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some lacunæ, that are in all the other editions, have been judiciously filld up in modern impressions by the authority of these copies; and in some particular passages of them, where there happens to be a greater conformity than usual between them and the more perfect editions, there is here and there a various reading that does honour to the poet's judgment, and should upon that account, be presum'd the true one; in other respects, they have neither use nor merit, but are merely curiosities.
Proceed we then to a description of the other fourteen. They all abound in faults, though not in equal degree; and those faults are so numerous, and of so many different natures, that nothing but a perusal of the pieces themselves can give an adequate conception of them; but amongst them are these that follow. Divisions of acts and scenes, they have none, “ Othello” only excepted, which is divided into acts: entries of persons are extremely imperfect in them, (sometimes more, sometimes fewer, than the scene requires), and their exits are very often omitted; or when mark’d, not always in the right place; and few scenical directions are to be met with throughout the whole: speeches are frequently confounded, and given to wrong persons, either whole, or in part; and sometimes, instead of the person speaking, you have the actor who presented him: and in two of the plays, (“Love's Labour's Lost,” and “ Troilus and Cressida”), the same matter, and in nearly the same words, is set down twice in some passages; which who sees not to be only a negligence of the poet, and that but one of them ought to have been printed? But the reigning fault of all is in the measure: prose is very often printed as verse, and verse as prose; or, where rightly printed verse, that verse is not always right divided : and in all these pieces, the songs are in every particular still more corrupt than the other parts of them. These are the general and principal defects: to which if you add_transposition of words, sentences, lines, and even speeches; words omitted, and others added without reason; and a punctuation so deficient, and so often wrong, that it hardly deserves regard; you have, upon the whole, a true but melancholy picture of the condition of these first printed plays: which bad as it is is yet better than that of those which came after; or than that of the subsequent folio impression of some of these which we are now speaking of.
This folio impression was sent into the world seven years after the author's death, by two of his fellowplayers; and contains, besides the last mention'd fourteen, the true and genuine copies of the other six plays, and sixteen that were never publish'd before: the editors make great professions of fidelity, and some complaint of injury done to them and the author by stolen and maim'd copies, giving withal an advantageous, if just, idea of the copies which they have follow'd; but see the terms they make use of: “It had been a thing, we confesse, worthie to have bene wished, that the author himselfe had liv'd to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have collected & published them; and so to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious imposters, that expos'd them; even those, are now offer'd to your view cur’d, and perfect of their limbes;
and all the rest absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His minde and hand went together: and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.” Who now does not feel himself inclin'd to expect an accurate and good performance in the edition of these prefacers? But alas, it is nothing less: for (if we except the six spurious ones, whose places were then suppli’d by true and genuine copies) the editions of plays preceding the folio, are the very basis of those we have there; which are either printed from those editions, or from the copies which they made use of; and this is principally evident in–First and Second “ Henry IV.," “ Love's Labour's Lost,” “Merchant of Venice,” “ Midsummer-Night's Dream," " Much Ado About Nothing,” “Richard II.," “ Titus Andronicus,” and “ Troilus and Cressida”; for in the others we see somewhat a greater latitude as was observ'd a little above: but in these plays, there is an almost strict conformity between the two impressions : some additions are in the second, and some omissions; but the faults and errors of the quartos are all preservd in the folio, and others added to them; and what difference there is, is generally for the worse on the side of the folio editors; which should give us but faint hopes of meeting with greater accuracy in the plays which they first publish'd; and, accordingly, we find them subject to all the imperfections that have been noted in the former: nor is their edition in general distinguish'd by any mark of preference above the earliest quartos, but that some of their plays are divided into acts, and some others into acts and scenes ; and that with