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been found in Francis Bacon, and in him alone; that the wit and poetry are of a kind which was peculiarly his—that William Shakespeare of Stratfordupon-Avon connected himself with a class which had only recently sprung into existence, and which were held in the utmost contempt—that he was neither eminent as an actor, nor as a writer, during his lifetime, nor celebrated as such in the period immediately succeeding his death-that there are some remarkable coincidences of expression in these plays and in the writings of Bacon, and that the latter was ever careful to note anything like a quotation-that the theatre with which Shake. speare was connected was the Public Theatrethe lowest place at which dramatic entertainments were then represented—that literary labour was not at that time ordinarily pursued for pecuniary recompense, and the few that followed such an occupation were regarded with the utmost contempt —that a play was hardly considered a literary work, and ranked infinitely below a sonnet, and that learned men would as little have prided themselves upon writing one, as upon uttering a bon mot—that the first collection of plays that assumed anything like the appearance of a literary work was Ben Jonson's splendid folio—that it was
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 pub
lished 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