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that, though he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet little declined into the vale of years, before he could be difgufted with fatigue, or difabled by infirmity, he made no collection of his works, nor, defired to rescue thofe that had been already publifhed from the depravations that obfcured them, or fecure to the reft a better destiny, by giving them to the world in their genuine ftate.8

Of the plays which bear the name of Shakspeare in the late editions, the greater part were not publifhed till about seven years after his death, and the few which appeared in his life are apparently thrust into the world without the care of the author, and therefore probably without his knowledge.

Of all the publifhers, clandeftine or profeffed, the negligence and unfkilfulness has by the late revifers been fufficiently fhown. The faults of all are indeed numerous and grofs, and have not only corrupted many paffages perhaps beyond recovery, but have brought others into fufpicion, which are only obfcured by obfolete phrafeology, or by the writer's unfkilfulness and affectation. To alter is more eafy than to explain, and temerity is a more common quality than diligence. Thofe who faw that they muft employ conjecture to a certain degree, were willing to indulge it a little further. Had the author published his own works, we fhould have fat quietly down to disentangle his intricacies, and clear his obfcurities; but now we tear what we cannot loose, and eject what we happen not to understand.

The faults are more than could have happened

* What Montaigne has faid of his own works may almost be applied to thofe of Shakspeare, who " n'avoit point d'autre fergent de bande à ranger fes pieces, que la fortune." STEEVENS.


without the concurrence of many caufes. ftyle of Shakspeare was in itself ungrammatical, perplexed, and obfcure; his works were tranfcribed for the players by thofe who may be fuppofed to have feldom understood them; they were tranfmitted by copiers equally unskilful, who still multiplied errors; they were perhaps fometimes mutilated by the actors, for the fake of fhortening the fpeeches; and were at last printed without correction of the prefs."

In this ftate they remained, not as Dr. Warburton fuppofes, because they were unregarded, but because the editor's art was not yet applied to modern languages, and our ancestors were accustomed to fo much negligence of English printers, that they could very patiently endure it. At laft an edition was undertaken by Rowe; not because a poet was to be published by a poet, for Rowe feems to have thought very little on correction or explanation, but that our author's works might appear like thofe of his fraternity, with the appendages of a life and

• Much deferved cenfure has been thrown out on the careleffness of our ancient printers, as well as on the wretched transcripts they obtained from contemporary theatres. Yet I cannot help obferving that, even at this inftant, fhould any one undertake to publish a play of Shakspeare from pages of no greater fidelity than fuch as are iffued out for the ufe of performers, the prefs would teem with as interpolated and inextricable nonfenfe as it produced above a century ago. Mr. Colman (who cannot be fufpected of ignorance or mifrepresentation) in his preface to the laft edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, very forcibly ftyles the prompter's books "the most inaccurate and barbarous of all manufcripts." And well may they deserve that character; for verfe (as I am informed) ftill continues to be transcribed as profe by a set of mercenaries, who in general have neither the advantage of literature or understanding. Foliis tantum ne carmina manda, ne turbata volent ludibria, was the request of Virgil's Hero to the Sybil, and should also be the fupplication of every dramatick poet to the agents of a prompter. STEEVENS

recommendatory preface. Rowe has been clamorously blamed for not performing what he did not undertake, and it is time that justice be done him, by confeffing, that though he feems to have had no thought of corruption beyond the printer's errors, yet he has made many emendations, if they were not made before, which his fucceffors have received without acknowledgment, and which, if they had produced them, would have filled pages and pages with cenfures of the ftupidity by which the faults were committed, with difplays of the abfurdities which they involved, with oftentatious expofitions. of the new reading, and felf-congratulations on the happiness of discovering it.

As of the other editors I have preferved the prefaces, I have likewife borrowed the author's life from Rowe, though not written with much elegance or fpirit; it relates, however, what is now to be known, and therefore deserves to pass through all fucceeding publications.

The nation had been for many years content enough with Mr. Rowe's performance, when Mr. Pope made them acquainted with the true ftate of Shakspeare's text, fhowed that it was extremely corrupt, and gave reafon to hope that there were means of reforming it. He collated the old copies, which none had thought to examine before, and restored many lines to their integrity; but, by a very compendious criticism, he rejected whatever he disliked, and thought more of amputation than of cure.

I know not why he is commended by Dr. Warburton for diftinguishing the genuine from the fpurious plays. In this choice he exerted no judgment of his own; the plays which he received, were given to Hemings and Condel, the firft edi

tors; and those which he rejected, though, according to the licentiousness of the press in those times, they were printed during Shakspeare's life, with his name, had been omitted by his friends, and were never added to his works before the edition of 1664, from which they were copied by the latter printers.

This was a work which Pope feems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to fupprefs his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He understood but half his undertaking. The duty of a collator is indeed dull, yet, like other tedious tasks is very neceffary; but an emendatory critick would ill discharge his duty, without qualities very different from dullness. In perufing a corrupted piece, he must have before him all poffibilities of meaning, with all poffibilities of expreffion. Such muft be his comprehenfion of thought, and fuch his copioufnefs of language. Out of many readings poffible, he must be able to felect that which beft fuits with the ftate, opinions, and modes of language prevailing in every age, and with his author's particular caft of thought, and turn of expreffion. Such must be his knowledge, and fuch his taste. Conjectural criticism demands more than humanity poffeffes, and he that exercises it with most praise, has very frequent need of indulgence. Let us now be told no more of the dull duty of an editor.

Confidence is the common confequence of fuccefs. They whofe excellence of any kind has been loudly celebrated, are ready to conclude, that their powers are univerfal. Pope's edition fell below his own expectations, and he was fo much offended, when he was found to have left any thing for others VOL. I. U

to do, that he paffed the latter part of his life in a ftate of hoftility with verbal criticism.'

I have retained all his notes, that no fragment of fo great a writer may be loft; his preface, valuable alike for elegance of compofition and juftness of remark, and containing a general criticifm on his author, fo extenfive that little can be added, and fo exact, that little can be difputed, every editor has an intereft to fupprefs, but that every reader would demand its infertion.

Pope was fucceeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehenfion, and small acquifitions, with no native and intrinfick fplendor of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning, but zealous for minute accuracy, and not negligent in pursuing it. He collated the ancient copies, and rectified many errors. A man fo anxiously fcrupulous might have been expected to do more, but what little he did was commonly right.

In his reports of copies and editions he is not to be trufted without examination. He speaks sometimes indefinitely of copies, when he has only one. In his enumeration of editions, he mentions the two first folios as of high, and the third folio

The following compliment from Broome (fays Dr. Jofeph Warton) Pope could not take much pleasure in reading; for he could not value himself on his edition of Shakspeare:

"If aught on earth, when once this breath is fled,
"With human transport touch the mighty dead,
"Shakspeare, rejoice! his hand thy page refines;
"Now ev'ry fcene with native brightnefs fhines;
"Juft to thy fame, he gives thy genuine thought;
So Tully publifh'd what Lucretius wrote;
"Prun'd by his care, thy laurels loftier grow,
"And bloom afresh on thy immortal brow."

Broome's Verses to Mr. Pope. STEEVENS.

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