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two epistles of Paris to Helen and of Helen to Paris, and printing them in the name of another (Shakespere); which may put the world in opinion I might steal them from him ; and he to do himself right hath since published them in his own name. But as I must acknowledge my lines not worthy his patronage under whom he hath published them, so the author I know [was much offended with Mr. Jaggard, that altogether unknown to him presumed to make so bold with his name. Such words are not compatible with Shakspeare's presumed indifference to the fate of his writings.
With these remarks we return to the consideration of the first folio and Shakspeare's connection with it.
It is a very handsome volume, on which no expense has been spared in respect either of paper or type. It consists of 962 pages in double columns, not including the dedication, preface, or introductory verses. Taking 60 as the average number of lines in a column, the lines in all would amount to 116,402. All circumstances considered, it was one of the most sumptuous and expensive works which up to that time had appeared from the English press in the English language. For size, costliness, and beauty, there had been few works like it; certainly no works of fiction. So far therefore as concerned expenses of this kind, Heminge and Condell had not shown themselves unmindful of what was due to Shakspeare's memory.*
Nor in other respects had they shown themselves careless or inconsiderate in the execution of their task. 'It is not pretended even by those who have been most severe in condemning their labours that they omitted from their collection any genuine drama of Shakspeare, with the exception of • Pericles. Modern research from that time to this, sharpened with all the anxiety of achieving distinction which could not fail the man that discovered a single new play or even a few lines from the poet's pen, has added nothing to the list of the dramas as they have come down to us since the first edition by Heminge and Condell. Very few dramatic authors have been so fortunate in this respect; very few writings have been so much indebted to posthumous care. Supposing it were true that these editors admitted into their co}lection plays of doubtful authenticity, does any one imagine they would have done better if, like some of Shakspeare's more recent critics, they had rejected “Titus Andronicus,' the three parts of *Henry VI.,' or 'Henry VIII.'?" Or if, laying down a theory of their own as to what was or was not worthy of their great contemporary, they had exercised a principle of selection according to their own principles of criticism, would they have deserved so well of posterity as they have done? We are under infinite obligations to them for what they did ; that obligation being no less than this—that whatever emanated from the poet's hand
* The sale of Foxe's • Martyrs' was secured by government. Hollinshed's 'Chronicles' and the works of Sir Thomas More occupy the next place in size. Then came the bulky translations and histories of Grimstone, North, and others, generally published by Islip or Bill, the royal printers. † Pericles' does not appear in the first folio.
they would not willingly let die.' The work was a large one, and unusually costly. The poet's family could not undertake the task, and it is probable never would have done.*
The editors' labours could scarcely have been other than disinterested. We have but collected them (the plays],' they say in their dedication of the work to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphans guardians; without ambition either of self-profit or fame: only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakspeare.' Nor is there any reason for suspecting the sincerity of their statement. What pecuniary advantage was to be expected from so costly an enterprise ? The impression of the book could not have been large, and when the expenses of publishers and printers had been paid, very little profit would remain for the editors; if, indeed, editors in those cases received any remuneration.
. What motives then could they have for undertaking so responsible a task beyond that of friendship for the dead? As we have said, Shakspeare left no directions in his will touching the disposal of his writings. Were they then acting in their corporate capacity as managers of the Globe Theatre, or merely as personal friends of the deceased, guided solely by the dictates of personal affection? Why publish in their corporate capacity that which could bring them little or no corporate profit? Why divulge to rival theatres dramas of which the exclusive copyright and privilege of acting were so valuable? Their language is scarcely susceptible of any other than one plain and obvious interpretation. They say in their Dedication: Since your Lordships have been pleased to think these trifles something
* The only person competent to the task was Dr. Hall, the physician, married to the poet's eldest and favourite child, Susannah. But he seems to have been wholly indifferent to the fame of his great father-in-law. Yet Dr. Hall was not an unlettered man.
Shakspeare's widow died in 1623, the year when the first folio appeared ; Dr. Hall in 1635; his wife, Susannah, in 1649; their daughter Elizabeth, remembered with a legacy of 1001. in her grandfather's will, and afterwards Lady Barnard, in 1670. Judith, his other daughter (who signs but does not write her name), died in 1662; her husband some time later. Yet not one of them thought of recording a single fact or anecdote of their relative's life, or of preserving a scrap of his writing. Was it indifference or ingratitnde? Or had Puritanism taught them to be ashamed of the name of Shakspeare?
heretofore, heretofore, and have prosecuted both them and their author, living, with so much favour; we hope that they, outliving him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings, you will use the like indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. And in their notice to the reader :
• It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings. But since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends the office of their care and pain to have collected and published them : and so to have published them, as where before you were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors that exposed (sold) them; even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest,* absolute in their numbers,† as he conceived them: who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.' I
Now these expressions certainly imply that Shakspeare had the right, common with others, of being the executor to his own writings.' They imply also that he had not parted with that right until he was surprised by an untimely death. Ben Jonson, like Shakspeare, wrote for the stage; like Shakspeare, he received money from the theatre for his dramatic writings; but this did not deprive Jonson of the copyright of his works, or prevent him from publishing his plays with dedications to various friends. It is then equally consonant with analogy, as with the expressions of Heminge and Condell, to infer that Shakspeare possessed the same right, and was as much at liberty to use it as Jonson; and careful consideration of the extracts already quoted will lead us to conclude that Shakspeare did intend not only to claim but to exercise that right. It were to have been wished that the author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings.' Would this expression have been employed had Shakspeare been so wholly indifferent to the fate of his works as is sometimes assumed? Would his friends have merely expressed a wish that he should have lived to superintend the publication of his own
* That is, those which had never appeared in print before.
† I.e. complete and perfect. We might have suspected this Latinism had they not been actors accustomed to such phraseology.
I It is to this expression that Ben Jonson refers: 'I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been,' &c. From the censure conveyed in Jonson's remark, it is obvious that he was not the author of this address, as some have surmised.
works, works, when upon the ordinary hypothesis such a wish would have been equally fruitless had his life been longer or shorter ? Then again their expression, we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers, seems to be incompatible with the notion that Heminge and Condell were speaking in the names of the Company, or were referring to their engagement with Shakspeare many years since when he commenced dramatist, and not to more recent and personal events.
This plain and obvious interpretation of their words is the most probable and the most consistent. Their meaning surely is, that Shakspeare had intended to collect and publish his own works, and to rescue them not only from oblivion but from the inaccuracies and deformities of careless and surreptitious copyists; that he had by him at the time of his death manuscripts of those plays which had never been printed, and some of the printed quartos; that he was employed in altering and enlarging or recasting the latter when death surprised him at his unfinished task; and on his death-bed, by his own directions, his papers were transferred to Heminge and Condell, to prepare for the press. That their statement is true in the main is undeniable; for from nobody except from Shakspeare could these editors have obtained the manuscripts of twenty original plays, of which no other copies are supposed to exist except in their edition, and those augmentations of the quarto copies which are found for the first time in their folio. Their credibility has been disputed, because whilst they inveigh against spurious copies of Shakspeare's plays, it has been asserted that their text is in many instances derived from the quartos. The statement incautiously made by Malone has been repeated from critic to critic. But all they really say is, that whereas people had been abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies'-an assertion for which there was abundant evidence, without supposing that they intended to condemn all the printed copies. Considering the total wreck and devastation of many early dramatic works, their statement might be literally true, and yet not be aimed at any one of the quartos which have come down to us. *
If the explanation of Heminge and Condell's words, as here suggested, be the true one, sufficient reason will appear why the text of the quartos should sometimes be reproduced exactly in the folio and sometimes be widely departed from. That great inaccuracies should be found in the type—that words and lines should have been transposed and make nonsense of that which
* Thus, of the “Hamlet' of 1603, only two incomplete copies are supposed to exist; of the edition of 1604 only three ; of the Lear of 1605 one only; of. The Taming of the Shrew, one only.
was sense before—will not show that the editors' account of their labours is untrue or fraudulent, but that either they did not superintend the press or were unskilful in the mysteries of typal corrections. Probably both : they were plain men who had their own occupations to attend to, and when they had consigned their precious deposit to the printer's hands, they might naturally think that their task was ended, and they had fulfilled their debt of “gratitude both to the living and the dead.'* Such, we fear not, will be the verdict of those who judge their labours impartially.
This folio was ushered into the world, according to the prevailing fashion, by commendatory verses from the pens of Ben Jonson | and others. It is divided into three parts, with distinct pagination. The first contains the twelve Comedies, beginning with • The Tempest' and ending with • The Winter's Tale'; the second the Histories (as they are here called), commencing with “King John' and ending with "Henry VIII.'; the third the twelve Tragedies, beginning with • Troilus and Cressida,' which is not paged, as if its insertion were an afterthought, and ending with *Cymbeline.' What authority the editors had for this arrangement, or by what principles they were guided in their selection,
* If Shakspeare's handwriting was at all like his signature, it was by no means easy to decipher. If we may speak dogmatically upon such slender proofs as we now possess, he learnt to write after the old German text-hand then in use at the grammar school of Stratford. It was in this respect fifty years behindhand, as any one may see by comparing Sbakspeare's signature with that of Sir Thomas Lucy, Lord Bacon, or John Lilly. The wonder is how with such a hand he could have written so much.
† The fact is important; for it at once disposes of an hypothesis started of late, that Jonson, and not Shakspeare, was the author of. Henry VIII.' Is it at all likely that Jonson would have allowed one of his own plays to be inserted in this volume as Shakspeare's without any remonstrance? Or supposing that it was composed in a sort of literary partnership by the two dramatists, would Jonson have failed to notice a fact so agreeable to his vanity ? Leonard Digges, a poet who composed two copies of verses, one prefixed to the first and the other to the second folio, explicitly refutes the notion that Shakspeare either joined in such strange partnerships, or borrowed scenes from his predecessors or contemporaries :
To piece his acts with.' The same writer insists on the great superiority of Shakspeare in popular attraction to Jonson :
Let but Falstaff come,