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all the quartos I could find, comparing one copy with the reft, where there were more than one of the fame play; and multiply the chances of their being. preferved, by collecting them into volumes, inftead of leaving the few that have escaped, to fhare the fate of the reft, which was probably haftened by their remaining in the form of pamphlets, their use and value being equally unknown to those into whofe hands they fell.


Of fome I have printed more than one copy; as there are many perfons, who, not contented with the poffeffion of a finifhed picture of some great mafter, are defirous to procure the firft fketch that was made for it, that they may have the pleafure of tracing the progrefs of the artist from the firft light colouring to the finishing stroke. fuch the earlier editions of King John, Henry the Fifth, Henry the Sixth, The Merry Wives of Windfor, and Romeo and Juliet, will, I apprehend, not be unwelcome; fince in these we may difcern as much as will be found in the hafty outlines of the pencil, with a fair profpect of that perfection to which he brought every performance he took the pains to retouch.

The general character of the quarto editions may more advantageoufly be taken from the words of Mr. Pope, than from any recommendation of my own.

"The folio edition (fays he) in which all the plays we now receive as his were firft collected, was published by two players, Heminges and Con dell, in 1623, feven years after his deceafe. They declare that all the other editions were ftolen and

furreptitious,' and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other; for in all refpects elfe it is far worse than the quartos.

"First, because the additions of trifling and bombaft paffages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added fince thofe quartos by the actors, or had ftolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this ufage in Hamlet, where he wishes thofe who play the clowns would speak no more than is fet down for them, (Act III. fc. iv.) But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions to Romeo and Juliet, there is no hint of the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In others the fcenes of the mobs, plebeians, and clowns, are vaftly shorter than at prefent; and I have seen one in particular (which feems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided by lines, and the actors names in the margin) where feveral of thofe very paffages were added in a written hand, which fince are to be found in the folio.

In the next place, a number of beautiful paffages were omitted, which were extant in the first single editions; as it seems without any other reason than their willingnefs to fhorten fome fcenes."

7 It may be proper on this occafion to obferve, that the actors printed feveral of the plays in their folio edition from the very quarto copies which they are here ftriving to depreciate; and additional corruption is the utmoft that these copies gained by paffing through their hands.

To this I must add, that I cannot help looking on the folio as having fuffered other injuries from the licentious alteration of the players; as we frequently find in it an unusual word changed into one more popular; fometimes to the weakening of the fenfe, which rather feems to have been their work, who knew that plainnefs was neceffary for the audience of an illiterate age, than that it was done by the consent of the author: for he would hardly have unnerved a line in his written copy, which they pretend to have transcribed, however he might have permitted many to have been familiarized in the reprefentation. Were I to indulge my own private conjecture, I fhould fuppofe that his blotted manufcripts were read over by one to another among those who were appointed to transcribe them; and hence it would easily happen, that words of fimilar found, though of fenfes directly oppofite, might be confounded with each other. They themselves declare that Shakspeare's time of blotting was paft, and yet half the errors we find in their edition could not be merely typographical. Many of the quartos (as our own printers affure me) were far from being unfkilfully executed, and fome of them were much more correctly printed than the folio, which was published at the charge of the fame proprietors, whofe names we find prefixed to the older copies; and I cannot join with Mr. Pope in acquitting that edition of more literal errors than those which went before it. The particles in it seem to be as fortuitously difpofed, and proper names as frequently undiftinguifhed by Italick or capital letters from the rest of the text. The punctuation is equally accidental; nor

do I fee on the whole any great marks of a skilful revifal, or the advantage of being printed from unblotted originals in the one, than in the other. One reformation indeed there feems to have been made, and that very laudable; I mean the substitution of more general terms for a name too often unneceffarily invoked on the ftage; but no jot of obfcenity is omitted: and their caution against profaneness is, in my opinion the only thing for which we are indebted to the judgment of the editors of the folio.

How much may be done by the affiftance of the old copies will now be easily known; but a more difficult task remains behind, which calls for other abilities than are requifite in the laborious collator.

From a diligent perufal of the comedies of contemporary authors, I am perfuaded that the meaning of many expreffions in Shakspeare might be retrieved; for the language of converfation can only be expected to be preferved in works, which in their time affumed the merit of being pictures of men and manners. The ftyle of converfation we may fuppofe to be as much altered as that of books; and, in confequence of the change, we have no other authorities to recur to in either cafe.

8 and their caution against profaneness is, in my opinion, the only thing for which we are indebted to the editors of the folio.} I doubt whether we are fo much indebted to the judgment of the editors of the folio edition, for their caution against profaneness, as to the ftatute 3 Jac. I. c. 21, which prohibits under fevere penalties the ufe of the facred name in any plays or interludes. This occafioned the playhoufe copies to be altered, and they printed from the playhoufe copies.


Should our language ever be recalled to a ftri&t examination, and the fashion become general of ftriving to maintain our old acquifitions, instead of gaining new ones, which we fhall be at last obliged to give up, or be incumbered with their weight; it will then be lamented that no regular collection was ever formed of the old English books; from which, as from ancient repofitories, we might recover words and phrafes as often as caprice or wantonnefs fhould call for variety; instead of thinking it neceffary to adopt new ones, or barter folid strength for feeble splendour, which no language has long admitted, and retained its purity.

We wonder that, before the time of Shakspeare, we find the stage in a state so barren of productions, but forget that we have hardly any acquaintance with the authors of that period, though fome few of their dramatick pieces may remain. The fame might be almoft faid of the interval between that age and the age of Dryden, the performances of which, not being preserved in fets, or diffused as now, by the greater number printed, must lapfe apace into the fame obfcurity.

"Vixere fortes ante Agamemnoną

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And yet we are contented, from a few fpecimens only, to form our opinions of the genius of ages gone before us. Even while we are blaming the tafle of that audience which received with applause the worst plays in the reign of Charles the Second, we fhould confider that the few in poffeffion of our theatre, which would never have been heard a fecond time had they been written now, were

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