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conferred on that of Thomas Watfon, an older and much more elegant fonnetteer. *
What remains to be added concerning this republication is, that a confiderable number of fresh remarks are both adopted and fupplied by the prefent editors. They have perfifted in their former track of reading for the illuftration of their author, and cannot help obferving that thofe who receive the benefit of explanatory extracts from ancient writers, little know at what expence of time and labour fuch atoms of intelligence have been collected. That the foregoing information, however, may communicate no alarm, or induce the reader to fuppofe we have "beftowed our whole tedioufnefs" on him, we fhould add, that many notes have likewife been withdrawn. A few, manifeftly erroneous, are indeed retained, to fhow how much the tone of Shakspearian criticism is changed, or on account of the skill displayed in their confutation; for furely every editor in his
His fonnets, though printed without date, were entered in the year 1581 on the books of the Stationers' Company, under the title of "Watson's Paffions, manifefling the true frenzy of love." Shakspeare appears to have been among the number of his readers, having in the following paffage of Venus and Adonis,
"Leading him prifoner in a red-rofe chain"
borrowed an idea from his 83d Sonnet:
"The Muses not long fince intrapping love
"In chaines of roafes," &c.
Watson, however, declares on this occafion that he imitated Ronfard; and it must be confeffed, with equal truth, that in the prefent inftance Ronfard had been a borrower from Anacreon.
turn is occasionally entitled to be seen, as he would have shown himself, with his vanquished adverfary at his feet. We have therefore been fometimes willing to bring a corollary, rather than want a fpirit." Nor, to confefs the truth, did we always think it juftifiable to fhrink our predeceffors to pig mies, that we ourfelves, by force of comparison, might affume the bulk of giants.
The prefent editors must also acknowledge, that unless in particular inftances, where the voice of the publick had decided against the remarks of Dr. Johnson, they have hefitated to difplace them; and had rather be charged with fuperftitious reverence for his name, than cenfured for a prefumptuous difregard of his opinions.
As a large proportion of Mr. Monck Mafon's ftrictures on a former edition of Shakspeare are here inferted, it has been thought neceffary that as much of his Preface as was defigned to introduce them, fhould accompany their fecond appearance. Any formal recommendation of them is needlefs, as their own merit is fure to rank their author among the moft diligent and fagacious of our celebrated Poet's
It may be proper, indeed, to obferve that a few of these remarks are omitted because they had been anticipated; and that a few others have excluded themselves by their own immoderate length; for he
* See p. 371.
who publishes a feries of comments unattended by the text of his author, is apt to "overflow the measure" allotted to marginal criticism. In these cafes, either the commentator or the poet muft give way, and no reader will patiently endure to see "Alcides beaten by his page." - Inferior volat Mr. M. Mason will alfo forgive us if we add, that a small number of his proposed amendments are fuppreffed through honeft commiferation. "'Tis much he dares, and he has a wifdom that often guides his valour to act in fafety;" yet occafionally he forgets the prudence that fhould attend conjecture, and therefore, in a few inftances, would have been produced only to be perfecuted. May it be subjoined, that the freedom with which the fame gentleman has treated the notes of others, seems to have authorized an equal degree of licence refpecting his own? And yet, though the fword may have been drawn against him, he shall not complain that its point is unbated and envenomed;" for the conductors of this undertaking do not fcruple thus openly to exprefs their wishes that it may have merit enough to provoke a revifion from the acknowledged learning and perfpicacity of their Hibernian / coadjutor. Every re-impreffion of our great dramatick master's works must be confidered in fome degree as experimental; for their corruptions and obfcurities are ftill fo numerous, and the progrefs of fortunate conjecture fo tardy and uncertain, that
our remote defcendants may be perplexed by paffages that have perplexed us; and the readings which have hitherto difunited the opinions of the learned, may continue to disunite them as long as England and Shakspeare have a name. In short, the peculiarity once afcribed to the poetick ifle of Delos, may be exemplified in our author's text, which on account of readings alternately received and reprobated, muft remain in an unfettled ftate, and float in obedience to every gale of contradictory criticism. Could a perfect and decifive edition of the following fcenes be produced, it were to be expected only (though we fear in vain) from the hand of Dr. Farmer, whose more ferious avocations forbid him to undertake
what every reader would delight to poffefs.
But as we are often reminded by our "brethren of the craft," that this or that emendation, however apparently neceffary, is not the genuine text of Shakspeare, it might be imagined that we had received this text from its fountain head, and were therefore certain of its purity. Whereas few literary occurrences are better understood, than that it came down to us difcoloured by "the variation of every foil" through which it had flowed, and that it ftagnated at laft in the muddy refervoir of the first folio.* In plainer terms, that the vitiations
It will perhaps be urged, that to this firft folio we are indebted for the only copies of fixteen or feventeen of our author's plays. True: but may not our want of yet earlier and lefs corrupted editions of these very dramas be folely attributed to the monopolizing vigilance of its
of a careless theatre were feconded by thofe of as ignorant a prefs. The integrity of dramas thus prepared for the world, is juft on a level with the innocence of females nurfed in a camp and educated in a bagnio. As often therefore as we are told, that by admitting corrections warranted by common fense and the laws of metre, we have not rigidly adhered to the text of Shakspeare, we fhall entreat our opponents to exchange that phrase for another more germane," and fay inftead of it, that we have deviated from the text of the publishers of fingle plays in quarto, or their fucceffors, the editors of the first folio; that we have fometimes followed the fuggeftions of a Warburton, a Johnfon, a Farmer, or a Tyrwhitt, in preference to the deci fions of a Hemings or a Condell, notwithstanding their choice of readings might have been influenced by affociates whofe high-founding names cannot fail to enforce respect, viz. William Oftler, John. Shanke, William Sly, and Thomas Poope.*
editors, Meffieurs Hemings and Condell? Finding they had been deprived of fome tragedies and comedies which, when opportunity offered, they defigned to publish for their own emolument, they redoubled their folicitude to withhold the reft, and were but too fuccefsful in their precaution. "Thank fortune (fays the original putterforth of Troilus and Creffida) for the fcape it hath made amongst you; fince by the grand poffeffors' wills, I believe, you should have pray'd for it rather than beene pray'd, "--Had quartos of Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, All's well that ends well, &c. been fent into the world, from how many corruptions might the text of all these dramas have been fecured!
See firft Folio, &c. for the Lift of A&ors in our author's Plays.