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after this was published that he became acquainted with Bacon, and probably with the plays, many of which certainly never were published, if in any other way ever heard of, before the publication of the folio of 1623—that after that they did not become popular as plays, and had a very limited circulation—that they were hardly known at the time of the Restoration, and so little appreciated, that the most ignorant considered themselves able to improve them--that they have become generally popular through actors delineating characters, and delivering speeches, which were either not written, or not so appropriated by the poet; whilst his true admirers have ever been, and are still, that,-at one time small, but rapidly increasing,-portion of the community, the reading public; these admire him for beauties quite independent of the boards, and which shine forth, in spite of the ill usage which the book has been subject to.
What with alterations of the text, perplexing notes, and injudicious commentaries, we safely assert, that with the exception (possibly) of Theobald's, no edition of the Shakespeare Plays has been published, from that of Rowe down to the beginning of the present century, that can at all be relied on.
We say nothing of editions published by living authors; yet we cannot refrain from remarking, that in this present year (1857) a learned man, not content with weakening passages by altering words, has changed the very form of the dialogue, and turned the nervous and expressive lines addressed by Cassius to Casca, amidst the thunder and lightning, in the first act of Julius Cesar,
You are dull, Caska :
You are dull, Casca ; and those sparks of life
and he prides himself upon improving the poetry of the Dramatist. A Baden bath towel might probably be ironed as smooth as a cambric kerchief, and look all the neater for the process, but it would thereby lose both its character and its peculiar excellence.
His Bible and his Shakespeare are books Protestant Englishmen pride themselves upon possess
ing, and profess to peruse. Parts of each are periodically brought under notice, and so incorporated in ordinary conversation, that without much reading a man must know something of them, and without much cunning, “may seem to know that he doth not.” Yet how few can conscientiously say of either the one or the other, that "he has read it right through." How few, whilst reading their editions, are aware of the vast difference betwixt them and “what he hath left us.?? The Bible was long locked up in an unknown tongue, and only known through the commentaries of the priests; the Shakespeare Plays are similarly locked up in almost inaccessible libraries, and similarly made known. The traditions of the Church of Rome are hardly less true to the former, than is the text of those self-constituted priests to the latter. Surely it is time that the laity should possess this volume in its integrity..,
And here let me notice a belief that is growing very general amongst Shakesperian students, in which we are much disposed to concur. It is urged on one side, that the folio editions are so faulty and full of errors, textual and typographical, that it is free to any one to make them just what he pleases. It is urged, on the other hand, that “as a typographical production, it is better executed than the common run of English popular printing of that date.” The opinion that is gaining ground is, that the several volumes of the same edition vary, parts and passages having been altered as the printing proceeded. This would be an interesting subject to investigate, but would involve the necessity of looking out for the most incorrect as well as the most perfected copy. But certainly something would be gained if Shakesperians could be brought to agree upon any one point. We may
here mention a fact which we have remarked, and have not seen noted by any commentator—that every page in each of the three first folio editions contains exactly the same amount of matter;—the same word which begins or ends the page in the 1623 edition, begins and ends the page in the 1632 and 1664 editions : proving that they were printed from one author, if not from the same types. The 1685 edition is altogether different.
Some things that we have written will doubtless be attempted to be disproved, many will be distorted; and we shall be told that the sum of the whole does not prove that Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. We have never said or insinuated that we hoped or expected to prove any such a thing. All we say is, that for 150 years an arduous investigation has been carried on in a clean contrary direction. Is it worth while to pursue it for 150 days, for 150 hours, in this? We repeat what we wrote in an early page: "We do but hope to adduce such evidence as may
induce some active inquiry in this direction.”
And what is the use ?
“ The inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it; the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it-IS THE SOVEREIGN GOOD OF HUMAN NATURE.”
But what is the practical use?
Let Schlegel answer: - "The admiration of Shakespeare remained unproductive for dramatic poetry. Because he has been so much the object of astonishment, as an unapproachable genius, who owed everything to nature and nothing to art. His success, it is thought, is without example, and can never be repeated; nay, it is even forbidden to enter into the same region. Had he been considered more from an artistic point of view, it