Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

arrogance of Warburton, the solemn inflexibility of Johnson, and the smartness and mechanical ear of Steevens.

With regard to Mr. Collier's corrected folio, it has plainly appeared, from its own pages, and from the records of Shakesperian literature

That it possesses in itself no authority :

That, consequently, its proposed emendations must depend for acceptance entirely upon their intrinsic worth :

That the corrector did not feel the Poetry of Shakespeare :

That he did not take his Wit:

That he violated the Dramatic Propriety which Shakespeare observed :

That his corrections were made in disregard of the context:

That they were not made until after the Restoration, when Shakespeare's contemporaries had passed away, and emendation must have been conjectural :

That the corrector disregarded the tastes and customs of Shakespeare's day, and sought to make Shakespeare's text conform to the taste and customs of his own day :

That he made changes in the text merely because he did not understand it :

That he blundered in making his corrections, and was

squeamishness, is from the pen of Malonc. Steevens follows him; and gravely quotes from Comus to show that the harmless word which means the fingers of the feet “was endured, at least, in the time of Milton."

In the same play, Act III. Sc. 4, Pope has this note. “Some few innecessary verses are omitted in this scene, according to the oldest editions." For “this scene," we may read the whole play;' for Mr. Pope (he was then only Mr. Pope) took the liberty of rejecting just what he pleased of the additions which Shakespeare made to his first draught of this charming tragedy. Ample justification for the application of far more sweeping terms of condemnation to the editorial labors of Pope, Johnson and their compeers, will be found profusely scattered through the remainder of this volume.

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

obliged to erase them, and substitute others ; which could not have been the case if he had had “authority :

That the corrections which would seem most conclusively to show that he had authority, have been effected by the mere conjectures of others, and some of them by persons of very slender abilities :

That of one thousand one hundred and three proposed changes in the text of the folio of 1632, at least one thousand and thirteen are entirely inadmissible into the original text ; and that of the remainder, one hundred and seventythree are already a part of the received text, leaving one hundred and seventeen, a little more than one-twelfth of the entire number, from which future editors may carefully select emendations :

That it is highly probable, to say the least, that correctors of two or three generations labored upon this volume :

That there are other existing folios, similar in every respect to this, and entitled to no less deference,—that is, to none :

And, finally, that this folio is filled with errors of all the various kinds committed by editors and commentators, of every grade of capacity and incapacity, during the last hundred and fifty years ; and that it contains a large number of the specific mutilations perpetrated by them, and adds to those more than have heretofore been attempted by all the mutilators of the text combined.

The conclusions forced upon us by this stubborn array, attach, not only to individual changes in Mr. Collier's folio, but to the whole of the manuscript corrections, as far as their pretence to authority, or to any other consideration than that due to their intrinsic excellence is concerned ;-and those conclusions are, that the volume which contains them is utterly worthless as an authority, and that at least eleven

twelfths of them are not entitled to the slightest consideration, even as conjectures.

After being compelled to such conclusions, it is difficult to understand how Mr. Collier could have been blind to the incontestable facts which establish them. The MS. corrections of this folio, warmly welcomed every where at first, are now, with a few exceptions, condemned by Knight, Halliwell, and Singer, the principal editors of Shakespeare, and by the Rev. Alexander Dyce, the distinguished dramatic scholar and critic, who has not yet edited Shakespeare, and has therefore no pet text to defend. Dr. Delius, too, the eminent German critic,—and to attain eminence as a critic of Shakespeare in Germany, implies, perhaps, a profounder scholarship and keener insight than to reach the same position in England,—Dr. Delius admits but seventeen emendations out of the whole thirteen hundred and three. Such a change in all quarters, from welcoming expectation to a scornful rejection of almost the entire labors of the corrector, and which, it must be remembered, has been worked by the emendations themselves, shows how utterly they are at variance with the spirit which Shakesperian scholars have imbibed from the works of their great master; and how inconsistent they are with the language, customs, and tone of thought of Shakespeare's day, with which the students of his works must needs make themselves familiar. deavoring to account for the singular fatuity which led Mr. Collier to embody them ruthlessly in a text which he calls “ The Plays of Shakespeare,” it is both just and charitable to conclude that, intoxicated with the delight which he would naturally feel at making a discovery which seemed at first to promise so much for the cause to which he has devoted not a little of his life, he looked only at its brightest points, and saw those double ; and that we may safely expect to be able ere long, to appeal from Collier drunk with anticipated good fortune, to Collier sobered with reflection upon almost unmitigated disappointment.

It is worth while to devote a portion of this review to the consideration of a few readings of Mr. Collier's folio which form a class by themselves. These are the entire lines which, in five or six places, are inserted to supply a lacking rhyme or complete a deficient sense.

These cannot in any instance be received, no matter how great the deficiency which they attempt to make up, or how remarkable their intrinsic merits ;—and for this very conclusive and obvious reason. They are not emendations of typographical errors, not the correction of that which is ill done, but the doing of that which was left undone. If there were evidence that they came from Shakespeare himself, they would be necessarily received, no matter how poor they were ; that evidence not existing, they must be rerejected, no matter how good or apt they are. They could be received only upon unquestionable authority ; for they have no other basis on which to stand, not even the support of an erroneous text. They are made out of whole cloth. As far as their authority is concerned, we know that they could not possibly have been supplied until sixteen years after Shakespeare's death ; for the edition on the margins of a copy of which they are written was not published until 1632, and he died in 1616; and, besides, we have plainly seen that some of the corrections could not possibly have been made before 1662, when Davenant introduced the first scenery ever exhibited upon a public stage in England. Now, the interpolation of an entire line by one man in 1662, is as little justifiable as the interpolation of an entire scene by another man in 1762 or 1853. There is the same lack of authority for each. The addition is worth just as much in one case as in the other.

It must also be noted that, as these lines, if received at all, must be received upon authority, if we admit one, we must admit all. To do otherwise would be to sit in judgment upon Shakespeare's right to write his own plays as he pleased. We must therefore receive into the text the following line which is printed in italic letter, if we receive any which are similarly inserted in Mr. Collier's folio :

"Q. Margaret,—Give up your staff, Sir, and the King his realm. Gloster.—My staff?-here, noble Henry, is my staff:

To think I fain would keep it makes me laugh.

What must be the capacity of a man to understand, much more, to emend Shakespeare's text, who could perpetrate such a ridiculous abomination as this, merely for the purpose of supplying a rhyme?--for it must be remarked that the sense is perfect and clear without it. Who will not be grateful that there is no authority which compels us to receive such a platitude as Shakespeare's?-and if not this, then no other line ; for all not furnished us “by authentic copies, printed or manuscript,” must be regarded as interpolation. If a line be wanting in the text, the hiatus must remain until it is filled up by these “authentic copies.”

These remarks apply, with equal force, to the arbitrary changes of a word or more at the end of a line, for the purposes of rhyme. As for instance:

“Bid bim farewell; commit him to the grave;
Do him that kindness, and take leave of him."

For this the MS. corrector audaciously substitutes,

“Bid him farewell; commit him to the grave;
Do himn that kindness—all that he can have."

That is, he takes out five words from the original text, and substitutes for them five others, changing the construction of the sentence to admit them, in order that two lines may

« ZurückWeiter »