« PreviousContinue »
labouring under various defects and those of various degree, that had their cure to seek from fome other fources, that of copies affording it no more: For these he had recourfe in the first place to the affiftance of modern copies and, where that was incompetent, or elfe abfolutely deficient, which was very often the cafe, there he fought the remedy in himself, ufing judgment and conjecture; which, he is bold to fay, he will not be found to have exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establish'd rules of critique with fobernefs and temperance. These emendations, (whether of his own, or other gentlemen,7) carrying in themselves a face of certainty, and coming in aid of places that were apparently corrupt, are admitted into the text, and the rejected reading is always put below; fome others,that are neither of that certainty, nor are of that neceffity, but are fpecious and plaufible, and may be thought by fome to mend the paffage they belong to, will have a place in the collection that is fpoken of above. But where it is faid, that the rejected reading is always put below, this must be taken with fome reftriction: for fome of the emen-...
? In the manufcripts from which all thefe plays are printed, the emendations are given to their proper owners by initials and other marks that are in the margin of those manufcripts; but they are fuppreffed in the print for two reafons: First, their number, in fome pages, makes them a little unfightly and the editor profeffes himself weak enough to like a well-printed book: In the next place, he does declare-that his only object has been, to do fervice to his great author; which provided it be done, he thinks it of small importance by what hand the fervice was adminifter'd: If the partizans of former editors fhall chance to think them injur'd by this fuppreffion, he must upon this occafion violate the rules of modefty, by declaring-that he himself is the moft injur'd by it; whofe emendations are equal, at least in number, to all theirs if put together; to fay nothing of his recover'd readings, which are more confiderable still.
dations, and of course the ancient readings upon which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, the general method was there inconvenient; and, for these few, you are refer'd to a note which will be found among the reft: and another fort there are, that are fimply infertions; thefe are effectually pointed out by being printed in the gothick or black character.
Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions have been of fuch a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and fubmit to his judgment the remedies that are apply'd to them; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in fome note that is to follow: but there are fome behind that would not be fo manag'd; either by reafon of their frequency, or difficulty of fubjecting them to the rules under which the others are brought: they have been spoken of before at p. 329, where the corruptions are all enumerated, and are as follows;a want of proper exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, throughout the work in general, and, in fome of the plays, a want of divifion; and the errors are those of measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and filently; but the reasons for fo doing, and the method observ'd in doing it, fhall be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, and that which is chiefly to diftinguish him from those who have gone before, may stand facred and unimpeachable; and, firft, of the divifion.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the lift of titles that may be seen at p. 332, was,-to fhow which plays were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and which of them were not divided at all; and the number of the firft clafs is
eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Loft, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is fome divifion aim'd at ; yet it is fo lame and erroneous, that it was thought beft to confider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well thofe of the firft clafs as those of the third, the plays of the second clafs were ftudioufly attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this divifion: which rule might easily have been difcover'd before, had but any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, fince neither can the representation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjufted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own fettling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following establish'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of fome other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was beft acquainted with his scene divifions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he obferves a method in which perhaps he is fingular, and he is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of scene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a fucceffion of new perfons: that liaison of the fcenes, which Jonfon feems to have attempted, and upon which the French stage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd; and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great ftrictnefs and greater happiness than can
perhaps be met with in any other writer: the play meant is The Comedy of Errors; in which the action is one, the place one, and the time fuch as even Aristotle himself would allow of the revolution of half a day but even in this play, the change of scene arifes from change of perfons, and by that it is regulated; as are alfo all the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for whoever will take the trouble to examine thofe that are divided, (and they are pointed out for him in the lift,) will fee them conform exactly to the rule above-mention'd; and can then have but little doubt, that it fhould be apply'd to all the reft. To have diftinguish'd thefe divifions,-made (indeed) without the authority, but following the example of the folio,-had been useless and troublesome; and the editor fully perfuades himself, that what he has faid will be fufficient, and that he fhall be excus'd by the ingenious and candid for overpaffing them without further notice: whofe pardon he hopes alfo to have for fome other unnotic'd matters that are - related to this in hand, fuch as-marking the place of action, both general and particular; fupplying fcenical directions; and due regulating of exits, and entrances: for the firft, there is no title in the old editions; and in both the latter, they are fo deficient and faulty throughout, that it would not be much amifs if we look'd upon them as wanting too; and then all these several articles might be
The divifions that are in the folio are religiously adher❜d to, except in two or three inftances which will be spoken of in their place; fo that, as is faid before, a perufal of thofe old-divided plays will put every one in a capacity of judging whether the prefent editor has proceeded rightly or no: the current editions are divided in fuch a manner, that nothing like a rule can be collected from any of them.
confider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out than a declaration that they are fo: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon fome parts of them,-such as, the battle scenes throughout; Cæfar's paffage to the fenatehoufe, and fubfequent affaffination; Antony's death; the furprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition,-will justify these infertions; and may, poffibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great aids which they afford to his conception.
It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies which are here amended without notice, to wit-the pointing, and wrong divifion of much of them refpecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is fo extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that fmall regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (inftead of being influenc'd by fuch a punctuation, or even cafting his eyes upon it, to attend clofely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point it accordingly: was it the bufinefs of this editionto make parade of difcoveries, this article alone would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of paffages are now first set to rights by this only, which, before, had either no sense at all, or one unfuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it; but all the emendations of this fort, though inferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are confign'd to filence; fome few only excepted, of paffages that have been much contefted, and whofe prefent adjustment might poffibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in fome note, and a reafon given for embracing them : all the other parts of the works have been examin'd