Page images

will, in our judgment, contribute to its eulogium; at least cannot fail to rescue it from his prefatory imputations of "being of no value whatever," and afterwards of" not being worth-three fhillings." See Mr. Malone's Preface, and Lift of Editions of Shakspeare.

Our readers, it is hoped, will fo far honour us as to obferve, that the foregoing opinions were not fuggefted and defended through an ambitious fpirit of contradiction. Mr. Malone's Preface, indeed, will abfolve us from that cenfure; for he allows them to be of a date previous to his own edition.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Sale No.

1460. firft folio

61. 2d do.

62. 3d do.
63. 4th do.




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


* This doctrine, however, appears to have made few profelytes: at least, fome late catalogues of our good friends the booksellers, have expreffed their diffent from it in terms of uncommon force. I must add, that on the 34th day of the auction of the late Dr. Farmer's library, this profcribed volume was fold for THREE GUINEAS; and that in the fale of Mr. Allen's library, April the 15th, 1799, at Leigh and Sotheby's, York Street, Covent Garden, the four folio editions of our author's plays were difpofed of at the following prices:


£40 19 0.

5 10 0.

5 15 6. 3.13 6.

He, therefore, on this fubject, is the affailant, and not the conductors of the prefent republication.

But though, in the courfe of fucceeding ftrictures, feveral other of Mr. Malone's pofitions may be likewife controverted, fome with seriousness, and fome with levity, (for our difcuffions are not of quite fo folemn a turn as thofe which involve the interests of our country,) we feel an undiffembled pleasure in avowing, that his remarks are at once fo numerous and correct, that when criticism "has done its worft," their merit but in a small degree can be affected. We are confident, however, that he himself will hereafter join with us in confidering no small proportion of our contefted readings as a mere game at literary push-pin; and that if Shakfpeare looks down upon our petty fquabbles over his mangled fcenes, it must be with feelings fimilar to thofe of Lucan's hero:

ridetque fui ludibria trunci.

In the Preface of Mr. Malone, indeed, a direct cenfure has been levelled at incorrectnefs in the text of the edition 1778. The juftice of the imputation is unequivocally allowed; but, at the same time, might not this acknowledgement be feconded by fomewhat like a retort? For is it certain that the collations, &c. of 1790 are wholly fecure from fimilar charges? Are they accompanied by no unauthorized readings, no omiffion of words, and tranfpofitions? Through all the plays, and especially thofe of which there is only a fingle copy, they have been with fome diligence retraced, and the frailties of their collator, fuch as they are, have been ascertained. They fhall not, however, be oftentatiously pointed out, and for this only reafon: -That as they decrease but little, if at all, the


vigour of Shakspeare, the critick who in general has performed with accuracy one of the heaviest of literary tasks, ought not to be molefted by a display of petty faults, which might have eluded the most vigilant faculties of fight and hearing that were ever placed as spies over the labours of each other. They are not even mentioned here as a covert mode of attack, or as a "note of preparation" for future hoftilities. The office of "devifing brave punishments" for faithlefs editors, is therefore ftrenuoufly declined, even though their guilt should equal that of one of their number, (Mr. Steevens,) who stands convicted of having given winds inftead of wind, fables inftead of fiable, fefsions inftead of fefsion, fins inftead of fin, and (we fhudder while we recite the accufation) my inftead of mine."

[merged small][ocr errors]


fo long, in truth, that any further pursuit of them is here renounced, together with all triumphs founded on the detection of harmlefs fynonymous particles that accidentally may have deferted their proper places and wandered into others, without injury to Shakspeare.-A few chipped or disjointed ftones will not impair the shape or endanger the ftability of a pyramid. We are far from withing to depreciate exactnefs, yet cannot perfuade ourfelves but that a fingle lucky conjecture or illuftration, should outweigh a thousand fpurious haths depofed in favour of legitimate has's, and the like infignificant recoveries, which may not too degradingly be termed

2 See Mr. Malone's Preface.

[ocr errors]

the haberdashery of criticifm; that "ftand in number, though in reckoning none;" and are as unimportant to the poet's fame,

"As is the morn-dew on the myrtle-leaf
"To his grand fea."

We fhall venture alfo to affert, that, on a minute fcrutiny, every editor, in his turn, may be charged with omiffion of fome preferable reading; fo that he who drags his predeceffor to juftice on this fcore, will have good luck if he efcapes ungalled by recrimination.

If fomewhat, therefore, in the fucceeding volumes has been added to the correction and illuftration of our author, the purpose of his prefent editors is completely answered. On any thing like perfection in their labours they do not prefume, being too well convinced that, in defiance of their best efforts, their own incapacity, and that of the original quarto and folio-mongers, have still left fufficient work for a race of commentators who are yet unborn. Nos, (fays Tully, in the fecond Book of his Tufculan Queftions,) qui fequimur probabilia, nec ultra quàm id quod verifimile occurrerit, progredi pofsumus; et refellere fine pertinacia, et refelli fine iracundia, parati fumus.

Be it remembered alfo, that the affiftants and adverfaries of editors, enjoy one material advantage over editors themselves. They are at liberty to felect their objects of remark:

et quæ

Defperant tractata nitefcere poffe, relinquunt.

The fate of the editor in form is lefs propitious.

He is expected to combat every difficulty from which his auxiliaries and opponents could secure an honourable retreat. It fhould not, therefore, be wondered at, if fome of his enterprizes are unsuccessful.

Though the foregoing Advertisement has run out into an unpremeditated length, one circumstance remains to be mentioned.-The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged fince it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful cuftom the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a diftinction which malevolence cannot obfcure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour.

Ir may poffibly be expected, that a lift of Errata fhould attend fo voluminous a work as this, or that cancels fhould apologize for its more material inaccuracies. Neither of these measures, however, has in the present inftance been adopted, and for reafons now fubmitted to the publick.

In regard to errata, it has been customary with not a few authors to acknowledge fmall mistakes,

« PreviousContinue »