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which philology and philosophy can afford
!; especially since we know that the bard, partly from extrinsic circumstances, and partly from the innate modesty of his nature, which led him to a very humble estimate of his own merits, was prevented paying that attention to his productions which is now almost universally extended to every publication, however trivial in its subject, and insignificant in its style.
There are three modes by which it has been attempted, through the medium of the press, to illustrate and render more familiar the writings of Shakspeare, and these may be classed in the following order :Istly. Editions of Shakspeare accompanied by
Prolegomena and copious Annotations. 2dly. Detached Publications exclusively ap
propriated to Shakspeare. 3dly. Criticisms
Criticisms on Shakspeare dispersed through various miscellaneous departments of
literature. It will be evident from the tenor of the
others made by him, and if not by himself, immediately under his inspection. The 13th mode is by far predominant, and was thus written by Mr. Henry Rogers, who was a man of education, and town-clerk, though even in his hand the 15th variety is sometimes seen."
I have only to add that, as the letter & was manifestly introduced as corresponding in sound with ks, and for the sake of dispatch perhaps in writing the name, the vast preponderance of examples under No. 13, ought and must, I should think, decide all doubts both as to the spelling and pronunciation.
present volume, that of these modes a selection from the last almost entirely occupies its pages ; but before we proceed any farther in relation to its construction, it may not be useless or uninteresting to make a few observations on what has been effected for the poet in the two prior branches by his editors and more formal critics.
Nothing can place in a more striking point of view the incurious disposition of our ancestors with regard to literary and biographical information, than the circumstance that four folio editions of the works of Shakspeare, who had been highly popular in his day, and in the most popular department of his art, were suffered to appear and occupy the
space of nearly one hundred years without a single explanatory note, or the annexation of a
• It is well known that there were two impressions of the third folio edition of Shakspeare's Plays, one in 1663, and the other in 1664; the first with Droeshout's head of Shakspeare in the title-page, and the second without any engraving ; but both these copies have been hitherto referred to as containing the spurious Plays; whereas the impression of 1663 does not include them, but ends with the play of Cymbeline, both in the catalogue prefixed, and in the book itself. In the title-page also of the copy of 1663, the work is said to be “ Printed for Philip Chetwinde," whilst the impression of 1664 has only the initials of the bookseller, P. C. in the title-page. Both these copies, owing to the great fire of London occurring so soon after their publication, are even more scarce than the first folio; and I should add that, in three copies which I have seen of this folio of 1663, one of which is in my own possession, the head of Shakspeare
exhibits a clear and good impression,
particle of biographical anecdote. Indeed, an apathy nearly approaching this appears to have existed until a late period in the eighteenth century; for, with the exception of Betterton, who took a journey into Warwickshire for the purpose of collecting information relative to the poet, scarcely an effort was made to throw
additional light upon his history until the era of Capell and Steevens, when, as might have been expected from such a lapse of time so unfortunately neglected, the keenest research retired from the pursuit bafiled and disappointed.
The few facts which Betterton collected with such laudable and affectionate zeal at the close of the seventeenth century, were presented to the world by Rowe, who, in his edition of the bard in 1709, first gave to the admirers of dramatic genius a Life of Shakspeare. The fate of this document must be pronounced somewhat singular, and certainly undeserved; it had remained, until within these last seven years, nearly the sole source and
• What, previous to Rowe, had been incidentally mentioned as connected with the name of Shakspeare by Dugdale, Fuller, Phillips, Winstanley, Langbaine, Blount, Gildon, and Anthony Wood, amounted to a mere trifle; and what has since transpired through the traditionary medium of Mr. Jones of Tarbick, and Mr. Taylor of Warwick, who died in 1790, and from the MS of Aubrey and Oldys, has added but little that can be depended upon. The researches, however, which have been lately made into the proceedings of the Bailiff's Court, the Register, and other public writings of the poet's native town, have happily contributed two or three facts to the scanty store.
undisputed basis of what little has been preserved to us of one so justly the pride and delight of his country, when Mr. Malone, the most indefatigable, and, in general, the most correct of the Shakspeare commentators, and who for half a century had been sedulously endeavouring to substantiate the few facts, and extend the meagre narrative of Rowe, suddenly turned round upon the hapless biographer, boasting, with a singular dereliction of all his former opinions, that he would prove eight out of the ten facts which Rowe had brought forward, to be false.
That he has in a great measure failed in this attempt, and left the credibility of Rowe's statements little shaken by the scepticism of his latter enquiries, must be a subject of congratulation to all who have dwelt with interest on the scanty memorials which time has spared us of the personal history of the poet. As it is scarcely indeed within the sphere of probability to suppose that at this distant period, when more than two centuries have passed since the death of its object, biography can supply us with many additional facts, it must assuredly be an ungrateful and thankless task to endeavour to strip us of what small portion had been treasured up, and to leave us on a subject, which, from its imperfect state, had excited deep regret, a perfect and remediless blank.
In every other part of his duty as an editor, Mr. Malone has exhibited remarkable efficiency and success, and his text may be justly consi
dered as the purest and most correct extant. It is, indeed, not a little extraordinary that, previous to his labours, and we may add, with some qualification, those of Steevens, every editor of Shakspeare has grossly and knowingly deviated from the only authentic standards, the quartos and first folio. They have all, in fact, from Rowe to the era alluded to, acknowledged the necessity of, and professed an adherence to, these first impressions; and all, from indolence, presumption, or caprice, have, in a greater or less degree, deviated from, or neglected to consult them. Rowe took the fourth folio, which, like the second and third, is full of the most arbitrary alterations, as the basis of his text. Pope, though declaring his conviction of the paramount obligation of faithfully following the earliest text, based his own edition on that of Rowe; whilst Theobald, anxious to expose the errors of his immediate predecessor, committed a somewhat similar mistake, by giving us a corrected text from Pope instead of a copy of the first folio collated with the quartos. The numerous references, however, to these the primal editions, which were necessary to effect his purpose, enabled him to remove many corruptions; and, had he more uniformly submitted to their authority, he might have produced a copy of his author, to which, in point of accuracy of text, little could have been objected. But, though superior in industry and fidelity to Pope, he also