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have already observed on the extraordinary;-nay wonderful indifference of this illustrious man toward the offspring of his fancy; and we make it again the subject of our remark solely for the purpose of illustrating the cause of those numerous and pernicious errors which deform all the early editions of his plays. He must have known that many of these, his intellectual children, were walking through the community in a state of gross disease, with their limbs spotted, as it were, with the leprosy or the plague. But he looked on them without one parental feeling, and stretched not out his hand for their relief. They had broken from the confinement of the players, to whose keeping he had consigned them; and it was their business and not his to reclaim them. As for the rest of his intellectual progeny, they were where he had placed them; and he was utterly unconcerned about their future fate. How fraught and glowing with the principle of life must have been their nature to enable them to subsist, and to force themselves into immortality under so many circumstances of evil!
The copies of the plays, published antecedently to his death, were transcribed either by memory from their recitation on the stage; or from the separate parts, written out for the study of the particular actors, and to be pieced together by the skill of the editor; or, lastly, if stolen or bribed access could be obtained to it, from the prompter's book itself. From any of these sources of acquisition the copy would necessarily be polluted with very flagrant errors; and from every edition, through which it ran, it would naturally contract more pollution and a deeper stain. Such of the first copies as were fortunately transcribed from the prompter's book, would probably be in a state of greater relative correctness: but they are all, in differerit degrees, deformed with inaccuracies; and not one of them can claim the right to be followed as an authority.
What Steevens and Malone call the restoring of Shaks peare's text, by reducing it to the reading of these early quartos, is frequently the restoring of it to error and to nonsense from which it had luckily been reclaimed by the felicity
of conjectural criticism. One instance immediately occurs to me, to support what I have affirmed; and it may be adduced instead of a score, which might be easily found, of these vaunted restorations.
In that fine scene between John and Hubert, where the monarch endeavours to work up his agent to the royal purposes of murder, the former says,
-If thou couldst
The passage thus stood in one of these old copies of authority: but Pope, not able to discover any meaning in the epithet, brooded, most happily substituted“ broadeyed” in its stead. As the compound was poetic and Shakspearian (for Shakspeare bas dull-eyed and fireeyed), and was also most peculiarly suited to the place which it was to fill, the substitution for a while was permitted to remain; till Steevens, discovering the reading of the old copy, restored brooded to the station whence it had been felicitously expelled, and abandoned the Jine once more to the nonsense of the first editor.
In 1623, the first complete edition of our author's dramatic works was published in folio by his comrades of the theatre, Heminge and Condell; and in this we might expect a text tolerably incorrupt, if not perfectly pure. The editors denounced the copies which had preceded their edition as stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them; cven those are now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest absolute in their numbers as he conceived them.” But notwithstanding these professions, and their honest resentment against impostors and surreptitious copies, the labours of these sole possessors of Shakspeare's MSS. did not obtain the credit
which they arrogated; and they are charged with printing from those very quartos, on which they had heaped so much well-merited abuse. They printed, as there cannot be a doubt, from their prompter's book (for by what temptation could they be enticed beyond it?), but then, from the same book were transcribed many, perhaps, of the surreptitious quartos; and it is not wonderful that transcripts of the same page should be precisely alike. These editors, however, of the first folio, have incurred the heavy displeasure of some of our modern critics, who are zealous on all occasions to depreciate their work. Wherever they differ from the first quartos, which, for the reason that I have assigned, they must in general very closely resemble, Malone is ready to decide against them, and to defer to the earlier edition. But it is against the editor of the second folio, published in 1632, that he points the full storm of his indignation. He charges this luckless wight, whoever he may be, with utter ignorance of the language of Shakspeare's time, and of the fabric of Shakspeare's verse; and be considers him and Pope as the grand corrupters of Shakspeare's text. Without reflecting that to be ignorant of the language of Shakspeare's time was, in the case of this hapless editor, to be ignorant of his own, for he who published in 1632 could hardly speak with a tongue different from his who died only sixteen years before, Malone indulges in an elaborate display of the unhappy man's ignorance, and of his presumptuous alterations. He (the editor of the second folio) did not kn
that the double negative was the customary and authorized dialect of the age of Queen Elizabeth (God help him, poor man! for if he were forty years old when he edited Shakspeare, he must have received the first rudiments of his education in the reign of the maiden queen); and thus egregiously ignorant (ignorant, by the bye, where Shakspeare himself was ignorant, for in his Twelfth Night *, the clown says,
* Act v. sc. 1.
your four negatives make your two affirmatives—why then the worse for my friends and the better for my foes,” &c.) but thus egregiously ignorant, instead of
“ Nor to her bed no homage do I owe,” this editor has stupidly printed,
“ Nor to her bed a homage do I owe.” Again, in “ As You Like It,” for “ I cannot go no further,” this blockhead of an editor bas substituted “I can go no further.” In “ Much Ado about Nothing," for
“ There will she bide her
To listen our purpose.” this corrupting editor has presumed to relieve the balting metre by printing,
“ There will she bide her
In these instances, I feel convinced that the editor is right, and consequently that the critic is the blockhead who is wrong. In what follows also, I am decidedly of opinion that the scale inclines in favour of the former of these deadly opposites. The double comparative is common in the plays of Shakspeare, says Malone: true, as I am willing to allow; but always, as I am persuaded, in consequence of the illiteracy or the carelessness of the first transcriber: for why should Shakspeare write more anomalous English than Spenser, Daniel, Hooker, and Bacon? or why in his plays should he be guilty of barbarisms with which those poems of bis *,
* In bis “ Venus and Adonis," and bis“ Rape of Lucrece, printed under bis immediate inspection ; and in bis 154 Sonnets, printed from correct MSS., and no doubt witb bis knowledge, are not to be found any of these barbarous anomalies. “ The Passionate Pilgrim,” and “ The Lover's Complaint,” are, also, free from them. Worser and lesser may sometimes occur in these poems : but the last of these improprieties will occasionally find a place in the page of modern composition. In the “
that were printed under his own immediate eye, are altogether unstained? But, establishing the double comparative as one of the peculiar anomalies of Shakspeare's grammar, Malone proceeds to arraign the unfortunate editor as a criminal, for substituting, in a passage of Coriolanus, more worthy for more worthier ; in Othello-for,“ opinion, a sovereign mistress, throws a more sufer voice on you,” “ opinion, &c. throws a more safe voice on you;" and, in Hamlet, instead of “ Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to the doctor,” “ Your wisdom should show itself more rich to signify this to the doctor.” Need I express my conviction that in these passages the editor has corrected the text into what actually fell from Shakspeare's pen? Can it be doubted also that the editor is accurate in bis printing of the following passage in “ A Midsummer Night's Dream ?" As adopted by Malone it stands,
“ So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
My soul consents not to give sovereignty." i. e., says the critic, to give sovereignty to, &c.—To be sure-and, without the insertion, in this instance, of the preposition, the sentence would be nonsense. As it is published by the editor, it is,
“ So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
My soul consents not to give sovereignty." Having now sufficiently demonstrated the editor's ignorance of Shakspeare's language, let us proceed with his
Lucrece,” the only anomaly of the double negative, wbich I have been able to discover, is the following :
“ She touch'd no unknown baits, nor fear'd no looks,” and the same impropriety may be found in three or four instances in the Sonnets. And sabstituted for nor would restore these few passages to perfect grammar.