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guage as Shakspeare, if compared with himself where he is perfect, can be supposed to have written. By similar reference it is that the style of many an ancient building has been characteristically restored. The members of architecture left entire, have instructed the renovator how to supply the loss of such as had fallen into decay. The poet, therefore, whose dialogue has often, during a long and uninterrupted series of lines, no other peculiarities than were common to the works of his most celebrated contemporaries, and whose general ease and sweetness of versification are hitherto unrivalled, ought not so often to be suspected of having produced ungrammatical nonsense, and such rough and defective numbers as would disgrace a village schoolboy in his first attempts at English poetry.-It may also be observed, that our author's earliest compositions, his Sonnets, &c. are wholly free from metrical imperfec
The truth is, that from one extreme we have reached another. Our incautious predecessors, Rowe, Pope, Hanmer, and Warburton, were sometimes justly blamed for wanton and needless deviations from ancient copies; and we are afraid that censure will as equitably fall on some of us, for a revival of irregularities which have no reasonable sanction, and few champions but such as are excited by a fruitless ambition to defend certain posts and passes that had been supposed untenable. The "wine of collation," indeed, had long been "drawn," and little beside the "mere lees was left" for very modern editors "to brag of." It should, therefore, be remembered, that as judgment, without the aid of collation, might have insufficient materials to work on, so collation, divested of judgment, will be often worse than
thrown away, because it introduces obscurity instead of light. To render Shakspeare less intelligible by the recall of corrupt phraseology, is not, in our opinion, the surest way to extend his fame and multiply his readers; unless (like Curll the bookseller, when the Jews spoke Hebrew to him,) they happen to have most faith in what they least understand. Respecting our author, therefore, on some occasions, we cannot join in the prayer of Cordelia :
It is unlucky for him, perhaps, that between the interest of his readers and his editors a material difference should subsist. The former wish to meet with as few difficulties as possible, while the latter are tempted to seek them out, because they afford opportunities for explanatory criticism.
Omissions in our author's works are frequently suspected, and sometimes not without sufficient reason. Yet, in our opinion, they have suffered a more certain injury from interpolation; for almost as often as their measure is deranged, or redundant, some words, alike unnecessary to sense and the grammar of the age, may be discovered, and, in a thousand instances, might be expunged, without loss of a single idea meant to be expressed; a liberty which we have sometimes taken, though not (as it is hoped) without constant notice of it to the reader. Enough of this, however, has been already attempted, to show that more on the same plan might be done with safety.3-So far from under
Sufficient instances of measure thus rendered defective, and in the present edition unamended, may be found in the three last Acts of Hamlet, and in Othello. The length of this prefatory advertisement has precluded their exemplification, which was
standing the power of an ellipsis, we may venture to affirm that the very name of this figure in rhethorick never reached the ears of our ancient editors. Having on this subject the support of Dr. Farmer's acknowledged judgment and experience, we shall not shrink from controversy with those who maintain a different opinion, and refuse to acquiesce in modern suggestions if opposed to the authority of quartos and folios, consigned to us by a set of people who were wholly uninstructed in the common forms of style, orthography, and punctuation. We do not therefore hesitate to affirm, that a blind fidelity to the eldest printed copies, is on some occasions a confirmed treason against the sense, spirit, and versification of Shakspeare.
All these circumstances considered, it is time, instead of a timid and servile adherence to ancient copies, when (offending against sense and metre) they furnish no real help, that a future editor, well acquainted with the phraseology of our author's age, should be at liberty to restore some apparent meaning to his corrupted lines, and a decent flow to his obstructed versification. The latter (as already has been observed) may be frequently effected by the expulsion of useless and supernumerary syllables, and an occasional supply of such as might fortuitously have been omitted, notwithstanding the declaration of Hemings and Condell, whose fraudulent preface asserts that they have published our author's plays " as absolute in their numbers as he conceived them." Till somewhat resembling the process above suggested be authorized, the publick will ask in vain for a com
here meant to have been given.-We wish, however, to impress the foregoing circumstance on the memory of the judicious reader.
modious and pleasant text of Shakspeare. Nothing will be lost to the world on account of the measure recommended, there being folios and quartos enough remaining for the use of antiquarian or critical travellers, to whom a jolt over a rugged pavement may be more delectable than an easy passage over a smooth one, though they both conduct to the same object.
To a reader unconversant with the licenses of a theatre, the charge of more material interpolation than that of mere syllables, will appear to want support; and yet whole lines and passages in the following plays incur a very just suspicion of having originated from this practice, which continues even in the present improved state of our dramatick arrangements; for the propensity of modern performers to alter words, and occasionally introduce ideas incongruous with their author's plan, will not always escape detection. In such vagaries our comedians have been much too frequently indulged; but to the injudicious tragical interpolator no degree of favour should be shown, not even to a late Matilda, who, in Mr. Home's Douglas thought fit to change the obscure intimation with which her part should have concluded
"And such a husband, make a woman bold.—
into a plain avowal, that
such a son,
"And such a husband, drive me to my fate."
Here we perceive that Fate, the old post-horse of tragedy, has been saddled to expedite intelligence which was meant to be delayed till the necessary moment of its disclosure. Nay, further: the
prompter's book being thus corrupted, on the first night of the revival of this beautiful and interesting play at Drury Lane, the same spurious nonsense was heard from the lips of Mrs. Siddons, lips, whose matchless powers should be sacred only to the task of animating the purest strains of dramatick poetry. Many other instances of the same presumption might have been subjoined, had they not been withheld through tenderness to performers now upon the stage.-Similar interpolations, however, in the text of Shakspeare, can only be suspected, and therefore must remain unexpelled.
To other defects of our late editions may be subjoined, as not the least notorious, an exuberance of comment. Our situation has not unaptly resembled that of the fray in the first scene of Romeo and Juliet:
"While we were interchanging thrusts and blows, "Came more and more, and fought on part and part:" till, as Hamlet has observed, we are contending
for a plot
"Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause." Indulgence to the remarks of others, as well as partiality to our own; an ambition in each little Hercules to set up pillars, ascertaining how far he had travelled through the dreary wilds of black letter; and perhaps a reluctance or inability to decide between contradictory sentiments, have also occasioned the appearance of more annotations than were absolutely wanted, unless it be thought requisite that our author, like a Dauphin Classick, should be reduced to marginal prose for the use of children; that all his various readings (assembled by Mr. Capell) should be enumerated, the genealo