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October of the same year, when he writes, “I have a great number of notes, etc., on Shakespeare, for some future Edition” (id., p. 654). Here the correspondence ceases. Up to this time Warburton had aided Theobald's schemes of retaliating on Pope. We have his own authority for attributing to him the remark in Theobald's Preface that “it seems a moot point whether Mr. Pope has done most injury to Shakespeare as his Editor and Encomiast, or Mr. Rymer done him service as his Rival and Censurer.” It is probable even that he had a hand in Theobald's and Concanen's Art of a Poet's sinking in Reputation, or a Supplement to the Art of sinking in Poetry.
Warburton then gave his services to Sir Thomas Hanmer. They had become acquainted by 1736, and they corresponded frequently till Warburton's visit to Mildenhall in May, 1737. It is needless to enter into their quarrel, for the interest of it is purely personal. Hanmer told his version of it to Joseph Smith, the Provost of Queen's College, Oxford, in his letter of 28th October, 1742, and Warburton gave his very different account nineteen years later, on 29th January, 1761, when he discovered that Hanmer's letter was about to be published in the Biographia Britannica. In the absence of further evidence it is impossible to decide with whom the truth rests. The dignity of Hanmer's letter wins favour by contrast with the violence of Warburton's. Yet there must be some truth in Warburton's circumstantial details, though his feelings may have prevented his seeing them in proper perspective. He says that Hanmer used his notes without his knowledge. The statement is probably accurate. But when Hanmer says that Warburton's notes were 'sometimes just but mostly wild and out of the way, we are satisfied, from what we know of Warburton's other work, that the criticism was merited. Hanmer apparently found that Warburton did not give him much help, and Warburton may have been annoyed at failing to find Hanmer as docile as Theobald. They had quarrelled by September, 1739,
when Warburton records that he has got all his letters and papers out of Sir Thomas Hanmer's hands (Nichols, Illustrations, ii. 110. See also Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, v. 588-590; Biographia Britannica, vol vi. (1763), pp. 3743-4, and appendix, p. 223 ; Philip Nichols, The Castrated Letter of Sir Thomas Hanmer, 1963; and Bunbury, Correspondence of Hanmer, pp. 85-90).
During his friendship with Hanmer, Warburton had not lost sight of his own edition. The quarrel was precipitated by Hanmer's discovery of Warburton's intention; but there is no evidence that Warburton had tried to conceal it. Everything goes to show that each editor was so immersed in his own scheme that he regarded the other as his collaborator. Hanmer did not know at first that Warburton was planning an edition as a means of making some money ; and Warburton had not suspected that Hanmer would publish an edition at all. This is the only reasonable inference to be drawn from a letter written by him to the Rev. Thomas Birch in October, 1737. “You are pleased to enquire about Shakespeare,” he writes. “I believe (to tell it as a secret) I shall, after I have got the whole of this work out of my hands which I am now engaged in, give an Edition of it to the world. Sir Thomas Hanmer has a true critical genius, and has done great things in this Author ; so you may expect to see a very extraordinary edition of its kind. I intend to draw up and prefix to it a just and complete critique on Shakespeare and his Works.” This letter reads curiously in the light of after events; but it proves, if it proves anything, that Warburton did not suspect Hanmer's scheme, and believed that Hanmer was helping him in his edition. It is equally plain that Hanmer believed he was being helped by Warburton.
Announcements of Warburton's forthcoming edition were made in Birch's article on Shakespeare in the General Dictionary, Historical and Critical, vol. ix., January, 1739-40, and in the History of the Works of the Learned for 1740 (Nichols, Illustrations, ii., pp. 72-4,
and Lit. Anecdotes, V., p. 559). But there were no signs of its appearance, and Hanmer had good reason to say in October, 1742, in his letter to Joseph Smith, “I am satisfied there is no edition coming or likely to come from Warburton; but it is a report raised to support some little purpose or other, of which I see there are many on foot.” Up to this time Warburton had merely suggested emendations and puzzled out explanations: he had not set to work seriously on the complete text. Since 1740, when he published the Vindication of the Essay on Man, his critical and polemical talents had been devoted to the service of Pope. To judge from what he says in his Preface, his project of an edition of Shakespeare might have been abandoned had not Pope persuaded him to proceed with it by the offer of making it appear their joint work. Pope had nothing to do with it, for it was not begun till after his death. But it was a cruel fate that what professed to be a new edition of his · Shakespeare' should really be founded on Theobald's. The knowledge of Theobald's use of the Quartos and Folios led Warburton to commit a detestable quibble on his title-page. There is said to be no evidence that Warburton himself had consulted them. Yet the statement that his text is “collated with all the former editions” is not absolutely without the bounds of truth : Theobald had consulted them, and Warburton does not say that he had consulted them himself. What Warburton did was to give full play to his talent for emendation, and to indulge what Johnson called his rage for saying something when there is nothing to be said. Yet we are too prone to depreciate Warburton. He has prejudiced his reputation by his arrogance and his contemptuous malignity ; but we do him an injustice if we endeavour to gauge his merit only by comparing his edition with those of his immediate predecessors. No early editor of Shakespeare has gained more than Theobald and suffered more than Warburton by the custom of attributing the whole merit of an edition to
him whose name is on the title page. When we read their correspondence and see their editions in the making, it is not difficult to realise what Johnson meant when he said that Warburton as a critic would make “two and fifty Theobalds, cut into slices.”
Johnson's Preface is here reprinted from the edition of 1777, the last to appear in his lifetime. The more important of the few alterations made on the original Preface of 1765 are pointed out in the notes.
In 1745 Johnson had published his Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth : with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer's Edition of Shakespeare. To which is affixed Proposals for a new Edition of Shakespeare, with a Specimen. As Warburton's edition was expected, this anonymous scheme met with no encouragement, and Johnson laid it aside till 1756, when he issued new Proposals. In the interval he had written of Shakespeare in the admirable Prologue which inaugurated Garrick's rule. at Drury Lane, and had shadowed in the Rambler and in the Dedication to Mrs. Lennox's Shakespear Illustrated (1753) much of what was to appear in perfect form in the Preface of 1765. It was one of the conditions in the Proposals that the edition was to be published on or before Christmas, 1757. As in the case of the Dictionary Johnson underestimated the labour which such a work involved. In December, 1757, we find him saying that he will publish about March, and in March he says it will be published before summer. He must have made considerable progress at this time, as, according to his own statement, “many of the plays” were then printed. But its preparation was interrupted by the Idler (April, 1758, to April, 1760). Thereafter Johnson would appear to have done little to it till he was awakened to activity by the attack on him in Churchill's Ghost (1763). "The
edition at length appeared in October, 1765. “In 1764 and 1765,” says Boswell, “it should seem that Dr. Johnson was so busily employed with his edition of Shakespeare as to have had little leisure for any other literary exertion, or indeed even for private correspondence.” The Preface was also published by itself in 1765 with the title-Mr. Johnson's Preface to his Edition of Shakespear's Plays.
The work immediately attracted great attention. Kenrick lost no time in issuing A Review of Doctor Johnson's New Edition of Shakespeare : in which the Ignorance or Inattention of that Editor is exposed, and the Poet defended from the Persecution of his Commentators, 1765. Johnson was “above answering for himself,” but James Barclay, an Oxford student, replied for him, to his annoyance, in An Examination of Mr. Kenrick's Review, 1766, and Kenrick himself rejoined in A Defence of Mr. Kenrick's Review. . . . By a Friend, 1766. The most important criticism of the edition was Tyrwhitt's Observations and Conjectures upon some Passages of Shakespeare, issued anonymously by the Clarendon Press in 1766. Though we read that “the author has not entered into the merits of Mr. Johnson's performance, but has set down some observations and conjectures,” the book is in effect an examination of Johnson's edition. Notices appeared also in the Monthly and Critical Reviews, the London Magazine, the Gentleman's Magazine, and the Annual Register. The Monthly Review devotes its two articles (October and November, 1765) chiefly to the Preface. It examines at considerable length Johnson's arguments against the ‘unities, and concludes that “there is hardly one of them which does not seem false or foreign to the subject.” The Critical Review, on the other hand, pronounces them “ worthy of Mr. Johnson's pen"; and the London Magazine admits their force, though it wishes that Johnson had “ rather retained the character of a reasoner than assumed that of a pleader.”