« PreviousContinue »
Greene, M. A, we are indebted for Shakspeare's Winter's Tale. Greene join'd with Dr. Lodge in writing a play, call'd A Looking-Glass for London and England, printed in 1598, in quarto, and black letter; and many of his other works, which are very numerous, were publifh'd about that time, and this amongst the reft: it went through many impreffions, all of the fame form and letter as the play; and that fo low down as the year 1664, of which year I have a copy. Upon this occafion, I fhall venture to pronounce an opinion, that has been referv'd for this place, (though other plays too were concern'd in it, as Hamlet and Cymbeline) which if it be found true, as I believe it will, may be of use to fettle many difputed points in literary chronology. My opinion is this:-that almoft all books, of the gothick or black character, printed any thing late in the feventeenth century, are in truth only re-impreffions; they having pafs'd the prefs before in the preceding century, or (at least) very foon after. For the character began then to be difus'd in the printing of new books: but the types remaining, the owners of them found a convenience in ufing them for books that had been before printed in them; and to this convenience of theirs are owing all or moft of thofe impreffions posterior to 1600. It is left to the reader's fagacity, to apply this remark to the book in the prefent article; and to those he finds 'mention'd before, in the articles-Hamlet and Cymbeline.
. Such are the materials, out of which this great poet has rais'd a ftructure, which no time fhall efface, nor any envy be ftrong enough to leffen the admiration that is fo juftly due to it; which if it was great before, cannot fail to receive encrease with the judicious, when the account that has been
now given them is reflected upon duly: other originals have, indeed, been pretended; and much extraordinary criticism has, at different times, and by different people, been fpun out of thofe conceits; but, except fome few articles in which the writer profeffes openly his ignorance of the fources they are drawn from, and fome others in which he delivers himself doubtfully, what is faid in the preceding leaves concerning these fables may with all certainty be rely'd upon.
How much is it to be wifh'd, that fomething equally certain, and indeed worthy to be intitl'da Life of Shakspeare, could accompany this relation, and complete the tale of thofe pieces which the publick is apt to expect before new editions? But that nothing of this fort is at present in being, may be faid without breach of candour, as we think, or fufpicion of over much nicenefs: an imperfect and loofe account of his father, and family; his own marriage, and the iffue of it; fome traditional ftories, many of them trifling in themselves, fupported by fmall authority, and feemingly illgrounded; together with his life's final period as gather'd from his monument, is the full and whole amount of historical matter that is in any of these writings; in which the critick and effayift swallow up the biographer, who yet ought to take the lead in them. The truth is, the occurrences of this most interesting life (we mean, the private ones) are irrecoverably loft to us; the friendly office of regiftring them was overlock'd by thofe who alone had it in their power, and our enquiries about them now muft prove vain and thrown away. But there is another fort of them that is not quite fo hopelefs; which befides affording us the profpect of fome good iffue to our endeavours, do alfo invite
us to them by the promise of a much better reward for them: the knowledge of his private life had done little more than gratify our curiofity, but his publick one as a writer would have confequences more important; a difcovery there would throw a new light upon many of his pieces; and, where rashness only is fhew'd in the opinions that are now current about them, a judgment might then be form'd, which perhaps would do credit to the giver of it. When he commenc'd a writer for the ftage, and in which play; what the order of the reft of them, and (if that be difcoverable) what the occafion; and, laftly, for which of the numerous theatres that were then fubfifting they were feverally written at first,-are the particulars that should chiefly engage the attention of a writer of Shakspeare's Life, and be the principal fubjects of his enquiry to affift him in which, the first impreffions of thefe plays will do fomething, and their title-pages at large, which, upon that account, we mean to give in another work that will accompany The School of Shakspeare; and fomething the School itfelf will afford, that may contribute to the fame fervice: but the corner-ftone of all, must be the works of the poet himself, from which much may be extracted by a heedful peruser of them; and, for the fake of fuch a perufer, and by way of putting him into the train when the plays are before him, we fhall inftance in one of them; -the time in which Henry V. was written, is determin'd almost precifely by a paffage in the chorus to the fifth act, and the concluding chorus of it contains matter relative to Henry VI.: other plays might be mention'd, as Henry VIII. and Macbeth; but this one may be fufficient to answer our intention in producing it, which was-to spirit fome
one up to this task in fome future time, by fhewing the poffibility of it; which he may be further convinc'd of, if he reflects what great things have been done, by criticks amongst ourselves, upon fubjects of this fort, and of a more remov'd antiquity than he is concern'd in. A Life thus conftructed, interfpers'd with fuch anecdotes of common notoriety as the writer's judgment fhall tell him-are worth regard; together with fome memorials of this poet that are happily come down to us; fuch as, an inftrument in the Heralds' Office, confirming arms to his father; a Patent preferv'd in Rymer, granted by James the Firft; his laft Will and Teftament, extant now at Doctors Commons; his Stratford monument, and a monument of his daughter which is faid to be there alfo;-fuch a Life would rife quickly into a volume; especially, with the addition of one proper and even neceffary episode-a brief hiftory of our drama, from its origin down to the poet's death: even the ftage he appear'd upon, it's form, dreffings, actors fhould be enquir'd into, as every one of thofe circumftances had fome confiderable effect upon what he compos'd for it: The subject is certainly a good one, and will fall (we hope) ere it be long into the hands of fome good writer; by whofe abilities this great want may at length be made up to us, and the world of letters enrich'd by the happy acquifition of a mafterly Life of Shakspeare. CAPELL.
THE want of adherence to the old copies, which has been complained of, in the text of every modern republication of Shakspeare, is fairly deducible from Mr. Rowe's inattention to one of the first duties of an editor.6 Mr. Rowe did not print from the earliest and most correct, but from the most remote and inaccurate of the four folios. Between the years 1623 and 1685 (the dates of the
s First printed in 1773. MALONE.
6" I must not (fays Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the Duke of Somerset) pretend to have restor'd this work to the exactness of the author's original manuscripts: thofe, are loft, or, at least, are gone beyond any enquiry I could make; fo that there was nothing left, but to compare the feveral editions, and give the true reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many places intelligible, that were not fo before. In fome of the editions, efpecially the laft, there were many lines (and in Hamlet one whole fcene) left out together; thefe are now all supply'd. I fear your grace will find some faults, but I hope they are mostly literal, and the errors of the prefs." Would not any one, from this declaration, fuppofe that Mr. Rowe (who does not appear to have confulted a fingle quarto) had at least compared the folios with each other? STEEVENS.