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power :-“I will conclude by saying of decimos. The title-page of Theobald's ShakShakspeare, that, with all his faults, and with spere bore that it was 'collated with the all the irregularity of his drama, one may oldest copies, and corrected, with Notes.' look upon his works, in comparison of those Pope's edition was not again reprinted in that are more finished and regular, as upon London ; but of Theobald's there have been an ancient majestic piece of Gothic archi- many subsequent editions, and Steevens astecture compared with a neat modern build- serts that of his first edition thirteen thousand ing; the latter is more elegant and glaring, copies were sold. Looking at the advantage but the former is more strong and more which Pope possessed in the pre-eminence of solemn. It must be allowed that in one of his literary reputation, the preference which these there are materials enough to make was so decidedly given to Theobald's editions many of the other. It has much the greater is a proof that the public thought for themvariety, and much the nobler apartments ; selves in the matter of Shakspere. Pope was though we are often conducted to them by not fitted for the more laborious duties of an dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does editor. He collated, indeed, the early copies, the whole fail to strike us with greater but he set about the emendation of the text reverence, though many of the parts are in a manner so entirely arbitrary, suppressing childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its passage after passage upon the principle that grandeur.”
the players had been at work here, and In 1726 LEWIS THEOBALD published a tract a blundering transcriber there, that no reader entitled 'Shakespear Restored, or Specimens of Shakspere could rely upon the integrity of Blunders Committed and Unamended in of Pope's version. Theobald states the conPope's Edition of this Poet.' In Pope's second trary mode in which he proceeded :edition of Shakspere, which appeared in " Wherever the author's sense is clear 1728, was inserted this contemptuous notice: and discoverable (though, perchance, low
Since the publication of our first edition, and trivial), I have not by any innovation there having been some attempts upon tampered with his text, out of an ostentation Shakspeare published by Lewis Theobald of endeavouring to make him speak better (which he would not communicate during than the old copies have done. the time wherein that edition was preparing Where, through all the former editions, for the press, when we, by public advertise a passage has laboured under flat nonsense ments, did request the assistance of all lovers and invincible darkness, if, by the addition of this author), we have inserted, in this or alteration of a letter or two, or a transimpression, as many of 'em as are judged of position in the pointing, I have restored to any the least advantage to the poet ; the him both sense and sentiment, such corwhole amounting to about twenty-five words.” rections, I am persuaded, will need no In the same year came out “The Dunciad,' indulgence. of which Theobald was the hero :
“And whenever I have taken a greater “ High on a gorgeous seat that far outshone
latitude and liberty in amending, I have Henley's gilt tub, or Flecknoe's Irish throne, constantly endeavoured to support my corGreat Tibbald nods."
rections and conjectures by parallel passages
and authorities from himself, the surest means In a few years Theobald was deposed from of expounding any author whatsoever.” this throne, and there, then, “Great Cibber Dr. Johnson accurately enough describes sate.” The facility with which Theobald the causes and consequences of Pope's was transformed to Cibber is one of the many failure :-“ Confidence is the common conproofs that Pope threw his darts and dirt sequence of success. They whose excellence about him at random. But Theobald took a of
any kind has been loudly celebrated are just revenge.
In 1733 he produced an ready to conclude that their powers are edition of Shakspere, in seven volumes octavo, universal. Pope's edition fell below his own which annihilated Pope's quartos and duo- expectations, and he was so much offended,
when he was found to have left anything for this great poet! In how many branches of others to do, that he passed the latter part excellence to consider and admire him! of his life in a state of hostility with verbal | Whether we view him on the side of art or criticism." But Johnson does not exhibit nature, he ought equally to engage our his usual good sense and knowledge of man attention : whether we respect the force and kind when he attributes Theobald's success greatness of his genius, the extent of his to the world's compassion. He calls him knowledge and reading, the power and weak and ignorant, mean and faithless, address with which he throws out and applies petulant and ostentatious; but he affirms either nature or learning, there is ample that this editor, “ by the good luck of having scope both for our wonder and pleasure. If Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and escaped his diction and the clothing of his thoughts alone, with reputation, from this undertaking. attract us, how much more must we be So willingly does the world support those charmed with the richness and variety of his who solicit favour against those who command images and ideas! If his images and ideas reverence; and so easily is he praised whom steal into our souls and strike upon our
can envy." This is mere fine fancy, how much are they improved in price writing. The real secret of Theobald’s when we come to reflect with what propriety success is stated by Johnson himself : and justness they are applied to character ! “Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of If we look into his characters, and how they narrow comprehension and small acquisitions, are furnished and proportioned to the emwith no native and intrinsic splendour of ployment he cuts out for them, how are we genius, with little of the artificial light of taken up with the mastery of his portraits ! learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, What draughts of nature ! What variety and not negligent in pursuing it. He collated of originals, and how differing each from the the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. other !” A man so anxiously scrupulous might have Undeterred by the failure of Pope in his been expected to do more, but what little he slashing amputations, Sir Thomas HANMER did was commonly right.” It was because appeared, in 1744, with a splendid edition in Theobald was “anxiously scrupulous," be
“anxiously scrupulous,” be- six volumes quarto, printed at the Oxford cause he did not attempt “to do more” than University Press. Nothing can be more an editor ought to do, that he had the public satisfactory than the paper and the type. support. Nearly every succeeding editor, in The work was intended as a monument to his scorn of Theobald, his confidence in the memory of Shakspere; one of the modes himself, and, what was the most influential, in which the national homage was to be his want of reverence for his author, en- expressed :—"Aș a fresh acknowledgment deavoured to make Shakspere “speak better hath lately been paid to his merit, and a than the old copies have done." Each for high regard to his name and memory, by a while had his applause, but it was not a erecting his statue at a public expense; so lasting fame.
it is desired that this new edition of his There is little in Theobald's Preface to works, which hath cost some attention and mark the progress of opinion on the writings care, may be looked upon as another small of Shakspere. Some parts of this Preface monument designed and dedicated to his are held to have been written by Warburton; honour.” Capell, who came next as but, if so, his arrogance must have been greatly editor, says truly of Hanmer that he “purmodified by Theobald's judgment. There is sues a track in which it is greatly to be not much general remark upon the character hoped he will never be followed in the of the poet's writings; but what we find is publication of any authors whatsoever, for sensibly conceived and not inelegantly ex this were in effect to annihilate them if pressed. We shall content ourselves with carried a little further.” Collins's 'Epistle extracting one passage: -“In how many to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of points of sight must we be obliged to gaze at | Shakspeare's Works' is an elegant though
not very vigorous attempt to express the practical wisdom, with a critic who delights universal admiration that the people of in the most extravagant paradoxes, we might England felt for the great national poet. prefer the amusement of Warburton's edition The verse-homage to Shakspere after the to toiling through the heaps of verbal days of Milton had no very original character. criticism which later years saw heaped up. The cuckoo-note with which these warblers Warburton, of course, belonged to the school generally interspersed their varied lays was of slashing emendators. The opening of his the echo of Milton's "wood-notes wild,” preface, tells us what we are to expect from which they did not perceive had a limited him :application to some particular play-As You “It hath been no unusual thing for Like It, for instance. In Rowe's prologue to writers, when dissatisfied with the patronage • Jane Shore' we have,
or judgment of their own times, to appeal to
posterity for a fair hearing. Some have even “In such an age immortal Shakspeare wrote, By no quaint rules nor hamp’ring critics thought fit to apply to it in the first instance,
and to decline acquaintance with the public taught; With rough majestic force he mov'd the heart, till envy and prejudice had quite subsided. And strength and nature made amends for But, of all the trusters to futurity, commend
me to the author of the following poems, who art."
not only left it to time to do him justice as Thomson asks
it would, but to find him out as it could : “ For lofty sense,
for, what between too great attention to his Creative fancy, and inspection keen Through the deep windings of the human profit as a player, and too little to his repu
tation as a poet, his works, left to the care of heart,
door-keepers and prompters, hardly escaped Is not wild Shakspeare thine and nature's boast ?”
the common fate of those writings, how good
soever, which are abandoned to their own T. Seward, addressing Stratford, says, fortune, and unprotected by party or cabal.
At length, indeed, they struggled into light; “ Thy bard was thine unschool'd.”
but so disguised and travestied, that no Collins's Epistle begins thus, speaking of the classic author, after having run ten secular works of Shakspere :
stages through the blind cloisters of monks “ Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd, and canons, ever came out in half so maimed Unown'd by science.”
and mangled a condition.”
There is little in Warburton's preface But Collins, in many respects a true poet, which possesses any lasting interest, perhaps has a higher inspiration in his invocations of with the exception of his defence against the the great master of the drama than most of
charge that editing Shakspere was unsuitable his fellows :
to his clerical profession :“O more than all in powerful genius bless'd, “ The great Saint Chrysostom, a name Come, take thine empire o'er the willing consecrated to immortality by his virtue and breast!
eloquence, is known to have been so fond of Whate'er the wounds this youthful heart shall | Aristophanes as to wake with him at his feel,
studies, and to sleep with him under his Thy songs support me, and thy morals heal.
pillow; and I never heard that this was There every thought the poet's warmth may objected either to his piety or his preaching, raise,
not even in those times of pure zeal and There native music dwells in all the lays.”
primitive religion. Yet, in respeet of ShakTo Hanmer succeeded WARBURTON, with a speare's great sense, Aristophanes's best wit new edition of Pope, enriched with his own is but buffoonery; and, in comparison of Arismost original notes. If it were not painful to tophanes's freedoms, Shakspeare writes with associate Shakspere, the great master of the purity of a vestal. Of all the literary
exercitations of speculative men, whether of all our passions, appetites, and pursuits. designed for the use or entertainment of These afford a lesson which can never be too the world, there are none of so much im- often repeated, or too constantly inculcated ; portance, or what are more our immediate and to engage the reader’s due attention to concern, than those which let us into the it hath been one of the principal objects of knowledge of our nature. Others may ex this edition. ercise the reason, or amuse the imagination; “As this science (whatever profound phibut these only can improve the heart, and losophers may think) is, to the rest, in things, form the human mind to wisdom. Now, in so, in words (whatever supercilious pedants this science our Shakspeare is confessed to may talk), every one's mother-tongue is to occupy the foremost place, whether we con all other languages. This hath still been the sider the amazing sagacity with which he sentiment of nature and true wisdom. Hence, investigates every hidden spring and wheel the greatest men of antiquity never thought of human action, or his happy manner of themselves better employed than in culcommunicating this knowledge, in the just tivating their own country idiom.” and living paintings which he has given us
JOHNSON.–VOLTAIRE.—MRS. MONTAGU.—MARTIN SHERLOCK.-HUME.
It was in the year 1741 that David Garrick at once leaped into eminence as an actor, such as had not been won by any man for half a century. He was the true successor of Burbage, Betterton, and Harris. principal fame was, however, like theirs, founded upon Shakspere. But it is a mistake to imagine that there had not been a constant succession of actors of Shakspere's great characters, from the death of Betterton to Garrick's appearance. His first character in London was Richard III. He made all the great parts of Shakspere familiar to the playgoing public for five-and-thirty years. The Alchymist’and the 'Volpone' of Ben Jonson were sometimes played ; "The Chances,' and • Rule a Wife and Have a Wife,' of Beaumont and Fletcher ; but we are told by Davies, in his ‘Dramatic Miscellanies,' that, of their fifty-four plays, only these two preserved their rank on the stage. This is a pretty convincing proof of what the public opinion of Shakspere was in the middle of the last century. The Prologue of Samuel Johnson, spoken by Garrick at the opening of Drurylane Theatre in 1747, is an eloquent expression of the same opinion :
“When Learning's triumph o'er her barbarous
fame, Nor wish'd for Jonson's art, or Shakspeare's
Vice always found a sympathetic friend; eighteenth century, when, according to the They pleas'd their age, and did not aim to epitaph, the poet's forms were sunk in death mend.
and lay in night, there had been thirteen Yet bards like these aspir'd to lasting praise, editions of Shakspere's collected works, nine And proudly hop'd to pimp in future days. of which had appeared during the preceding Their cause was gen’ral, their supports were
forty years. Of Ben Jonson there had been strong;
three editions in the seventeenth century, Their slaves were willing, and their reign was
and one in the eighteenth ; of Beaumont and long:
Fletcher two in the seventeenth century, and Till Shame regain’d the post that Sense be
one in the eighteenth. Yet, absurd and tray'd, And Virtue call'd Oblivion to her aid.
impertinent as it may be to talk of immortal
Garrick calling the plays of Shakspere back “ Then, crush'd by rules, and weakend as
to day, it cannot be denied that the very refin'd, For years the pow'r of Tragedy declin'd;
power of those plays to create a school of From bard to bard the frigid caution crept,
great actors was in itself a cause of their Till declamation roar'd whilst passion slept;
extension amongst readers. The most monYet still did Virtue deign the stage to tread,
strous alterations, perpetrated with the worst Philosophy remain'd though Nature filed. taste, and with the most essential ignorance But forc'd, at length, her ancient reign to quit, of Shakspere's art, were still in some sort She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of Wit; tributes to his power. The actors sent many Exulting Folly hail'd the joyous day, to read Shakspere with a true delight; and
And pantomime and song confirm'd her sway." then it was felt how little he needed the It is tolerably evident, from the whole tenour aid of acting, and how much indeed of his of this celebrated prologue, that of the early highest excellence could only be received dramatists Shakspere reigned upon the stage into the mind by reverent meditation. supreme, if not almost alone. It has been In 1765 appeared, in eight volumes octavo, the fault of actors, and the flatterers of The Plays of William Shakspeare, with the actors, to believe that a dramatic poet is Corrections and Illustrations of various Comonly known to the world through their lips. mentators : to which are added Notes by Garrick was held to have given life to Shak- Samuel Johnson.' This was the foundation spere. The following inscription on Garrick's of the variorum editions, the principle of tomb in Westminster Abbey has been truly which has been to select from all the comheld by Charles Lamb to be a farrago of mentary, or nearly all, that has been profalse thoughts and nonsense :"
duced, every opinion upon a passage, however To paint fair Nature, by divine command,
conflicting. The respective value of the Her magic pencil in her glowing hand,
critics who had preceded him are fully A Shakspeare rose; then, to expand his fame discussed by Johnson in the latter part of Wide o'er this breathing world, a Garrick his Preface: this branch of the subject
was only of temporary interest. But the Though sunk to death the forms the Poet larger portion of Johnson's Preface not only drew,
to a certain extent represented the tone of The Actor's genius bade them breathe anew; opinion in Johnson's age, but was written with Though, like the bard himself, in night they so much pomp of diction, with such apparent lay,
candour, and with such abundant manifestaImmortal Garrick call’d them back to day :
tions of good sense, that, perhaps more than And till Eternity with power sublime
any other production, it has influenced the Shall mark the mortal hour of hoary Time,
public opinion of Shakspere up to this day. Shakspeare and Garrick like twin stars shall
That the influence has been, for the most shine, And earth irradiate with a beam divine."
part, evil, we have no hesitation in believing.
This celebrated Preface is accessible to most Up to the end of the first half of the readers of Shakspere.