Графични страници
PDF файл

manuscript had there got torn or soiled, and that the printer had been obliged to supply what was wanting in the best way that he could, by his own invention or conjectural ingenuity.*

Of the other Folio editions, the Second, dated 1632, is the only one the new readings introduced in which have ever been regarded as of any authority. But nothing is known of the source from which they may have been derived. The prevailing opinion has been that they are nothing more than the conjectural emendations of the unknown editor. Some of them, nevertheless, have been adopted in every subsequent reprint.

The manuscript of Henry the Fourth (belonging to Sir Edward Dering, Bart., of Surrenden in Kent) is curious and interesting, as being certainly either of Shakespeare's own age or close upon it, and as the only known manuscript copy of any of the Plays of nearly that antiquity. But it appears to have been, for the greater part, merely transcribed from some printed text, with such omissions and modifications as were deemed expedient in reducing the two Plays to one.f

The First Part of Henry the Fourth had been printed no fewer than five times, and the Second Part also once, in the lifetime of the author. The Dering MS., however, exhibits a few peculiar readings.

* I have discussed the question of the reliance to be placed on the First Folio at greater length in an article on The Text of Shakespeare, in the 40th No. of the North British Review (for February, 1854). It is there shown, from an examination of the First Act of Macbeth, that the number of readings in the First Folio (including arrangements of the verse and punctuation affecting the sense) which must be admitted to be either clearly wrong, or in the highest degree suspicious, probably amounts to not less than twenty on an average per page, or about twenty thousand in the whole volume. Most of them have been given up and abandoned even by those of the modern editors who profess the most absolute deference to the general authority of the text in which they are found.

+ I am informed by a friend, upon whose accuracy I can rely, that a collation of a considerable portion of the MS. with the Quarto of 1613 leaves no doubt of that being the printed edition on which it was formed.

It is only upon the 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 appearances, 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 thirty-six Plays, and are calculated to amount in all to at least twenty thousand. 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 labor 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. On the other hand, some of his alterations are in all probability mistaken, some of his new readings apparently inadmissible,* and many passages 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 not) 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 baMed 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 tran-. scripts 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

* 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 well read blooding, if that were a word. Would Mr. Collier thus correct Tennyson's (Edwin Morris), –

Were not his words delicious, I a beast

To take them as I did ? 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
But nature makes that mean. Šo 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 66

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

“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.


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.*

[For a concise account of the controversy which

* 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. 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 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).

« ПредишнаНапред »