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entitle an editor of Shakspeare to the favour of the publick.

I have said that the comparative value of the various ancient copies of Shakspeare's plays has never been precisely ascertained. To prove this, it will be necessary to go into a long and minute discussion, for which, however, no apology is necessary for though to explain and illustrate the writings of our poet is a principal duty of his editor, to ascertain his genuine text, to fix what is to be explained, is his first and immediate object: and till it be established which of the ancient copies is entitled to preference, we have no criterion by which the text can be ascertained.

Fifteen of Shakspeare's plays were printed in quarto antecedent to the first complete collection of his works, which was published by his fellowcomedians in 1623. These plays are, A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Two Parts of King Henry IV. King Richard II. King Richard IIÏ. The Merchant of Venice, King Henry V. Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Troilus and Cressida, King Lear, and Othello.

The players, when they mention these copies, represent them all as mutilated and imperfect; but this was merely thrown out to give an additional value to their own edition, and is not strictly true of any but two of the whole number; The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King Henry V.—With respect to the other thirteen copies, though undoubtedly they were all surreptitious, that is, stolen from the playhouse, and printed without the consent of the author or the proprietors, they in general are preferable to the exhibition of the same plays in the

folio; for this plain reason, because, instead of printing these plays from a manuscript, the editors of the folio, to save labour, or from some other motive, printed the greater part of them from the very copies which they represented as maimed and imperfect, and frequently from a late, instead of the earliest, edition; in some instances with additions and alterations of their own. Thus therefore the first folio, as far as respects the plays above enumerated, labours under the disadvantage of being at least a second, and in some cases a third, edition of these quartos. I do not, however, mean to say, that many valuable corrections of passages undoubtedly corrupt in the quartos are not found in the folio copy; or that a single line of these plays should be printed by a careful editor without a minute examination, and collation of both copies; but those quartos were in general the basis on which the folio editors built, and are entitled to our particular attention and examination as first editions.

It is well known to those who are conversant with the business of the press, that, (unless when the author corrects and revises his own works,) as editions of books are multiplied, their errors are multiplied also; and that consequently every such edition is more or less correct, as it approaches nearer to or is more distant from the first. A few instances of the gradual progress of corruption will fully evince the truth of this assertion.

In the original copy of King Richard II. 4to. 1597, Act II. sc. ii. are these lines:

"You promis'd, when you parted with the king,
"To lay aside life-harming heaviness."

In a subsequent quarto, printed in 1608, instead of life-harming we find HALF-harming; which being perceived by the editor of the folio to be nonsense, he substituted, instead of it,-Selfharming heaviness.

In the original copy of King Henry IV. P. I. printed in 1598, Act IV. sc. iv. we find

"And what with Owen Glendower's absence thence, (Who with them was a rated sinew too,)” &c.

In the fourth quarto printed in 1608, the article being omitted by the negligence of the compositor, and the line printed thus,

"Who with them was rated sinew too,"

the editor of the next quarto, (which was copied by the folio,) instead of examining the first edition, amended the error (leaving the metre still imperfect) by reading—

"Who with them was rated firmly too."

So, in the same play, Act I. sc. iii. instead of the reading of the earliest copy

"Why what a candy deal of courtesy-"

caudy being printed in the first folio instead of candy, by the accidental inversion of the letter n, the editor of the second folio corrected the error by substituting gawdy.

So, in the same play, Act III. sc. i. instead of the reading of the earliest impression,

"The frame and huge foundation of the earth-"

in the second and the subsequent quartos, the line by the negligence of the compositor was exhibited without the word huge :

"The frame and foundation of the earth

and the editor of the folio, finding the metre imperfect, supplied it by reading,

"The frame and the foundation of the earth."

Another line in Act V. sc. ult. is thus exhibited in the quarto, 1598:

"But that the earthy and cold hand of death-”

Earth being printed instead of earthy, in the next and the subsequent quarto copies, the editor of the folio amended the line thus:

"But that the earth and the cold hand of death—.”

Again, in the preceding scene, we find in the first copy,

"I was not born a yielder, thou proud Scot-."

instead of which, in the fifth quarto, 1613, we have

"I was not born to yield, thou proud Scot."

This being the copy that was used by the editor of the folio, instead of examining the most ancient impression, he corrected the error according to his

own fancy, and probably while the work was passing through the press, by reading

"I was not born to yield, thou haughty Scot.”

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to her Nurse, "In faith, I am sorry that thou art not well.”

and this line in the first folio being corruptly exhibited

"In faith, I am sorry that thou art so well.”

the editor of the second folio, to obtain some sense, printed

"In faith, I am sorry that thou art so ill.”

In the quarto copy of the same play, published in 1599, we find—


O happy dagger,

"This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”

In the next quarto, 1609, the last line is thus re presented :

"'Tis is thy sheath,” &c.

The editor of the folio, seeing that this was manifestly wrong, absurdly corrected the error thus:

"'Tis in thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”

Again, in the same play, quarto, 1599, mishav'd being corruptly printed for misbehav'd,

"But like a mishav'd and sullen wench—”

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