Page images

if carry'd a little further; by destroying all marks of peculiarity and notes of time, all eafiness of expreffion and numbers, all juftness of thought, and the nobility of not a few of their conceptions: The manner in which his author is treated, excites an indignation that will be thought by fome to vent itself too ftrongly; but terms weaker would do injustice to my feelings, and the cenfure fhall be hazarded. Mr. Pope's edition was the groundwork of this over-bold one; fplendidly printed at Oxford in fix quarto volumes, and publifh'd in the year 1744: the publisher difdains all collation of folio, or quarto; and fetches all from his great felf, and the moderns his predeceffors: wantoning in very licence of conjecture; and fweeping all before him, (without notice, or reafon given,) that not fuits his tafte, or lies level to his conceptions. But this juftice fhould be done him :-as his conjectures are numerous, they are oftentimes not unhappy; and fome of them are of that excellence, that one is ftruck with amazement to fee a perfon of fo much judgment as he fhows himself in them, adopt a method of publishing that runs counter to all the ideas that wife men have hitherto entertain'd of an editor's province and duty.

The year 1747 produc'd a fifth edition, in eight octavo volumes, publifh'd by Mr. Warburton which though it is faid in the title-page to be the joint work of himself and the fecond editor, the third ought rather to have been mention'd, for it is printed from his text. The merits of this performance have been fo thoroughly difcufs'd in two very ingenious books, The Canons of Criticifm, and Revifal of Shakspeare's Text, that it is needless to fay any more of it: this only fhall be added to what may be there met with,-that the edition is

[ocr errors]

not much benefited by fresh acquifitions from the old ones, which this gentleman feems to have neglected.5

Other charges there are, that might be brought against these modern impreffions, without infringing the laws of truth or candour either: but what is faid, will be fufficient; and may fatisfy their greatest favourers,-that the fuperftructure cannot be a found one, which is built upon fo bad a foundation as that work of Mr. Rowe's; which all of them, as we fee, in fucceffion, have yet made their corner-ftone: The truth is, it was impoffible that fuch a beginning fhould end better than it has done: the fault was in the fetting-out; and all the diligence that could be us'd, join'd to the difcernment of a Pearce, or a Bentley, could never purge their author of all his defects by their method of proceeding.

[ocr errors]

The editor now before you was appriz'd in time of this truth; faw the wretched condition his author was reduc'd to by these late tamperings, and thought seriously of a cure for it, and that fo long ago as the year 1745; for the attempt was firft fuggefted by that gentleman's performance, which

It will perhaps be thought ftrange, that nothing should be faid in this place of another edition that came out about a twelvemonth ago, in eight volumes, octavo; but the reasons for it are these :-There is no ufe made of it, nor could be; for the prefent was finish'd, within a play or two, and printed too in great part, before that appear'd: the firft sheet of this work (being the firft of Vol. II.) went to the prefs in September 1760: and this volume was follow'd by volumes VIII. IV. IX. I. VI. and VII; the last of which was printed off in Auguft 1765: In the next place, the merits and demerits of it are unknown to the present editor even at this hour: this only he has perceiv'd in it, having look'd it but flightly over, that the text it follows is that of its neareft predeceffor, and from that copy it was printed.

came out at Oxford the year before: which when he had perus'd with no little aftonishment, and confider'd the fatal confequences that muft inevitably follow the imitation of fo much licence, he refolv'd himself to be the champion; and to exert to the uttermoft fuch abilities as he was mafter of, to fave from further ruin an edifice of this dignity, which England muft for ever glory in. Hereupon he poffefs'd himself of the other modern editions, the folio's, and as many quarto's as could presently be procur'd; and, within a few years after, fortune and industry help'd him to all the reft, fix only excepted; adding to them withal twelve more, which the compilers of former tables had no knowledge of. Thus furnish'd, he fell immediately to collation, which is the firft ftep in works of this nature; and, without it, nothing is done to purpose,-firft of moderns with moderns, then of moderns with ancients, and afterwards of ancients with others more ancient: 'till, at the laft, a ray of light broke forth upon him, by which he hop'd to find his way through the wilderness of these editions into that fair country the poet's real habitation. He had not proceeded far in his collation, before he faw caufe to come to this refolution ;to stick invariably to the old editions, (that is, the


But of one of these fix, (a 1. Henry IV. edition 1604) the editor thinks he is poffeffed of a very large fragment, imperfect only in the first and last sheet; which has been collated, as far as it goes, along with others: And of the twelve quarto editions, which he has had the good fortune to add to those that were known before, fome of them are of great value; as may be feen by looking into the Table.

[As this table relates chiefly to Mr. Capell's defiderata, &c. (and had been anticipated by another table equally comprehenfive, which the reader will find in the next volume,) it is here omitted,]

best of them,) which hold now the place of manufcripts, no fcrap of the author's writing having the luck to come down to us; and never to depart from them, but in cafes where reafon, and the uniform practice of men of the greatest note in this art, tell him-they may be quitted; nor yet in thofe, without notice. But it will be neceffary, that the general method of this edition fhould now be lay'd open; that the publick may be put in a capacity not only of comparing it with those they already have, but of judging whether any thing remains to be done towards the fixing this author's text in the manner himself gave it.

It is faid a little before,-that we have nothing of his in writing; that the printed copies are all that is left to guide us; and that those copies are subject to numberlefs imperfections, but not all in like degree our first business then, was-to examine their merit, and fee on which fide the scale of goodness preponderated; which we have generally found, to be on that of the moft ancient: it may be seen in the Table, what editions are judg'd to have the preference among those plays that were printed fingly in quarto; and for thofe plays, the text of thofe editions is chiefly adher'd to: in all the reft, the firft folio is follow'd; the text of which is by far the most faultlefs of the editions in that form; and has alfo the advantage in three quarto plays, in 2 Henry IV. Othello, and Richard III. Had the editions thus follow'd been printed with carefulness, from correct copies, and copies not added to or otherwife alter'd after those impreffions, there had been no occafion for going any further but this was not at all the cafe, even in the best of them; and it therefore became proper and neceffary to look into the other old editions,

and to felect from thence whatever improves the author, or contributes to his advancement in perfectness, the point in view throughout all this performance: that they do improve him, was with the editor an argument in their favour; and a prefumption of genuinenefs for what is thus felected, whether additions, or differences of any other nature; and the causes of their appearing in fome copies, and being wanting in others, cannot now be discover'd, by reafon of the time's diftance, and defect of fit materials for making the dif covery. Did the limits of his Introduction allow of it, the editor would gladly have dilated and treated more at large this article of his plan; as that which is of greatest importance, and moft likely to be contefted of any thing in it: but this doubt, or this diffent, (if any be,) must come from thofe perfons only who are not yet poffefs'd of the idea they ought to entertain of these ancient impreffions; for of those who are, he fully perfuades himself he fhall have both the approof and the applause. But without entering further in this place into the reasonableness, or even neceffity, of fo doing, he does for the prefent acknowledgethat he has every-where made ufe of fuch materials as he met with in other old copies, which he thought improv'd the editions that are made the ground-work of the prefent text: and whether they do fo or no, the judicious part of the world may certainly know, by turning to a collection that will be publifh'd; where all difcarded readings are enter'd, all additions noted, and variations of every kind; and the editions specify'd, to which they severally belong.

But, when thefe helps were adminifter'd, there was yet behind a very great number of paffages,

« PreviousContinue »