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fufficient to embellifh his page with the expected decorations.

"With regard to obfolete or peculiar diction, the editor may perhaps claim fome degree of confidence, having had more motives to confider the whole extent of our language than any other man from its firft formation. He hopes, that, by comparing the works of Shakspeare with those of writers who lived at the fame time, immediately preceded, or immediately followed him, he fhall be able to ascertain his ambiguities, difentangle his intricacies, and recover the meaning of words now loft in the darkness of antiquity.

"When therefore any obfcurity arifes from an allufion to fome other book, the paffage will be quoted. When the diction is entangled, it will be cleared by a paraphrafe or interpretation. When the fenfe is broken by the fuppreffion of part of the fentiment in pleafantry or paffion, the connection will be fupplied. When any forgotten custom is hinted, care will be taken to retrieve and explain it. The meaning affigned to doubtful words will be fupported by the authorities of other writers, or by parallel paffages of Shakspeare himfelf.

"The obfervation of faults and beauties is one of the duties of an annotator, which fome of Shakfpeare's editors have attempted, and fome have neglected. For this part of his tafk, and for this only, was Mr. Pope eminently and indisputably qualified nor has Dr. Warburton followed him with lefs diligence or lefs fuccefs. But I never

obferved that mankind was much delighted or improved by their afterisks, commas, or double commas; of which the only effect is, that they preclude the pleafure of judging for ourselves;

teach the young and ignorant to decide without principles; defeat curiofity and difcernment by leaving them lefs to discover; and, at last, show the opinion of the critick, without the reasons on which it was founded, and without affording any light by which it may be examined.

"The editor, though he may lefs delight hist own vanity, will probably please his reader more, by fuppofing him equally able with himself to judge of beauties and faults, which require no previous acquifition of remote knowledge. A defcription of the obvious fcenes of nature, a reprefentation of general life, a fentiment of reflection or experience, a deduction of conclufive argument, a forcible eruption of effervefcent paffion, are to be confidered as proportionate to common apprehenfion, unaffifted by critical officioufnefs; fince to conceive them, nothing more is requifite than acquaintance with the general ftate of the world, and thofe faculties which he muft always bring with him who would read Shakspeare.

"But when the beauty arifes from fome adaptation of the fentiment to customs worn out of ufe, to opinions not univerfally prevalent, or to any accidental or minute particularity, which cannot be fupplied by common understanding, or common obfervation, it is the duty of a commentator to lend his affiftance.

"The notice of beauties and faults thus limited will make no diftinct part of the defign, being reducible to the explanation of obfcure paffages.

"The editor does not however intend to preclude himself from the comparison of Shakspeare's fentiments or expreffion with thofe of ancient or modern authors, or from the difplay of any beauty not obvious to the ftudents of poetry; for as he

hopes to leave his author better understood, he wishes likewife to procure him more rational approbation.

"The former editors have affected to flight their predeceffors: but in this edition all that is valuable will be adopted from every commentator, that pofterity may confider it as including all the reft, and exhibit whatever is hitherto known of the great father of the English drama."

Though Dr. Johnson has here pointed out with his ufual perfpicuity and vigour, the true course to be taken by an editor of Shakspeare, fome of the pofitions which he has laid down may be controverted, and fome are indubitably not true. It is not true that the plays of this author were more incorrectly printed than thofe of any of his contemporaries for in the plays of Marlowe, Marston, Fletcher, Maffinger, and others, as many errors may be found. It is not true that the art of printing was in no other age in fo unfkilful hands. Nor is it true, in the latitude in which it is stated, that "these plays were printed from compilations made by chance or by ftealth out of the separate parts written for the theatre:" two only of all his dramas, The Merry Wives of Windfor and King Henry V. appear to have been thus thrust into the world, and of the former it is yet a doubt whether it is a first sketch or an imperfect copy. I do not believe that words were then adopted at pleasure from the neighbouring languages, or that an antiquated diction was then employed by any poet but Spenfer. That the obfcurities of our author, to whatever caufe they may be referred, do not arife from the paucity of contemporary writers, the prefent edition may furnish indifputable evidence, Ff


And lastly, if it be true, that " very few of Shakfpeare's lines were difficult to his audience, and that he used fuch expreffions as were then common," (a pofition of which I have not the finallest doubt,) it cannot be true, that "his reader is embarraffed at once with dead and with foreign languages, with obfoletenefs and innovation."

When Mr. Pope firft undertook the tafk of revifing these plays, every anomaly of language, and every expreffion that was not understood at that time, were confidered as errors or corruptions, and the text was altered, or amended, as it was called, at pleasure. The principal writers of the early part of this century feem never to have looked behind them, and to have confidered their own era and their own phrafeology as the standard of perfection: hence, from the time of Pope's edition, for above twenty years, to alter Shakfpeare's text and to reftore it, were confidered as fynonymous terms. During the last thirty years our principal employment has been to restore, in the true fenfe of the word; to eject the arbitrary and capricious innovations made by our predeceffors from ignorance of the phrafeology and cuftoms of the age in which Shakspeare lived.

As on the one hand our poet's text has been described as more corrupt than it really is, fo on the other, the labour required to inveftigate fugitive allufions, to explain and justify obfolete phrafeology by parallel paffages from contemporary authors, and to form a genuine text by a faithful collation of the original copies, has not perhaps had that notice to which it is entitled; for undoubtedly it is a laborious and a difficult tafk: and the due execution of this it is, which can alone

entitle an editor of Shakspeare to the favour of the publick.

I have faid that the comparative value of the various ancient copies of Shakspeare's plays has never been precisely afcertained. To prove this, it will be neceffary to go into a long and minute difcuffion, for which, however, no apology is neceffary for though to explain and illuftrate the writings of our poet is a principal duty of his editor, to ascertain his genuine text, to fix what is to be explained, is his first and immediate object: and till it be established which of the ancient copies is entitled to preference, we have no criterion by which the text can be ascertained.

Fifteen of Shakspeare's plays were printed in quarto antecedent to the firft complete collection of his works, which was published by his fellowcomedians in 1623. Thefe plays are, A Midfummer-Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Loft, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Two Parts of King Henry IV. King Richard II. King Richard III. The Merchant of Venice, King Henry V. Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windfor, Troilus and Crefsida, King Lear, and Othello.

The players, when they mention these copies, represent them all as mutilated and imperfect; but this was merely thrown out to give an additional value to their own edition, and is not ftrictly true of any but two of the whole number; The Merry Wives of Windfor, and King Henry V-With respect to the other thirteen copies, though undoubtedly they were all furreptitious, that is, ftolen from the playhouse, and printed without the confent of the author or the proprietors, they in general are preferable to the exhibition of the fame plays in the

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