« ПредишнаНапред »
beft of them,) which hold now the place of manufcripts, no fcrap of the author's writing having the luck to come down to us; and never to depart from them, but in cafes where reafon, and the uniform practice of men of the greatest note in this art, tell him-they may be quitted; nor yet in thofe, without notice. But it will be neceffary, that the general method of this edition fhould now be lay'd open; that the publick may be put in a capacity not only of comparing it with those they already have, but of judging whether any thing remains to be done towards the fixing this author's text in the manner himself gave it.
It is faid a little before,-that we have nothing of his in writing; that the printed copies are all that is left to guide us; and that those copies are fubject to numberlefs imperfections, but not all in like degree our firft bufinefs then, was-to examine their merit, and fee on which fide the scale of goodness preponderated; which we have generally found, to be on that of the moft ancient: it may be feen in the Table, what editions are judg'd to have the preference among thofe plays that were printed fingly in quarto; and for those plays, the text of thofe editions is chiefly adher'd to: in all the reft, the first folio is follow'd; the text of which is by far the most faultlefs of the editions in that form; and has alfo the advantage in three quarto plays, in 2 Henry IV. Othello, and Richard III. Had the editions thus follow'd been printed with carefulness, from correct copies, and copies not added to or otherwife alter'd after thofe impreffions, there had been no occafion for going any further but this was not at all the cafe, even in the best of them; and it therefore became proper and neceffary to look into the other old editions,
and to felect from thence whatever improves the author, or contributes to his advancement in perfectness, the point in view throughout all this performance that they do improve him, was with the editor an argument in their favour; and a prefumption of genuinenefs for what is thus felected, whether additions, or differences of any other nature; and the caufes of their appearing in fome copies, and being wanting in others, cannot now be discover'd, by reafon of the time's diftance, and defect of fit materials for making the difcovery. Did the limits of his Introduction allow of it, the editor would gladly have dilated and treated more at large this article of his plan; as that which is of greatest importance, and most likely to be contefted of any thing in it but this doubt, or this diffent, (if any be,) muft come from those persons only who are not yet poffefs'd of the idea they ought to entertain of these ancient impreffions; for of those who are, he fully perfuades himself he shall have both the approof and the applause. But without entering further in this place into the reasonableness, or even neceffity, of fo doing, he does for the prefent acknowledgethat he has every-where made ufe of fuch materials as he met with in other old copies, which he thought improv'd the editions that are made the ground-work of the prefent text: and whether they do fo or no, the judicious part of the world may certainly know, by turning to a collection that will be publish'd; where all difcarded readings are enter'd, all additions noted, and variations of every kind; and the editions specify'd, to which they feverally belong.
But, when these helps were adminifter'd, there was yet behind a very great number of paffages,
labouring under various defects and those of various degree, that had their cure to seek from fome other fources, that of copies affording it no more: For these he had recourfe in the first place to the affiftance of modern copies: and, where that was incompetent, or elfe abfolutely deficient, which was very often the cafe, there he fought the remedy in himself, using judgment and conjecture; which, he is bold to fay, he will not be found to have exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establish'd rules of critique with fobernefs and temperance. Thefe emendations, (whether of his own, or other gentlemen,') carrying in themfelves a face of certainty, and coming in aid of places that were apparently corrupt, are admitted into the text, and the rejected reading is always put below; fome others,-that are neither of that certainty, nor are of that neceffity, but are fpecious and plaufible, and may be thought by fome to mend the paffage they belong to,-will have a place in the collection that is fpoken of above. But where it is faid, that the rejected reading is always put below, this must be taken with some restriction: for fome of the emen
7 In the manufcripts from which all these plays are printed, the emendations are given to their proper owners by initials and other marks that are in the margin of thofe manufcripts; but they are fuppreffed in the print for two reafons: First, their number, in fome pages, makes them a little unfightly and the editor profeffes himself weak enough to like a well-printed book: In the next place, he does declare that his only objec has been, to do fervice to his great author; which provided it be done, he thinks it of small importance by what hand the fervice was adminifter'd: If the partizans of former editors shall chance to think them injur'd by this fuppreffion, he muft upon this occafion violate the rules of modefty, by declaring that he himself is the most injur'd by it; whofe emendations are equal, at least in number, to all theirs if put together; to fay nothing of his recover'd readings, which are more confiderable still.
dations, and of course the ancient readings upon which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, the general method was there inconvenient; and, for these few, you are refer'd to a note which will be found among the reft: and another fort there are, that are fimply infertions; these are effectually pointed out by being printed in the gothick or black character.
Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions have been of fuch a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and fubmit to his judgment the remedies that are apply'd to them; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in fome note that is to follow: but there are fome behind that would not be fo manag'd; either by reafon of their frequency, or difficulty of fubjecting them to the rules under which the others are brought: they have been spoken of before at p. 329, where the corruptions are all enumerated, and are as follows;-a want of proper exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, throughout the work in general, and, in fome of the plays, a want of divifion; and the errors are thofe of measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and filently; but the reafons for fo doing, and the method obferv'd in doing it, fhall be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, and that which is chiefly to diftinguish him from those who have gone before, may ftand facred and unimpeachable; and, firft, of the divifion.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the lift of titles that may be seen at p. 332, was,-to fhow which plays were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and which of them were not divided at all; and the number of the first class is
eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Loft, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is fome divifion aim'd at ; yet it is fo lame and erroneous, that it was thought beft to confider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the first class as those of the third, the plays of the fecond clafs were ftudiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this division: which rule might eafily have been discover'd before, had but any the leaft pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, fince neither can the reprefentation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjufted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own fettling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following eftablifh'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himfelf to the practice of fome other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was beft acquainted with his feene divifions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he obferves a method in which perhaps he is fingular, and he is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of fcene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a fucceffion of new perfons: that liaifon of the fcenes, which Jonfon feems to have attempted, and upon which the French stage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd; and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great strictness and greater happiness than can