« ZurückWeiter »
the haberdashery of criticism; that "ftand in number, though in reckoning none;" and are as unimportant to the poet's fame,
"As is the morn-dew on the myrtle-leaf
We shall venture also to affert, that, on a minute fcrutiny, every editor, in his turn, may be charged with omiffion of fome preferable reading; fo that he who drags his predeceffor to juftice on this fcore, will have good luck if he escapes ungalled by recrimination.
If fomewhat, therefore, in the fucceeding volumes has been added to the correction and illuftration of our author, the purpose of his prefent editors is completely answered. On any thing like perfection in their labours they do not prefume, being too well convinced that, in defiance of their beft efforts, their own incapacity, and that of the original quarto and folio-mongers, have still left fufficient work for a race of commentators who are yet unborn. Nos, (fays Tully, in the fecond Book of his Tufculan Queftions,) qui fequimur probabilia, nec ultra quàm id quod verifimile occurrerit, progredi pofsumus; et refellere fine pertinacia, et refelli fine iracundia, parati fumus.
Be it remembered alfo, that the affiftants and adverfaries of editors, enjoy one material advantage over editors themfelves. They are at liberty to felect their objects of remark:
Desperant tractata nitefcere poffe, relinquunt.
The fate of the editor in form is lefs propitious.
He is expected to combat every difficulty from which his auxiliaries and opponents could fecure an honourable retreat. It should not, therefore, be wondered at, if some of his enterprizes are unsuccessful.
Though the foregoing Advertisement has run out into an unpremeditated length, one circumftance remains to be mentioned.-The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged fince it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful cuftom the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a diftinction which malevolence cannot obfcure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour.
It may poffibly be expected, that, a lift of Errata fhould attend fo voluminous a work as this, or that cancels fhould apologize for its more material inaccuracies. Neither of thefe measures, however, has in the present inftance been adopted, and for reasons now fubmitted to the publick.
In regard to errata, it has been customary with not a few authors to acknowledge small mistakes,
that they might escape the fufpicion of greater,3 or perhaps to intimate that no greater could be detected. Both little and great (and doubtless there may be the usual proportion of both) are here expofed (with very few exceptions) to the candour and perfpicacity of the reader, who needs not to be told that in fifteen volumes octavo, of intricate and variegated printing, gone through in the space of about twenty months, the most vigilant eyes muft occafionally have been overwatched, and the readiest knowledge intercepted. The fight of the editors, indeed, was too much fatigued to encourage their engagement in fo laborious a revifion; and they are likewife convinced that fubftitutes are not always qualified for their task; but instead of pointing out real mistakes, would have fuppofed the existence of fuch as were merely founded on their own want of acquaintance with the peculiarities of ancient fpelling and language; for even modern poetry has sometimes been in danger from the chances of their fuperintendance. He whofe business it is to offer this unusual apology, very well remembers to have been fitting with Dr. Johnfon, when an agent from a neighbouring prefs brought in the proof fheet of a republication, requesting to know whether a particular word in it was not corrupted. "So far from it, Sir, (replied the Doctor, with fome harshness,) that the word you fufpect and would difplace, is confpicuoufly beautiful where it ftands, and is the only one that could have done the duty expected from it by Mr. Pope."
As for cancels, it is in the power
the hofpitable door
"Expos'd a matron, to avoid worse rape."
Paradife Loft, B.I. v. 34.
lefs binder to defeat their purpofe; for they are fo feldom lodged with uniformity in their proper places, that they as often ferve to render copies imperfect," as to fcreen an author from the charge of ignorance or inattention. The leaf appropriated to one volume, is fometimes fhuffled into the correfponding. page of another; and fometimes the faulty leaf is withdrawn, and no other fubftituted in its room. These circumstances might be exemplified; but the fubject is scarcely of confequence enough to be more than generally stated to the reader, whofe indulgence is again folicited on account of blemishes which in the courfe of an undertaking like this are unavoidable, and could not, at its conclufion, have been remedied but by the hazard of more extenfive mischief;—an indulgence, indeed, that will more readily be granted, and efpecially for the fake of the compofitors, when it is understood, that, on an average, every page of the present work, including fpaces, quadrats, points, and letters, is (to speak technically) composed of 2680 diftinct pieces of
* Number of letters, &c. in a page of Shakspeare, 1793.
From this calculation it is clear, that a common page, admitting it to confift of 1-3d text, and 2-3ds notes, contains
As was formerly therefore obferved, he who waited till the river should run dry, did not act with less reason than the editors would do, who should fufpend a voluminous and complicated publication, in the vain hope of rendering it abfolutely free from literary and typographical errors.
about 2680 diftin&t pieces of metal; which multiplied by 16, the number of pages in a fheet, will amount to 42,880-the mifplacing of any one of which would inevitably cause a blunder. PLYMSELL,