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consider how little the succession of editors | Shaksperes without feeling the utter want has added to this author's power of pleasing. of a reverent spirit towards the author. He was read, admired, studied, and imitated, These things sank more deeply into the while he was yet deformed with all the im- minds of the readers of Shakspere than the proprieties which ignorance and neglect general expressions of the commentators' could accumulate upon him." The new admiration; which after all seemed little editor, with a pardonable complacency to- more than compliments to themselves in wards his calling, says,-" He certainly was their association with the poet. Schlegel, read, admired, studied, and imitated at the we cannot but acknowledge, has stated the period mentioned; but surely not in the truth with tolerable exactness : "Like same degree as at present. The succession Dante, Shakspere has received the indisof editors has effected this; it has made pensable but cumbersome honour of being him understood; it has made him popular; it treated like a classical author of antiquity. has shown every one who is capable of read- The oldest editions have been carefully coling how much superior he is not only to lated, and where the readings seemed corJonson and Fletcher, whom the bad taste of rupted many improvements have been atthe last age from the time of the Restora- tempted; and the whole literature of his tion to the end of the century set above age has been drawn forth from the oblivion him, but to all the dramatic poets of an- to which it had been consigned, for the sake tiquity." Jonson and Fletcher were not set of explaining the phrases, and illustrating above Shakspere, as we have demonstratively the allusions, of Shakspere. Commentators shown, from the time of the Restoration to have succeeded one another in such numthe end of the century. But, even if they bers, that their labours, with the critical were, it was not the succession of editors controversies to which they have given rise, that had made Shakspere popular. A plain constitute of themselves a library of no inreprint of Shakspere without a single note, considerable magnitude. These labours are but with the spelling modernized, would deserving of our praise and gratitude; and have made him more popular than all the more especially the historical inquiries into critical editions which the eighteenth cen- the sources from which Shakspere drew his tury had produced. Malone says, that materials, and into the former state of the during that century "thirty thousand copies English stage. But, with respect to the of Shakspeare have been dispersed through criticisms which are merely of a philological England." The number would have been nature, I am frequently compelled to differ quadrupled if Shakspere had been left to from the commentators; and where they his own unaided power. Much of what the consider him merely as a poet, endeavour to commentators did, especially in the illustrapronounce upon his merits, and to enter into tion of Shakspere's phraseology and the ex- his views, I must separate myself from them planation of his fugitive allusions, they did entirely. I have hardly ever found either well. But they must needs be critics, with- truth or profundity in their observations; out having any system of criticism more profound than the easy task of fault-finding; and thus they rendered Shakspere less popular than he would have been in an age when criticism was little understood, and men's eyes were dazzled by an array of names to support some flippant remark upon Shakspere's want of art, some exhibition of his ignorance, some detection of his anachronisms, some discovery of a quibble beyond the plain meaning of the word. It is scarcely possible to read a scene of the variorum

and these critics seems to me to be but stam

mering interpreters of the general and almost idolatrous admiration of his countrymen."

The editors of the first collection of the works of Shakspere, in their 'Address to the great Variety of Readers,' say-“ Read him therefore; and again, and again: and, if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger not to understand him."

Lectures on Dramatic Literature,' Black's Translation, vol. ii. p. 103.

This was advice that could not have proceeded from any common mind. The foundation of a right understanding of Shakspere is love. Steevens read again and again without love, and therefore without understanding. Boswell, the editor of Malone's posthumous edition, speaking of a note on 'Hamlet,' says, that Steevens has expressed himself "with as much asperity as if he had had a personal quarrel with the author." Steevens had a pettifogging mind, without a particle of lofty feeling, without imagination, without even a logical apprehension of the small questions to which he applied himself. But he was wonderfully laborious. Knowing nothing of the principles of philosophical criticism, he spared no pains in hunting up illustrative facts; he dabbled in classical learning so as to be able to apply a quotation with considerable neatness; and he laboured his style into epigrammatic smartness which passed for wit. The vicious style of the letters of Junius was evidently his model; and what that cowardly libeller had been in the political world Steevens was ambitious to be in the literary. He very often attacked, under a mask, those with whom he mixed in intimate companionship; till at last his name became a byword for meanness and malignity. It was impossible that such a man could have written about Shakspere without displaying "as much asperity as if he had had a personal quarrel with him." And yet he was to be pitied. Like Hamlet, he had a task laid upon him above his powers. Early in life he attached himself to literature and literary pursuits, not from any necessity, for his fortune was ample, but with a real and sincere devotion. He attached himself to Shakspere. He became an editor of Shakspere. He was associated with Johnson in the preparation of an edition, and what he did in his own way was far superior to what his colleague had effected without him. He gave a new tone to the critical illustration of Shakspere, by bringing not only the elegant literature of Shakspere's own age to compare with him, but by hunting over all the sweepings of the book-stalls of the same age, to find the application of a familiar allusion, or the mean

ing of an uncommon word. But he became ambitious to show his power of writing, as well as his diligence. If we turn over the variorum editions, and light upon a note which contains something like a burst of genial admiration for the author, we find the name of Warburton affixed to it. Warburton's intellect was capacious enough for love of Shakspere. But he delighted in decorating his opinions with the tinsel of his own paradoxes. Steevens was the man to pull off the tinsel; but he did it after the fashion in which the lace was stripped from Brother Jack's coat :-"Courteous reader, you are given to understand that zeal is never so highly obliged as when you set it a-tearing; and Jack, who doted on that quality in himself, allowed it at this time its full swing. Thus it happened that, stripping down a parcel of gold lace a little too hastily, he rent the main body of his coat from top to bottom; and, whereas his talent was not of the happiest in taking up a stitch, he knew no better way than to darn it again with packthread and a skewer.”* The zeal for tearing increased with Steevens. He retired for fifteen years from the editorship of Shakspere, to recreate himself in the usual way in which such minds find diversion-by anonymous attacks upon his literary contemporaries. But in 1793 he returned with renewed vigour to his labour of love, the defacing of Shakspere. Malone, in the interval, had been working hard, though perhaps with no great talent, in the endeavour to preserve every vestige of his author. He was successful, and Steevens was thenceforward his enemy. He would no longer walk in the path that he had once trod. He rejected all his old conservative opinions. In his edition of 1793, he sets out in his Advertisement with the following well-known manifesto against a portion of the works of Shakspere, the supposed merit or demerit of which, it is perfectly evident, must have been applied as a standard for other portions of Shakspere's poetical excellence :-" We have not reprinted the Sonnets, &c., of Shakspeare, because the strongest Act of Parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers

*Tale of a Tub.'

"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 public will ask in vain for a commodious 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."


into their service; notwithstanding these | William Sly and Thomas Poope." Again:miscellaneous poems have derived every possible advantage from the literature and judgment of their only intelligent editor, Mr. Malone, whose implements of criticism, like the ivory rake and golden spade in Prudentius, are on this occasion disgraced 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 sonnetteer." Brother Jack is here not only tearing the coat, but throwing the waistcoat into the fire. Let us hear how he means to deal with the coat itself:-"But, as we are often reminded by our brethren of the craft' that this or that emendation, however apparently necessary, 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 discoloured by the variation of every soil' through which it had flowed, and that it stagnated at last in the muddy reservoir of the first folio: in plainer terms, that the vitiations of a careless theatre were seconded by those of as ignorant a press. The integrity of dramas thus prepared for the world is just on a level with the innocence of females nursed in a camp and educated in a bagnio. As often, therefore, as we are told that, by admitting corrections warranted by common sense and the laws of metre, we have not rigidly adhered to the text of Shakspeare, we shall entreat our opponents to exchange that phrase for another 'more germane,' and say, instead of it, that we have deviated from the text of the publishers of single plays in quarto, or their successors, the editors of the first folio; that we have sometimes followed the suggestions of a Warburton, a Johnson, a Farmer, or a Tyrwhitt, in preference to the decisions of a Hemings or a Condell, notwithstanding their choice of readings might have been influenced by associates whose high-sounding names cannot fail to enforce respect, viz., William Ostler, John Shanke,

And this, then, is the text of Shakspere that England has rejoiced in for half a century! These are the labours, whether of correction or of critical opinion, that have made Shakspere "popular." The critical opinions have ceased, we believe, to have any effect except amongst a few pedantic persons, who fancy that it is cleverer to dispraise than to admire. But the text as corrupted by Steevens is that which is generally put into the hands of the readers of Shakspere. The number of editions of the text alone of Shakspere printed during the present century is by no means inconsiderable; and of these editions, which are constantly multiplying, there are many thousand copies year by year supplying the large and increasing demand for a knowledge of our greatest poet. With very few exceptions, indeed, all these editions are copies of some edition whose received text is considered as

a standard-even to the copying of typographical errors. That received text, to use the words of the title-page of what is called the trade edition, is "From the text of the corrected copies left by the late George Steevens, Esq., and Edmund Malone, Esq." If we were to suppose, from this title, that Steevens and Malone had agreed together to leave a text for the benefit of posterity, we should be signally deceived. The received text is that produced by Steevens, when he fancied himself "at liberty to restore some apparent meaning to Shakspeare's corrupted lines, and a decent flow to his obstructed versification." Malone was walking in his own track, that of extreme caution, and an implicit reliance on the very earliest copies. The text of his edition of 1821, though deformed with abundant marks of carelessness, is an honest text, if we admit the principle upon which it is founded. But the text of Steevens, in which the peculiar versification of Shakspere, especially its freedom, its vigour, its variety of pause, its sweetness, its majesty, are sacrificed to what he called "polished versification," has been received for nearly half a century as the standard text.

Hayley, the head of the school of English poetry "in the most high and palmy state" of Steevens, wrote his epitaph, which conIcludes with these lines :

"This tomb may perish, but not so his name, Who shed new lustre upon Shakspeare's fame."

This may run by the side of Johnson's praise of a sermonizing note of Warburton :-" It almost sets the critic on a level with the author." Steevens, shedding new lustre upon Shakspere! Warburton, almost upon a level with Shakspere! Thus men talked in those days, when their notion of poetry was simply that it was not prose. Something in which the mechanical form was to be obviously distinguished from other forms of composition -a sermon, an essay-was poetry. looked for no inner life in poetry, no organization of its own, that should determine its form. They looked for eight or ten syllable verse, for blank verse or couplet. They


looked for syllabic regularity in Shakspere, and a moral. When they found not the moral, they shook their heads. When they found what they called "superfluous syllables" in Shakspere's lines, out went the syllables, by carrying over a word to the next line, sometimes of two, sometimes of three syllables. If there was a gap left, it was filled up with rubbish. The excess of the second line was carried over to the third, till a halting-place was found or made. This was mending the metre. Mending the moral was not quite so easy to the editors; they left that task to the players, who, to do them justice, were in no degree slow to set about the work with the most laudable emulation of the labours of the critics. They cut out a scene here, and put in another there. Lear' was to end with a jig, and ‘Hamlet' with a song. The manager-botchers, however, in time grew timid. They wanted new Tates to make new happy endings, but the age of George III. was not luxuriant enough to produce such daring geniuses. The managers, therefore, were obliged to be content with the glorious improvements of the seventeenth century in all essentials. But they did what they could. Shakspere's songs were poor simple things; they had no point; not much about love in them; nothing of loyalty; and so Shakspere's comedies were always presented with new songs by the salaried poet of "the house," for "the house" kept a poet, as the maker of razor-strops did in those days. But GARRICK, the twin-star of Shakspere

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Shakspeare and Garrick like twin-stars shall shine,

And earth irradiate with a beam divine"had many a twinkle of his own. In the Biographia Dramatica' we have a list of thirty-nine plays by Garrick :-"He is well known to have been the author of the following, some of which are originals, and the rest translations or alterations from other authors, with a design to adapt them to the present taste of the public." (A predecessor printed upon the title of a tragedy of which in a similar way he was "the author," King Lear, a Tragedy: by Nahum Tate.')

1769, and written by him, as it is said, which shows to us that the author of that oration, or parts of that oration, was far in advance of the critical opinions of his day. Let us present a consecutive passage which immediately follows that already transcribed:"It was happy for Shakspeare, and for us, that in his time there was no example by the imitation of which he might hope to be approved. He painted nature as it appeared to his own eye, and not from a transcript of what was seen in nature by another. The genius looks not upon nature, but through it; not at the outline only, but at the differences, nice and innumerable, within it; at all that the variation of tints, and the endless combinations of light and shade, can express. As the power of perception is more, more is still perceived in the inexhaustible varieties of life; but to copy only what another has seen is to render superior perspicacity vain; and neither the painter nor the poet can hope to excel who is content to reflect a reflection, and to seek for nothing in nature which others have not found.

Garrick's Shaksperean authorship was con- | Shakspere,' spoken by him at Stratford in fined to Romeo and Juliet,' 'The Fairies' (Midsummer Night's Dream'), 'The Tempest,' 'Catherine and Petruchio' (Taming of the Shrew'), 'Florizel and Perdita' ('Winter's Tale'), 'Cymbeline', 'Hamlet.' This was pretty well for a twin-star. Is it uncharitable to infer that the Stratford Jubilee in 1769 was something as much for the honour of David Garrick as of William Shakspere? On this memorable occasion the corporation of Stratford opened their proceedings by thus addressing Garrick :-" Sir, you who have done the memory of Shakspere so much honour are esteemed the fittest person to be appointed the first steward of his jubilee." The ode upon dedicating the town-hall, and erecting a statue to Shakspere, was written by Garrick, as well as spoken by him. It is quite as good as birthday odes used to be. It would be beyond our limits to describe the effect which this ode produced; how rapturous was the public dinner; how brilliant were the transparencies in the hall; and how appropriate were the characters of the masquerade, at which a thousand persons were present. Garrick spoke an oration in honour of Shakspere, and thus he honours him:-"We get knowledge from Shakspeare, not with painful labour, as we dig gold from the mine, but at leisure, and with delight, as we gain health and vigour from the sports of the field. A picture frequently pleases which represents an object that in itself is disgustful. Teniers represents a number of Dutch boors drunk and quarrelling in a wretched hovel, and we admire the piece for a kind of relative beauty, as a just imitation of life and nature: with this beauty we are struck in Shakspeare; we know his originals, and contemplate the truth of his copy with delight."

This is the narrow view of the art of Shakspere which Johnson impressed upon his pupil. We read on, and we are bewildered. Slightingly have we spoken of Garrick, because we felt that to do what he has done with the masterpieces of Shakspere, and especially with 'Hamlet,' was to show that he did not understand them. But there is something in this 'Oration in Honour of

"But there are beauties in Shakspeare not relative-powers that do not imitate, but create. He was as another Nature: he represents not only actions that were not performed, but beings that do not exist; yet to these beings he assigns not only faculties, but character; he gives them not only peculiar dispositions, but characteristic modes of expressing them: they have character, not merely from the passions and understandings, but from situation and habit; Caliban and Ariel, like Shallow and Falstaff, are not more strongly distinguished in consequence of different natures than of different circumstances and employments.

"As there was no poet to seduce Shakspeare into imitation, there was no critic to restrain his extravagance; yet we find the force of his own judgment sufficient to rein his imagination, and to reduce to system the new world which he made.

"Does any one now inquire whether Shakspeare was learned? Do they mean whether he knew how to call the same thing by several names? for learning, with respect to

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