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sacred, that Horace among the Romans, in a much more polite age than that in which Lucilius writ, could not escape their censure for attacking him ; nor can Mr. Rymer, or any other just critic, who shall presume, though with the highest justice and reason, to find fault with Shakespeare, escape the indignation of our modern traditionary admirers of that poet.' Rymer himself, forty years earlier, had been even more emphatic. In the
. neighing of an horse, or in the growling of a mastiff, there is a meaning, there is as lively expression and, may I say, more humanity than many times in the tragical flights of Shakespeare.' His own notion of a tragical flight we may discover from his tragedy of Edgar,' where in the first act Elfrida declares that she will, at Ethelwold's request, discard her ornaments, and the margin directs her to pull off her patches !
Four years after the scholiast upon his grace of Buckingham had spoken the opinions which prevailed among thousands of that day, who looked upon Shakespeare as at best a rude and uncultivated genius, no less a person than Mr. Pope himself became his editor. Whatever may have been his disqualification for his task, there was no man living whose name could do so much towards securing for the dramatist the allegiance of a larger circle of admirers. Yet Shakespeare's works, even when endorsed by the name of Pope, were thought to be a doubtful venture. Only seven hundred and fifty copies were printed, and of these, it may not have been the editor's fault that part could not be sold until after a reduction of the price from six guineas to sixteen shillings. We doubt whether Theobald could have won a public, or indeed a publisher for Shakespeare, had not Pope opened the way. His edition was the first with notes, but they were few, and turned chiefly upon verbal criticism. He consulted many of the old copies, professed to have a religious horror of innovation,' and declared that he had not given vent to his own private sense or conjecture.' His alterations, nevertheless, were extensive, and his collation of the quartos and first folio imperfect. His text was full of the errors which had crept into the later folios, and having adopted the theory that many portions of the plays had been interpolated by the actors, and believing that he could distinguish the spurious passages from the genuine, ‘he degraded' the presumed additions to the bottom of the page. His licence of conjecture was as largely exercised upon single lines and words, and his objections and emendations often show his ignorance of the manners and language of Shakespeare's times. But we gladly call to mind the finer touches of his pen. To him, for instance, we owe the reading
of Tarquin's ravishing strides,' instead of sides, and the true version of the delicious lines
O it came o'er my ears like the sweet south
That breathes upon a bank of violets.' “South' for sound' stood only as Pope's conjectural emendation till the other day when it was seconded by Mr. Collier's MS. Corrector.
Pope's work appeared in 1725. In 1726 Theobald, the son of an attorney, published a book called "Shakespeare Restored,' in which he exposed Pope's errors and deficiencies with the same litigious spirit that he would have conducted a law-suit. He became in consequence the hero of the original Dunciad.” In 1733 he retaliated in a complete edition of the Dramatist. His talents and his learning were both insignificant, and he was suspected of valuing literature solely as a means of gain and a vehicle for malice. As small minds are proud of small things, his vanity was ridiculous, and he seems to have regarded the conjectural rectification of a verbal error like a discovery in science. Though the great object of his hostility was Pope, he adopted his text, and while correcting it in many places from the old copies, he yet left numerous blunders undisturbed. His real service to Shakespeare consists in a few felicitous emendations.
Theobald was followed in 1744 by Sir Thomas Hanmer, thirty years member, and at last Speaker, of the House of Com
• What the public is here to expect,' he said in the opening sentence of his Preface, 'is a true and correct edition of Shakespeare's works, cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded.' His notion of what constitutect
a true and correct edition' was shown by his adopting Pope's arbitrary alterations, and introducing many more of his own.
He did not even distinguish the guesses from the readings which were derived from the primitive copies. Yet, vitiated as was his text, he did a service to Shakespeare by replacing in several passages a word which was evidently wrong by another word which was as evidently right.
Warburton asserted that Theobald and Sir Thomas Hanmer had left their author in ten times a worse condition than they found him. His own edition of Shakespeare saw the light in 1747. He joined in the general cry of the editors against the corruptions of the ancient text. The great dramatist,' he said,
had struggled into light so disguised and travestied, that no classic author, after having run ten secular stages through the
blind cloisters of monks and canons, ever came out in half so maimed and mangled a condition.' He went so far as to declare that the stubborn nonsense with which Shakespeare was incrusted occasioned his lying long neglected amongst the common lumber of the stage.' In this there was vast exaggeration, but Warburton's object was to justify his own extensive deviations from the early editions. He professed, however, to have dealt only with the passages which, as they stood, were inextricable nonsense, and he maintained that in the changes he made he bad religiously observed such severe rules of criticism that he had indulged nothing to fancy or imagination. This was the prelude to a number of alterations as fanciful as the reasons by which they are supported are sophistical. A perverse ingenuity reigns throughout. He was a self-made scholar, and men who have conquered their own way in life are often self-sufficient and overbearing. But seldom has any one pronounced his wayward decrees with the same dictatorial confidence as Warburton. In the midst of his rashness and arrogance several happy conjectures occur, and, like his predecessors, he deserves the thanks of the lovers of Shakespeare.
Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton had each done something towards elucidating the antiquated phrases and allusions of their author, and explaining the passages which were obscurely expressed. But their main industry had been bestowed upon the text. The edition of Johnson, which came out in 1765, professed to embrace both departments. He was averse to drudgery, and though his range of miscellaneous reading was wide, had made no special study of the books of the Elizabethan era. Nevertheless he accomplished more than any of those who preceded him. He reinstated many of the old readings which had been rejected since Pope had set the example of capricious change, and explained many crabbed passages with a perspicuity and a terseness which left nothing to desire. No one person had hitherto done so much for Shakespeare. Among other admirable emendations he wrote 'gilded tombs do worms enfold instead of gilded timber,' and his reading is confirmed by Mr. Collier's MS. Corrector.
Shakespeare was now engaging the attention of many minds. . In the year following that in which Johnson's 'Shakespeare ' appeared, Dr. Farmer, of whom it is told in his epitaph that he was facetus et dulcis, festique sermonis,' published his work On the Learning of Shakespeare,' wherein he demonstrated both that he could have derived and did derive his classical lore from translations. Such was his enthusiasm not Vol. 105.—No. 209.
only for Shakespeare, but the stage, that it is said he refused a bishopric, because a bishop could not go to see Macbeth' or " Richard the Third' at the playhouse. In his time Garrick was acting.
George Steevens, who was possessed of a handsome fortune, reprinted in 1766 twenty of the old quarto copies of the plays, and announced his plan of a complete edition, promising unbounded courtesy as an editor, though he proved afterwards to be of all editors the most uncivil. He redeemed his pledge by assisting Johnson in a new edition of his Shakespeare in 1773. : He went on, enlarging his contributions in successive issues of the work, until it became more the edition of Steevens than of Johnson. He was gifted with a sharp wit, and such persevering industry that when at work on a reprint in fifteen octavo volumes, he left his lodging at Hampstead daily at one in the morning, in all seasons and all weathers during eighteen months, and walked to Reed's lodgings to correct by night the work done by the printer on the previous day. His knowledge of the old editions was extensive and exact, and he was deeply read in the literature of Shakespeare's time. He did immense service in clearing away numerous difficulties which had arisen from obsolete phrases and customs; and as he was careful to adduce his authorities, the reader had to take nothing on trust. His worst defect was, that having no ear for verse, he chose to arrange many lines to suit his own mistaken notions of harmony.
Malone, a young Irishman with literary skill and independent means, who had settled in London, laboured on Shakespeare at this time, and was trained in the school of Steevens. He also sought to illustrate his author from contemporary writings. But the master at last grew jealous of the pupil, and from friends they became rivals. Malone, a placid, wellbred, conscientious man, displayed his powers as a detector of the Ireland impostures, the Rowley fabrications, and was the first editor of the prose works of Dryden. His complete edition of Shakespeare, which had been preceded by several notes from his pen, appeared in the year 1790. His text made the nearest approximation of any of the modern reprints to the old copies. His fault was rather, perhaps, to be too timid of innovation than to be too ambitious of change. His explanations are often sensible, and the illustrative quotations from contemporary authors extremely numerous. He is not unworthy to rank with Steevens. Both had done much to make Shakespeare better known and better understood. Even the bitterness of controversy helped to exalt the fame of the dramatist. Riyal editions in successive issues scattered his plays over the land. No fresh combatants, however, appeared on the arena, and fifty years of energetic war about Shakespeare was followed by fifty years of peace.
His works had now passed through three stages. In the first they were printed without care. In the second conjectural criticism prevailed ; and while increased regard was had to the old copies, the ingenious guesses of the editor too often took the place of sober research. In the third the ancient readings were more thoroughly ascertained and the Elizabethan literature ransacked to clear up the allusions and language of the glory of that age. The materials which the latest knot of commentators had accumulated still wanted to be digested and compressed. The notes were full of repetitions, and were overlaid with an excess of illustration. They were rendered more diffuse by controversies, and the personal feelings of the editors would not always allow them to exercise an unbiassed judgment. A student of taste, who was a stranger to their feuds, might take a comprehensive view of all which had been hitherto done, and give the pith of the whole. This was the task which appeared most needful to be performed when Mr. Knight entered the field. Unfortunately, as we think, he had an undue faith in the readings of the first folio, and was too prone to endeavour to twist into sense what was clearly erroneous. Exercising the double function of an enthusiast for Shakespeare and a publisher, he outdid, however, every past effort to place the great poet of the nation in the hands of all classes. Three times as much as was effected for the propagation of Shakespeare's writings during the whole century after his death has been accomplished in a few years by the zeal and ability of a single editor. Mr. Collier entered the lists in 1843. Like Mr. Knight, his chief care was employed in settling the text; and like Mr. Knight, he often stuck to the old readings where they were indubitably wrong. The only difference was, that whereas Mr. Knight held the folio to be the highest authority, Mr. Collier put his confidence in the quartos. Neither of them had a mind sufficiently catholic to take an impartial review of all the sources of information, and pick what was best from each. Thus matters stood when, in 1849, Mr. Collier bought of a bookseller a copy of the second folio of Shakespeare's plays, containing a great number of MS. alterations. They proved to be interesting and important in an unexpected degree. Many were certainly right, many were obviously shrewd; and more were intolerably stupid. Excited- as who would not have been ?—by the contemplation of his treasure, Mr. Collier, in the year 1852, published a volume setting forth some of these notes and emendations, and expressing a more unreserved trust in the whole mass of them than be