Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

felves, Heminge and Condell, afterwards did Shakspeare the juftice to reject those eight plays in their edition; though they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with fome applaufe (as we learned from what Ben Jonson fays of Pericles in his ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this clafs I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the fame author openly exprefs his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakspeare was yet living. And there is no better authority for thefe latter fort, than for the former, which were equally published in his lifetime.

If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and paffages might no longer reflect upon this great genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary additions, expunctions, tranfpofitions of scenes and lines, confufion of characters and perfons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable paffages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again by the impertinence of his firft editors? From one or other of these confiderations, I am verily perfuaded, that the greatest and the groffeft part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.

This is the ftate in which Shakspeare's writings lie at prefent; for fince the above-mentioned folio edition, all the reft have implicitly followed it,

* His name was affixed only to four of them, MALONE.

without having recourfe to any of the former, or ever making the comparifon between them. It is impoffible to repair the injuries already done him ; too much time has elapfed, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and defire, than of my ability, to do him juftice. I have discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my beft judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indulgence to my private fenfe or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will show itself. The various readings are fairly put in the margin, fo that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are conftantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions, which Shakspeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some fufpected paffages, which are exceffively bad (and which feem interpolations by being fo inferted that one can entirely omit them without any chaẩm, or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page; with an afterifk referring to the places of their infertion. The fcenes are marked fo diftinctly, that every removal of place is fpecified; which is more neceffary in this author than any other, fince he shifts them more frequently; and fometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obfcurities. The more obfolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most fhining paffages are diftinguifhed by commas in the margin; and where the beauty lay not in particulars, but in the whole, a ftar is prefixed to the fcene. This feems to me a fhorter and lefs oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticifm (namely, the pointing out

an author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine paffages, with general applaufes, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is alfo fubjoined a catalogue of those first editions, by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected paffages are authorized; moft of which are fuch as carry their own evidence along with them. These editions now hold the place of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or reftore the corrupted fense of the author: I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever publifhed) may yet be found, by a fearch more fuccefsful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.

I will conclude by faying of Shakspeare, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his drama, one may look upon his works, in comparifon of those that are more finished and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothich architecture, compared with a neat modern building: the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more ftrong and more folemn. It must be allowed that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth paffages. Nor does the whole fail to ftrike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.9

• The following paffage by Mr. Pope ftands as a preface to the various readings at the end of the 8th volume of his edition of Shakspeare, 1728. For the notice of it I am indebted to Mr. Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 261. REED.

"Since the publication of our first edition, there having been

MR. THEOBALD'S

PREFACE.'

THE attempt to write upon SHAKSPEARE is like going into a large, a fpacious, and a splendid dome, through the conveyance of a narrow and obfcure entry. A glare of light fuddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promised; and a thousand beauties of genius and character,

fome attempts upon Shakspeare published by Lewis Theobald, (which he would not communicate during the time wherein that edition was preparing for the prefs, when we, by publick advertifements, did request the affiftance of all lovers of this author,) we have inferted, in this impreffion, as many of 'em as are judg'd of any the least advantage to the poet; the whole amounting to about twenty-five words.

"But to the end every reader may judge for himself, we have annexed a compleat list of the reft; which if he fhall think trivial, or erroneous, either in part, or in whole; at worst it can fpoil but a half sheet of paper, that chances to be left vacant here. And we purpose for the future, to do the fame with refpect to any other perfons, who either thro' candor or vanity, fhall communicate or publish, the leaft things tending to the illuftration of our author. We have here omitted nothing but pointings and meer errors of the prefs, which I hope the corrector of it has rectify'd; if not, I cou'd wish as accurate an one as Mr. Th. [if he] had been at that trouble, which I defired Mr. Tonfon to folicit him to undertake. A. P."

'This is Mr. Theobald's preface to his fecond edition in 1740, and was much curtailed by himself after it had been prefixed to the impreffion in 1733. STEEVENS.

like fo many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffufe and throw themselves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a fingle view: it is a gay confufion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be separated and eyed diftinctly, in order to give the proper en

tertainment.

And as, in great piles of building, fome parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connoiffeur; others more negligently put together, to ftrike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder; fome parts are made ftupendously magnificent and grand, to furprise with the vaft defign and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little; fo, in Shakspeare, we may find traits that will stand the teft of the fevereft judgment; and ftrokes as carelessly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capacities; fome descriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to aftonish you with the compafs and elevation of his thought; and others copying nature within fo narrow, fo confined a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at drawing in minia

ture.

In how many points of light must we be obliged to gaze at this great poet! In how many branches of excellence to confider and admire him! Whe ther we view him on the fide of art or nature, he ought equally to engage our attention: whether we refpect the force and greatnefs of his genius, the extent of his knowledge and reading, the power and addrefs with which he throws out and applies either nature or learning, there is ample scope both for our wonder and pleasure. If his diction, and the clothing of his thoughts attract us, how much

« FöregåendeFortsätt »