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poet's death: even the stage he appear'd upon, it's form, dressings, actors should be enquir'd into, as every one of those circumstances had some confiderable effect upon what he compos'd for it: The subject is certainly a good one, and will fall (we hope) ere it be long into the hands of some good writer; by whose abilities this great want may at length be made up to us, and the world of letters enrich'd by the happy acquisition of a masterly Life of Shakspeare. CAPELL.




Τ ο . Τ Η Ε

R E A A D D E R.

Tue want of adherence to the old copies, which has been complain'd of, in the text of every modern republication of Shakspeare, is fairly deducible from Mr. Rowe's inattention to one of the first duties of an editor. 3 Mr. Rowe did not print from the earliest and most correct, but from the most remote and inaccurate of the four folios.

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• First printed in 1973. MALONE.

36 I must not (fays Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the Duke of Somerset) pretend to have restor'd this work to the exactness of the author's original manufcripts: those are loft, or, at leaf, are gone beyond any enquiry I could make ; fo

Between the years 1623 and 1685 (the dates of the first and last) the errors in every play, at least, were trebled. Several pages in each of these ancient editions have been examined, that the assertion might come more fully supported. It may be added, that as every fresh editor continued to make the text of his predeceffor the ground-work of his own (never collating but where difficulties occurred) fome deviations from the originals had been handed down, the number of which are lefsened in the impression before us, as it has been constantly compared with the most authentick copies, whether collation was absolutely necessary for the recovery of sense, or not. The person who undertook this talk may have fail'd by inadvertency, as well as those who preceded him; but the reader may be assured, that he, who thought it his duty to free an author from such modern and unnecessary innovations as had been censuredin others, has not ventured to introduce any of his own.

It is not pretended that a complete body of various readings is here collected; or that all the diversities which the copies exhibit, are pointed

that there was nothing left, but to compare the several editions, , and give the true reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many places intelligible, that were not fo before. In some of the editions, efpecially the last, there were many lines (and in Hamlet one whole fçene) left out together; these are now all fupply'd. I fear your grace will find some faults, but I hope they are mostly literal, and the errors of the prefs." Would not any one, from this declaration, fuppose that Mr. Rowe (who does not appear to have consulted a single quarto ), had at least compared the folios with eack Other? STEEVENS.

- out; as near two thirds of them are typographical

mistakes, or such a change of insignificant particles, as would croud the bottom of the page with an oftentation of materials, from which at last nothing useful could be selected.

The dialogue might indeed sometimes be lengthened by other insertions than have hitherto been made, but without advantage either to its spirit or beauty; as in the following instance:

Lear. No.
" Kent. Yes.
Lear. No, I say.
Kent. I say, yea."

Here the quartos add:

" Lear. No, no, they would not.
" Kent. Yes, they have."

By the admission of this negation and affirmation, has any new idea been gained ?

The labours of preceding editors have not left room for a boast, that many valuable readings have been retrieved; though it may be fairly asserted, that the text of Shakspeare'is restored to the condition in which the author, or rather his first publishers, appear to have left it, such emendations as were absolutely necessary, alone admitted: for where a particle, indispensably necessary to the sense, was wanting, such a supply has been filently adopted from other editions; but where a syllable, or more, had been added for the sake of the metre


only, which at first might have been irregular, fuch interpolations are here constantly retrenched, sometimes with, and sometimes without notice. Those speeches, which in the elder editions are printed as prose , and from their own construction are incapable of being compressed into verse, without the aid of supplemental syllables, are restored to profe again; and the measure is divided afreih in others, where the mass of words had been inharmoniously separated into lines.

The scenery, throughout all the plays, is regu. lated in conformity to a rule, which the poet, by his general practice seems to have proposed to himself. Several of his pieces are come down to us, divided into scenes as well as acts. These divisions were probably his own, as they are made on settled principles, which would hardly have been the case, had the task been executed by the players. A change of scene, with Shakspeare, most commonly implies a change of place, but always an entire evacuation of the stage. The custom of distinguishing every entrance or exit by a fresh scene, was adopted, perhaps very idly, from the French theatre.

For the length of many notes, and the accumulation of examples in others, some apology may

be likewise expected. An attempt at brevity is often found to be the source of an imperfect explanation. Where a passage has been constantly misunderstood, or where the jest or pleasantry has been suffered to remain long in obfcurity, more instances have been brought to clear the one, or elucidate the other,

* I retract this supposition, which was too haftily formed. See note on The Tempest, Vol. IV. p. 68. STEEVENS. VOL. I.


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than appear at first sight to have been necessary. For these, it can only be said, that when they prove that phraseology or source of merriment to have been once general, which at present seems particular , they are not quite impertinently intruded; as they may serve to free the author from a suspicion of having employed an affected fingularity of expreffion, or indulged himself in allusions to tranfient customs, which were not of sufficient notoriety to deserve ridicule or reprehenfion. When examples in favour of contradictory opinions are afsembled, though no attempt is made to decide on either part, such neutral collections should always be regarded as materials for future criticks, who may hereafter apply them with success. Authorities, whe. ther in refpex of words, or things, are not always producible from the most celebrated writers; ? yet

5 Mr. T. Warton in his excellent Remarks on the faery Queen of Spenser, offers a similar apology for having introduced illustrations from obfolete literature. “I fear (fays he) I shall be censured for quoting too many pieces of this fort, But experience has fatally proved, that the commentator on Spenser, Jonson, and the rest of our elder poets, will in vain give fpecimens of his classical erudition, unless, at the same time, he brings to his work a mind intimately acquainted with those books, which, though now forgotten, were yet in common use and high repute about the time in which his authors respectively wrote, and which they consequently must have read. While these are unknown, many allusions and many imitations will either remain obscure, or lose half their beauty and propriety: 6 as the figures vanish when the canvas is decayed.

- Pope laughs at Theobald for giving us, in his edition of Shakspeare, a sample of

all such READING as was never read. But these strange and ridiculous books which Theobald

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