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gible by the recall of corrupt phrafeology, is not, in our opinion, the fureft way to extend his fame and multiply his readers; unless (like Curl the bookfeller, when the Jews fpoke Hebrew to him,) they happen to have most faith in what they leaft understand. Refpecting our author, therefore, on fome occafions, we cannot join in the prayer of Cordelia :

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It is unlucky for him, perhaps, that between the intereft of his readers and his editors a material difference fhould fubfift. The former wifh to meet with as few difficulties as poffible, while the latter are tempted to feek them out, because they afford opportunities for explanatory criticism.

Omiffions in our author's works are frequently fufpected, and sometimes not without fufficient reafon. Yet, in our opinion, they have fuffered a more certain injury from interpolation; for almoft as often as their measure is deranged, or redundant, fome words, alike unneceflary to fenfe and the grammar of the age, may be difcovered, and, in a thoufand inftances, might be expunged, without lofs of a fingle idea meant to be expreffed; a liberty which we have fometimes taken, though not (as it is hoped) without conftant notice of it to the reader. Enough of this, however, has been already attempted, to show that more on the fame plan might be done with fafety. So far from understanding the power

3 Sufficient inftances of measure thus rendered defective, and in the prefent edition unamended, may be found in the three laft Acts of Hamlet, and in Othello. The length of this prefatory advertisement has precluded their exemplification, which was

of an ellipfis, we may venture to affirm that the very name of this figure in rhetorick never reached the ears of our ancient editors. Having on this fubject the support of Dr. Farmer's acknowledged judgment and experience, we fhall not fhrink from controverfy with thofe who maintain a different opinion, and refuse to acquiefce in modern fuggeftions if opposed to the authority of quartos and folios, configned to us by a fet of people who were wholly uninftructed in the common forms of style, orthography, and punctuation.-We do not therefore hesitate to affirm, that a blind fidelity to the eldeft printed copies, is on fome occafions a confirmed treafon against the fenfe, spirit, and verfification of Shakspeare,

All these circumftances confidered, it is time, inftead of a timid and fervile adherence to ancient copies, when (offending againft fenfe and metre) they furnish no real help, that a future editor, well acquainted with the phrafeology of our author's age, fhould be at liberty to reftore fome apparent meaning to his corrupted lines, and a decent flow to his obftructed verfification. The latter (as already has been obferved) may be frequently effected by the expulfion of useless and fupernumerary fyllables, and an occafional fupply of fuch as might fortuitoufly have been omitted, notwithstanding the declaration of Hemings and Condell, whofe fraudulent preface afferts that they have published our author's plays "as abfolute in their numbers as he conceived them." Till somewhat refembling the procefs above fuggefted be authorized, the publick will afk in vain for a

here meant to have been given.-We wish, however, to imprefs the foregoing circumftance on the memory of the judicious reader.

commodious and pleasant text of Shakspeare. Nothing will be loft to the world on account of the measure recommended, there being folios and quartos enough remaining for the ufe of antiquarian or critical travellers, to whom a jolt over a rugged pavement may be more delectable than an eafy paffage over a fmooth one, though they both conduct to the fame object.

To a reader unconverfant with the licenses of a theatre, the charge of more material interpolation than that of mere fyllables, will appear to want fupport; and yet whole lines and paffages in the following plays incur a very juft fufpicion of having originated from this practice, which continues even in the present improved ftate of our dramatick arrangements; for the propenfity of modern performers to alter words, and occafionally introduce ideas incongruous with their author's plan, will not always escape detection. In fuch vagaries our comedians have been much too frequently indulged; but to the injudicious tragical interpolator no degree of favour fhould be fhown, not even to a late Matilda, who, in Mr. Home's Douglas thought fit to change the obfcure intimation with which her part fhould have concluded

fuch a fon,

"And such a husband, make a woman bold.

into a plain avowal, that

fuch a fon,

"And fuch a husband, drive me to my fate."

Here we perceive that Fate, the old poft-horse of tragedy, has been faddled to expedite intelligence which was meant to be delayed till the neceffary moment of its difclofure. Nay, further: the prompt

er's book being thus corrupted, on the first night of the revival of this beautiful and interefting play at Drury Lane, the fame fpurious nonfenfe was heard from the lips of Mrs. Siddons, lips, whofe matchless powers fhould be facred only to the task of animating the pureft ftrains of dramatick poetry.-Many other inftances of the fame prefumption might have been fubjoined, had they not been withheld through tenderness to performers now upon the ftage. Similar interpolations, however, in the text of Shakspeare, can only be fufpected, and therefore must remain unexpelled.

To other defects of our late editions may be fubjoined, as not the leaft notorious, an exuberance of comment. Our fituation has not unaptly resembled that of the fray in the first scene of Romeo and Juliet :

"While we were interchanging thrufts and blows,

"Came more and more, and fought on part and part :"

till, as Hamlet has obferved, we are contending

for a plot

"Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause."


Indulgence to the remarks of others, as well as partiality to our own; an ambition in each little Hercules to fet up pillars, afcertaining how far he had travelled through the dreary wilds of black letter and perhaps a reluctance or inability to decide between contradictory fentiments, have alfo occafioned the appearance of more annotations than were abfolutely wanted, unless it be thought requifite that our author, like a Dauphin Claffick, fhould be reduced to marginal profe for the ufe of children; that all his various readings (affembled by Mr. Capell) fhould

be enumerated, the genealogies of all his real perfonages deduced; and that as many of his plays as are founded on Roman or British hiftory, fhould be attended by complete tranfcripts from their originals in Sir Thomas North's Plutarch, or the Chronicles of Hall and Holinfhed.-These faults, indeed,-fi quid prodeft delicta fateri,—within half a century, (when the prefent race of voluminous criticks is extinct) cannot fail to be remedied by a judicious and frugal selection from the labours of us all. Nor is such an event to be deprecated even by ourselves; fince we may be certain that fome ivy of each individual's growth will ftill adhere to the parent oak, though not enough, as at prefent, to "hide the princely trunk, and fuck the verdure out of it."3It may be feared too, fhould we perfift in fimilar accumulations of extraneous matter, that the readers will at length be frighted away from Shakspeare, as the foldiers of Cato deferted their comrade when he became bloated with poifon-crefcens fugére cadaver. It is our opinion, in short, that every one who opens the page of an ancient English writer, fhould bring with him fome knowledge; and yet he by whom a thousand minutiæ remain to be learned, needs not to close our author's volume in despair, for his fpirit and general drift are always obvious, though his language and allufions are occafionally obfcure.

We may fubjoin (alluding to our own practice as well as that of others) that they whose remarks are longest, and who seek the most frequent opportunities of introducing their names at the bottom of our author's pages are not, on that account, the most eftimable criticks. The art of writing notes, as Dr. Johnson has pleasantly observed in his preface,

3 Tempest.

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