« PreviousContinue »
confider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out than a declaration that they are fo: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon fome parts of them,-fuch as, the battle fcenes throughout; Cæfar's paffage to the fenatehoufe, and fubfequent affaffination; Antony's death; the furprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition,-will juftify these infertions; and may, poffibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great aids which they afford to his conception.
It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies which are here amended without notice, to wit-the pointing, and wrong divifion of much of them refpecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is fo extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that fmall regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (inftead of being influenc'd by fuch a punctuation, or even cafting his eyes upon it, to attend closely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point it accordingly was it the bufinefs of this editionto make parade of difcoveries, this article alone would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of paffages are now first fet to rights by this only, which, before, had either no fenfe at all, or one unfuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it; but all the emendations of this fort, though inferior in merit to no others whatfoever, are confign'd to filence; fome few only excepted, of paffages that have been much contefted, and whofe prefent adjustment might poffibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in fome note, and a reafon given for embracing them: all the other parts of the works have been examin'd
with equal diligence, and equal attention; and the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has follow'd, (into which he has admitted fome novelties,) will be found of fo much benefit to his author, that those who run may read, and that with profit and understanding. The other great mistake in these old editions, and which is very infufficiently rectify'd in any of the new ones, relates to the poet's numbers; his verfe being often wrong divided, or printed wholly as profe, and his profe as often printed like verfe: this, though not fo univerfal as their wrong pointing, is yet fo extenfive an error in the old copies, and fo impoffible to be pointed out otherwife than by a note, that an editor's filent amendment of it is furely pardonable at leaft; for who would not be difgufted with that perpetual fameness which muft neceffarily have been in all the notes of this fort? Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require proving; every good ear does immediately adopt them, and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that acceffion of beauty which results to him from them it is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet ftanding in his works much unpleafing mixture of profaick and metrical dialogue, and fometimes in places feemingly improper, as-in Othello, Vol. XIX. p. 273; and fome others which men of judgment wilf be able to pick out for themselves: but these blemishes are not now to be wip'd away, at least not by an editor, whose province it far exceeds to make a
If the use of these new pointings, and alfo of certain marks that he will meet with in this edition, do not occur immediately to the reader, (as we think it will) he may find it explain'd to him at large in the preface to a little octavo volume intitl'd"Prolufions, or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry;" publish'd in 1760 by this editor, and printed for Mr. Tonfon.
change of this nature; but muft remain as marks of the poet's negligence, and of the hafte with which his pieces were compos'd: what he manifeftly intended profe, (and we can judge of his intentions only from what appears in the editions that are come down to us,) fhould be printed as profe, what verfe as verfe; which, it is hop'd, is now done, with an accuracy that leaves no great room for any further confiderable improvements in that way.
Thus have we run through, in as brief a manner as poffible, all the feveral heads, of which it was thought proper and even neceflary that the publick fhould be appriz'd; as well those that concern preceding editions, both old and new; as the other which we have juft quitted, the method obferv'd in the edition that is now before them: which though not fo entertaining, it is confefs'd, nor affording fo much room to difplay the parts and talents of a writer, as fome other topicks that have generally fupply'd the place of them; fuch ascriticisms or panegyricks upon the author, hiftorical anecdotes, effays, and florilegia; yet there will be found fome odd people, who may be apt to pronounce of them-that they are fuitable to the place they ftand in, and convey all the inftruction that should be look'd for in a preface. Here, therefore, we might take our leave of the reader, bidding him welcome to the banquet that is fet before him; were it not apprehended, and reasonably, that he will expect fome account why it is not ferv'd up to him at present with it's accuftom'd and laudable garniture, of "Notes, Gloffaries," &c. Now though it might be reply'd, as a reafon for what is done, that a very great part of the world, amongst whom is the editor himself, profefs much dislike VOL. I.
to this paginary intermixture of text and comment; in works meerly of entertainment, and written in the language of the country; as alfothat he, the editor, does not poffefs the fecret of dealing out notes by measure, and diftributing them amongst his volumes fo nicely that the equality of their bulk fhall not be broke in upon the thickness of a fheet of paper; yet, having other matter at hand which he thinks may excuse him better, he will not have recourfe to these abovemention'd: which matter is no other, than his very strong defire of approving himfelf to the publick a man of integrity; and of making his future prefent more perfect, and as worthy of their acceptance as his abilities will let him. For the explaining of what is faid, which is a little wrap'd up in mystery at prefent, we must inform that publick-that another work is prepar'd, and in great forwardness, having been wrought upon many years; nearly indeed as long as the work which is now before them, for they have gone hand in hand almost from the firft: this work, to which we have given for title The School of Shakspeare, confifts wholly of extracts, (with obfervations upon fome of them, interfpers'd occafionally,) from books that may properly be call'd-his fchool; as they are indeed the fources from which he drew the greater part of his knowledge in mythology and claffical matters,' his fable, his hiftory, and even
Though our expreffions, as we think, are fufficiently guarded in this place, yet, being fearful of mifconftruction, we defire to be heard further as to this affair of his learning. It is our firm belief then, that Shakspeare was very well grounded, at least in Latin, at fchool: It appears from the cleareft evidence poflible, that his father was a man of no little fubftance, and very well able to give him fuch education; which, perhaps, he
the feeming peculiarities of his language: to furnish out these materials, all the plays have been
might be inclin'd to carry further, by fending him to a univer fity; but was prevented in this defign (if he had it) by his fon's early marriage, which, from monuments, and other like evidence, it appears with no lefs certainty, muft have happen'd before he was feventeen, or very foon after: the displeasure of his father, which was the confequence of this marriage, or elfe fome exceffes which he is faid to have been guilty of, it is probable, drove him up to town; where he engag'd early in fome of the theatres, and was honour'd with the patronage of the Earl of Southampton his Venus and Adonis is addrefs'd to the Earl in a very pretty and modest dedication, in which he calls it" the firft heire of his invention ;" and ushers it to the world with this fingular motto,
"Vilia miretur vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo
and the whole poem, as well as his Lucrece, which follow'd it foon after, together with his choice of thofe fubjects, are plain marks of his acquaintance with fome of the Latin clafficks, at leaft at that time: The diffipation of youth, and, when that was over, the busy scene in which he inftantly plung'd himself, may very well be fuppos'd to have hinder'd his making any great pro grefs in them; but that fuch a mind as his fhould quite lofe the tincture of any knowledge it had once been imbu'd with, can not be imagin'd: accordingly we fee, that this fchool-learning (for it was no more) ftuck with him to the laft; and it was the recordations, as we may call it, of that learning which produc'd the Latin that is in many of his plays, and moft plentifully in those that are most early every several piece of it is aptly introduc'd, given to a proper character, and utter'd upon fome proper occafion; and fo well cemented, as it were, and join'd to the paffage it ftands in, as to deal conviction to the judicious-that the whole was wrought up together, and fetch'd from his own little ftore, upon the fudden and without ftudy.
The other languages, which he has fometimes made use of, that is the Italian and French, are not of fuch difficult conqueft that we fhould think them beyond his reach: an acquaintance with the firft of them was a fort of fashion in his time; Surrey and the fonnet-writers set it on foot, and it was continu'd by Sidney and Spenfer: all our poetry iffu'd from that school; and it would be wonderful, indeed, if he, whom we faw a little before putting himself with fo much zeal under the banner of