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there are one hundred thousand lines in these plays, and that it often was neceffary to confult
21. "To the yet-unbegotten fins of time." P. 102. "To the yet-unbegotten fin of times." P. 541. 22. "And breathing to this breathless excellence,-" P. 102. "And breathing to his breathless excellence,
23. "And your fupplies, which you have wifh'd fo long,—" "And your supply, which you have wifh'd fo long,-" P. 561.
24. "What's that to thee? Why may I not demand-" "What's that to thee? Why may not I demand-"
25. O, my fweet fir, news fitted to the night." P. 123. "O, my sweet fir, news fitting to the night." P.563. 26. "Death, having prey'd upon the outward parts, "Leaves them; invifible his fiege is now
Against the mind,-" P. 124.
"Death, having prey'd upon the outward parts,
27. "The falt of them is hot."
A&t II. fc. ii.
"Be these fad figns confirmers of thy word." because I pointed them out on a former occafion.
It may perhaps be urged that fome of the variations in these lifts, are of no great confequence; but to preserve our poet's genuine text is certainly important; for otherwife, as Dr. Johnfon has justly observed, "the hiftory of our language will be loft;" and as our poet's words are changed, we are constantly in danger of lofing his meaning alfo. Every reader muft with to perufe what Shak fpeare wrote, fupported at once by the authority of the authentick copies, and the ufage of his contemporaries, rather than what the editor of the second folio, or Pope, or Hanmer, or Warburton, have arbitrarily fubftituted in its place.
A& III. fc. i.
fix or feven volumes, in order to afcertain by which of the preceding editors, from the time of the publication of the fecond folio, each emendation was made, it will eafily be believed, that this was not effected without much trouble.
Whenever I mention the old copy in my notes, if the play be one originally printed in quarto, I mean the first quarto copy; if the play appeared originally in folio, I mean the first folio; and when I mention the old copies, I mean the first quarto and firft folio, which, when that expreffion is used, it may be concluded, concur in the fame reading. In like manner, the folio always means the firft folio, and the quarto, the earlieft quarto, with the exceptions already mentioned. In general, however, the date of each quarto is given, when it is cited. Where there are two quarto copies printed in the same year, they are particularly diftinguished, and the variations noticed.
The two great duties of an editor are, to exhibit the genuine text of his author, and to explain his obfcurities. Both of these objects have been fo conftantly before my eyes, that, I am confident, one of them will not be found to have been neglected for the other. I can with perfect truth fay, with Dr. Johnson, that "not a fingle paffage in the whole work has appeared to me obfcure, which I have not endeavoured to illuftrate." I have examined the notes of all the editors, and my own
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. All these variations have not been discovered by the prefent collation, fome of them having been pointed out by preceding editors; but fuch as had been already noticed were merely pointed out: the original readings are now established and fupported by the ufage of our poet himself and that of his contemporaries, and restored to the text, instead of being degraded to the bottom of the page,
former remarks, with equal rigour; and have endeavoured as much as poffible to avoid all controverfy, having constantly had in view a philanthropick obfervation made by the editor above mentioned: "I know not (fays that excellent writer,) why our editors fhould, with fuch implacable anger, perfecute their predeceffors. Οι νεκροὶ μὴ λάκεσιν, the dead, it is true, can make no refiftance, they may be attacked with great fecurity; but fince they can neither feel nor mend, the fafety of mauling them seems greater than the pleasure: nor perhaps would it much misbefeèm us to remember, amidst our triumphs over the nonfenfical and the senseless, that we likewise are men; that debemur morti, and, as Swift obferved to Burnet, fhall foon be among the dead ourselves."
I have in general given the true explication of a paffage, by whomfoever made, without loading the page with the preceding unfuccefsful attempts at elucidation, and by this means have obtained room for much additional illuftration: for, as on the one hand, I truft very few fuperfluous or unneceffary annotations have been admitted, fo on the other, I believe, that not a fingle valuable explication of any obfcure paffage in these plays has ever appeared, which will not be found in the following volumes.
The admirers of this poet will, I truft, not merely pardon the great acceffion of new notes in the present edition, but examine them with some degree of pleasure. An idle notion has been propagated, that Shakspeare has been buried under his commentators; and it has again and again been repeated by the tasteless and the dull, "that notes, though often neceffary, are necessary evils." There is no perfon, I believe, who has an higher refpect
for the authority of Dr. Johnson than I have; but he has been misunderstood, or mifrepresented, as if these words contained a general caution to all the readers of this poet. Dr. Johnfon, in the part of his preface here alluded to, is addreffing the young reader, to whom Shakspeare is new; and him he very judicioufly counfels to " read every play from the firft fcene to the laft, with utter negligence of all his commentators.-Let him read on, through brightness and obfcurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preferve his comprehenfion of the dialogue, and his intereft in the fable." But to much the greater and more enlightened part of his readers, (for how few are there comparatively to whom Shakspeare is new?) he gives a very different advice: Let them to whom the pleafures of novelty have ceafed, attempt exactnefs, and read the commentators.'
During the era of conjectural criticifm and capricious innovation, notes were indeed evils; while one page was covered with ingenious fophiftry in fupport of fome idle conjecture, and another was wafted in its overthrow, or in erecting a new fabrick equally unfubftantial as the former. But this era is now happily past away; and conjecture and emendation have given place to rational explanation. We shall never, I hope, again be told, that" as the best gueffer was the beft diviner, fo he may be faid in fome measure to be the best editor of Shakspeare." Let me not, however, be fuppofed an enemy to all conjectural emendation; fometimes undoubtedly we muft have recourse to it; but, like the machinery of the ancient drama, let it not be reforted to except in cafes of difficulty
I Newton's Preface to his edition of Milton.
nifi dignus vindici nodus. "I wish (fays Dr. Johnfon) we all conjectured less, and explained more.' When our poet's entire library fhall have been difcovered, and the fables of all his plays traced to their original fource, when every temporary allufion fhall have been pointed out, and every obfcurity elucidated, then, and not till then, let the accumulation of notes be complained of. I fcarcely remember ever to have looked into a book of the age of Queen Elizabeth, in which I did not find fomewhat that tended to throw a light on these plays. While our object is, to fupport and establish what the poet wrote, to illustrate his phrafeology by comparing it with that of his contemporaries, and to explain his fugitive allufions to cuftoms long fince difufed and forgotten, while this object is kept fteadily in view, if even every line of his plays were accompanied with a comment, every intelligent reader would be indebted to the industry of him who produced it. Such uniformly has been the object of the notes now prefented to the publick. Let us then hear no more of this barbarous jargon concerning Shakfpeare's having been elucidated into obfcurity, and buried under the load of his commentators. Dryden is faid to have regretted the fuccefs of his own inftructions, and to have lamented that at length, in confequence of his critical prefaces, the town had become too skilful to be easily satisfied. The fame obfervation may be made with refpect to many of these objectors, to whom the meaning of fome of our poet's most difficult paflages is now become fo familiar, that they fancy they originally understood them "without a prompter;" and with great gravity exclaim against the unneceffary illuftrations furnished by his Editors: nor ought we