« PreviousContinue »
emendations, 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 rest: and another sort there are, that are simply insertions; these 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 such a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and submit to his judg ment the remedies that are apply'd to them; them; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in some note that is to follow but there are some behind that would not be so manag'd; either by reason of their frequency, or difficulty of subjecting 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 some of the plays, a want of division; and the errors are those of measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and silently; but the reasons for so doing, and the method observ'd in doing it, shall be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, and that which is chiefly to distinguish him from those who have gone before, may stand sacred and unimpeachable; and, first, of the division.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the list of titles that may be seen at p. 332, was, to show 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 first class is
eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Lost, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is some division aim'd at; yet it is so lame and erroneous, that it was thought best to consider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the first class as those of the third, the plays of the second class were studiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this division: which rule might easily have been discover'd before, had but any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, since 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 adjusted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own settling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following establish'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of some other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was best acquainted with his scene divisions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he observes a method in which perhaps he is singular, 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 succession of new persons: that liaison of the scenes, which Jonson seems 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 strictness 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 such as even Aristotle himself would allow of the revolution of half a day : but even in this play, the change of scene arises from change of persons, and by that it is regulated; as are also all the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for whoever will take the trouble to examine those that are divided, (and they are pointed out for him in the list,) will see them conform exactly to the rule above-mention'd; and can then have but little doubt, that it should be apply'd to all the rest. To have distinguish'd these divisions,-made (indeed) without the authority, but following the example of the folio,-had been useless and troublesome; and the editor fully persuades himself, that what he has said will be sufficient, and that he shall be excus'd by the ingenious and candid for overpassing them without further notice: whose pardon he hopes also to have for some other unnotic'd matters that are related to this in hand, such as-marking the place of action, both general and particular; supplying scenical directions; and due regulating of exits, and entrances: for the first, there is no title in the old editions; and in both the latter, they are so deficient and faulty throughout, that it would not be much amiss if we look'd upon them as wanting too; and then all these several articles might be
The divisions that are in the folio are religiously adher❜d to, except in two or three instances which will be spoken of in their place; so that, as is said before, a perusal of those old-divided plays will put every one in a capacity of judging whether the present editor has proceeded rightly or no: the current editions are divided in such a manner, that nothing like a rule can be collected from any of them.
consider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out than a declaration that they are so: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon some parts of them,-such as, the battle scenes throughout; Cæsar's passage to the senate-house, and subsequent assassination; Antony's death; the surprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition, will justify these insertions; and may, possibly, 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 division of much of them respecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is so extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that small regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (instead of being influenc'd by such a punctuation, or even casting his eyes upon it, to attend closely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point it accordingly: was it the business of this editionto make parade of discoveries, this article alone. would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of passages are now first set to rights by this only, which, before, had either no sense at all, or one unsuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it; but all the emendations of this sort, though inferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are consign'd to silence; some few only excepted, of passages that have been much contested, and whose present adjustment might possibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in some note, and a reason given for embracing them: all the other parts of the works have been examin'd
with equal diligence, and equal attention; and the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has follow'd, (into which he has admitted some novelties,) will be found of so much benefit to his author, that those who run may read, and that with profit and understanding. The other great mistake in these old editions, and which is very insufficiently rectify'd in any of the new ones, relates to the poet's numbers; his verse being often wrong divided, or printed wholly as prose, and his prose as often printed like verse: this, though not so universal as their wrong pointing, is yet so extensive an error in the old copies, and so impossible to be pointed out otherwise than by a note, that an editor's silent amendment of it is surely pardonable at least; for who would not be disgusted with that perpetual sameness which must necessarily have been in all the notes of this sort? Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require proving; every good ear does immediately adopt them, and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that accession of beauty which results to him from them: it is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet standing in his works much unpleasing mixture of prosaick and metrical dialogue, and sometimes in places seemingly improper, as-in Othello, Vol. XIX. p. 273; and some others which men of judgment will be able to pick out for themselves: but these blemishes are not now to be wip'd away, at least not by an editor, whose province it far ex
9 If the use of these new pointings, and also of certain marks that he will meet with in this edition, do not occur immediately to the reader, (as we think it will) he may find it explain'd to him at large in the preface to a little octavo volume intitl❜d— "Prolusions, or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry;" publish'd in 1760 by this editor, and printed for Mr. Tonson.