Page images
PDF
EPUB

him, not only to the wearifome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar course of reading, neither pleasing nor profitable for any other purpose.

But I will venture to affert, that his merit is more con. fpicuous in the comments than the text ; in the regulation' of which he seems to have acted rather from caprice, than any fețiled principle; admitting alterations, in fome passages, on very infufficient authority, indeed, whilft in others he has retained the antient readings, though evidently cor. rupt, in preference to amendments as evidently juft ; and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himfelf has proved to be falle. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgment, Malone's observation would have been nearer to the truth; but as it now fta ids, the last ediţion has no signal advantage, that I can perceive, over that of Johnson, in point of correctness.

But the object that Steevens had most at heart, was the illuftration of Shakspeare, in which it must be owned he has clearly surpassed all the former editors. If, without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to fucceed in explaining some paffages which he mifapprehended, or in fuggefting amendments that efcaped his fagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have Audied every line of these plays, whilft the other commen, tators, I will not except even Steevens himfelf, have too generally confined their observation and ingenuity to thofe litigated paffages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, as requiring either amendment or explanation, and have suffered many others to pass unheeded, that, in truth, were equally erroneous or obscure.

It may possibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling mistakes in the printing, which every reader perceives to be such, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, should escape unnoticed.

There is perhaps no species of publication whatever, more likely to produce diversity of opinion than verbal criticisms; for, as there is no certain criterion of truth, no establifed principle by which we can decide whether they

bu

be justly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause, I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these observations will be generally approved of; some of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satisfactory even to myself, and. are hazarded, rather than relied on :- -But there are others which I offer with some degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of passages which have hitherto been misprinted or misunderstood.

In forming these comments, I have confined myself solely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnson : not doubting but the editors had faithfully stated the various seadings of the first editions, I resolved to avoid the labour of collating ; but had I been inclined to undertake that task, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I reside.

I have selected from the Supplement, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, because it is supposed by fome of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at least as faulty as any of the rest. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorrect to require any comment,

M, MASON,

SOME

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

WRITTEN BY MR. ROWE, It seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of the.nfelves, as well as their works, to pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and ever their shape, make, and features, have been the subject of critical inquiries. How trifling foever this curiority may seem to be, it is cere tainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him described even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may fometimes conduce to the better understanding his book; and though the works of Mr. Shakípeare may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.

He was the fon of Mr. John Shakspeare, and was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as' appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentione:1 as gentiemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool,2 had fo large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a free-school, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrained fume of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful

children 2 Se appears that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford-uponVol.i.

Avon ;

extrava

Avon; and that he enjoyed some hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved services to King Henry VII. THEOBALD.

The chief magistrate of the Body Corporate of Stratford, now diftinguished by the title of Mayor, was in the early charters called the High Bailiff. This office Mr. John Shakspeare filled in 1569.

It appears from a note to W. Dothick's Grant of Arms to him in 1596, now in the College of Arms, Vincent, Vol. 157, p. 24, that he was a justice of the peace, and poliefied of lands and tenements to the amount of sool.

Our poet's mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden of Wellingcore, in the county of Warwick, who, in the MS. above refiried to, is called "s a gentleman of worship.” The family of Arden is a very ancient one; Robert Arden of Bromwich, esq. being in the list of the gentry of this county, returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of King Henry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was Sheriff of the county in 1568.-The woodland part of this county was anciently called A dron; afterwards softened to Arden. Hence the name. MALONE. 3 The free-school, I presurre, founded at Strafford. THEOBALD.

extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination fupplie: him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the moit agreeable manner that it was putiible for a mister of the English language to deliver them.

Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him ;* and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young,s His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,' said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for some time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geninfes

that 4 I believe, that on leaving school Shakspeare was placed in the oifice of some country attorney, or the seneschal of time manor court. Sce che Elay on tbe order of his plays, Article, Hamlet.

MALONE. s It is certain he did so; for by the monument in Stratford church erected to the memory of his daughter, Susanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that she died on the 2d of July, 1649, aged 68 : so that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years

THEOBALD. Susanna, who was our poet's eldest child, was baptized, May 26, 1583. Shakspeare therefore, baving been born in April 1564, was nineteen te month preceding her birth. Mr. Theobald was mistaken in supposing that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. There is no memorial there in honour of either our poet's wife or daughter, excap Alat tomb-stones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is ascertained.- His daughter Susanna died, not on the fecord, but the eleventh of July 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dug. dale. MALONE.

6 She was eight years older than her husband, and died in 162.3, at the age of 67 years. THEOBAI.D.

The following is the inscription on her tomb-stone in the church of Stratford :

“ Here lyeth interred the body of ANNE, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this lite the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 years. MALONE.

old.

b 2

« PreviousContinue »