Page images

printed by William, with the first Folio Shakspeare, printed by Isaac Jaggard, will show that the like complaint might far more truly have been preferred

Cant. 5. St. 111.

Of marble statuës many thousand more. Two hundred of his traine his eye hath seene All statuës. Cant. 6. St. 42. Placing his statue that his prayse did sing, In Romes hye Capitoll. Cant. 8. St. 10. On which Apolloes statue dwels for aye. Cant. 10. St. 46. Besides, in Note (50) to Love's Labour's Lost. P. 243-4 of Vol. 2, after reporting that, "Whitely (in the old eds. ' whitly'*), has been considered by some critics as a questionable reading, Rosaline being, as we learn from several places of the play, darkcomplexioned,"-critics, by superlative euphemism thus named, so devoid of all judgment as to deem "whitely" akin to fair, although, if common observation may be our guide, whiteness, whether by contrast or not, is a peculiar attribute of dark features,—Mr. Dyce proceeds to remark that, "on the other hand Walker (Crit. Exam. &c. Vol. 2, p. 349), cites the line with the reading 'whitely:"" and quotes from North's Plutarch, "lean and whitely-faced fellow:" whence two things may be concluded, one, that the epithet whitely" is not rare, since it was picked up by Walker in a note of Malone's, on a passage in Act 2. Scene 9, of the Merchant of Venice, without any suspicion by that critic that it would ever be wanted to support the authentic reading in Love's Labour's Lost; another, and that which has provoked the present mooting of a point to be discussed hereafter, that Mr. Dyce is evidently not aware that this adjective "whitely" occurs in Cant. 5. St. 74, of the Troja Britannica :

[ocr errors]

"That hath a whitely face, and a long nose,

And for them both I wonderous well esteeme her.” Which lines do not merely furnish an instance of the epithet "whitely," but, in such company as parallels Shakespeare's * Misprinted in the Camb. Ed. "whitley."

by Heminge and Condell against the latter, even after every allowance is made for the greater liability to mistake in the persons, their exits and entrances, the multifarious dialogue, the broken sentences, and varied phraseology of a play. It would therefore be manifest injustice to fasten upon the editors of the Folio 1623 blunders for which its printer Jaggard is clearly accountable, or in any measure to make those a ground for impugning the good faith of its somewhat partial representation, that "where (before) you were abused with diuerse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos'd them: euen those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued thē.

coupling of it with "a wanton." If the pertinency of this argument be lost upon "some critics," it only adds further proof, where none is needed, that they have no pretensions to that name, nor the faintest calling to interfere with Shakespeare's text: for their enlightenment, however, it may be stated that though "whitely" and "fair" be not near allied, "wantonness" and " a long nose" are, at least in our early dramatic writers, from whom principally old readings must be made good. That Mr. Collier should turn "whitely" into "witty" discloses more puerility of artifice than defect of knowledge; while its transformation into "wightly" by the Cambridge editors should be a warning to them and their compeers not to embark in novelties, nor quit their proper province, but stick to the drudgery of collating and compiling, for which they may not be meanly qualified, and forbear to intrude upon even the outskirts of the domains of philology, wherein they have neither part nor lot.

-And what he thought, he vttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarce receiued from him a blot in his papers"-yet how many annotators, how many editors of Shakespeare, down to the present time, visit the sins of Jaggard upon Heminge and Condell; do by them what Heywood deprecated with respect to himself, "let the faults of the printer lie upon their necks." And because "the dram of base doth all the noble substance often draw to his own scandal," hence the slur derived from the printing-house upon their credit as editors has left no parts of their work free from question; sound and unsound alike have in turn been doubted, and tampered with: the upshot is, that in many places Shakespeare's genuine language has been discarded, and the text alloyed with adulterate mixtures; exclusive of that long array of unvitiated readings whereof the meaning has been balked. The customary speech, and syntax of the 16th century are sometimes supplanted, another while hybridised, every where measured by a diction and syntax prevalent in the 17th, 18th and 19th; a mishap to some extent unavoidable, because the dialect of yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, undergoes a change so gradual that it is not noted; variation is lost in resemblance; and to Englishmen reading English an obsolete style is still unconsciously identified with each successive ever-widening divergence from it: but such has been the illiterate pedantry of officious notemongers that sentences of a construction not less current now than 260 years ago are

evermore cavilled at, and either misexpounded, or if the true sense be hit, the words are wrenched, and sprained, and untruly sorted. An ill-printed book, but above all, minds unseasoned with Elizabethan literature have wrought the biggest half of this mischief; the only remedy for it is, what many students, many interpreters, and not a few editors of Shakespeare sadly lack-reading, extensive reading, to quell meddlesomeness, and beget self-distrust. By dint of that Englishmen will begin to comprehend, how huge is the debt of gratitude owed by their countrymen to Heminge and Condell.

A little taste at the outset will be enough to evince that Shakespeare, to be understood, must be read in the light, and by one habituated to the light of his times: thus, to occupy' and to do,' verbs that in the reign of Elizabeth and her successor wère suggestive of "most maculate thoughts," have long lost the ambiguous import, which ribald pleasantry for a season lent them, and now, as of yore,-as when Shakespeare was a boy,-may be uttered in ears never so captious, without risk of perversion; and although "soon" in the west of England to this day, as is said,* still signifies "evening," yet elsewhere, or to persons unversed in the nomenclature of the Tudor-Stuart æra, such a signification is unknown, and would be sought to as little purpose in the Minsheust of a prior, or a later date, as in the

* Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words. + Minsheu's Ductor in linguas.

grammar of a Bullokar or a Murray would the fact, attested by a contemporary of Shakespeare, a HeadMaster of St. Paul's School,-that the use of "soon" as an adverb, in the familiar sense of "betimes," "by and by," or "quickly," had, when he wrote, been eclipsed with most men by an acceptation restricted to "nightfall:" the statement of this witness is worth quoting in his own words. In the comparison of adverbs, at page 28 of his Logonomia Anglica, ed. 1619, Gil writes"Quickly cito, sooner citior aut citius, soonest citissimus aut citissime, nam 'soon' hodie apud plurimos significat ad primam vesperam, olim cito."

Bating errors of the Press, most of which an average English scholar might, as he reads, amend for himself; and forgiving Jaggard his execution of a task from MS., which the reprint of 1807 failed to match from letter-press, it is a great treat to ramble over the Folio, photolithographed by Day, without let or rub of notes, wherewith bile, or dulness, conceit, or immaturity in the critic has overlaid and depraved so many editions of the greatest poet of the world.

Horne Tooke spoke but the truth, when he said, "it is much to be wished that an edition of Shakespeare were given literatim according to the first Folio; which is now become so scarce and dear that few persons can obtain it. For by the presumptuous license of the dwarfish commentators, who are for ever cutting him down to their own size, we

« PreviousContinue »