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vigour of Shakspeare, the critick who in general has performed with accuracy one of the heaviest of literary tasks, ought not to be molested by a display of petty faults, which might have eluded the most vigilant faculties of sight and hearing that were ever placed as spies over the labours of each other. They are not even mentioned here as a covert mode of attack, or as a note of preparation" for future hostilities. The office of "devising brave punishments" for faithless editors, is therefore strenuously declined, even though their guilt should equal that of one of their number, (Mr. Steevens, who stands convicted of having given winds instead of wind, stables instead of stable, sessions instead of session, sins instead of sin, and we shudder while we recite the accusation) my instead of mine."

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- Such small deer

"Have been our food for many a year;"

so long, in truth, that any further pursuit of them is here renounced, together with all triumphs founded on the detection of harmless synonymous particles that accidentally may have deserted their proper places and wandered into others, without injury to Shakspeare.-A few chipped or disjointed stones will not impair the shape or endanger the stability of a pyramid. We are far from wishing to depreciate exactness, yet cannot persuade ourselves but that a single lucky conjecture or illustration, should outweigh a thousand spurious haths deposed in favour of legitimate has's, and the like insignificant recoveries, which may not too degradingly

• See Mr. Malone's Preface.

be termed the haberdashery of criticism; that "stand in number, though in reckoning none;" and are as unimportant to the poet's fame,

"As is the morn-dew on the myrtle-leaf
"To his grand sea."

We shall venture also to assert, that, on a minute scrutiny, every editor, in his turn, may be charged with omission of some preferable reading; so that he who drags his predecessor to justice on this score, will have good luck if he escapes ungalled by recrimination.'

If somewhat, therefore, in the succeeding volumes has been added to the correction and illustration of our author, the purpose of his present editors is completely answered. On any thing like perfection in their labours they do not presume, being too well convinced that, in defiance of their best efforts, their own incapacity, and that of the original quarto and folio-mongers, have still left sufficient work for a race of commentators who are yet unborn. Nos, (says Tully, in the second Book of his Tusculan Questions,) qui sequimur probabilia, nec ultra quàm id quod verisimile occurrerit, progredi possumus; et refellere sine pertinacia, et refelli sine iracundia, parati sumus.

Be it remembered also, that the assistants and adversaries of editors, enjoy one material advantage over editors themselves. They are at liberty to select their objects of remark:

et quæ

Desperant tractata nitescere posse, relinquunt.

The fate of the editor in form is less propitious.

He is expected to combat every difficulty from which his auxiliaries and opponents could secure an honourable retreat. It should not, therefore, be wondered at, if some of his enterprizes are unsuccessful.

Though the foregoing Advertisement has run out into an unpremeditated length, one circumstance remains to be mentioned. The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged since it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful custom the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn: but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a distinction which malevolence cannot obscure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour.

Ir may possibly be expected, that a list of Errata should attend so voluminous a work as this, or that cancels should apologize for its more material inaccuracies. Neither of these measures, however, has in the present instance been adopted, and for reasons now submitted to the publick.

In regard to errata, it has been customary with not a few authors to acknowledge small mistakes,

that they might escape the suspicion of greater,3 or perhaps to intimate that no greater could be detected. Both little and great (and doubtless there may be the usual proportion of both) are here exposed (with very few exceptions) to the candour and perspicacity of the reader, who needs not to be told that in fifteen volumes octavo, of intricate and variegated printing, gone through in the space of about twenty months, the most vigilant eyes must occasionally have been overwatched, and the readiest knowledge intercepted. The sight of the editors, indeed, was too much fatigued to encourage their engagement in so laborious a revision; and they are likewise convinced that substitutes are not always qualified for their task; but instead of pointing out real mistakes, would have supposed the existence of such as were merely founded on their own want of acquaintance with the peculiarities of ancient spelling and language; for even modern poetry has sometimes been in danger from the chances of their superintendance. He whose business it is to offer this unusual apology, very well remembers to have been sitting with Dr. Johnson, when an agent from a neighbouring press brought in the proof sheet of a republication, requesting to know whether a particular word in it. was not corrupted. "So far from it, Sir, (replied the Doctor, with some harshness,) that the word you suspect and would displace, is conspicuously beautiful where it stands, and is the only one that could have done the duty expected from it by Mr. Pope."

3❝ the hospitable door
"Expos'd a matron, to avoid worse rape."
Paradise Lost, B. I. v. 505.

As for cancels, it is in the power of every careless binder to defeat their purpose; for they are so seldom lodged with uniformity in their proper places, that they as often serve to render copies imperfect, as to screen an author from the charge of ignorance or inattention. The leaf appropriated to one volume, is sometimes shuffled into the corresponding page of another; and sometimes the faulty leaf is withdrawn, and no other substituted in its room. These circumstances might be exemplified; but the subject is scarcely of consequence enough to be more than generally stated to the reader, whose indulgence is again solicited on account of blemishes which in the course of an undertaking like this are unavoidable, and could not, at its conclusion, have been remedied but by the hazard of more extensive mischief;-an indulgence, indeed, that will more readily be granted, and especially for the sake of the compositors, when it is understood, that, on an average, every page of the present work, including spaces, quadrats, points, and letters, is (to speak technically) composed of 2680 distinct pieces of metal.*

• Number of letters, &c. in a page of Shakspeare, 1793.

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From this calculation it is clear, that a common page, admitting it to consist of 1-3d text, and 2-3ds notes, contains

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