« ZurückWeiter »
tury there was no verbal criticism upon his text; but his style and matter, and the construction of his plays, were made the subjects of incidental comment and discussion by Mr. Thomas Rymer, Mr. Jeremiah Collier, * Mr. John Dennis, and an anonymous opponent of the second-named gentleman.
In the year 1709, Shakespeare's Plays, “ Revised and Corrected, with an account of his Life and Writings, by N. (icholas] Rowe,” were published, in seven vols. 8vo. This edition contains all of the received plays, besides the six which are accounted apocryphal. Shakespeare had now for the first time an editor, in the proper sense of the word. Rowe was a poet of merit, a man of excellent sense, a scholar, and, withal, a modest and somewhat painstaking editor ; and the fruit of his labors was a great improvement in the text of Shakespeare. A large number of the grosser blunders which deform the previous impressions disappeared under his pen ; and it is remarkable that some of the very emendations which appear upon the margin of Mr. Collier's copy of the folio of 1632, and the credit of which that gentleman claims for his manuscript corrector, are to be found in this, the first critically prepared edition of Shakespeare's works. The fact is significant, both as regards the manuscript corrector and his advocate ; for it shows that no “higher authority” than the conjectural ability of a clever and well educated man was necessary to their production ; and it also shows that Mr. Collier has issued his book of Notes and Emendations without that careful investigation which the subject demanded, and which the public had a right to expect at his hands.
* “A Short View of the Immorality & Profaneness of the English Stage: Together with the Sense of Antiquity upon this Subject. By Jeremy Collier, M. A. 8vo. London, 1698."
† “The Antient & Modern Stages survey'd. Or, Mr. Collier's view of the Immorality & Profaneness of the English Stage set in a True Light, &c. 8vo. London, 1699.”
Neither of these books is enumerated in Mr. Halliwell's very serviceable Catalogue of Shakesperiana; though they certainly present claims to such notice equal, at least, to those of other volumes the titles of which Mr. Halliwell has recorded.
Rowe was succeeded, as an editor of Shakespeare, by Pope, who published a superb edition, in six volumes, quarto, in 1725. Pope, like most of those authors of eininence in other departments of literature, who have undertaken to regulate the text of Shakespeare, made a very poor editor. He used the quartos somewhat to the advantage, but more to the detriment of his author ; foisting into the text that which Shakespeare himself had rejected. He gave us a few good, and several very pretty and plausible conjectural emendations of typographical errors ; but he added to these so many which were only exponents of his own conceit and want of kindred appreciation of Shakespeare's genius, that his text, as a whole, is one of the poorest which remain to us.
Theobald,“ poor, piddling Tibbald,” the first hero of his Dunciad, came after Pope, and is one of the very best editors who have fallen to the lot of Shakespeare. He was the first who did any great service by conjectural emendation, and the judicious use of the quartos. He issued first,
Shakespeare Restored ; or a Specimen of the Many Errors, as well committed as unamended, in Pope's edition of this Poet," quarto, 1726,-a publication which Pope never forgave,—and in 1733 his edition of Shakespeare was published, in seven volumes, 8vo. It was by far the best text of Shakespeare which had appeared, and a great number of its conjectural emendations of typographical errors remain undisturbed to this day.
To Theobald, succeeded Sir Thomas Hanmer, Baronet (as Inspector Bucket would say), who published an edition, splendid for the day, in six volumes, quarto, at Oxford, in 1744. Hanmer was an accomplished gentleman, and a man of taste. He did something to better, and somewhat more to injure the text as Theobald had left it. His labors were received with favor ; but he was indebted for his success rather to fashion than to any remarkable merit, and his edition is rarely consulted; the few received, or favorably regarded emendations which he proposed being perpetuated in the text or in the notes of other editors. It should be noticed here, that many of Hanmer's questionable readings, and some which are regarded as inadmissible, are found among those the credit of which Mr. Collier claims for his manuscript corrector.
Hanmer's edition was followed, in 1747, by Bishop Warburton's. This prelate, not then mitred, was undeniably learned and able ; but he was as undeniably assuming and arrogant in his personal demeanor, and he treated Shakespeare's works as he probably would have treated the player himself, had he been his contemporary. He set himself not so much to correcting the text, as to amending the writings of Shakespeare. His tone is that of haughty flippancy. Does he find a passage in which the thought, or the expression of William Shakespeare is at variance with the judgment of William Warburton ?-he immediately alters it to suit the taste of that distinguished scholar and divine, saying : “Without a doubt, Shakespeare wrote, or meant, thus.” For instance, of the fine line in Hamlet,
"Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,"
he says :
“Without question Shakspeare wrote,
- against assail of troubles,' i. e. assault."
Again, in the following passage, from As You Like It, where, in the second Scene of the first Act, Celia, dissuading Orlando from the encounter with the Duke's wrestler, says to him:
“. If you saw yourself with your eyes, and knew yourself with your judgment, the fear of your adventure would counsel you to a more equal enterprise.”
". If you saw yourself with your eyes, and knew yourself with your judgment.' Absurd! The sense requires that we should read our eyes, our judgment."
It seems not to have occurred to the editor that the sense might be,
"If you saw yourself with your eyes, and knew yourself with your judgment:" and as this solution did not occur to him, he, of course, cuts the knot, and mutilates the text. So, again, in the same play, the impatient Rosalind says :
“One inch of delay is a South Sea of discovery:”. a phrase vivid with meaning ; but Warburton says of it:
« This is stark nonsense! we must read, off discovery."
Rosalind talks of Orlando's kissing
“His kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread."
This does not suit Warburton, who remarks :
“We should read beard, [instead of bread ;] that is, as the kiss of an holy saint, or hermit, called the kiss of charity. This makes one comparison just and decent; the other, impious and absurd.”
One more example from the same play. The Duke asks Orlando if he believes that Rosalind can do what she promised, and the latter replies :
“I sometimes do believe, and sometimes do not,
As those that fear they hope, and know they fear.” Of the last line of which, Warburton says: “ This strange nonsense should be read thus :
“As those that fear their hap, and know their fear.'” This was reckless editing ; and it soon brought forward defenders of the integrity of Shakespeare's text. But, like all his predecessors, and nearly all of his successors, Bishop Warburton left, in his heaps of editorial chaff, some grains of sense, which have been carefully winnowed out and garnered up in that storehouse of Shakesperian lore, the Variorum edition, which will hereafter claim our attention,
In 1745 had appeared a duodecimo volume, entitled “Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks on Sir T. H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's] edition of Shakespear; to which is affixed, proposals for a new edition of Shakespear, with a specimen.” It was written, as its author might have said, with combined perspicuity of thought, and ponderosity of language. It was by Samuel Johnson, then rapidly rising to the highest position in the world of letters ; and, in 1765, an edition of Shakespeare, “with the corrections and illustrations of various commentators : to which are added notes, by Samuel Johnson,” was published, in eight volumes, 8vo. It is giving the Doctor but little praise to say that he was a better editor than his Reverend predecessor. The majority of his emendations of the text were, nevertheless, singularly unhappy ; and his notes, though often learned and sometimes sensible, were generally wanting in just that sort of learning and sense most necdful for his task. Strange as it may seem, no one who himself appreciates Shakespeare, can read Johnson's comments and verbal criticisms upon his plays without the conviction that to the great moralist,' the