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like the ivory rake and golden fpade in Prudentius, are on this occafion difgraced by the objects of their culture. Had Shakspeare produced no other works than these, his name would have reached us with as little celebrity as time has conferred on that of Thomas Watson, an older and much more elegant fonnetteer.6
What remains to be added concerning this republication is, that a confiderable number of fresh remarks are both adopted and fupplied by the prefent editors. They have perfifted in their former track of reading for the illuftration of their author, and cannot help obferving that those who receive the benefit of explanatory extracts from ancient writers, little know at what expence of time and labour fuch atoms of intelligence have been collected. -That the foregoing information, however, may communicate no alarm, or induce the reader to fuppose we have "bestowed our whole tediousness" on him, we should add, that many notes have likewife been withdrawn. A few, manifeftly erroneous, are indeed retained, to fhow how much the tone of Shakspearian criticism is changed, or on account of the skill displayed in their confutation; for furely
• His Sonnets, though printed without date, were entered in the year 1581, on the books of the Stationers' Company, under the title of "Watfon's Paffions, manifefting the true Frenzy of Love."
Shakspeare appears to have been among the number of his readers, having in the following paffage of Venus and Adonis,"Leading him prifoner in a red-rofe chain," borrowed an idea from his 83d Sonnet :
"The Mufes not long fince intrapping love
Watfon, however, declares on this occafion that he imitated Ronfard; and it must be confeffed, with equal truth, that in the prefent inftance Ronfard had been a borrower from Anacreon.
every editor in his turn is occafionally entitled to be feen, as he would have shown himself, with his vanquifhed adverfary at his feet. We have therefore been sometimes willing to "bring a corollary, rather than want a spirit." Nor, to confess the truth, did we always think it justifiable to shrink our predecesfors to pigmies, that we ourselves, by force of comparifon, might affume the bulk of giants.
The present editors must also acknowledge, that unless in particular inftances, where the voice of the publick had decided against the remarks of Dr. Johnson, they have hesitated to displace them; and had rather be charged with a fuperftitious reverence for his name, than cenfured for a prefumptuous difregard of his opinions.
As a large proportion of Mr. Monck Mason's ftrictures on a former edition of Shakspeare are here inserted, it has been thought neceffary that as much of his Preface as was defigned to introduce them, fhould accompany their fecond appearance. Any formal recommendation of them is needlefs, as their own merit is fure to rank their author among the most diligent and fagacious of our celebrated poet's anno
It may be proper, indeed, to observe, that a few of these remarks are omitted, because they had been anticipated; and that a few others have excluded themselves by their own immoderate length; for he who publishes a series of comments unattended by the text of his author, is apt to "overflow the meafure" allotted to marginal criticism. In these cases, either the commentator or the poet muft give way, and no reader will patiently endure to fee "Alcides beaten by his page."-Inferior volat umbra deo.Mr. M. Mafon will alfo forgive us if we add, that a small number of his propofed amendments are
fuppreffed through honeft commiferation. much he dares, and he has a wisdom that often guides his valour to act in fafety;" yet occafionally he forgets the prudence that should attend conjecture, and therefore, in a few inftances, would have been produced only to have been perfecuted.-May it be fubjoined, that the freedom with which the fame gentleman has treated the notes of others, feems to have authorized an equal degree of licence refpecting his own? And yet, though the fword may have been drawn against him, he fhall not complain that its point is "unbated and envenomed;" for the conductors of this undertaking do not fcruple thus openly to exprefs their wifhes that it may have merit enough to provoke a revifion from the acknowledged learning and perfpicacity of their Hibernian coadjutor.-Every re-impreffion of our great dramatick mafter's works must be confidered in fome degree as experimental; for their corruptions and obfcurities are ftill fo numerous, and the progrefs of fortunate conjecture fo tardy and uncertain, that our remote defcendants may be perplexed by paffages that have perplexed us; and the readings which have hitherto difunited the opinions of the learned, may continue to difunite them as long as England and Shakspeare have a name. In fhort, the peculiarity once afcribed to the poetick ifle of Delos, may be exemplified in our author's text, which, on account of readings alternately received and reprobated, must remain in an unsettled ftate, and float in obedience to every gale of contradictory criticifm.-Could a perfect and decifive edition of the following fcenes be produced, it were
8 << nec inftabili fama fuperabere Delo."
Stat. Achill. İ. 388.
to be expected only (though we fear in vain) from the hand of Dr. Farmer, whose more serious avocations forbid him to undertake what every reader would delight to poffefs.
But as we are often reminded by our "brethren of the craft," that this or that emendation, however apparently neceffary, is not the genuine text of Shakspeare, it might be imagined that we had received this text from its fountain head, and were therefore certain of its purity. Whereas few literary occurrences are better understood, than that it came down to us difcoloured by "the variation of every foil" through which it had flowed, and that it ftagnated at laft in the muddy refervoir of the firft folio. In plainer terms, that the vitiations of a careless theatre were feconded by thofe of as ignorant a prefs. The integrity of dramas thus prepared for the world, is just on a level with the innocence of females nurfed in a camp and educated in a bagnio. As often therefore as we are told, that by admitting corrections warranted by common
9 He died September 8th, 1797.
It will perhaps be urged, that to this firft folio we are în debted for the only copies of fixteen or feventeen of our author's plays: True: but may not our want of yet earlier and less cor rupted editions of these very dramas be folely attributed to the monopolizing vigilance of its editors, Meffieurs Hemings and Condell? Finding they had been deprived of fome tragedies and comedies which, when opportunity offered, they defigned to publish for their own emolument, they redoubled their folicitude to withhold the reft, and were but too fuccefsful in their precaution. "Thank fortune (fays the original putterforth of Troilus and Creffida) for the fcape it hath made amongft you; fince by the grand poffeffors' wills, I believe, you thould have pray'd for it, rather than beene pray'd."-Had quartos of Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, All's well that ends well, &c. been fent into the world, from how many corruptions might the text of all thefe dramas have been fecured!
fenfe and the laws of metre, we have not rigidly adhered to the text of Shakspeare, we fhall entreat our opponents to exchange that phrafe for another "more germane," and fay inftead of it, that we have deviated from the text of the publishers of fingle plays in quarto, or their fucceffors, the editors of the firft folio; that we have fometimes followed the fuggeftions of a Warburton, a Johnson, a Farmer, or a Tyrwhitt, in preference to the decifions of a Hemings or a Condell, notwithftanding their choice of readings might have been influenced by affociates whofe high-founding names cannot fail to enforce refpect, viz. William Oftler, John Shanke, William Sly, and Thomas Poope.*
To revive the anomalies, barbarifms and blunders of fome ancient copies, in preference to the corrections of others almoft equally old, is likewife a circumftance by no means honourable to our author, however fecure refpecting ourselves. For what is it, under pretence of restoration, but to ufe him as he has ufed the Tinker in The Taming of a Shrew, to re-clothe him in his priftine rags? To affemble parallels in fupport of all thefe deformities, is no infuperable labour; for if we are permitted to avail ourselves of every typographical mistake, and every provincial vulgarifm and offence againft eftablished grammar, that may be met with in the coëval productions of irregular humourifts and ignorant fectaries and buffoons, we may aver that every cafual combination of fyllables may be tortured into mean-ing, and every fpecies of corruption exemplified by correfponding depravities of language; but not of fuch language as Shakspeare, if compared with him
See firft folio, &c. for the lift of actors in our author's