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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 transcripts from their originals in Sir Thomas North's Plutarch, or the Chronicles of Hall and Holinfhed.-These faults, indeed,-si 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 felection from the labours of us all. Nor is fuch an event to be deprecated even by ourselves; fince we may be certain that fome ivy of each individual's growth will still 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 fugere cadaver. It is our opinion, in fhort, 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 defpair, 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 whofe remarks are longeft, and who feek the moft 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,
is not of difficult attainment. Additional hundreds might therefore be fupplied; for as often as a various reading, whether ferviceable or not, is to be found, the difcoverer can bestow an immediate reward on his own induftry, by a difplay of his favourite fignature. The fame advantage may be gained by opportunities of appropriating to ourselves what was originally faid by another perfon, and in another place.
Though our adoptions have been flightly mentioned already, our fourth impreffion of the Plays of Shakspeare muft not iffue into the world without particular and ample acknowledgements of the benefit it has derived from the labours of the last editor, whose attention, diligence, and spirit of enquiry, have very far exceeded thofe of the whole united phalanx of his predeceffors. His additions to our author's Life, his attempt to afcertain the Order in which his Plays were written, together with his account of our ancient Stage, &c. are here re-published; and every reader will concur in wishing that a gentleman who has produced fuch intelligent combinations from very few materials, had fortunately been poffeffed of more.
Of his notes on particular paffages a great majority is here adopted. True it is, that on fome points we fundamentally difagree; for inftance, concerning his metamorphofis of monofyllables (like burn, Sworn, worn, here and there, arms, and charms,) into diffyllables; his contraction of diffyllables (like neither, rather, reason, lover, &c.) into monofyllables; and his fentiments refpecting the worth of the variations fupplied by the fecond folio.On the firft of thefe contefted matters
* See alfo Addison's Spectator, No. 470.
we commit ourselves to the publick ear; on the fecond we muft awhile folicit the reader's attention.
The following conjectural account of the publication of this fecond folio (about which no certainty can be obtained) perhaps is not very remote from truth.
When the predeceffor of it appeared, fome intelligent friend or admirer of Shakspeare might have obferved its defects, and corrected many of them in its margin, from early manuscripts,5 or authentick information.
That fuch manuscripts should have remained, can excite no furprize. The good fortune that, till this present hour, has preferved the Chefter and Coventry Myfteries, Tancred and Gifmund as originally written, the ancient play of Timon, the Witch of Middleton, with feveral older as well as coëval dramas (exclufive of those in the Marquis of Lanfdowne's library) might furely have befriended fome of our author's copies in 1632, only fixteen years
after his death.
That oral information concerning his works was ftill acceffible, may with fimilar probability be inferred; as fome of the original and most knowing performers in his different pieces were then alive (Lowin and Taylor, for inftance,); and it must be certain, that on the ftage they never uttered fuch mutilated lines and unintelligible nonfenfe as was afterwards incorporated with their respective parts, in both the first quarto and folio editions.
5 See Mr. Holt White's note on Romeo and Juliet, Vol. XX. p. 97, n. 5.
i. e. as acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1568. See Warton, Vol. III. p. 376, n. g.
The folio therefore of 1623, corrected from one or both the authorities above mentioned, we conceive to have been the basis of its fucceffor in 1632.
At the fame time, however, a fresh and abundant series of errors and omiffions was created in the text of our author; the natural and certain confequence of every re-impreffion of a work which is not overseen by other eyes than thofe of its printer.
Nor is it at all improbable that the person who furnished the revifion of the first folio, wrote a very obfcure hand, and was much cramped for room, as the margin of this book is always narrow. Such being the cafe, he might often have been compelled to deal in abbreviations, which were fometimes imperfectly deciphered, and sometimes wholly misunderstood.
Mr. Malone, indeed, frequently points his artillery at a perfonage whom we cannot help regarding as a phantom; we mean the Editor of the fecond folio for perhaps no fuch literary agent as an editor of a poetical work, unaccompanied by comments, was at that period to be found. This office, if any where, was vefted in the printer, who transferred it to his compofitors; and thefe worthies discharged their part of the truft with a proportionate mixture of ignorance and inattention. We do not wish to soften our expreffion; for fome plays, like The Misfortunes of Arthur, and many books of fuperior confequence, like Fox's Martyrs, and the second edition of the Chronicles of Holinfhed, &c. were carefully prepared for the publick eye by their immediate authors, or fubftitutes qualified for their undertaking." But about the year 1600, the era of total incorrectness
7 Abraham Fleming fupervifed, corrected, and enlarged the the fecond edition of Holinfhed's Chronicle, in 1585.
commenced, and works of almost all kinds appeared with the disadvantage of more than their natural and inherent imperfections.
Such too, in these more enlightened days, when few compofitors are unfkilled in orthography and punctuation, would be the event, were complicated works of fancy fubmitted to no other fuperintendance than their own. More attentive and judicious artifts than were employed on our present edition of Shakspeare, are, I believe, no where to be found; and yet had their proofs escaped correction from an editor, the text of our author in many places would have been materially changed. And as all these changes would have originated from attention for a moment relaxed, interrupted memory, a too hafty glance at the page before them, and other incidental caufes, they could not have been recommended in preference to the variations of the fecond folio, which in feveral inftances have been juftly reprobated by the laft editor of Shakspeare. What errors then might not have been expected, when compofitors were wholly unlettered and carelefs, and a corrector of the prefs an officer unknown? To him who is inclined to difpute our grounds for this laft affertion, we would recommend a perufal of the errata at the ends of multitudes of our ancient publications, where the reader's indulgence is entreated for" faults efcaped on account of the author's diftance from the prefs;" faults, indeed, which could not have occurred, had every printing-office, as at prefent, been furnished with a regular and literary fuperintendant of its productions.-How then can it be expected that printers who were often found unequal to the task of fetting forth even a plain profe narrative, confifting of a few fheets, without blunders innumerable, fhould have done