« ZurückWeiter »
preserve it with care and caution in proportion to its value. Mr. Malone characterises the bust, for its "pertness of countenance; and therefore totally differing from that placid composure and thoughtful gravity, so perceptible in his original portrait, and his best prints. Our poets monument, having been erected by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, the statuary probably had the assistance of some picture, and failed from want of skill to copy it." Thus prepossession and prejudice will always pervert facts, and resort lo sophistry. In spite of all that has been advanced by Mr. Malone, by Jonson, and by other writers, in behalf of different pictures and prints professing to be the head of Shakspeare, they are all unsatisfactory, and mostly futile: for a bad artist can never produce a good likeness, nor can we place any reliance on the execution of an unskilful engraver, or a worn-out picture. Whatever comes in "a questionable shape," should be severely and fastidiously investigated; if not authenticated by proof, or supported by powerful probability, sliould be bauished from the page of history, and from the receptacles of belief.
From what has already been stated, it is evident that the writings of Shakspeare have progressively acquired considerable publicity; and that they now rank as chief, or in the first list, of British classics. This high celebrity is to be attributed to various secondary causes, as well as to their own intrinsic merits. To players, critics, biographers, and artists, a large portion of this fame is to be ascribed; for had the plays been represented by Garrick, Kemble, &c. as originally published by Condell and Hemynge, or reprinted verbatim from that text, the spectators to the one, and readers of the other, woold have been comparatively limited. It is talent only that can properly represent and appreciate talent. The birth and productions of one man of brilliant genius will stimulate the emulation, and call into action the full powers of a correllative mind. Hence the British tlieatrical hemisphere has been repeatedly illumined by the corroscations of a Garrick, Henderson, Pritchard, Kemble, Siddons, Cooke, Young, and Kean : and these performers have derived no small portion of their justly acquired fame, from the exquisite and powerful writings of the bard of Avon, Whilst the one may be considered as the creator of thought and inventor of character, the others have personified and given “local habitation” and existence to the poetical vision. The painter has also been usefully and honourably employed in delineating incidents, and portraying characters from the poet: whilst the engraver has translated these designs into a new language, and given them extensive circulation and permanent record. It may thus be said that the works of Sbakspeare have conferred a literary and dramatic immortality on Great Britain, which nothing less than annihilation can destroy.
It may be both useful and amusing to close this essay with an account of the principal editions of Shakspeare's plays and poems, and also with an enumeration of the most considerable volumes and pamphlets that have been expressly devoted to comment on, elucidate, or perplex the original writings.
The first collection of Shakspeare's plays was pahlished in 1623, with the following title: '“Mr. Willian Sbakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true original copies. London: printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623," folio. Tbis volume was edited by John Hemynge and Henry Condell, and was dedicated to “the most incomparable pair of brethren” William, Earl of Pembroke, and Philip, Earl of Montgomery. In the title page is a portrait, said to be a likeness of the author, with the engraver's vame, “ Martin Droeshout, Sculspit, London;" and on the opposite page are these lines by Ben Jonson, addressed "To the Reader."
“This figure that thou here sees't put,
The above volume, was carefully reprinted in close imitation of the original, a few years back, by J. Wright, for Vernon and Hood, London.
A second edition of Shakspeare's plays was published in folio, in 1632; a third in 1664, and a fourth in 1685. These several impressions are usually denominated “ ancient editions,” because published within the first century after the death of the poet, and before any comments or elucidations were employed to expound the original text.
Of those editions which are distinguished by the title modern, the earliest was published by Nicholas Rowe in 1709, in 6 vols. 8vo. This was followed by an edition in 12mo. by the same author in 1714; and to both were prefixed a biographical memoir of the illustrious bard. In 1725 Pope, who first introduced critical and emendatory notes, published his edition in 6 vols. 4to. with a preface, which Johnson characterizes as valuable alike for composition and justness of remark. A second edition by the same editor was published in 10 vols. 12mo. with additional notes and corrections, in 1728. The successor of Pope was Theobald, who produced a very elaborate edition in 7 vols. 8vo. in 1733; and a second, with corrections and additions, in 8 rols. 12mo. in 1740. Sir Thomas Hanmer next turned his attention to the illustration of Shakspeare, and in 1744 gave the world an edition of his plays in 6 vols. 4to. Warburton published his edition in 8 vols. 8vo. in 1747; from which time vo critic attempted the task, till the year 1765; when Dr. Johnson's first edition made its appearance, in 8 vols. 8vo. It was preceded by an able and ingenious preface, in which the character of Shakspeare's writings, and the merits of his cominentators, are discussed with that perspicuity and critical judgment for which this renowned author was so much distinguished. In 1766, Steevens's edition was published in 4 vols. 8vo. This was followed in 1768, by an edition in 10 vols. crown 8vo. by Mr. Capell. Next came out, in 1791, a second and improved 4to. edition by Sir Thomas Hanmer, which was succeeded by an edition in 10 vols. 8io. in 1773, by Johnson and Steevens, conjointly, of this last, a second edition was published in 1778; a third, revised and corrected by Reed, in 1785. In the year following was produced the first volume of the dramatic works of Shakspeare, with notes by Joseph Rann, A.M. which work was completed in 6 volš. 8vo. 1794. In 1784 was published, in 1'vol. royal 8vo. an edition printed for Slockdale, with a very copious verbal index, hy the Rev. Mr. Ayscough. Bell's edition appeared in 1788, in 20 vols. 12.no,; and in 1790, Malone's was ushered into the world, in 10 vols. crown 8vo. In 1793 -a fourth edition, by Johnson and Steevens, &c. “revised and augmented,” in 15 vols. 8vo. was edited by Reed. A fifth edition, in 21 vols. 8vo. was published in 1803; and another edition, with corrections, &c. appeared in 1813.
Many other impressions of our author's plays have been published by different booksellers, in different sizes, and of various degrees of typographic merit. Most of them however are unauthenticated reprints : . but many of them have the popular attraction of embellishments. The most splendid of this class was published by Boydell, in 9 vols. folio. embellished with 100 engravings, executed by, and from artists of the first eminence. The same work was also printed in 4to. In 1805, was published an edition of Shakspeare's plays in 10 vols. 8vo. with a prefatory essay, by Alexander Chalmers, F. S. A. and a print to each play from a design by Henry Fuseli, Esq. R. A.
LIST OF DETACHED ESSAYS AND DISSERTATIONS
ON THE WRITINGS OF SHAKSPEARE. 1. A short View of Tragedy; its original Excellency and Corruption; with some Reflections on Sbakspeare and other Practitioners for the Stage. By Mr. Rymer, Servant to their Majesties. 8vo. 1693.
2. Remarks on the Plays of Shakspeare. By C. Gildon, 8vo. Printed at the end of the seventh volume of Rowe's edition, 1710.
3. An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shake speare, with some Letters of Criticism to the Spectator. By Mr. Dennis. 8vo. 1712.
4. Shakspeare Restored: or a Specimen of the many Errors, as well committed as unamended, by Mr. Pope, in his late Edition of this poet. Designed not only to correct the said Edition, but to restore the true Reading of Shakspeare in all the Editions ever yet published. By Mr. Theobald. 4to. 1726.
5. An Answer to Mr. Pope's Preface to Shakspeare, in a Letter to a Friend ; being a Vindication of the old Actors, who were the Publishers and Performers of that Author's Plays. Whereby the Errors of their Edition are further accounted for, and some Memoirs of Shakspeare and the Stage History of his Time are inserted, which were never before collected and published. By a Strolling Player (John Roberts.) 8vo. 1729.
6. Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, written by William Shakspeare. Printed for W. Wilkins. 8vo. 1736.
7. Explanatory and critical Notes on divers Passages of Sbakspeare's Plays. By Francis Peck. Printed with his new Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. John Milton. 4to. 1740.
8. An Essay towards fixing the true Standards of Wit and Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule : to which is added, an Analysis of the Characters of a Humourist, Sir John Falstaff, Sir Roger de Coverley, and Don Quixote. (By Corbyn Morris.) 8vo. 1744.
9 Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer's Edition of Shakspeare. To which is affixed, Proposals for a new Edition of Shakspeare, with a Specimen. (By Dr. Samuel Johnson.) 12mo. 1745.