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relish the freer versification of Shakespeare ; and consequently, whenever they encountered a line which did not accord exactly with their notions of dramatic metre, they proceeded without scruple to clip it or to lengthen it as the occasion might require. In our own day (see the remarks of Mr. Collier and Mr. Knight passim) the editors of Shakespeare run to the opposite extreme; they have persuaded themselves that passages which violate every rule of metre were purposely left in that state by the great poet, for the sake of producing some particular effect on the audience, or the reader.
That in their blank verse Shakespeare and his contemporaries frequently interposed an imperfect line (sometimes a very short one), is not to be doubted; but that they ever introduced two, much less three, consecutively, not all the arguments of the most subtle-minded critic would induce me to believe.
There is, indeed, some ground for supposing that not a few of the passages in our early dramas, where a single imperfect line occurs, and where the context does not indicate any
omission, may have been mutilated by transcribers or printers. In the following beautiful speech, whatever arrangement be adopted, an imperfect line will still remain ;
“Right royal sir, I should
Sing you an epithalamium of these lovers,
Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, act v. sc. 3. As the continuity of the sense is unbroken, no one perhaps would have suspected that the text of this speech is not entire.
Such, however, is the case ; for the first edition of Philaster (which the editors of Beaumont and Fletcher had not consulted) does away with the imperfect line by reading as follows, and, doubtless, as the author wrote;
“ Free from the fervour of the Sirian star
Scene 3.-C. p. 538 ; K. p. 178.
“O! now, after
'Tis sweet at first t' acquire,--after this process," &c. The passage may be much better arranged as follows;
“O! now after
many courses of the sun enthron'd,
SCENE 2.-C. p. 563.
Yet fill'd with my abilities." On this passage Mr. Collier has no note, having blindly adopted the reading of the folios; which is so obviously wrong, that when the other modern editors corrected it to "fild," they did not even mention the original misprint. Richardson in his excellent Dictionary cites the present passage as the first example of the verb File.
The misprint of " fill’d” for “fil'd” is a common one. Where the first quarto of Beaumont and Fletcher's Wit without Money has rightly,
“Who taught you manners and apt carriage,
(Act iii. sc. 4.) the second quarto and the folio have “filled.”
SCENE 2.-C. p. 573.
There take an inventory of all I have,” &c. This regulation of the metre is very objectionable, because it occasions such a pause in the concluding portion of Wolsey's advice to Cromwell. The arrangement of the other modern editors is much to be preferred ;
“ Thou fall’st a blessed martyr. Serve the king;
And, - Pr'ythee, lead me in :
Scene 1.-C. p. 578.
Thomas Cromwell ;
And one, already, of the privy-council.” Here again Mr. Collier's arrangement is faulty, because it leaves,—what I am convinced could never have been intended by Shakespeare,-two imperfect lines together (see my remarks p. 138). The other modern editors regulate the passage better;
“A worthy friend.—The king
Has made him master of the jewel-house,
SCENE 1.-C. p. 586; K. p. 232.
“ A Gallery in the Palace. Enter GARDINER, Bishop of Winchester, a Page with à Torch before
im ; met by Sir HOMAS LOVELL.
It hath struck.
Not for delights; times to repair our nature
Came you from the king, my lord ?” I think it very injudicious to retain here, as Mr. Collier and the other modern editors do, the stage-direction of the folios, because it can hardly fail to mislead those readers who may not be aware that in early editions of plays the entrances are often, as in the present instance, prematurely marked (a peculiarity on which I shall have more to say in a note on Troilus and Cressida, act i. sc. 2). Sir Thomas Lovell certainly does not enter till after the words “ To waste these times.”
SCENE 2.-C. p. 599 ; K. p. 243. “ K. Hen. You were ever good at sudden commendations, Bishop of Winchester ; but know, I come not To hear such flattery now, and in my presence : They are too thin and base to hide offences. To me you cannot reach. You play the spaniel, And think with wagging of your tongue to win me; But, whatsoe'er thou tak’st me for, I'm sure, Thou hast a cruel nature, and a bloody.. Good man, [To CRANMER.] sit down. Now, let me see the proudest, He that dares most, but wag his finger at thee : By all that's holy, he had better starve, Than but once think his place becomes thee not."
I believe that the passage ought to stand thus ;
· K. Hen. You were ever good at sudden commendations,
(Malone saw that “bare” was the right lection, though he retained “ base.”)
But in the last line of this speech what is the meaning of “his”-a reading which Malone and Mr. Knight also give ? The latter editor (like Mr. Collier) does not inform us. Malone has the following explanation ;
“ Who dares to suppose that the place or situation in which he is, is not suitable to thee also ? who supposes that thou art not as fit for the office of a privy-counsellor as he is ?- Mr. Rowe and all the subsequent editors read this place.'
Assuredly, Rowe did well in making the alteration : “ this place" is the place which Cranmer has just taken at the king's command—“Good man, sit down." The misprint of “his" for “ this" is one of the commonest: in a play by Beaumont and Fletcher, which I am now preparing for the press, it twice occurs ;
"A dainty wench ! Would I might farm his [read this] custom !”
The Custom of the Country, act i. sc. 1.
“ there I am wretched, That I have not two lives lent me for his (read this] sacrifice, One for her son, another for her sorrows.”
Act v. sc. 5.
SCENE 3.-C. p. 604; K. p. 247. “ These are the youths that thunder at a play-house, and fight for bitten apples; that no audience, but the Tribulation of Towerhill, or the limbs of Limehouse, their dear brothers, are able to endure.”
Johnson supposed that 'the Tribulation' of Tower-hill was some fanatical meeting-house. Possibly, for limbs of Limehouse,' we ought to read • lambs of Limehouse ;' as the ‘lambs of Nottingham' still mean the riotous and violent mob of that town. However, • limbs of Limehouse' is a very intelligible expression, referring to the species of population in that vicinity.” COLLIER.
Steevens was the first who proposed the unnecessary conjecture, “ lambs of Limehouse ;” and when Mr. Collier proceeded to illustrate it by observing that “the lambs of Nottingham' still mean the riotous and violent mob of that town," he must have forgotten, for the moment, what the text declares concerning the personages at Limehouse, viz. that they were remarkable for patient endurance.
Mr. Knight's explanation is indeed a subtle one: “Is