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when the soil or ground is represented, as here, under the personification of a mother with her children. So Friar Lawrence says, in Romeo and Juliet, when setting out from his cell, basket in hand, at the dawn of day, to gather his “ baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers”
“ The earth, that's nature's mother, is her tomb;
We, sucking on her natural bosom, find.” Then for the authority on which this reading rests, the probability surely is that the deviation from the common printed text was not made on mere conjecture; great pains appear to have been taken with the MS.; it is carefully corrected throughout in the handwriting of Sir Edward Dering, who died in 1644; and he may very well be supposed to have had access to other sources of information, both documentary and oral, in addition to the printed books. A strong case might be made out for such a MS. as being entitled to quite as much deference as any of the early printed copies, quarto or folio.
The first or outside page of the manuscript from which this Play had been originally set up may very probably. have been in a somewhat dilapidated state when it was put into the hands of the printer. In addition to the five variations in the two lines that have been quoted, it is doubtful whether in the first line of the speech we ought to read “wan with care” or “worn with care;” the latter is the correction of Mr Collier's MS. annotator, and certainly it would seem to be more natural for the King to speak of his anxieties as wearing him down and wasting him away than as merely blanching his complexion.
It is only upon this supposition of the old text of the Plays having been printed from a partially obliterated or otherwise imperfectly legible manuscript, which, as we see, meets and accounts for other facts and peculiar ap
pearances, while it is also so probable in itself, that the remarkable collection of emendations in Mr Collier's copy of the Second Folio can, apparently, be satisfactorily explained. The volume came into Mr Collier's hands in 1849, and was some time afterwards discovered by him to contain a vast number of alterations of the printed text inserted by the pen, in a handwriting certainly of the seventeenth century, and possibly of not much later date than the volume. They extend over all the thirtysix Plays, and are calculated to amount in all to at least 20,000. Here is, then, a most elaborate revision—an expenditure of time and painstaking which surely could only have been prompted and sustained by a strong feeling in the annotator of admiration for his author, and the most anxious and scrupulous regard for the integrity of his text. Such motives would be very inconsistent with the substitution generally for the old words of anything that might merely strike him as being possibly a preferable reading. The much more probable presumption is that he followed some guide. Such a labour is only to be naturally accounted for by regarding it as that of the possessor of a valued but very inaccurately printed book who had obtained the means of collating it with and correcting it by a trustworthy manuscript. And, when we come to examine the new readings, we find everything in sufficient correspondence with this hypothesis ; some things almost, we may say, demonstrating it. Some of the alterations are of a kind altogether transcending the compass of conjectural emendation, unless it had taken the character of pure invention and fabrication. Such in particular are the entire lines inserted in various passages of which we have not a trace in the printed text. The number, too, of the new readings which cannot but be allowed to be either indisputable, or, at the least, in the highest degree ingenious and plausible, is of itself almost conclusive against our attributing them to nothing better than conjecture. Upon this supposition this un
known annotator would have outdone all that has been accomplished in the way of brilliant and felicitous conjecture by all other labourers upon the Shakespearian text taken together. On the other hand, some of his alterations are in all probability mistaken, some of his new readings apparently inadmissible ;* and many pas
. * Among such must be reckoned undoubtedly the alteration, in Lady Macbeth's passionate rejoinder (Macbeth, i. 7),
“What beast was't, then, That made you break this enterprise to me?”– of beast into boast. This is to convert the forcible and characteristic not merely into tameness but into no-meaning ; for there is no possible sense of the word boast which will answer here. But in this case the corrector was probably left to mere conjecture in making his selection between the two words; for in the handwriting of the earlier part of the seventeenth century the e and o are frequently absolutely undistinguishable. In the specimen of the annotator's own handwriting which Mr Collier gives, the two e's of the word briefely are as like o's as e's, and what Mr Collier reads bleeding might be equally read blooding, if that were a word. Would Mr Collier thus correct Tennyson's
“Were not his words delicious, I a beast
Edwin Morris. There cannot, I conceive, be a question that a celebrated passage in another Play has been seriously injured by the same mistake which the annotator has made in the instance under consideration. Is it not self-evident that the speech of Polixenes in the Third Scene of the Fourth Act of the Winter's Tale should run as follows?
“Nature is made better by no mean
The art itself is nature.” The “ o'er that art” of the modern editions is “ over that art” in the old copies. In other cases, again, the ever and the even have evidently been confounded; as in The Merry Wives of Windsor, iv. 6, where Fenton describes Mrs Page as “even strong against ” the marriage of her daughter with Slender, “and firm for Doctor Caius.” The error here, if it be one, however, has apparently been left uncorrected by Mr Collier's MS. annotator.
sages which there can hardly be a doubt are corrupt are passed over by him without correction. All this becomes intelligible upon our hypothesis. Working possibly upon the same manuscripts (whether those of the author or no) from which the printed text had been set up, he would with more deliberation, or by greater attention and skill, succeed in deciphering correctly much of the difficult or faded writing which had baffled or been misread by the printer. In other places, again, he was able to make nothing of it, or it deceived him. In some cases he may have ventured upon a conjecture, and when he does that he may be as often wrong as right. The manuscripts of which he had the use—whether the author's original papers or only transcripts from them—probably belonged to the theatre; and they might now be in a much worse condition in some parts than when they were in the hands of Heminge and Condell in 1623. The annotator would seem to have been connected with the stage. The numerous and minute stage directions which he has inserted look as if it might have been for the use of some theatrical Company, and mainly with a view to the proper representation of the Plays, that his laborious task was undertaken.*
* I do not remember having seen it noticed that the theatres claimed a property in the Plays of Shakespeare, and affected to be in possession of the authentic copies, down to a comparatively recent date. The following Advertisement stands prefixed to an edition of Pericles, in 12mo, published in 1734, and professing to be “printed for J. Tonson, and the rest of the Proprietors:"_" Whereas R. Walker, and his accomplices, have printed and published several of Shakespeare's Plays, and, to screen their innumerable errors, advertise that they are printed as they are acted ; and industriously report that the said Plays are printed from copies made use of at the Theatres ; I therefore declare, in justice to the Proprietors, whose right is basely invaded, as well as in defence of myself, that no person ever had, directly or indirectly, from me any such copy or copies; neither would I be accessary, on any account, to the imposing on the public such useless, pirated, and maimed editions, as are published by the said R. Walker. W. CHET
Mr Collier has given an account of his annotated Folio in a volume which he published in 1852, entitled “Notes and Emendations to the text of Shakespeare's Plays, from Early Manuscript Corrections in a copy of the Folio, 1632." A second edition of this volume appeared in 1853; and meanwhile he had also given to the world the same year an edition, in one volume, of “ The Plays of Shakespeare : The Text regulated by the Old Copies, and by the recently discovered Folio of 1632, containing early Manuscript Emendations.” But the most distinct statement that he has made upon the subject is that contained in a subsequent volume entitled “Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, by the late S. T. Coleridge ; A List of all the MS. Emendations in Mr Collier's Folio, 1632; and an Introductory Preface;" 8vo, Lon. 1856. Of this volume the account of the annotations, headed “A List of Every Manuscript Note and Emendation in Mr Collier's Copy of Shakespeare's Works, Folio, 1632,” is spread over about 120 pages. Instead of 20,000, how
WOOD, Prompter to His Majesty's Company of Comedians at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane.” On the subject of this Chetwood see Malone's Inquiry into the Shakespeare Papers, pp. 350–352. In Tonson's similar editions of The History of Sir John Oldcastle and The Tragedy of Locrine (both declared on the title-page to be “ By Mr William Shakespear"), he speaks in like manner of himself “ and the other Proprietors of the Copies of Shakespear's Plays,” and complains that “one Walker has proposed to pirate all Shakespear's Plays, but, through ignorance of what Plays were Shakespear's, did in several Advertisements propose to print Edipus King of Thebes as one of Shakespear's Plays, and has since printed Tate's King Lear instead of Shakespear's, and in that and Hamlet has omitted almost one half of the genuine editions printed by J. Tonson and the Proprietors.” It would appear from Nichols's Illustrations, II. 199, that Theobald in the Preface to the Second Edition of his Play of The Double Falsehood, which he pretended was written by Shakespeare, spoke of private property perhaps standing so far in his way as to prevent him from putting out a complete edition of Shakespeare's Works. The passage, which does not occur in the first edition (1728), is retained in the third (1767).