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commodious and pleasant text of Shakspeare. Nothing will be loft to the world on account of the measure recommended, there being folios and quartos enough remaining for the ufe of antiquarian or critical travellers, to whom a jolt over a rugged pavement may be more delectable than an eafy paffage over a smooth one, though they both conduct to the fame object.

To a reader unconverfant with the licenses of a theatre, the charge of more material interpolation than that of mere fyllables, will appear to want fupport; and yet whole lines and paffages in the following plays incur a very juft fufpicion of having originated from this practice, which continues even in the prefent improved ftate of our dramatick arrangements; for the propenfity of modern performers to alter words, and occafionally introduce ideas incongruous with their author's plan, will not always escape detection. In fuch vagaries our comedians have been much too frequently indulged; but to the injudicious tragical interpolator no degree of favour fhould be fhown, not even to a late Matilda, who, in Mr. Home's Douglas thought fit to change the obfcure intimation with which her part fhould have concluded

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Here we perceive that Fate, the old poft-horfe of tragedy, has been faddled to expedite intelligence which was meant to be delayed till the neceffary moment of its difclofure. Nay, further: the prompt

er's book being thus corrupted, on the first night of the revival of this beautiful and interefting play at Drury Lane, the fame fpurious nonfenfe was heard from the lips of Mrs. Siddons, lips, whofe matchlefs powers fhould be facred only to the task of animating the pureft ftrains of dramatick poetry-Many other inftances of the fame prefumption might have been fubjoined, had they not been withheld through tendernefs to performers now upon the stage. Similar interpolations, however, in the text of Shakspeare, can only be fufpected, and therefore must remain unexpelled.

To other defects of our late editions may be fubjoined, as not the least notorious, an exuberance of comment. Our fituation has not unaptly resembled that of the fray in the firft fcene of Romeo and Juliet:

"While we were interchanging thrufts and blows,

"Came more and more, and fought on part and part:

till, as Hamlet has obferved, we are contending

for a plot

"Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause."

Indulgence to the remarks of others, as well as partiality to our own; an ambition in each little Hercules to fet up pillars, afcertaining how far he had travelled through the dreary wilds of black letter; and perhaps a reluctance or inability to decide between contradictory fentiments, have also occafioned the appearance of more annotations than were abfolutely wanted, unless it be thought requifite that our author, like a Dauphin Claffick, fhould be reduced to marginal profe for the ufe of children; that all his various readings (affembled by Mr. Capell) fhould


be enumerated, the genealogies of all his real perfonages deduced; and that as many of his plays as are founded on Roman or British hiftory, fhould be attended by complete tranfcripts from their originals in Sir Thomas North's Plutarch, or the Chronicles of Hall and Holinfhed.-Thefe faults, indeed,-si quid prodeft delicta fateri, within half a century, (when the prefent race of voluminous criticks is extinct) cannot fail to be remedied by a judicious and frugal felection from the labours of us all. Nor is fuch an event to be deprecated even by ourselves; fince we may be certain that fome ivy of each individual's growth will ftill adhere to the parent oak, though not enough, as at prefent, to "hide the princely trunk, and fuck the verdure out of it."3 It may be feared too, fhould we perfift in fimilar accumulations of extraneous matter, that the readers will at length be frighted away from Shakspeare, as the foldiers of Cato deferted their comrade when he became bloated with poifon-crefcens fugêre cadaver. It is our opinion, in fhort, that every one who opens the page of an ancient English writer, fhould bring with him fome knowledge; and yet he by whom a thousand minutiæ remain to be learned, needs not to close our author's volume in defpair, for his fpirit and general drift are always obvious, though his language and allufions are occafionally obfcure.

We may fubjoin (alluding to our own practice as well as that of others) that they whofe remarks are longeft, and who feek the moft frequent opportunities of introducing their names at the bottom of our author's pages are not, on that account, the most eftimable criticks. The art of writing notes, as Dr. Johnson has pleasantly obferved in his preface,

3 Tempest.

is not of difficult attainment.4 Additional hundreds might therefore be fupplied; for as often as a various reading, whether serviceable or not, is to be found, the difcoverer can bestow an immediate reward on his own induftry, by a difplay of his favourite fignature. The fame advantage may be gained by opportunities of appropriating to ourselves what was originally faid by another perfon, and in another place.

Though our adoptions have been flightly mentioned already, our fourth impreffion of the Plays of Shakspeare muft not iffue into the world without particular and ample acknowledgements of the benefit it has derived from the labours of the laft editor, whose attention, diligence, and spirit of enquiry, have very far exceeded those of the whole united phalanx of his predeceffors. His additions to our author's Life, his attempt to afcertain the Order in which his Plays were written, together with his account of our ancient Stage, &c. are here re-published ; and every reader will concur in wifhing that a gentleman who has produced fuch intelligent combinations from very few materials, had fortu❤ nately been poffeffed of more.

Of his notes on particular paffages a great majority is here adopted. True it is, that on fome points we fundamentally difagree; for inftance, concerning his metamorphofis of monofyllables (like burn, Sworn, worn, here and there, arms, and charms,) into diffyllables; his contraction of diffyllables (like neither, rather, reafon, lover, &c.) into monofyllables; and his fentiments refpecting the worth of the variations fupplied by the fecond folio.On the firft of thefe contefted matters

• See alfo Addifon's Spectator, No. 470.

we commit ourselves to the pablick ear; on the fecond we must awhile folicit the reader's attention.

The following conjectural account of the publication of this fecond folio (about which no certainty can be obtained) perhaps is not very remote from truth. mishio, dire

When the predeceffor of it appeared, fome intelligent friend or admirer of Shakspeare might have obferved its defects, and corrected many of them in its margin, from early manuscripts,5 or authentick information.

That fuch manuscripts fhould have remained, can excite no furprize. The good fortune that, till this prefent hour, has preferved the Chester and Coventry Myfteries, Tancred and Gifmund as originally written, the ancient play of Timon, the Witch of Middleton, with feveral older as well as coëval dramas (exclufive of thofe in the Marquis of Lanfdowne's library) might furely have befriended fome of our author's copies in 1632, only fixteen years

after his death.

That oral information concerning his works was ftill acceffible, may with fimilar probability be inferred; as fome of the original and most knowing performers in his different pieces were then alive. (Lowin and Taylor, for inftance,); and it must be certain, that on the flage they never uttered fuch mutilated lines and unintelligible nonfenfe as was afterwards incorporated with their refpective parts, in both the firft quarto and folio editions.

5 See Mr. Holt White's note on Romeo and Juliet, Vol. XX. p. 97, n. 5.


• i. e. as acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1568. See Warton, Vol. III. p. 376, n. g.

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