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had he been the person first to meet with the extraordinary volume that fell into my hands.
The remedy, too, would have been so easy. As he is well aware, he is welcome to every scrap of emendation contained in that volume: though others have asked my leave, he never did so; for he was sure, that, if barely acknowledged, to nobody could a more unrestricted use of it have been conceded : he has filled pages apon pages with feeble notes and inapplicable quotations, and a single line, stating the source of any welcome improvement, would have been the utmost that was necessary.
Every editor must fall into errors: I am, of course, no more free from them than my predecessors,—perhaps, less free from them—but I do my best to avoid them, and when I commit a mistake, I confess it. The Rev. Mr. Dyce, I must be permitted to remark, is quite as faulty as his rivals, and in spite of a certain assumed infallibility—in spite of his assertions that “this is right” and “that is wrong;” “ my conviction is so and so ;" " such an explanation is absurd ;” "such an editor is obtuse;" " such a remark is foolish;"
"such a proposed change is ludicrous," or "a degree beyond the ridiculous," he has been obliged, over and over again, to contradict himself, and to admit that “in my Remarks,” and “in my Few Notes” (to say nothing of “my Peele,” “ my Greene,” “my Webster," "my Middleton," "my Beaumont and Fletcher,” &c.), he has committed blunders, almost as if for the purpose of misleading his successors.
His “Remarks” of 1844 were specially directed against the “Shakespeare " I published in 1843: it followed it instantly, as if intended to damage it; but in his notes to his “Shakespeare” he has been compelled to acknowledge his own errors so often that, if I take his self-recalled opinions in a single play as a specimen, (and I have looked no farther with this object) he will have overturned his own criticisms, as regards the other plays of our great dramatist, in above a hundred places.
Much of our faith in the text offered to us must depend upon an accurate knowledge of how particular passages stand in the old copies ; but the Rev. Mr. Dyce's mode of printing the plays gives us no sort of notion of the manner in which they appear in the 4tos. and folios : in his notes he is often very particular and emphatic about “the," "me," "of,” “ with,” "or,” &c., but when he comes to really important words, he changes them, at his own good will and pleasure, without giving a particle of information that he has done so: thus (only to take a portion of a volume) he substitutes “fair' for farther, "speakers” for keepers °, “behowls” for beholds, “mistress” for master,
" for maine, and many others, including sometimes the silent insertion of words for which there is no authority whatever'. It may be right, or it may be wrong to change terms thus unscrupulously: those Mr. Dyce selects may be better than those he rejects; but surely the reader ought to be permitted to know where the modern text differs from the old, or he is prevented from exercising his own judgment, and, above all, a most erroneous impression is thus conveyed of the value or worthlessness of the ancient editions.
This explicitness on the part of an editor is the more necessary, because it has been a growing persuasion (it amounts to conviction in my own mind) that Shakespeare never
• Although in the immediately preceding line he has an insignificant noto about the change of his to "her."
• We have a specimen of the mode in which the Rev. Mr. Dyce would improve the text of Shakespeare in the opening of “The Taming of the Shrew" (Vol. ij. p. 499), where he declares in favour of “ Trash Merriman" instead of “ Brach Merriman.” To trash a dog was unquestionably to put a rope, strap, or clog upon him, and the object of it was to prevent his hunting too fast, and outstripping the other hounds; but here nothing of the sort could be intended for two very obvious reasons, though they do not appear to have occurred to Mr. Dyce ; viz. first, that the Lord was at this time returning from the chase, and next, that “ Brach Merriman, the poor cur, was embossed," i. e. foaming at the mouth from over fatigue. The hunt for the day was done, and Merriman could therefore not need restraining; still less because the “
poor cur was already exbansted : his weariness trashed him quite sufficiently. In his satisfaction at the supposed emendation, Mr. Dyce has quite forgotten to attend to the context
was in the smallest degree instrumental in printing a single play, and that the managers of our old theatres were invariably averse to the practice. The appearance of a popular drama from the press not only diminished auditors by multiplying readers, but it enabled other companies, if not to outstrip, at least to compete. When there existed no painted scenery, and when there needed only a few ordinary properties, which were always in readiness, a new play could be got up, at a rival theatre, with as much dispatch as well practised actors could learn their parts.
It remains for me to state, that the text of the ensuing volumes was completed some months ago; but that the
preliminary matter has been unavoidably delayed by the severest domestic afflictions. During the preparation and printing of the work I have been deprived of a wife, two daughters, and a sister, while my own health and strength have been, almost necessarily, impaired. Still more recently, death has also bereaved me of the noblest and most generous patron, to whom
my former edition was inscribed, and to whom the present was to have been dedicated : fortunately, the successor to the title has consented to become the successor to very
humble and inadequate tribute; but the loss of the favour and friendship (during the last twenty years the late Duke of Devonshire insisted that I should use that word) of a nobleman so exalted and enlightened, and with such an earnest and exact acquaintance with this branch of our national literature, can never be compensated'. Not long before, I had sustained another calamity in the demise of the Earl of Ellesmere, a nobleman never weary of showing kindness and of affording assistance; and who, shortly anterior
s To show what pains the Duke of Devonshire took, some years ago, to be acquainted with the subject of the early drama of England, I may mention that, with his own eye and hand, he went through an interleaved copy of the “Biographis Dramatica,” introducing, together with bis own notes, all those which the late John Philip Kemble had made in his “ Catalogue of English Plays” from the origin of printing to about the year 1823.
As soon as the Duke had completed it, be presented the book to me, and I use it for almost daily reference. I have Been him at his work upon his plays at balf-past six and seven in the morning.
to his death, wrote me his strong opinion in support of the emendations in my corrected folio, 1632, when he said that “they were so excellent, that they would almost make old Tieck turn in his grave.”
All these distressing visitations have come upon me since I sent the first of the following sheets to press; but I only allude to them here, because I am afraid that in some few instances my sorrows may
have soured my remarks, and that in one or two of my notes more asperity may have been evinced than I really feel. If I have thus erred, I sin. cerely regret it; and in pointing out the mistakes of others, if I have committed some of my own, I trust that I have always observed a degree of literary courtesy and decorum, that has seldom been extended to myself.
I have not touched upon sore places for the sake of irritating adversaries, but for the purpose of proving, that the very blunders they charge against me they bave themselves fallen into, and that my oversights claim especial forbearance from such as have not been able to shun them themselves. Where I have directed attention to errors in the recent reprints of old dramatists, I had one main object—not to retaliate—but to establish that, after all the pains bestowed by capable editors upon them, their text remains even in worse condition than that of Shakespeare.
As I. am writing I have before me notes of hundreds of misprints, quite as glaring as any I have exposed '.
O See particularly the notes on " Love's Labour's Lost," A. ii. sc. 1 (Vol. ii. p. 115), and on “Troilus and Cressida," A. i. sc. 2 (Vol. iv. p. 492).
It was originally my intention to have added to this preface selection from these misprints, in order to show the real state of the text of our old dramatists : where, however, errors are so many and so obvious, the difficulty of choice is great, and my preface has already run out to a length I did not contemplate. I subjoin the following in a note, only because it has reference to an excellent emendation in “Midsummer-Night's Dream,” A. iii. sc. 2 (Vol. č. p. 227), where Hermia absurdly asks, in the old copies (and as Mr. Dyce repeats), " What news, my love?" instead of “What means my love ?" The change of news to “means” in the corr. fo. 1632 is confirmed by a very similar misprint in Marlowe and Nash's “ Dido, Queen of Carthage," A. iii. (edit. Dyce, ii. p. 398), where the heroine offers to refit the Trojan shipe, and re-clothe the mariners, if I was
While I printed merely small tracts on our early drama and literature, chiefly at my own expense, and thus furnished materials that others could profitably employ, I did not seem to have an enemy in the world: every body praised me as industrious, liberal, and communicative; but the moment I began upon the works of Shakespeare four angry editors, almost at the same moment, sprang up in the field. assailed, to say the least of it, most pertinaciously; and the accidental discovery of the corrected folio, 1632, (the contents of which were, in fact, opposed to my own views and notions) roused enemies at home and abroad. So
angry were some, that they infringed all customary rules, and though the lapse of time has considerably cooled animosity, especially since it produced no impression upon me, there are still those who cannot find in their hearts to forgive my success. No wonder they represent it to be as little as possible; and, for the sake of the poet, I heartily wish it was more, even though it still farther embittered hostility.
How strange it must ever appear that, on a subject which excites the interest and admiration of all mankind, and re
Æneas will but stay behind, and allow Achates to proceed to Italy in his stead :
"For ballass empty Dido's treasury:
That sea-born nymphs shall swarm about thy ships," &c. Now, it is acknowledged on all hands that “meanly" must be an error, and various suggestions, indeed all but the right, bave been made to amend it. The fact is, that as in “ Midsummer Night's Dream” news is a misprint for “meads,” so in “ Dido” meanly is a misprint for " newly:" read
“Achates, thou shalt be so newly clad,” and the difficulty is at an end : the ships were to be refitted, and Achates, throwing aside his old weather-worn dress, was to be " 80 newly clad " in splendid babiliments, that the sea-bora nymphs would swarm about his ships in admiration. How “means " in Shakespeare came to be misread news, and “dewly” in Marlowe and Nash misread meanly by a careless compositor, we can easily understand. While in the former case the Rev. Mr. Dyce repeats news, be takes care to mention in a note that “Mr. Collier's MS. corrector substitutes • means;'" for be could not ignore an emendation which his readers, in spite of his efforts, will be certain to accept. This confirmation of "
for neros did not occur to me, when I wrote the note in Vol. ii. p. 227.