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The rage for innovation till within these last thirty years was fo great, that many words were difmiffed from our poet's text, which in his time were current in every mouth. In all the editions fince that of Mr. Rowe, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. the word channel' has been rejected, and kennel fubftituted in its room, though the former term was commonly employed in the fame fense in the time of our author; and the learned Bishop of Worcefter has ftrenuously endeavoured to prove that in Cymbeline the poet wrote-not Shakes, but fhuts or checks, "all our buds from growing" though the authenticity of the original reading is established beyond all controverfy by two other paffages of Shakspeare. Very foon, indeed, after his death, this rage for innovation feems to have feized his editors; for in the year 1616 an edition of his Rape of Lucrece was published, which was faid to be newly revifed and corrected; but in which, in fact, feveral arbitrary changes were made, and the ancient diction rejected for one fomewhat more modern. Even in the first complete collection of his plays published in 1623,
As you like it, Vol. VIII. p. 59, n. 7:
My voice is ragged,
Cymbeline, Vol. XVIII. p. 647, n. 2:
"Whom heavens, in juftice, (both on her and hers,) "Have laid moft heavy hand."
7 A& II. fc. i: " -throw the quean in the channel." that paffage, as in many others, I have filently restored the original reading, without any obfervation; but the word in this fenfe, being now obfolete, fhould have been illuftrated by a note. This defect, however, will be found remedied in K. Henry VI P. II. A& II. fc. ii:
"As if a channel fhould be call'd a fea."
• Hurd's HoR. 4th. edit. Vol. I. p. 55.
fome changes were undoubtedly made from ignorance of his meaning and phrafeology. They had, I suppose, been made in the playhouse copies after his retirement from the theatre. Thus in Othello, Brabantio is made to call to his domesticks to raise "fome special officers of might," instead of " officers of night;" and the phrase "of all loves," in the fame play, not being understood, "for love's fake" was fubftituted in its room." So, in Hamlet, we have ere ever for or ever, and rites inftead of the more ancient word, crants. In King Lear, Act I. fc. i. the substitution of" Goes thy heart with this?" inftead of " Goes this with thy heart?" without doubt arofe from the fame caufe. In the plays of which we have no quarto copies, we may be fure that fimilar innovations were made, though we have now no certain means of detecting 'them.
After what has been proved concerning the fophiftications and corruptions of the Second Folio, we cannot be furprized that when these plays were republished by Mr. Rowe in the beginning of this century from a later folio, in which the interpolations of the former were all preserved, and many new errors added, almoft every page of his work was disfigured by accumulated corruptions. In Mr. Pope's edition our author was not lefs mifrepresented; for though by examining the oldeft copies he detected fome errors, by his numerous fanciful alterations the poet was fo completely modernized, that I am confident, had he "re-vifited the glimpfes of the moon," he would not have understood his own works. From the quartos indeed a few valuable restorations were made; but all the advantage that was thus obtained,
was outweighed by arbitrary changes, tranfpofitions, and interpolations.
The readers of Shakspeare being difgufted with the liberties taken by Mr. Pope, the fubfequent edition of Theobald was juftly preferred; because he profeffed to adhere to the ancient copies more ftrictly than his competitor, and illuftrated a few paffages by extracts from the writers of our poet's age. That his work fhould at this day be confidered of any value, only fhows how long impreffions will remain, when they are once made; for Theobald, though not fo great an innovator as Pope, was yet a confiderable innovator; and his edition being printed from that of his immediate predeceffor, while a few arbitrary changes made by Pope were detected, innumerable fophiftications were filently adopted. His knowledge of the contemporary authors was fo fcanty, that all the illuftration of that kind difperfed throughout his volumes, has been exceeded by the researches which have fince been made for the purpose of elucidating a fingle play.
Of Sir Thomas Hanmer it is only neceffary to fay, that he adopted almost all the innovations of Pope, adding to them whatever caprice dictated.
To him fucceeded Dr. Warburton, a critick, who (as hath been faid of Salmafius) feems to have erected his throne on a heap of ftones, that he might have them at hand to throw at the heads of all those who paffed by. His unbounded licence in fubftituting his own chimerical conceits in the place of the author's genuine text, has been fo fully fhown by his revifers, that I fuppofe no critical reader will ever again open his volumes. An hundred ftrappadoes, according to an Italian co
mick writer, would not have induced Petrarch, were he living, to fubfcribe to the meaning which certain commentators after his death had by their gloffes extorted from his works. It is a curious fpeculation to confider how many thousand would have been requifite for this editor to have inflicted on our great dramatick poet for the same purpose. The defence which has been made for Dr. Warburton on this fubject, by fome of his friends, is fingular. "He well knew," it has been faid, "that much the greater part of his notes do not throw any light on the poet of whofe works he undertook the revision, and that he frequently imputed to Shakspeare a meaning of which he never thought; but the editor's great object was to difplay his own learning, not to illuftrate his author, and this end he obtained; for in fpite of all the clamour against him, his work added to his reputation as a scholar."-Be it fo then; but let none of his admirers ever dare to unite his name with that of Shakspeare; and let us at leaft be allowed to. wonder, that the learned editor fhould have had fo little refpect for the greatest poet that has appeared fince the days of Homer, as to use a commentary on his works merely as "a ftalking-horse, under the prefentation of which he might fhoot his wit."
At length the task of revising these plays was undertaken by one, whofe extraordinary powers of mind, as they rendered him the admiration of his contemporaries, will tranfmit his name to pofterity as the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century; and will tranfmit it without competition, if we except a great orator, philofopher, and ftatefman, now living, whofe talents and virtues are
• The Right Honourable Edmund Burke.
an honour to human nature. In 1765, Dr. Johnson's edition, which had long been impatiently expected, was given to the publick. His admirable preface, (perhaps the finest compofition in our language,) his happy, and in general juft, characters of thefe plays, his refutation of the falfe gloffes of Theobald and Warburton, and his numerous explications of involved and difficult paffages, are too well known, to be here enlarged upon; and therefore I fhall only add, that his vigorous and comprehenfive understanding threw more light on his author than all his predeceffors had done.
In one obfervation, however, concerning our poet, I do not entirely concur with him. "It is not (he remarks) very grateful to confider how little the fucceffion of editors has added to this author's power of pleafing. He was read, admired, ftudied and imitated, while he was yet deformed with all the improprieties which ignorance and neglect could accumulate upon him.
He certainly was read, admired, ftudied, and imitated, at the period mentioned; but furely not in the fame degree as at prefent. The fucceffion of editors has effected this; it has made him underftood; it has made him popular; it has shown every one who is capable of reading, how much fuperior he is not only to Jonfon and Fletcher, whom the bad taste of the laft age from the time of the Restoration to the end of the century fet above him, but to all the dramatick poets of antiquity:
Jam monte potitus,
"Ridet anhelantem dura ad vestigia turbam."
Every author who pleases muft furely please