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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.”
sage in another Play has been seriously injured by the same mistake which the annotator has made in the instance under con
sideration. 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 But nature makes that mean. So ever that art, Which you say adds to nature, is an art That nature makes. . . . . . . . . The art itself is nature.” The “ o'er that art” of the modern editions is “over that art” in the old copies. * 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 my self, 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. CHETwood, 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 Shakspeare Papers, pp. 350–352. In Tomson'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 CEdipus 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. Tomson and the Proprietors.”
At the same time, it must be admitted that we have hardly yet been put sufficiently in possession of the facts of the case for coming to a definitive judgment upon it. His annotated Folio has supplied Mr. Collier with materials for two large volumes, and yet we are still without precise information of what it really contains. His supplemental volume of “Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare's Plays, from Early Manuscript Corrections in a Copy of the Folio, 1632,” was published in 1852; his edition of “The
Plays of Shakespeare: the Text regulated by the Old Copies, and by the recently discovered Folio of 1632, containing early Manuscript Emendations,” in 1853. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory and in every way unhappy (except only for the purpose of spreading the matter to be communicated over a large extent of paper) than the plan followed in the first of these publications. The volume extends to above 500 pages, and four-fifths of it may be said to be filled with the reiteration of the same thing five hundred times. The one solitary explanation of everything is stated again and again incessantly, sometimes with an attempt to vary the expression, sometimes not. And the statement is one which no reader can need or care to see more than once. The new edition of the Plays is equally unsatisfactory, though not equally wearisome. The text does not profess to be that of the annotator. It is described as “regulated” partly by his alterations, partly by the old copies. In point of fact, it appears to contain only a selection from his readings. Yet it presents many important deviations from the common text not noticed in the Notes and Emendations. From neither volume, then, . nor from both together, is it possible to ascertain either what the manuscript annotator has really done or what he has left undone. We have only picked specimens of his alterations, such of them as seem to Mr. Collier to be deserving of adoption or at least of consideration. Of what other new readings he may have proposed we know nothing. There may be many of such a character as would go far to convict him of utter incompetency as a restorer of the text of Shakespeare in so far as he might be in any
degree dependent upon the exercise of his own powers of ingenuity and judgment, or materially to modify the impression made by those of another kind in favour of his having probably had, either throughout his revision, or at least for some part of it, the guidance of authoritative documents. And, on the other hand, some of those of the 20,000 manuscript corrections which have been deemed by Mr. Collier not worth noticing or producing might not be held to be equally insignificant or valueless by others.
The right course for Mr. Collier to take would be to print, without note or comment, merely every line of the text that has been retouched by the annotator, distinguishing the new readings by italics. Supposing the alterations to extend over 10,000 lines, they might all be in this way distinctly exhibited in the fifth part of the space taken up, in a manner so “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,” by the Notes and Emendations. And possibly the lines affected by them may not amount to half that number.*
IV. THE SHAKESPEARIAN EDITORS AND COMMENTATORS.
The four Folios were the only editions of the Plays of Shakespeare brought out in the seventeenth century; and, except that the First, as we have seen, has a Dedication and Preface signed by Heminge and Condell, two actors belonging to the Blackfriars Theatre, nothing is known, and scarcely anything has been conjectured, as to what superintendence any of them may have had in passing through the press. The eighteenth century produced a long succession of editors: —Rowe, 1709 and 1714; Pope, 1725 and 1728; Theobald, 1733 and 1740; Hanmer, 1744; Warburton, 1747; Johnson, 1765; Steevens, 1766; Capell, 1768; Reed, 1785; Malone, 1790; Rann, 1786–1794. The editions of Hanmer, Johnson, Steevens, Malone, and Reed were also all reprinted once or oftener, for the most part with enlargements; and all the notes of the preceding editions were at last incorporated in what is called Reed's Second Edition of Johnson and Steevens, which appeared, in 21 volumes 8vo, in 1803. This was followed in 1821 by what is now the standard Variorum edition, also in 21 volumes, which had been mostly prepared by Malone, and was completed and carried through the press by his friend Mr. James Boswell. We have since had the various editions of Mr. Knight and Mr. Collier, from both of whom, in addition to other original research and speculation, both bibliographical and critical, we have received the results of an examination of the old texts more careful and extended than they had previously been subjected to. And there are now in course of publication the magnificent edition by Mr. Halliwell, which is to extend to 20 volumes folio, and that which has been since commenced by Mr. Singer.”
* I am happy to find, as these sheets are passing through the press, nearly the same views in most respects which I announced in the North British Review in 1854, both on the subject of the Shakespearian text and on that of the new readings supplied by Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, ably advocated in an article in the Edinburgh Review, No. 210, for April, 1856. The writer refers to a paper, which I have not seen, in “the North American Review forlast year,” as containing “by far the best and most thoroughly reasoned discussion” of the subject with which he had met.