« AnteriorContinuar »
strength in itself, we omitted to bring before, as having better (as we thought) and more forcible to offer; but it had behov'd those gentlemen who have question'd the plays to have got rid of it in the first instance as it lies full in their way in the very entrance upon this dispute.
We shall close this part of the introduction with some observations, that were reserv'd for this place, upon that paragraph of the player-editor's preface which is quoted at p. 190; and then taking this further liberty with the reader,—to call back his attention to some particulars that concern the present edition, dismiss him to be entertain'd (as we hope) by a sort of appendix, consisting of those notes that have been mention'd, in which the true and undoubted originals of almost all the poet's fables are clearly pointed out. But first of the preface. Besides the authenticity of all the several pieces that make up this collection, and their care in publishing them, both solemnly affirm'd in the paragraph refer'd to, we there find these honest editors acknowledging in terms equally solemn the author's right in his copies, and lamenting that he had not exercis'd that right by a publication of them during his life-time; and from the manner in which they express themselves, we are strongly inclin'd to think—that he had really form’d such a design, but towards his last days, and too late to put it in execution : a collection of Jonson's was at that instant in the press, and upon the point of coming forth; which might probably inspire such a thought into him and his companions, and produce conferences between them— about a similar publication from him, and the pieces that should compose it, which the poet might make a list of. It is true, this is only a supposition; but a supposition arising naturally, as we think, from the incident that has been mention'd, and the expressions of his fellow-players and editors: and, if suffer'd to pass for truth, here is a good and sound reason for the exclusion of all those other plays that have been attributed to him upon some grounds or other ;-he himself has proscrib’d them; and we cannot forbear hoping, that they will in no future time rise up against him, and be thrust into his works; a disavowal of weak and idle pieces, the productions of green years, wantonness, or inattention, is a right that all authors are vested with; and should be exerted by all, if their reputation is dear to them; had Jonson us'd it, his character had stood higher than it does. But, after all, they who have pay'd attention to this truth are not always secure; the indiscreet zeal of an admirer, or avarice of a publisher, has frequently added things that dishonour them; and where realities have been wanting, forgeries supply the place; thus has Homer his Hymns, and the poor Mantuan his Ciris and his Culex. Noble and great authors demand all our veneration : where their wills can be discover'd, they ought sacredly to be comply'd with; and that editor ill discharges his duty, who presumes to load them with things they have renounc'd: it happens but too often, that we have other ways to shew our regard to them; their own great want of care in their copies, and the still greater want of it that is commonly in their impressions, will find sufficient exercise for any one's friendship, who may wish to see their works set forth in that perfection which was intended by the author. And this friendship we have endeavour'd to shew to Shakespeare in the present edition; the plan of it has been lay'd before the reader; upon whom it rests to judge finally of its goodness, as well as how it is executed: but as several matters have interven'd that may have driven it from his memory; and we are desirous above all things to leave a strong impression upon him of one merit which it may certainly pretend to, that is—it's fidelity; we shall take leave to remind him, at parting, that—Throughout all this work, what is added without the authority of some ancient edition, is printed in a black letter: what alter'd, and what thrown out, constantly taken notice of; some few times in a note, where the matter was long, or of a complex nature; but, more generally, at the bottom of the page; where what is put out of the text, how minute and insignificant soever, is always to be met with; what alter'd, as constantly set down, and in the proper words of that edition upon which the alteration is form'd: and, even in authoriz'd readings, whoever is desirous of knowing further, what edition is follow'd preferably to the others, may be gratify'd too in that, by consulting the “ Various Readings ” ; which are now finish’d; and will be publish'd, together with the “Notes," in some other volumes, with all the speed that is convenient. • Here follows a summary, filling several pages, of the original sources of Shakespeare's plays. As it has no critical value it is here omitted.
means of his parents allowed, but was wisely directed in his reading by his father. Beginning life as clerk in a solicitor's office, he became a conveyancer, and finally adopted literature. He was the friend of Horace Walpole, Bishop Percy, Dr. Farmer, and even George Steevens, with whom he was associated in Shakespearean criticism. He was a modest man, the editor of a number of memoirs and collected works, to which he rarely attached his name, and of which little note is taken at this day, save his edition of “ Doddsley's Old Plays,” and his additions and augmentations to the Johnson and Steevens edition of Shakespeare, published in 1785, again in 1793, and a fifth edition in twenty-one volumes, after his death in 1813.
Reed's Advertisement, which follows, gives us the quality of the man, modest, sincere, and honest.
REED'S ADVERTISEMENT [The third edition, prefixed to a revision of Johnson and Steevens's text, 1785.)
The works of Shakespeare, during the last twenty years, have been the objects of publick attention more than at any former period. In that time the various editions of his performances have been examined, his obscurities illuminated, his defects pointed out, and his beauties displayed, so fully, so accurately, and in so satisfactory a manner, that it might reasonably be presumed little would remain to be done by either new editors or new commentators: yet, though the diligence and sagacity of those gentlemen who contributed towards the last edition of this author may seem to have almost exhausted the subject, the same train of enquiry has brought to light new discoveries, and accident will probably continue to produce further illustrations, which may render some alterations necessary in every succeeding republication.
Since the last edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for elucidating Shakespeare, which appeared in most of the gentlemen whose names are affixed to the notes, has suffered little abatement. The same persevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the same laborious search into the literature, the manners, and the customs of the times, which was formerly so successfully employed, has remained undiminished.
By these aids some new information has been 'obtained, and some new materials collected. From the assistance of such writers, even Shakespeare will receive no discredit.
When the very great and various talents of the last editor, particularly for this work, are considered, it will occasion much regret to find, that having superintended two editions of his favourite author through the press, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the present edition to one who laments yith the rest of the world the secession of his predecessor; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority,