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The folio therefore of 1623, corrected from orte or both the authorities above mentioned, we conceive to have been the basis of its fucceffor in 1632.
At the fame time, however, a fresh and abundant feries of errors and omiffions was created in the text of our author; the natural and certain confequence of every re-impreffion of a work which is not overfeen by other eyes than thofe of its printer.
Nor is it at all improbable that the perfon who furnished the revifion of the first folio, wrote a very obfcure hand, and was much cramped for room, as the margin of this book is always narrow. Such being the cafe, he might often have been compelled to deal in abbreviations, which were fometimes imperfectly deciphered, and fometimes wholly mifunderstood.
Mr. Malone, indeed, frequently points his artillery at a perfonage whom we cannot help regarding as a phantom; we mean the Editor of the fecond folio; for perhaps no fuch literary agent as an editor of a poetical work, unaccompanied by comments, was at that period to be found. This office, if any where, was vefted in the printer, who transferred it to his compofitors; and thefe worthies difcharged their part of the truft with a proportionate mixture of ignorance and inattention. We do not wish to foften our expreffion; for fome plays, like The Misfortunes of Arthur, and many books of fuperior confequence, like Fox's Martyrs, and the fecond edition of the Chronicles of Holinfhed, &c. were carefully prepared for the publick eye by their immediate authors, or fubftitutes qualified for their undertaking." But about the the era of total incorrectness year 1600
7 Abraham Fleming fupervifed, corrected, and enlarged the the second edition of Holinfhed's Chronicle, in 1585.
commenced, and works of almoft all kinds appeared with the disadvantage of more than their natural and inherent imperfections.
Such too, in these more enlightened days, when few compofitors are unskilled in orthography and punctuation, would be the event, were complicated works of fancy fubmitted to no other fuperintendance than their own. More attentive and judicious artists than were employed on our prefent edition of Shakspeare, are, I believe, no where to be found; and yet had their proofs efcaped correction from an editor, the text of our author in many places would have been materially changed. And as all these changes would have originated from attention for a moment relaxed, interrupted memory, a too hafty glance at the page before them, and other incidental caufes, they could not have been recommended in preference to the variations of the fecond folio, which in feveral inftances have been juftly reprobated by the laft editor of Shakspeare. What errors then might not have been expected, when compofitors were wholly unlettered and carelefs, and a corrector of the prefs an officer unknown? To him who is inclined to difpute our grounds for this laft affertion, we would recommend a perufal of the errata at the ends of multitudes of our ancient publications, where the reader's indulgence is entreated for" faults efcaped on account of the author's diftance from the prefs;" faults, indeed, which could not have occurred, had every printing-office, as at present, been furnifhed with a regular and literary fuperintendant of its productions. How then can it be expected that printers who were often found unequal to the tafk of fetting forth even a plain profe narrative, confifting of a few fheets, without blunders innumerable, fhould have done
justice to a folio volume of dramatick dialogues in metre, which required a fo much greater degree of accuracy?
But the worth of our contested volume also seems to be queftioned, because the authority on which even fuch changes in it as are allowed to be judicious, is unknown. But if weight were granted to this argument, what fupport could be found for ancient Greek and Roman MSS. of various defcriptions? The names of their tranfcribers are alike undiscovered; and yet their authority, when the readings they prefent are valuable, will feldom fail to be admitted.
Nay, further it is on all hands allowed, that what we ftyle a younger and inferior MS. will occafionally correct the miftakes and fupply the deficiencies of one of better note, and higher antiquity.
therefore, fhould not a book printed in 1632 be allowed the merit of equal fervices to a predeceffor in 1623 ?
Such alfo, let us add, were the fentiments of a gentleman whose name we cannot repeat without a figh, which those who were acquainted with his value, will not fufpect of infincerity: we mean our late excellent friend, Mr. Tyrwhitt. In his library was this fecond folio of our author's plays. He always ftood forward as a determined advocate for its authority, on which, we believe, more than one of his emendations were formed. At least, we are certain that he never attempted any, before he had confulted it.
He was once, indeed, offered a large fragment of the first folio; but in a few days he returned it, with an affurance that he did not perceive any decided fuperiority it could boaft over its immediate fucceffor,
as the metre, imperfect in the elder, was often reftored to regularity in the junior impreffion.
Mr. Malone, however, in his Letter to Dr. Farmer, has ftyled thefe neceffary corrections fuch" could not escape a perfon of the most ordinary capacity, who had been one month converfant with a printing-houfe;" a description mortifying enough to the prefent editors, who, after an acquaintance, of many years with typographical myfteries, would be loath to weigh their own amendments againft those which this fecond folio, with all its blunders, has difplayed.
The fame gentleman alfo (fee his Preface, p. 410) fpeaks with fome confidence of having proved his affertions relative to the worthlefsnefs of this book. But how are thefe affertions proved? By expofing its errors (fome of which nevertheless are of a very queftionable fhape) and by obferving a careful filence about its deferts. The latter furely fhould have been stated as well as the former. Otherwife, this proof will resemble the "ill-roafted egg" in As you like it, which was done only "on one fide." -If, in the mean time, fome critical arithmetician can be found, who will impartially and intelligently afcertain by way of Dr and Cr the faults and merits of this book, and thereby prove the former to have been many, and the latter scarce any at all, we will moft openly acknowledge our mifapprehenfion, and fubfcribe (a circumftance of which we need not
8 Thus (as one inftance out of several that might be produced) when Mr. Malone, in The Merry Wives of Windfor, very judiciously reftores the uncommon word-ging, and fupports it by inftances from The New Inn and The Alchemift, he forbears to mention that fuch alfo is the reading of the fecond, though not of the first folio. See Vol. V. p. 166, n. 5.
be afhamed) to the fuperior fagacity and judgment of Mr. Malone.
To conclude, though we are far from afferting that this republication, generally confidered, is preferable to its original, we muft ftill regard it as a valuable fupplement to that work; and no ftronger plea in its favour can be advanced, than the frequent ufe made of it by Mr. Malone. The numerous corrections from it admitted by that gentleman into his text,' and pointed out in his notes,
Amounting to (as we are informed by a very accurate compofitor who undertook to count them) 186.
Inftances wherein Mr. Malone has admitted the Corrections of the Second Folio.