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been fometimes willing to bring a corollary, rather than want a fpirit.' Nor, to confefs the truth, did we always think it juftifiable to fhrink our predeceffors to pigmies, that we ourselves, by force of comparifon, might affume the bulk of giants.

"The prefent editors muft alfo acknowledge, that unless in particular inftances, where the voice of the publick had decided against the remarks of Dr. JOHNSON, they have hefitated to difplace them; and had rather be charged with fuperftitious reverence for his name, than cenfured for a prefumptuous difregard of his opinions.

"As a large proportion of Mr. MONCK MASON's ftrictures on a former edition of SHAKSPEARE are here inferted, it has been thought neceffary that as much of his Preface as was defigned to introduce them, fhould accompany their fecond appearance. Any formal recommendation of them is needlefs, as their own merit is fure to rank their author among the moft diligent and fagacious of our celebrated Poet's annotators.

"It may be proper, indeed, to obferve that a few of thefe remarks are omitted because they had been anticipated; and that a few others have excluded themselves by their own immoderate length; for he who publishes a series of comments unattended by the text of his author, is apt to overflow the meafure' allotted to marginal criticism. In thefe cafes, either the commentator or the poet must give way, and no reader will patiently endure to fee

Alcides beaten by his page.'-Inferior volat umbra deo.Mr. M. MASON will alfo forgive us if we add, that a small number of his propofed amendments are fuppreffed through honest commiferation. 'Tis much he dares, and he has a wisdom that often guides his valour to act in fafety;' yet occafionally he forgets the prudence that should attend conjecture, and therefore, in a few inftances, would have been produced only to be perfecuted.-May it be fubjoined, that the freedom with which the fame gentleman has treated the notes of others, feems to have authorized an equal degree of licence refpecting his own? And yet, though the fword may have been drawn against him, he fhall not com

See p. x.


plain that its point is unbated and envenomed;' for the conductors of this undertaking do not fcruple thus openly to exprefs their wishes that it may have merit enough to provoke a revifion from the acknowledged learning and perfpicacity of their Hibernian coadjutor.-Every re-impreffion of our great dramatick master's works must be confidered in fome degree as experimental; for their corruptions and obfcurities are ftill fo numerous, and the progrefs of fortunate conjecture fo tardy and uncertain, that our remote defcendants may be perplexed by paffages that have perplexed us; and the readings which have hitherto difunited the opinions of the learned, may continue to difunite them as long as ENGLAND and SHAKSPEARE have a name. In short, the peculiarity once afcribed to the poetick isle of Delos, may be exemplified in our author's text, which, on account of readings alternately received and reprobated, must remain in an unfettled ftate, and float in obedience to every gale of contradictory criticifm.-Could a perfect and decifive edition of the following fcenes be produced, it were to be expected only (though we fear in vain) from the hand of Dr. FARMER, whofe more ferious avocations forbid him to undertake what every reader would delight to poffefs.

"This impreffion of the Plays of SHAKSPEARE muft not iffue into the world without particular and ample acknowledgements of the benefit it has derived from the labours of Mr. MALONE, whofe attention, diligence, and spirit of enquiry, have very far exceeded thofe of the whole united phalanx of his predeceffors.-His additions to our author's Life, his attempt to ascertain the Order in which his plays were written, together with his account of our ancient Stage, &c. are here re-published ; and every reader will concur in wifhing that a gentleman who has produced fuch intelligent combinations from very few materials, had fortunately been poffeffed of more.

"The play of Pericles has been added to this collection, by the advice of Dr. FARMER. To make room for it, Titus Andronicus might have been omitted; but our proprietors are of opinion that fome ancient prejudices in its favour may ftill exist, and for that reason only it is preferved.

c That is, in the Octavo Edition of Mr. STEEVENS.


"The form and fubftance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged fince it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful custom, the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn: but Mr. STEEVENS could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a diftinction which malevolence cannot obfcure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour."

IT may be proper to obferve that the learned Commentator whofe name appears in the title-page is under no responsibility for the prefent edition. The prefs has been wholly corrected under the fuperintendance of Mr. BALDWIN; by whofe attention the late very correct and elegant edition of Mr. STEEVENS was fo handfomely introduced to the publick. For the selection of the Notes, which has been performed with fome industry and much impartiality, no one is answerable but

Dec. 20, 1796.



Not thoroughly fatisfied with any of the former editions of Shakspeare, even that of Johnfon, I had refolved to venture upon one of my own, and had actually collected materials for the purpofe, when that, which is the fubject of the following Obfervations, made its appearance; in which I found that a confiderable part of the amendments and explanations I had intended to propose were anticipated by the labours and eccentrick reading of Steevens, the ingenious researches of Malone, and the fagacity of Tyrwhitt. I will fairly confefs that I was fomewhat mortified at this discovery, which compell'd me to relinquish a favourite purfuit, from whence I had vainly expected to derive fome degree of credit in the literary world. This, however, was a fecondary confideration; and my principal purpose will be answered to my with, if the Comments, which I now fubmit to the publick fhall, in any other hands, contribute materially to a more complete edition of our inimitable poet.

If we may judge from the advertisement prefixed to his Supplement, Malone feems to think that no other edition can hereafter be wanted; as in fpeaking of the last, he says, "The text of the author feems now to be finally settled, the great abilities and unwearied researches of the editor having left little obfcure or unexplained e."

Though I cannot subscribe to this opinion of Malone, with respect to the final adjustment of the text, I fhall willingly join in his encomium on the editor, who deferves the applaufe and gratitude of the publick, not only for his induftry and abilities, but also for the zeal with which he has profecuted the object he had in view, which prompted him,

d Edit. 1778.

e As I was never vain enough to fuppofe the edit. 1778 was entitled to this encomium, I can find no difficulty in allowing that it has been properly recalled by the gentleman who bestowed it. See his Preface; and his Letter to the Reverend Dr. Farmer, p. 7. and 8. STEEVENS.

him, not only to the wearifome tafk of collation, but alfo to engage in a peculiar courfe of reading, neither pleafing nor profitable for any other purpose.

But I will venture to affert, that his merit is more confpicuous in the comments than the text; in the regulation of which he feems to have acted rather from caprice, than any fettled principle; admitting alterations, in fome paffages, on very infufficient authority, indeed, whilft in others' he has retained the antient readings, though evidently cor-. rupt, in preference to amendments as evidently juft: and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himself has proved to be falfe. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgment, Malone's obfervation would have been nearer to the truth; but as it now fta ids, the last edition has no fignal advantage, that I can perceive, over that of Johnfon, in point of correctness.

But the object that Steevens had moft at heart, was the illuftration of Shakspeare, in which it must be owned he has clearly furpaffed all the former editors. If, without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to fucceed in explaining fome paffages which he mifapprehended, or in fuggefting amendments that escaped his fagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have ftudied every line of thefe plays, whilft the other commentators, I will not except even Steevens himself, have too generally confined their obfervation and ingenuity to thofe litigated paffages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, as requiring either amendment or explanation, and have fuffered many others to pafs unheeded, that, in truth, were equally erroneous or obfcure. It may poffibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling mistakes in the printing, which every reader perceives to be fuch, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, fhould efcape unnoticed.

There is perhaps no fpecies of publication whatever, more likely to produce diverfity of opinion than verbal criticifms; for, as there is no certain criterion of truth, no established principle by which we can decide whether they


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