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STATE OF THE TEXT, AND CHRONOLOGY, OF Timon of ATHENS. *Tas Life of Tymon of Athens' was first published in the folio collection of 1623; and immediately previous to that publication, it was entered in the books of the Stationers' Company, as one of the plays “not formerly entered to other men." The text, in this first edition, has no division into acts and scenes. We have reason to believe that, with a few exceptions, it is accurately printed from the copy which was in the possession of Heminge and Condell; and we have judged it important, for reasons which we shall feel it our duty to state in considerable detail, to follow that copy with very slight variations.
The text which, before our Pictorial edition, was ordinarily printed, that of Steevens, underwent, in an almost unequalled extent, what the editors called “regulation." Steevens was a great master in this art of "regulation"-a process by which what was originally printed as prose is sometimes transformed into verse, with the aid of transposition, omission, and substitution; and what, on the contrary, stood in the original as verse, is changed into prose, because the ingenuity of the editor has been unable to render it strictly metrical. There are various other modes of "regulation,” which have been most extensively employed in the play before us; and the consequence was that some very important characteristics were utterly destroyed in the varioruni editions—the record was obliterated. The task, however, which Steevens undertook, was in some cases too difficult a one to be carried through consistently; and he has been compelled, therefore, to leave several passages, that invited his ambition to " regulate," even as he found them. For example, in that part of the first scene where Apemantus appears, we have a dialogue, of which Steevens thus speaks :-" The very imperfect state in which the ancient copy of this play has reached us, leaves a doubt whether several short speeches in the present scene were designed for verse or prose; I have, therefore, made no attempt at 'regulation.'” Boswell upon this very sensibly asks, “Why should not the same doubt exist with regard to other scenes, in which Mr. Steevens has not acted with the same moderation ?" It will be necessary that, in addition to the notices in our foot-notes, we should bere call the attention of the reader to a few specimens of the difference between the ancient and the modern text.
The original presents to us in particular scenes a very considerable number of short lines, Occurring in the most rapid succession. We have no parallel example in Shakspere of the fre
quency of their use. The hemistich is introduced with great effect in some of the finest passages in Lear. But in Timon of Athens, its perpetual recurrence in some scenes is certainly not always a beauty. The “regulation,” however, has not only concealed this peculiar feature, but has necessarily altered the structure of the verses preceding or following the hemistich. We print a few such passages in parallel columns :ANCIENT COPIES.
ACT I. SCENE I. " Tim. What trumpet's that?
Mles. "Tis Alcibiades, and some twenty horse, All of companionship,
Act I. SCENE I.
'Tis Alcibiades, and
Act III. SCENE IV.
Act II. SCENE IV,
Act iv. SCENE 111.
ACT IV. SCENE 111. Tim. Had I a steward,
Tim. Had I a steward so true, so just, and now So true, so just, and now so comfortable?
So comfortable? It almost turns It almost turns my dangerous nature wild.
My dangerous nature wild. Let me behold Let me behold thy face : Surely, this man
Thy face.-Surely this man was born of woman." Was born of woman,"
No one we believe, having the passages thus exhibited, will consider that Steevens has improved the poet by his “regulation.” But even if there should be differences of taste in this particolar with reference to the passages before us, we maintain that in those passages, and in the examples we are about to give, the integrity of the text ought to have been preserved upon a principle.
The next examples which we shall take are those in which the prose of the original has been turned into verse :Act I, SCENE II.
Act I. SCENE II. " Tim. Now Apenantus if thou wert not sullen I would | “Tim. Now Apemantus, if thou wert not sullen, be good to thee.
I'd be good to thee. Apem. No. I'll nothing: for if I should be bribel too, Apem.
No, I'll nothing: for there would be none left to rail upon thee, and then thou If I should be brib'd too, there would be none left, would'st sin the faster. Thou giv'st so long, Timon, I fear To rail upon thee; and thou wouldst sin the faster. me thou wilt give away thyself in paper shortly.
Thon giv'st so long, Timon, I fear me, thou
Act II, SCENE II. Tim. I will dispatch you severally. You to Lord Lucius, 10 Lord Lucullus you. I hunted with his honour to-day: you to Sempronius; commend me to their loves; and I am proud, say, that my occasions have found time to use 'em toward a supply of money : let the request be fifty talents.
Act 11. SCEXE 11.
Commend me to their loves; and, I am proud, say,
Act IV. SCENE III.
Tim. Promise me friendship, but perform none. If thou wilt not promise the Gods plague thee, for thou art a man: if thou dost perform, confound thee, for thou art a inan,"
Act tv. SCENE III.
None, but to
What is it, Timon !
The third and last series of examples which we shall furnish, exhibits the metamorphosis of the verse of the original into prose :ACT V. SCENE 1.
Act v. SCENE 1. * Peixter. Good as the best.
* Painter. Good as the best. Promising is the very air Proprising is the very air o'th' time;
o' the time: it opens the eyes of expectation: performance It opens the eyes of expectation.
is ever the duller for his act; and, but in the plainer and Performance is ever the duller for his act,
simpler kind of people, the deed of saying is quite out of use. And, but in the plainer and simpler kind of people,
* To promise is most courtly and fashionable: perforinance is The deed of saying is quite out of use,
a kind of will, or testament, which argues a great sickness To promise is most courtly and fashionable ;
in his judgment that makes it.
Peet. I an thinking
Poet. I am thinking what I shall say I have provided for What I shall say I hare provided for him:
him: It must be a personating of himself: a satire against It must be a personating of himself:
the softness of prosperity; with a discovery of the infinite A satire against the softness of prosperity,
Batteries that follow youth and opulency."
We hare thus prepared the reader, who is familiar with the ordinary text, not to rely upon it as s transcript of the ancient copies; and we shall now endeavour to show that, by a careful examination of the original, we may arrive at some conclusions with regard to this drama which have been hitherto entirely overlooked.
The disguises of the ancient text, which have been so long accepted without hesitation, have givea to the Timon of Athens something of the semblance of uniformity in the structure of the Ferse; although in reality the successive scenes, even in the modern text, present the most startling contrarieties to the ear which is accustomed to the versification of Shakspere. The ordinary explanation of this very striking characteristic is, that the ancient text is corrupt. This is the belief of the English editors. Another theory, which has been received in Germany, is, that the Timon being one of the latest of Shakspere's performances has come down to us unfinished. The conviction to which we have ourselves arrived neither rests upon the probable corruption of the test, Dor the possibility that the poet has left us only an unfinished draft of his performance; but upon the belief that the differences of style, as well as the more important differences in the cast of thought, which prerail in the successive scenes of this drama, are so remarkable as to justify the conclusion that it is not wholly the work of Shakspere. We think it will not be very difficult so to exhibit these differences in detail, as to warrant us in requesting the reader's acquiescence in the principle which we seek to establish, namely, that the Timon of Athens was a play originally produced by an artist very inferior to Shakspere, and which probably retained possession of the stage for some time in its first form; that it has come down to us not wholly re-written, as in the instance of the Taming of the Shrew, and the King John, but so far remodelled that entire scenes of Shakspere have been substituted for entire scenes of the elder play; and lastly, that this substitution has been almost wholly confined to the character of Timon, and that in the development of that character alone, with the exception of some few occasional touches here and there, we must look for the unity of the Shaksperian conception of the Greek Misanthropos—the Timon of Aristophanes and Lucian and Plutarch—“the enemy to mankind," of the popular story books-of the 'Pleasant Histories and excellent Novels,' which were greedily devoured by the contemporaries of the boyish Shakspere.*
The contrast of style which is to be traced throughout this drama is sufficiently striking in the two opening scenes which now constitute the first act. Nothing can be more free and flowing than the dialogue between the Poet and the Painter. It has all the equable graces of Shakspere's facility, with occasional examples of that condensation of poetical images which so distinguishes him from all other writers. For instance :
“ All those which were his fellows but of late,
(Some better than his value,) on the moment
The Palace of Pieasure,' in which the story of Timon is found, was first published in 1575.