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accustomed to the critical study of our old authors, he might have passed rapidly over the path, where I was obliged to plod slowly along, learning my duty in the discharge of it. Such a person, moreover, would, in all probability, not merely have finished his task much earlier, but have done it infinitely better. I have indeed, to solicit the reader, not merely to pardon delays, but to overlook unavoidable blunders in performance. I am conscious that, in the notes, I have occasionally, for the sake of brevity, spoken confidently, where doubt and hesitation would have been more in place. Above all, I must beg particular indulgence for those portions, both of the notes and the preface, where I have been compelled by the subject to sit, as it were, in judgment on my superiors, and to criticise critics, without having any claim myself to that respectable title. Let us now consider those impediments which
be attributed to the nature of the work, and to the state in which it was left by the author. The work is for the most part made up of quotations : and these, with a very few exceptions, I have verified by reference to the authors from whom they were taken. This alone occupied much time. Some people may think, that, as Walker was so eminent in verbal criticism, and must, therefore, have well known the value of accuracy in transcribing, I might have safely trusted to him on this point, and consequently, threw
away time and trouble in thus testing his correctI soon found, however, that, though his own
observations, when they occurred, were either originally written with accuracy, or were carefully corrected where they required correction, it was quite otherwise with the numerous quotations that form the bulk of these volumes. It is natural enough that mistakes should be made in numbering, particularly when passages are quoted from near the beginning or end of an act or scene; such mistakes are common enough in Walker's manuscript; but these are accompanied by others of an entirely different nature. From among the latter, I have noted down (partly from this work and partly from the Versification) about seventy, most of which resemble the blunders in the old copies of our Elizabethan dramatists, and consequently bear upon the revision of Shakespeare's text. Several of these, whimsically enough, confirm some of Walker's own opinions. I need only mention one of them here. At page 253 of the Versification the reader will find a well known passage from King John, ii. 1; it is thus written in the manuscript,
“St. George, that swing'd the dragon, and e'er since
Swings on his horse' back at mine hostess' door." Had this mistake occurred in the first folio, and had any poor editor proposed to substitute for swings the genuine word sits, his proposal would no doubt have been condemned as wanton and unnecessary, and the other reading would have been stoutly defended as an instance of Shakespeare's propensity to play on words. As it is, Walker's error gives support to Article xliii. of the present work.
Here and there (but very seldom) the manuscript exhibits discrepancies of another kind. Readings occur which may be thought improvements on the received text, and have the air of legitimate conjectures, but which, as they are put down without any observation, were probably slips either of Walker's pen or of his memory. I have not ventured to alter such variations from the printed texts of Shakespeare, but have adverted to them in the notes, whenever I have observed them.
One may be noticed here as a philological curiosity. It occurs at page 29 of the Versification. Walker there quotes a passage from Troilus and Cressida, iii. 3, thus,
“ Keeps pace with thought, and almost like the Gods,
Does thoughts unveil in their dim cradles,” and immediately afterwards, proposing to cure the halting measure of the second line by a different arrangement, he again quotes the passage with the usual reading, dumb. The same passage is also quoted for another reason in Article xliii. of the present work, and there also it is given in the usual way. This discrepancy at least can have been nothing but a slip of the pen ; yet dim makes as good sense as dumb, perhaps somewhat better; and if the one reading had appeared in the quarto, and the other in the folio, there would have been a reasonable ground for a difference of opinion as to which should be preferred. Mr. Collier, indeed, in his last edition, suggests dim as an emendation, though he has not placed it in the text, being of opinion that dumb could scarcely have been composed for dim, as the latter word was never spelt with a final b. Dumb, however, was occasionally spelt without that letter, and dim and dum may readily have been confounded. But however that may be, neither dim nor dumb affords any countenance to the crudities of the Old Corrector. I admit, with Walker and Mr. Collier, that the metre here is faulty, and I hold that it is part of an editor's duty to repair defective verses, when he can, by probable conjectures; but surely it is scarcely allowable to procure our materials for that laudable purpose by the destruction of the sense. In concluding this digression, I must apologise for my own negligence in not having detected Walker's oversight. That negligence was, indeed, all the more glaring, as I had occasion to write a note on the passage in question. But this only shows how easily errors escape detection, when the general sense is not affected by them. Even a certain degree of awkwardness in a sentence would not excite the suspicions of the same corrector, who would at once notice a piece of palpable nonsense. Such awkward passages abound in the original editions of our old dramatists, and demand the peculiar attention of modern editors. Unfortunately, too many of the latter have taken up the mischievous notion that a passage is never to be corrected as long as sense can be made out of it, and in consequence, go confidently to sleep just at the times when it is most incumbent upon
them to be wide awake. I have now to describe the state in which this work was left by the author, and I cannot do this better than by comparing and contrasting its condition with that of the Versification. The latter was found divided into sixty regularly numbered articles ; I ought, perhaps, rather to say fifty-nine, as there was no division or distinction between the second and the third; the proper title of every Article was placed at its head by Walker himself, and, after verifying the quotations, correcting literal errors, and pruning superfluities, the manuscript might at once have been handed over to the printer, but for two circumstances, which rendered it necessary to transcribe the whole. Almost every page, of the early portions at least, was crowded with interlineations of additional matter, while other additional matter was accommodated in additional pages distributed at irregular intervals, as occasion required. These additional pages were rather more numerous than the rest. I should add, that here and there were scattered other portions of additional matter, with directions where they should be placed. Fortunately, Walker wrote a very clear hand, so that it was less difficult than might be supposed to distinguish and arrange this mass of seeming confusion.
Much that I have just said of the Versification is applicable to the larger work. In this manuscript, however, the different parts were neither numbered, nor (except in a few cases) headed with their respective titles ; and though it mostly appeared, from the general nature of the subjects, that Walker had intended to distribute