« ZurückWeiter »
as the metre, imperfect in the elder, was often reftored to regularity in the junior impreffion.
Mr. Malone, however, in his Letter to Dr. Farmer, has styled thefe neceffary corrections fuch "as could not escape a perfon of the most ordinary capacity, who had been one month converfant with a printing-houfe;" a defcription mortifying enough. to the prefent editors, who, after an acquaintance of many years with typographical myfteries, would be loath to weigh their own amendments against thofe which this fecond folio, with all its blunders, has difplayed.
The fame gentleman alfo (fee his Preface, p. 410) fpeaks with fome confidence of having proved his affertions relative to the worthlefsnefs of this book. But how are thefe affertions proved? By expofing its errors (fome of which nevertheless are of a very questionable shape) and by obferving a careful filence about its deferts. The latter furely fhould have been stated as well as the former. Otherwise, this proof will resemble the "ill-roafted egg" in As you like it, which was done only "on one fide." -If, in the mean time, fome critical arithmetician can be found, who will impartially and intelligently afcertain by way of Dr and Cr the faults and merits of this book, and thereby prove the former to have been many, and the latter fcarce any at all, we will moft openly acknowledge our misapprehenfion, and fubfcribe (a circumftance of which we need not
8 Thus (as one inftance out of feveral that might be produced) when Mr. Malone, in The Merry Wives of Windfor, very judiciously reftores the uncommon word-ging, and fupports it by inftances from The New Inn and The Alchemift, he forbears to mention that fuch alfo is the reading of the fecond, though not of the first folio. See Vol. V. p. 166, n. 5.
be ashamed) to the superior fagacity and judgment of Mr. Malone.
To conclude, though we are far from afferting that this republication, generally confidered, is preferable to its original, we muft ftill regard it as a valuable fupplement to that work; and no ftronger plea in its favour can be advanced, than the frequent ufe made of it by Mr. Malone. The numerous corrections from it admitted by that gentleman into his text, and pointed out in his notes,
9 Amounting to (as we are informed by a very accurate compofitor who undertook to count them) 186.
Inftances wherein Mr. Malone has admitted the Corrections of the Second Folio.
will, in our judgment, contribute to its eulogium; at least cannot fail to rescue it from his prefatory imputations of "being of no value whatever," and afterwards of" not being worth three fhillings." See Mr. Malone's Preface, and Lift of Editions of Shakspeare.
Our readers, it is hoped, will fo far honour us as to obferve, that the foregoing opinions were not fuggefted and defended through an ambitious fpirit of contradiction. Mr. Malone's Preface, indeed, will abfolve us from that cenfure; for he allows them to be of a date previous to his own edition.
This doctrine, however, appears to have made few profelytes: at leaft, fome late catalogues of our good friends the booksellers, have expreffed their diffent from it in terms of uncommon force. I must add, that on the 34th day of the auction of the late Dr. Farmer's library, this profcribed volume was fold for THREE GUINEAS; and that in the fale of Mr. Allen's library, April the 15th, 1799, at Leigh and Sotheby's, York Street, Covent Garden, the four folio editions of our author's plays were disposed of at the following prices:
He, therefore, on this subject, is the affailant, and not the conductors of the prefent republication.
But though, in the courfe of fucceeding ftrictures, feveral other of Mr. Malone's pofitions may be likewise controverted, fome with seriousness, and fome with levity, (for our difcuffions are not of quite fo folemn a turn as thofe which involve the interefts of our country,) we feel an undiffembled pleasure in avowing, that his remarks are at once fo numerous and correct, that when criticifm "has done its worft," their merit but in a small degree can be affected. We are confident, however, that he himself will hereafter join with us in confidering no small proportion of our contested readings as a mere game at literary push-pin; and that if Shakfpeare looks down upon our petty fquabbles over his mangled scenes, it must be with feelings fimilar to thofe of Lucan's hero:
ridelque fui ludibria trunci.
In the Preface of Mr. Malone, indeed, a direct cenfure has been levelled at incorrectness in the text of the edition 1778. The juftice of the imputation is unequivocally allowed; but, at the fame time, might not this acknowledgement be feconded by fomewhat like a retort? For is it certain that the collations, &c. of 1790 are wholly secure from fimilar charges? Are they accompanied by no unauthorized readings, no omiffion of words, and tranfpofitions? Through all the plays, and especially thofe of which there is only a fingle copy, they have been with fome diligence retraced, and the frailties of their collator, fuch as they are, have been ascertained. They fhall not, however, be oftentatiously pointed out, and for this only reason: That as they decrease but little, if at all, the
vigour of Shakspeare, the critick who in general has performed with accuracy one of the heaviest of literary tasks, ought not to be molested by a display of petty faults, which might have eluded the most vigilant faculties of fight and hearing that were ever placed as spies over the labours of each other. They are not even mentioned here as a covert mode of attack, or as a "note of preparation" for future. hoftilities. The office of "devifing brave punishments" for faithlefs editors, is therefore ftrenuously declined, even though their guilt should equal that of one of their number, (Mr. Steevens,) who ftands convicted of having given winds inftead of wind, ftables inftead of stable, fefsions inftead of fefsion, fins instead of fin, and (we fhudder while we recite the accufation) my instead of mine.~
Such fmall deer
"Have been our food for many a year;"
fo long, in truth, that any further pursuit of them is here renounced, together with all triumphs founded on the detection of harmless fynonymous particles that accidentally may have deferted their proper places and wandered into others, without injury to Shakspeare.-A few chipped or disjointed ftones will not impair the shape or endanger the ftability of a pyramid. We are far from wifhing to depreciate exactness, yet cannot perfuade ourselves but that a fingle lucky conjecture or illuftration, fhould outweigh a thousand fpurious haths depofed in favour of legitimate has's, and the like infignificant recoveries, which may not too degradingly be termed
2 See Mr. Malone's Preface.