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perhaps a few particular passages, were of his proof of my willingness and desire, than of my hand. It is very probable what occasioned ability, to do him justice. I have discharged some plays to be supposed Shakspeare's, was the dull duty of an editor, to my best judgmeot, only this; that they were pieces produced by with more labour than I expect thanks, with a anknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre religious abhorrence of all innovation, and while it was under bis administration; and no without any indulgence to my private sense of order claiming them, they were adjudged to conjecture. The method taken in this edition him, as they give strays to the lord of the will show itself. The various readings are mador : a mistake which (one may also observe) fairly put in the margin, so that every one may it was not for the interest of the house to re- compare them; and those I bave preferred into move. Yet the players themselves, Heminge the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon and Condell, afterwards did Shakspeare the authority. The alterations or additions, which justice to reject those eight plays in their edi. Shakspeare himself made, are taken notice of tion; though they were then printed in his as they occur. Some suspecled passages, wbich name,' in every body's hands, and acted with are excessively bad (and which seem interposome applause (as we learn from what Ben lations by being so inserted that one can enJonson says of Pericles in his ode on the New tirely omit them without any chasm, or defiInn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this cience in the context), are degraded to the class I am the rather induced to believe, by bollom of the page, with an asterisk referring finding the same author openly express his to the places of their insertion. The scenes contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew are marked so distinctly that every removal of Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakspeare was place is specified; which is more necessary in yet living. And there is no better authority this author than any other, since he shifts them for these latter sort, than for the former, which more frequently : and sometimes, without atTere equally published in his life-time.
tending to this particular, the reader would If we give into this opinion, how many low have met with obscurities. The more obsolete and vicious parts and passages might no longer or unusual words are explained. Some of the reflect upon this great genius, but appear un- most shining passages are distinguished by Worthily charged upon him ? And even in commas in the margin; and where the beauty those which are really his, how many faults lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a star is may bave been unjustly laid to his account prefixed to the scene.
This seems to ine a from arbitrary additions, expunctions, transpo- shorter and less ostentatious method of performsitions of scenes and lines, confusion of cha- ing the better half of criticism (namely, the facters and persons, wrong application of pointing out an author's excellencies) than to speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages fill a whole paper with citations of fine pasby the ignorance, and wreag corrections of sages with general applauses, or empty exclathem again by the impertinence of his first mations at the tail of them. There is also editors? From one or other of these coaside- subjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by sations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest which the greater part of the various readings, and the grossest part of what are thought his and of the corrected passages, are authorized; errors would vanish, and leave his character most of which are such as carry their own eviin a light very different from that disadvanta-dence along with them. These editions now geous one, in which it now appears to us. hold the place of originals, and are the only
This is the state in which Shakspeare's materials left to repair deficiencies or restore the vtilings lie at present; for since the above- corrupted sense of the author : I can only wish mentioned folio edition, all the rest have im- that a greater number of them (if a greater plicitly followed it, without having recourse to
were ever published) may yet be found, by a any of the former, or ever making the com
search more successful than mine, for the better parison between them. It is impossible to re- accomplishment of this end. pair tbe injuries already done him; too much
I will conclude by saying of Shakspeare, that time has elapsed, and the materials are too sew. with all his faults, and with all the irregularily la what I have done I have rather given a of his drama, one may look upon bis works,
in comparison of those that are more finished "His name was affixed only to four of them. and regular, as upon an ancient majestic piece
of Gothic architecture, compared with a neat
modern building : the latter is more elegant | not communicate during the time wherein that and glaring, but the former is more strong and edition was preparing for the press, when we, by more solemn. It must be allowed that in of all lovers of this author), we have inserted, in
public advertisements, did request the assistance one of these there are materials enough to make this impression, as many of 'em as are judg’d of many of the other. It has much the greater any the least advantage to the poet; the whole variety, and much the nobler apartments ; amounting to about twenty-five words.” though we are often conducted to them by himself, we have annexed a compleat list of the
“But to the end every reader may judge for dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does rest; which if he shall think trivial, or erroneous, the whole fail to strike us with greater reve- either in part, or in whole; at worst it can spoil rence, though many of the parts are childish, but a half sheet of paper, that chances to be left ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.*
vacant here. And we purpose for the future, to
do the same with respect to any other persons, * The following passage by Mr. Pope stands nicate or publish the least things tending to the
who either thro' candor or ranity, shall commuas a preface to the various readings at the end of illustration of our author. We have here omitted the 8th volume of his edition of Shakspeare, 1728. nothing but poinlings and mere errors of the press, For the notice of it I am indebted to Mr. Chalmers's which I hope the corrector of it has rectify'd ; if Supplemental Apology, p. 261. Reed. “Since the publication of our first edition, there not, I could wish as accurate an one as Mr. Th.
[if he had been at that trouble, which I desired having been some attempts upon Shakspeare pu: Mr. Tonson to solicit him to undertake. A. P.” blished by Lewis Theobald (which he would
Portrait and Hand - Curiting of
At tõe age of 24.
That praises are without reason lavished on perly call a river deep, or a mountain high, the dead, and that the honours due only to without the knowledge of many mountains, excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint and many rivers; so in the productions of likely to be always continued by those, who, genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has being able to add nothing to trulh, hope for been compared with other works of the same eminence from the heresies of paradox; or kind. Demonstration immediately displays its those, who, being forced by disappointment power, and has nothing to hope or fear from upon consolatory expedients, are willing to the flux of years; but works tentative and exhape from posterity what the present age re- perimental must be estimated by their proporfuses, and flatler themselves that the regard tion to the general and collective abilily of man, which is yet denied by envy, will be at last as it is discovered in a long succession of enbestowed by time.
deavours. Or the first building that was raised, Antiquity, like every other quality that at- it might be with certainty determined that it tracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly was round or square; but whether it was spaPolaries that reverence it, not from reason, but cious or lofty must bave been referred to time. from prejudice. Some seem to admire indis- The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once criminately whatever has been long preserved, discovered to be perfect; but the poems of without considering that time has sometimes Homer we yet know not to transcend the com00-operated with chance; all perhaps are more mon limits of human intelligence, but by rewilling to honour past than present excellence : marking, that nation after nation, and century and the mind contemplates genius through the after century, has been able to do little more shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun than transpose his incidents, new name his through artificial opacity. The greater con- characters, and paraphrase his sentiments. tention of criticism is to find the faults of the The reverence due to writings that have long moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. subsisted arises therefore not from any creduWhile an author is yet living, we estimate his lous confidence in the superior wisdom of past powers by his worst performance, and when he ages, or gloomy persuasion of the degeneracy of is dead we rate them by his best.
mankind, but is the consequence of acknowTo works, however, of which the excellence ledged and indubitable positions, that wbat has is not absolute and definite, but gradual and been longest known has been most considered, comparative; to works not raised upon prin- and what is most considered is best understood. ciples demonstrative and scientific, but appeal- The poet, of whose works I have undertaken ing wholly to observation and experience, no the revision, may now begin to assume the other test can be applied than length of dura- dignity of an ancient, and claim the privilege lion and continuance of esteem. What mankind of established fame and prescriptive veneration. have long possessed they have often examined He has long outlived his century,* the term and compared, and if they persist 10 value the commonly fixed as the test of literary merit. possession, it is because frequent comparisons Whatever advantages he might once derive have confirmed opinion in its favour. As from personal allusions, local customs, or temamong the works of nature, no man can pro
* “Est vetus atque probus, centum qui perficit * First printed separately in 1765. annos.” Hor. STEEVENS.
putary opinions, bare for many years been lost; | so much instruction is derived. It is this and every topic of merriment or motive of which fills the plays of Shakspeare with pracSorrow, which the modes of artificial life af- tical axioms and domestic wisdom. It was forded him, now only obscure the scenes which said of Euripides, that every verse was a prethey once illuminated. The effects of favour cept; and it may be said of Shakspeare, that and competition are at end; the tradition of from his works may be collected a system of his friendships and his enmities has perished; civil and economical prudence. Yet his real his works support do opinion with arguments, power is not shown in the splendour of partinor supply any faction with invectives; they cular passages, but by the progress of his fable, can neither indulge vanity, nor gratify ma- and the tenor of his dialogue; and be that tries lignity ; but are read without any other reason to recommend him by select quotations, will than the desire of pleasure, and are therefore succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, praised only as pleasure is obtained; yet, thus when he offered his house to sale, carried a unassisted by interest or passion, they have brick in his pocket as a specimen. passed through variations of taste and changes It will not easily be imagined how much of manners, and, as they devolved from one Shakspeare excels in accommodating his sengeneration to another, have received new timents to real life, but by comparing him with honours at every transmission.
other authors. It was observed of the ancient But because human judgment, though it be schools of declamation, that the more diligently gradually gaining upon certainty, never be they were frequented, the more was the student comes infallible ; and approbation, though long disqualified for the world, because he found continued, may yet be only the approbation of nothing there which he should ever meet in prejudice or fashion; it is proper to inquire, by any other place. The same remark may be what peculiarities of excellence Shakspeare has applied to every stage but that of Shakspeare. gained and kept the favour of his countrymen. The theatre, when it is under any other di
Nothing can please many, and please long, rection, is peopled by such characters as were but just representations of general nature. Par- never seen, conversing in a language which was ticular manners can be known to few, and there never heard, upon topics which will never fore few only can judge how nearly they are arise in the commerce of mankind. But tbe copied. The irregular combinations of fanciful dialogue of this author is often so evidently deinvention may delight awhile, by that novelty termined by the incident which produces it, of which the common satiety of life sends us all and is pursued with so much ease and simpliin quest; but the pleasures of sudden wonder city, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit are soon exhausted, and the mind can only re- of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent pose on the stability of truth.
selection out of common conversation, and Shakspeare is above all writers, at least common occurrences. above all modern writers, the poet of nature; Upon every other stage the universal agent the poet that holds up to bis readers a faithful is love, by whose power all good and evil is mirror of manners and of life. His characters distributed, and every action quickened or reare not modified by the customs of particular tarded. To bring a lover, a lady, and a rival places, unpractised by the rest of the world ; by into the fable; to entangle them in contradictory the peculiarities of studies or professions, which obligations, perplex them with oppositions of can operate but upon small numbers; or by the interest, and harass them with violence of de accidents of transient fashions or temporary sires inconsistent with each other; to make opinions : they are the genuine progeny of them meet in rapture, and part in agony; lo common humanity, such as the world will al-fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy and ways supply, and observation will always find outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing His persons act and speak by the influence of human ever was distressed ; to deliver them as those general passions and principles by which nothing human ever was delivered, is the busiall minds are agitated, and the whole system of ness of a modern dramatist. For this, prolife is continued in molion. In the writings of bability is violated, life is misrepresented, and other poets a character is too often an indivi- language is depraved. But love is only one of dual; in those of Shakspeare it is commonly a many passions, and as it has no great influence species.
upon the sum of life, it has little operation in It is from this wide extension of design that the dramas of a poet, who caught bis ideas
from the living world, and exbibited only what and Rymer think his Romans not sufficiently he saw before him. He knew, that any other Roman, and Voltaire censures his kings as not passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a completely royal. Dennis is offended, that cause of happiness or calamily.
Menenius, a senator of Rome, should play the Characters thus ample and general were not buffoon; and Voltaire perhaps thinks decency easily discriminated and preserved, yet perhaps violated when the Danish usurper is represented no poel ever kept bis personages more distinct as a drunkard. But Shakspeare always makes from each other. I will not say with Pope, nature predominate over accident; and if he that every speech may be assigned to the proper preserves the essential character, is not very speaker, because many speeches there are which careful of distinctions superioduced and advenhave nothing characteristical; but, perhaps, titious. His story requires Romans or kings, though some may be equally adapted to every but he thinks only on men. He knew that person, it will be difficult to find any that can Rome, like every other city, had men of all be properly transferred from the present pos- dispositions; and wanting a buďoon, he went sessors to another claimant. The choice is into the senale-house for that which the senateright, when there is reason for choice.
house would certainly have afforded him. He Other dramatists can only gain attention by was inclined to show an usurper and a murhyperbolical or aggravated characters, by fabu- derer not only odious, but despicable; he therelous and unexampled excellence or depravily, fore added drunkenness to his other qualities, as the writers of barbarous romances invigorated knowing that kings love wine like other men, the reader by a giant and a dwars; and he and that wine exerts its natural power upon that should form bis expectation of human affairs kings. These are the petty cavils of pelly from the play, or from the lale, would be minds ; 'a poet overlooks the casual distinction equally deceived. Shakspeare has no beroes ; of country and conditions, as a painter, satisfied bis scenes are occupied only by men, who act with the figure, neglects the drapery. and speak as the reader thinks that he should The censure which he has incurred by mixing himself have spoken or acted on the same occa- comic and tragic scenes, as it extends to all sion; even where the agency is supernatural, his works, deserves more consideration. Let the dialogue is level with life. Other writers the fact be first stated, and then examined. disguise the most natural passions and most Shakspeare's plays are not in the rigorous and frequent incidents ; so that he who contem- critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but plates them in the book will not know them in compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the the world : Shakspeare approximates the remote, real state of sublunary nature, which partakes and familiarizes the wonderful; the event which of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with be represents will not happen, but if it were endless variety of proportion and innumerable possible, ils effects would probably be such as modes of combination ; and expressing the be has assigned ;* and it may be said, that he has course of the world, in which the loss of one is not only shown human nature as it acts in real the gain of another ; in which, at the same exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to time, the reveler is hasting to his wine, and thewhich it cannot be exposed.
mourner burying his friend; in which the This therefore is the praise of Shakspeare, malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who frolic of another : and many mischiess and many has mazed his imagination, in following the benefits are done and hindered without design. phantons which other writers raise up before 'Out of this chaos of mingled purposes and bim, may here be cured of his delirious ecsta-casualities, the ancient poets, according to the sies; by reading human sentiments in human laws which custom had prescribed, selected language; by scenes from wbich a hermit may some the crimes of men, and some their absurestimale the transactions of the world, and a dities; some the momentous vicissitudes of life, confessor predict the progress of the passions. and some the lighter occurrences; some the
His adherence to general nalure has exposed terrors of distress, and some the gaieties of bim to the censure of critics, who form their prosperity. Thus rose the two modes of imilajudgments upon narrower principles. Dennis tion, known by the names of tragedy and
comedy, compositions intended to promote **Quærit quod nusquam est gentium, reperit tamen, different ends by contrary means, and considerFacit illud verisimile quod mendacium est." Planti, Pseudolus, Act I. sc. ir. STEEVENS.
ed as so little allied, that I do not recollect