but terms weaker would do injustice to my feelings, and the censure shall be hazard
Mr. Pope's edition was the ground-work of this overbold one; splendidly printed at Oxford in fix quarto volumes, and published in the year 1744 : The publisher disdains all collation of folio or quarto ; and fetches all from his great felf, and the moderns his predecessors : wantoning in very licence of conjecture; and sweeping all before him, (without notice, or reason given) that not suits his taste, or lies level to his conceptions. But this justice should be done him :-as his conjectures are numerous, they are oftentimes not unhappy; and some of them are of that excellence, that one is struck with amazement to see a person of fo much judgment as he shews himself in them, adopt a method of publishing that runs counter to all the ideas that VoL, I.
wise men have hitherto entertain'd of an editor's province and duty.
The year 2747 produced a fifth edition, in eight octavo volumes, publith'd by Mr. Warburton; which though it is said 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 so thoroughly discussed in two very ingenious books, * The Canons of Critici m,” and “ Revisal of Shakespeare's Text,” that it is needless to say any more 'of it: this only shall be added to what may be there met with,—that the edition is not much benefitted by fresh acquisitions from the old ones, which this gentleman feems to have neglected. (8)
Other charges there are, that might be brought against these modern impressions, without infringing the laws of truth or candour either : but what is said, will be fufficient, and may fatisfy their greateft favourers,—that the superstructure cannot be a sound one, which is built upon so bad a foundation as that of Mr. Rowe's; which all of them, as we see, in succession, have yet made their cornerftone : the truth is, it was impossible that such a beginning Mould end better than it has done: the fault was in the set. ting-out; and all the diligence that could be used, joined to the discernment of a Pearce or a Bentley, could never purge
Ν Ο Τ Ε. (8) It will perhaps be thought strange, that nothing should be said in this place of another edition that came out about a twelvemonth ago, in eight volumes, oftavo; but the reasons for it, are these :
-There is no use made of it, nor could be ; for the present was finishid, within a play or two, and printed too in great part, before that appear'd: the firft Meet of this work (being the firft of volume 2.) went to the press in September 1762: and this volume was follow'd by volumes 8, 4, 9, 1, 6, and 7; the laft of which was printed off in August 1765. la the next place, the merits and demerits of it are unknown to the
their author of all his defects by their method of proceeding.
The editor now before you was apprized in time of this truth;
saw the wretched condition his author was reduced to by these late tamperings, and thought seriously of a cure for it, and that so long ago as the year 1745; for the attempt was first suggested by that gentleman's performance, which came out at Oxford the year before : which when he had perused with no little astonishment, and consider'd the fatal consequences that must inevitably follow the imitation of fo much licence, he resolved himself to be the champion; and to exert to the uttermost such abilities as he was master of, to save from further ruin an edifice of this dignity, which England must for ever glory in. Hereupon he poliessed himself of the other modern editions, the folios, and as many quartos as could prefently be procured; and, within a few years after, fortune and industry helped him to all the rest, fix only excepted : (9) aduiing to them withal twelve more, which the compilers of former tables had no knowledge of. Thus furnish’d, he fell immedi tely to col. lation,—which is the first step in works of this nature; and, without it, nothing is done to purpose,-first of moderns with moderns, then of moderns with ancients, and afterwards of ancients with others more ancient: 'till, at the last, a ray of light broke forth upon him, by which he
NOT E. present editor even at this hour: this only he has perceived in it, having looked it but nightly over, that the text it follows is that of its near predeceffor, and from that covy it vas printed.
(9) But of one of thele 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 meet; which hes been collated, as far as it goes, along with the others: and of the twelve quarto editions, which he has had the fortune to add to those that were known before, some of them are of great value; as may be seen by looking into the table.