Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a

now thinks just. From an ultra-conservative of the old printed text he suddenly became a radical reformer, and having before adopted corrupt readings in preference to faultless emendations, he was now ready to espouse a bad conjecture of his MS. Corrector in preference to the unexceptionable readings of his discarded quartos. · A considerable controversy arose on the occasion, and among the combatants was Mr. Dyce, the present editor of Shakespeare, who showed that many of the Corrector's emendations are obviously wrong, and that many which seem right are demonstrably wrong. A fair number he admits, but to the collection, as a whole, he is not, we think, sufficiently indulgent. This antagonism vexes Mr. Collier, and a recent edition of his Shakespeare contains a recriminatory preface dictated by a sore spirit, and overflowing with much bitterness of insinuation and complaint. Into the personal controversy, in which Mr. Collier has lost the self command for which he was once honourably distinguished, we have no occasion to enter. The points are too petty for discussion. But the degree of authority to be assigned to the MS. Corrector is a question of real importance, and we will give from Mr. Dyce's Preface a couple of examples of emendations in the folio notes that prove the annotator in those instances to have proceeded upon conjecture alone. In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona,' act iv. sc. 4, the first folio reads

• Her eyes are grey as glass ;' upon which Theobald cites from Chaucer, ‘hire eyen gray as glass. The second folio misprints the last word grass; and the Corrector, not seeing which word is at fault, establishes sense by changing grey to green; the text therefore becomes, 'Her eyes are green as grass. Green eyes, like an eagle's, were indeed admired of old; but grass green is not, for eyes, a lady's colour. Yet Mr. Collier abides, in his second edition, by the MS. Corrector, and declines to look back to the former folio, into which the misprint had not crept. In his supplemental notes, written after he had seen Mr. Dyce's comment on this passage,

he still does not hint at the existence of the right reading in the previous folio. He quotes a verse from Gascoigne, in which is the expression grey as glass, and adds, 'grey as glass may certainly be right. Yet there is not only the evidence of

' common sense, but proof of writ that certainly it is right. This is the smallest matter; we lay upon it no stress whatever : yet upon small matters like these is it worth while for any one engaged upon a study of the highest efforts of man's genius to insinuate petty charges of suppression, malice, obstinacy, selfseeking, and other mean offences ?

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Again Mr. Dyce cites from King Henry IV.,' act iv. sc. 1, the correction on the lines--

And

your tongue divine To a loud trumpet and a point of war.'

2 The last words are altered by the Corrector to report of war. Mr. Collier says this must stand in future because 'a point of war' can have no meaning. Mr. Dyce quotes Peele's · Edward I.' from Mr. Collier's own edition of Dodsley's Plays

Matravers, thou
Sound proudly here a perfect point of war

In honour of thy sovereign's safe return.' Here therefore the Corrector could have had no authentic version to guide him, since his alteration is suggested solely by his ignorance of the language of Shakespeare's day. But we shall perhaps best do justice to the editions of Mr. Dyce and Mr. Collier, if we follow their variations of text through one consecutive act of a play, and note as we pass whatever is suggested by the MS. Corrector. We cannot be more impartial than to take the first that comes, the opening act of the • Tempest.

We begin with a notable diversity. The master shouts, Boatswain!' the boatswain shouts,

the boatswain shouts, 'Here, master; what cheer?' In Mr. Collier's text the master replies, .Good.' His master, therefore, tells the boatswain that the cheer is good, and defines the good cheer by adding, 'Speak to the mariners; fall to't yarely or we run ourselves aground.' A reading is hardly to be adopted which represents the master as calling good cheer' an imminent risk of being shipwrecked. Mr. Dyce, with Mr. Halliwell, to the formal seaman's response,' Here, master; what cheer ?' makes the master hurriedly say, 'Good, speak to the mariners ; fall to 't yarely,' &c. Good, for a familiar and hasty forın of address, as in 'Good, now, I beseech you,' was common enough.

Alonzo, presently entering, accosts the boatswain in like form - Good boatswain, have care - Have a care,' says here the MS. Corrector. Have care,' is pithier and better English, and is better suited to the energy and hurry of the moment Mr. Collier adopts the a, but for no other reason than because he finds it in his book of annotations.

Let's all sink with 'king;' the commentator substitutes the word 'the' for the apostrophe that signifies it. This is a reading which had long been adopted, and we owe no thanks for it to the MS. Corrector. The annotator next reads : Welkin's heat' for "Welkin's

cheek,'

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

6

[ocr errors]

cheek, and Mr. Collier and Mr. Dyce alike reject the alteration; Shakespeare speaks elsewhere of the welkin's face and cheeks of heaven.

The ship with some noble creature in her.' The Corrector here reads creatures ; ' so did Theobald, so do Mr. Dyce and Mr. Collier.

Prospero speaks of 'provision in mine art;' and upon this the MS. Corrector suggests, as Mr. Hunter had suggested, prevision. Mr. Dyce, perceiving that provision means foresight, does not accept the change. As Mr. Collier shows, the passage in its usual form was clear enough to A. W. Schlegel, who translated provision, Vorsicht. Provisions are so called because they are foreseen supplies. There is no occasion for the proposed change, and Mr. Dyce is quite right in excluding it. The next alteration is the prosaic change of

6 thout wast not

Out three years old' to thou wast not quite three years old,' and it has very properly been declined by Mr. Collier himself as well as Mr. Dyce.

Prospero having told Miranda that her father was a prince of power, she asks, 'Sir, are not you my father?' he assents, adding

and thy father Was Duke of Milan, and his only heir

And princess,-no worse issued.' The old Corrector turns the second and into a thou,' and so makes some species of sense. Mr. Dyce turns the third and' into a, and in a note cites four passages in which 'and' has been printed for a. Of the two emendations this is not only the more natural, but the one that yields by far the best construction. Thou his only heir and princess' is a phrase unpoetical and clumsy. Once more, therefore, the MS. Corrector fails.

In the next passage, we find Mr. Collier himself again abandoning, his guide. Prospero speaking of his brother, whom he bad set in his place, says

“He being thus lorded, Not only with what my revenue yielded,'

But what my power might else exact, &c. The Corrector, in a fit of dulness, wishes to read loaded ; and Mr. Collier thinks 'lorded may perhaps stand without material objection.'

The

[ocr errors]

6

6

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

a

6

[ocr errors]

The next MS. emendation is adopted by Mr. Collier notwithstanding that it converts the clearest sense into the very reverse. The words of the passage, put by a slight transposition into the order of plain prose, say that the false brother, being invested with ducal honours, believed himself to be indeed the duke like one who by telling of his own lie had made of his memory such a sinner unto truth (as) to credit it.' The emendator wishes us to read sinner to untruth;' which is to assert that the brother was so false to lying as by frequent repetition to learn to believe in his own lie. A liar may be false to truth, but persistence in lying does not make him false to lies. Such absolute nonsense Mr. Collier admits as part of Shakespeare's text; by Mr. Dyce it is discarded.

The next emendation restores in the second folio a word misprinted from the first, most’ for much. Mr. Dyce follows the earlier and better text, and says nothing, of course, about the MS. Corrector, whom there is no need to consult in the matter. The following innovation we will neither censure nor accept:

· One midnight
Fated to the purpose,

did Antonio open
The gates of Milan; and i' the dead of darkness,
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence

Me and thy crying self.' The annotator sees tautology in the expression ministers for the purpose' following so close upon the phrase upon the midnight fated to the purpose of the treason. Therefore, as practice implies treason, and begins with p, he would read midnight fated to the practice.' This is precisely such correction as eleven schoolmasters in twelve would make in a boy's theme; nevertheless, we suspect there is more lost than gained by getting rid of the repetition.

Deprived of the emphasis of iteration, the line that speaks of ministers for the purpose' loses in strength, and the passage on the whole has less force than before.

• A rotten carcase of a butt'is rightly altered into boat, and Mr. Dyce accepts the correction. Prospero might have called the bark in wbich he was turned adrift a rotten butt; but "a rotten carcase of a butt, not rigg'd, nor tackle, sail, nor mast,' can only be the carcase of a boat. The carcase of a butt is. simply the butt itself; the carcase of a boat is such as Prospero describes it.

In the same lines there is an indifferent change of 'have' into " had.'

Before Miranda sleeps, there is a stage direction, inserted by the Corrector, indicating where Prospero resumes his robe, which

Mr.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

Mr. Dyce accepts, and offends Mr. Collier by not acknowledging as the important and entirely new stage direction from the corr. fo. 1632.'

The next correction is very prosaic. Ariel says that the dispersed ships

all have met again And are upon the Mediterranean flote

Bound sadly home for Naples.” The emendator' would read all have met again, and all upon the Mediterranean float,' &c. Here is not only the conversion of poetry to prose, but the manufacture of an iteration clumsier than the one he had just thought it his duty to correct. If he could not endure two purposes' in three lines, why does he force upon us two 'alls? in five words, especially when, the chief ship being absent, stress upon all’ is less appropriate ?

The next correction, an omission of thee,' Mr. Collier declines, and Mr. Dyce, without adopting, is disposed to favour. We distinctly side with Mr. Collier in retaining told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings.'

The succeeding alteration, which is also trivial, Mr. Dyce and Mr. Collier unite in rejecting, as they do also the next, the last in the first act, where, instead of when thou camest first,' the Corrector would read when thou cam'st here first.'

Here we may well pause : for we have given instances enough to satisfy, we think, all persons that, however just may be many of the Corrector's suggestions; however authentic, perhaps, many of his stage-directions; however ingenious he may have appeared when his best ideas were presented in a compact mass, yet directly we begin to follow him step by step there is abundance to justify the contempt which Mr. Dyce appears to entertain for his abilities. Whoever goes through the entire series of his alterations must either himself want a sense of poetry or feel that the poetic element had been very sparingly granted to this unknown individual. Whence then did he derive the large number of true suggestions that we find embedded in his dulness? We do not believe them to be of more recent date than the best conjectural readings of Theobald, Hanmer, and Johnson, which they frequently corroborate. We are compelled therefore to suppose that for many of his changes the Corrector must have had some warrant beyond his own sagacity, and that the pleasures of revision tempted him, wholly incompetent as he was, to labour further on the text for his private amusement. Since, however, he does not speak with a sustained authority, his alterations can only rest on their own merits. Misled by a natural partiality for his own discovery, and more accom

plished

« AnteriorContinuar »