Abbildungen der Seite




Ir has been often and justly observed, that a great part of the employment of every succeeding editor of Shakespeare's Plays, has been to expose the unwarrantable license taken with the text by his predecessors; and to restore the readings of the old and true copies. One of these alone can, under any just title, be received as an authenticated copy. This, in 1623, seven years after the author's death, was sent out into the world in folio by two of his "fellows," Heminge and Condell; who were also legatees in his will. In their dedication to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, they call this publication a discharge of a pious duty. This dedication is plainly, also, the work of a scholar; and has been assigned, as well as their preface, to Ben Jonson. In the latter of these, they pronounce all prior publications of his Plays (the poems of Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, being the only works that he is known to have published

himself) to be surreptitious; and these to be absolute, and taken from papers, that scarce received from their author a blot. From the number of years, however, during which he was in possession of the stage, his plays, owing to various causes, must have undergone considerable alteration. Retrenchment, it will be seen, had been made and some idea may be formed of the enlargements from what is said in the title-page of the quarto edition of Hamlet, in 1611: viz. that the play had been then " enlarged to almost as much againe as it was. ."* It may therefore be reasonably concluded, from the circumstances under which the folio plays of Heminge and Condell issued from the press, that generally they were faithful copies of what was at that time presented to the public; or, at most, received no other additions than such, as, by the aid

* Of this fact the lately discovered copy of this play, printed in 1603, which was published by Messrs. Payne and Foss in 1825, is a full confirmation, and this Publication must also be considered a valuable literary curiosity; as exhibiting, in that which was afterwards wrought into a splendid drama, the first conception, and comparatively feeble expression, of a great mind. And this production, of however little worth, cannot in any respect mislead; being altogether unlike the corrections and amendments of our modern editors, which are equally foreign to the character and genius of the author and of his age, and serve only to confound the critic and falsify the history of the language.

of the author's papers, were supplied. That in a volume so large many important typographical errors should occur, was to be expected; and that many omissions were there made of passages probably not in stage use, as not contributing to the main action, has been established by reference to those "maimed and surreptitious quartos:" and from them many additional passages of great beauty have been recovered.

From no other than one of the above sources can a faithful editor be warranted in drawing: he can follow no other text: and so closely does Mr. Horne Tooke adhere to this, or even a stricter, principle; as to insist, that this folio is "the only edition worth regarding;" and though he admits it has "some palpable misprints," he would have it reprinted literatim, "not to risk the loss of Shakespeare's genuine text, which it assuredly contains." DIVERS. OF PURLEY, II. 52, 3.

This folio, then, is made the groundwork of the proposed edition and present specimen, in which also will be admitted such additional matter as has occurred in the twenty quartos published by Mr. Steevens. From these "surreptitious quartos" we copy readily and feel, that we have warrant. Error and fraud indeed is charged upon them; but nothing supposititious. What is there found must




« ZurückWeiter »