« ZurückWeiter »
probably the best of hundreds which had been difmiffed with general cenfure. The collection of plays, interludes, &c. made by Mr. Garrick, with an intent to depofit them hereafter in fome publick library,' will be confidered as a valuable acquifition; for pamphlets have never yet been examined with a proper regard to pofterity. Most of the obfolete pieces will be found on enquiry to have been introduced into libraries but fome few years fince; and yet those of the present age, which may one time or other prove as useful, are ftill entirely neglected. I fhould be remifs, I am fure, were I to forget my acknowledgments to the gentleman I have just mentioned, to whose benevolence I owe the ufe of feveral of the scarceft quartos, which I could not otherwise have obtained; though I advertised for them, with fufficient offers, as I thought, either to tempt the cafual owner to fell, or the curious to communicate them; but Mr. Garrick's zeal would not permit him to withhold any thing that might ever fo remotely tend to fhew the perfections of that author who could only have enabled him to display his own.
It is not merely to obtain juftice, to Shakspeare, that I have made this collection, and advife others to be made. The general intereft of English literature, and the attention due to our own language and history, require that our ancient writings should be diligently reviewed. There is no age which has not produced fome works that deferved to be remembered; and as words and phrafes are only
9 This collection is now, in purfuance of Mr Garrick's Will, placed in the British Mufeum. REED.
understood by comparing them in different places, the lower writers must be read for the explanation of the higheft. No language can be ascertained and fettled, but by deducing its words from their original fources, and tracing them through their fucceffive varieties of fignification; and this deduction can only be performed by confulting the earlieft and intermediate authors.
Enough has been already done to encourage us to do more. Dr. Hickes, by reviving the ftudy of the Saxon language, feems to have excited a stronger curiofity after old Englifh writers, than ever had appeared before. Many volumes which were mouldering in dust have been collected; many authors which were forgotten have been revived; many laborious catalogues have been formed; and many judicious gloffaries compiled; and literary tranf actions of the darker ages are now open to disco very; and the language in its intermediate gradations, from the Conqueft to the Reftoration, is better understood than in any former time.
To incite the continuance, and encourage the extenfion of this domeftick curiofity, is one of the purposes of the prefent publication. In the plays it contains, the poet's first thoughts as well as words are preserved; the additions made in fubfequent impreffions, diflinguished in Italicks, and the performances themfelves make their appearance with every typographical error, fuch as they were before they fell into the hands of the player-editors. The various readings, which can only be attributed · to chance, are set down among the reft, as I did not choose arbitrarily to determine for others which were ufelefs, or which were valuable. And many
words differing only by the fpelling, or ferving merely to fhow the difficulties which they to whofe lot it first fell to difentangle their perplexities must have encountered, are exhibited with the rest. I must acknowledge that fome few readings have flipped in by mistake, which can pretend to ferve no purpose of illuftration, but were introduced by confining myself to note the minutest variations of the copies which foon convinced me that the oldest were in general the moft correct. Though no proof can be given that the poet fuperintended the publication of any one of these himself, yet we have little reason to suppose that he who wrote at the command of Elizabeth, and under the patronage of Southampton, was fo very negligent of his fame, as to permit the most incompetent judges, fuch as the players were, to vary at their pleasure what he had fet down for the firft fingle editions ; and we have better grounds for a fufpicion that his works did materially fuffer from their prefumptuous corrections after his death.
It is very well known, that before the time of Shakspeare, the art of making title-pages was practifed with as much, or perhaps more fuccess than it has been fince. Accordingly, to all his plays we find long and defcriptive ones, which, when they were first publifhed, were of great fervice to the venders of them. Pamphlets of every kind were hawked about the ftreets by a fet of people resembling his own Autolycus, who proclaimed aloud the qualities of what they offered to fale, and night draw in many a purchafer by the mirth he was taught to expect from the humours of Corporal Nym, or the fwaggering vaine of Auncient Piftoll, who
was not to be tempted by the representation of a fact merely historical. The players, however, laid afide the whole of this garniture, not finding it fo necessary to procure fuccefs to a bulky volume, when the author's reputation was established, as it had been to bespeak attention to a few ftraggling pamphlets while it was yet uncertain.
The fixteen plays which are not in these volumes, remained unpublifhed till the folio in the year 1623, though the compiler of a work called Theatrical Records, mentions different fingle editions of them all before that time. But as no one of the editors could ever meet with fuch, nor has any one else pretended to have feen them, I think myself at liberty to suppose the compiler fupplied the defects of the lift out of his own imagination; fince he must have had fingular good fortune to have been poffeffed of two or three different copies of all, when neither editors nor collectors, in the course of near fifty years, have been able fo much as to obtain the fight of one of the number."
At the end of the laft volume I have added a tragedy of King Leir, publifhed before that of· Shakspeare, which it is not improbable he might
2 It will be obvious to every one acquainted with the ancient English language, that in almoft all the titles of plays. in this catalogue of Mr. William Rufus Chetwood, the fpelling is conftantly overcharged with fuch a fuperfluity of letters as is not to be found in the writings of Shakfpeare or his contemporaries. A more bungling attempt at a forgery was never obtruded on the publick. See the British Theatre, 1750; reprinted by Dodfley in 1756 under the title of "Theatrical Records, for an Account of English Dramatick Authors, and their Works," where all that is faid concerning an Advertisement at the end of Romeo and Juliet, 1597, is equally false, no copy of that play having been ever publifhed by Andrew Wife.
have seen, as the father kneeling to the daughter, when she kneels to afk his bleffing, is found in it; a circumftance two poets were not very likely to have hit on feparately; and which feems borrowed by the latter with his ufual judgment, it being the inoft natural paffage in the whole play; and is introduced in fuch a manner, as to make it fairly his own. The ingenious editor of The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry having never met with this play, and as it is not preferved in Mr. Garrick's collection, I thought it a cúriofity worthy the notice of the publick.
I have likewife reprinted Shakspeare's Sonnets, from a copy publifhed in 1609, by G. Eld, one of the printers of his plays; which, added to the confideration that they made their appearance with his name, and in his life-time, feems to be no flender proof of their authenticity. The fame evidence might operate in favour of feveral more plays which are omitted here, out of refpect to the judgment of thofe who had omitted them
It is to be wished that fome method of publication moft favourable to the character of an author were once established; whether we are to fend into the world all his works' without diftinction, or arbitrarily to leave out what may be thought a difgrace to him. The first editors, who rejected Pericles, retained Titus Andronicus; and Mr. Pope, without any reafon, named The Winter's Tale, a play that bears the ftrongest marks of the hand of
3 Locrine, 1595. Sir John Oldcastle, 1600. London Prodigal, 1605. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609. Puritan, 160. Thomas Lord Cromwell, 1613. Yorkshire Tragedy, 1608.