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At the end of the last volume I have added a tragedy of King Leir, published before that of Shakspere, which it is not improbable he might have seen, as the father kneeling to the daughter, when she kneels to ask his blessing, is found in it; a circumstance two poets were not very likely to have hit on separately; and which seems borrowed by the latter with his usual judgment, it being the most natural passage in the whole play; and is introduced in such a manner, as to make it fairly his own. The inge: nious editor of The Reliques of Ancient English Po:try having never met with this play, and as it is not preserved in Mr. Garrick's collection, I thought it a curiosity worthy the notice of the publick.
I have likewise reprinted Shakspere's Sonnets from a copy published in 1609, by G. Eld, one of the printers of his plays; which, added to the consideration that they made their appearance with his name, and in his lifetime, seems to be no slender proof of their authenticity. The same evidence might operate in favour of several more plays which are omitted here, out of respect to the judgment of those who had omitted them before*.
Authors, and their Works," where all that is said concerning an advertisement at the end of Romeo and Juliet, 1697, is equally false, no copy of that play having been ever published by Andrew Wife.
* Locrine, 1595. Sir John Oldcastle, 1600. London Prodigal, 1605. Pericles Prince of Tyre, 1609. Puritan, 1600. · Thomas Lord Cromwell, 1613. Yorkshire Tra
It is to be wished that some method of publication, most favourable to the character of an author, were once established ; whether we are to send into the world all his works without distinction, or arbitrarily to leave out what may be thought a disgrace to him. The first editors, who rejected Pericles, retained Titus Andronicus ; and Mr. Pope, without any reason, named The Winter's Tate, a play that bears the strongest marks of the hand of Shakspere, among those which he supposed to be spurious. Dr. War. burton has fixed a stigma on the three parts of Henry the Sixth, and some others :
Inde Dolabella est, atque hinc Antonius ;
and all have been willing to plunder Shakspere, or mix up a breed of barren metal with his purest ore.
Joshua Barnes, the editor of Euripides, thought every scrap of his author so sacred, that he has preserved, with the name of one of his plays, the only remaining word of it. The same reason indeed might be given in his favour, which caused the preservation of thật valuable trisyllable: which is, that it cannot be found in any other place in the Greek language. But this does not seem to have been his only motive, as we find he has to the full as carefully published several detached and broken sentences, the gleanings from scholiasts, which have no claim to merit of that kind ; and yet the author's works might be reckoned by some to be incomplete without them. If then this duty is expected from every editor of a Greek or Roman poet, why is not the same insisted on in respect of an English classick ? But if the custom of preserving all, whether worthy of it or not, be more honoured in the breach than the obe servance, the suppression at least should not be con. sidered as a fault. The publication of such things as Swift had written, merely to raise a laugh among his friends, has added something to the bulk of his works, but very little to his character as a writer. The four volumes * that came out since Dr. Hawkesworth's edition, not to look on them as a tax levied on the publick (which I think one might without injustice), contain not more than sufficient to have made one of real value; and there is a kind of disingenuity, not to give it a harsher title, in exhibiting what the author never meant should see the light; for no motive, but a sordid one, can betray the survivors to make that publick, which they them. selves must be of opinion will be unfavourable to the memory of the dead.
Life does not often receive good unmixed with evil. The benefits of the art of printing are depraved by the facility with which scandal may be diffused, and secrets revealed; and by the temptation by which traffick solicits avarice to betray the
* Volumes XIII. XIV. XV. and XVI. in large 8vo. Nine more have since been added. Reed.
weaknesses of passion, or the confidence of friendship.
I cannot forbear to think these posthumous publications injurious' to society. A man conscious of literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his sister, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the slightest occasion, or most pressing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and grammatical severity. That esteem which preserves his letters will at last produce his disgrace; when that which he wrote to his friend or his daughter shall be laid open to the publick.
There is perhaps sufficient evidence, that most of the plays in question, unequal as they may be to the rest, were written by Shakspere; but the reason generally given for publishing the less correct pieces of an author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's talents or way of thinking, than when we only see him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and practises otherwise. For what is all this to shew, but that every man is more dull at one time than another; a fact which the world would easily have admitted, without asking any proofs in its support that might be destructive to an author's reputation.
To conclude; if the work, which this publication was meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the satisfaction of knowing it to be so may be ob. tained from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expectations of correctness, and through negligence
defeated defeated them, be justly exposed by future editors, who will now be in possession of by far the greatest part of what they might have inquired after for years to no purpose ; for in respect of such a number of the old quartos as are here exhibited, the first folio is a common book. This advantage will at least arise, that future editors, having equally re, course to the same copies, can challenge distinction and preference only by genius, capacity, industry, and learning
As I have only collected meterials for future artists, I consider what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for their use. If the publick is inclined to receive it as such, I am amply rewarded for iny trouble; if otherwise, I shall submit with cheerfulness to the censure which should equitably fall on an injudicious attempt; having this consolation, how.. ever, that my design amounted to no more than a wish to encourage others to think of preserving the oldest editions of the English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; and to afford the world all the assistance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST. POET.