« PreviousContinue »
Other charges there are, that might be brought against these modern impressions, without infringing the laws of truth or candour either: but what is said, will be sufficient; and may satisfy their greatest favourers, - that the superstructure cannot be a sound one, which is built upon so bad a foundation as that work of Mr. Rowe's ; which all of them, as we see, in succession, have yet made their corner-stone: The truth is, it was impossible that such a beginning should end better than it has done: the fault was in the setting-out; and all the diligence that could be us’d, join'd to the discernment of a Pearce or a Bentley, could never purge their author of all his defects by their method of proceeding.
The editor now before you was appriz'd in time of this truth; saw the wretched condition his author was reduc'd to by these late tamperings, and thought seriously of a cure for it, and that so long ago as the year 1745; for the attempt was first suggested by that gentleman's performance, which came out at Oxford the year before: which when he had perus'd with no little astonishment, and consider'd the fatal consequences that must inevitably follow the imitation of so much licence, he
for the present was finit'd, within a play or two, and printed too in great part, before that appear'd: 'the firft sheet of this work (being the first of Vol. II.) went to the press in September 1760: and this volume was follow'd by Volumes VIII. IV. IX. I. VI, and VII.; the last of which was printed off in August 1765 : In the next place, the merits and demerits of it are unknown to the present editor even at this hour: this only he has perceiv'd in it, having look'd it but slightly over, that the text it follows is that of its nearest predeceffor, and from that copy it was printed.
resolv'd himself to be the champion; and to exert to the uttermost such abilities as he was master of, to fave from further ruin an edifice of this dignity, which England must for ever glory in. Hereupon he possess'd himself of the other modern editions, the folio's, and as many quarto's as could presently be procur'd; and, within a few years after, fortune and industry help'd him to all the reft, fix only excepted; adding to them withal twelve more, , which the compilers of former tables had no knowledge of. Thus furnish’d, he fell immediately to collation, which is the first step in works of this nature; and, without it, nothing is done to purpose, - first of moderns with moderns, then of moderns with ancients, and afterwards of ancients with others more ancient: 'till, at the last, a ray of light broke forth upon him, by which he hop'd to find his way through the wilderness of these editions, into that fair country the poet's real habitation. He had not proceeded far in his collation, before he saw cause to come to this resolution ;--to stick invariably to the old editions, (that is, the best of them) which hold now the place of manufcripts, no scrap of the author's writing having the luck to come down to us; and never to depart
* But of one of these fix, (a 1. Henry IV. edition 1604) the editor thinks he is possess’d of a very large fragment, imperfect only in the first and last sheet; which has been cola lated, as far as it goes, along with others: And of the twelve quarto editions, which he has had the fortune to add to those that were known before, fome of them are of great value ; as may be feen by looking into the Table.
[ As this table relates chiefly to Mr, Capell's desiderata, &c. (and had been anticipated by another table equally coinprehensive, which the reader will find in the second volume,) it is here omitted.]
from them, but in cases where reason, and the uniform pradice of men of the greatest note in this art, tell him --- they may be quitted; nor yet in those, without notice. But it will be necessary, that the general method of this edition should 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
it. It is said 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 subject to numberless imperfections, but not all in like degree; our first business then, was -- to examine their merit, and see on which fide the scale of goodness preponderated; which we have generally found, to be on that of the most ancient: it may be seen in the Table, what editions are judg'd to have the preference among those plays that were printed singly in quarto; and for those plays, the text of those editions is chiefly adher'd to: in all the rest, the firít folio is follow'd; the text of which is by far the most faultless of the editions in that form; and has also 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 otherwise alter'd after those impresfions, there had been no occasion for going any further; but this was not at all the case, even in the best of them; and it therefore became proper and necessary to look into the other old editions, and to select from thence whatever improves the
author, or contributes to his advancement in per fe&ness, the point in view throughout all this performance: that they do improve him, was with the editor an argument in their favour; and a presumption of genuineness for what is thus selected, whether additions, or differences of any other nature; and the causes of their appearing in some copies, and being wanting in others, cannot now be discover'd, by reason of the time's distance, and defect of fit materials for making the discovery.
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 contested of any thing in it: but this doubt, or this dissent, (if any be) must come from those persons only who are not yet possess’d of the idea they ought to entertain of these ancient impreffions; for of those who are, he fully persuades himself he shall have both the approof and the applause.
But without entering further in this place into the reasonableness, or even necessity, of To doing, he does for the present acknowledge ---that he has every-where made use of such materials as he met with in other old copies, which he thought improv'd the editions that are made the ground-work of the present text; and whether they do or no, the judicious part of the world may certainly know, by turning to a collection that will be publish'd; where all discarded readings are enter'd, all additions noted, and variations of
every kind; and the editions specify'd, to which they severally belong.
Bat, when these helps were administer'd, there was yet behind a very great number of passages, labouring under various defects and those of various degree, that had their cure to seek from some other sources, that of copies affording it no more: For these he had recourse in the first place to the assistance of modern copies: and, where that was incompetent, or else absolutely deficient, which was very often the case, there he sought the remedy in himself, using judgment and conjecture; which, he is bold to say, he will not be found to have exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establish'd rules of critique with foberness and temperance, These emendations, (whether of his own, or other gentlemen' ) carrying in themselves 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; some others, ---that have neither that certainty, nor are of that necessity, but are specious and plausible,
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 those manuscripts; but they are suppressed in the print for two reafons : First, their number, in some pages, makes them a little unsightly; and the editor professes himself weak enough to like a well-printed book, In the next place, he does declare ---that his only object has been, to do fervice to his great author; which provided it be done, he thinks it of small importance by what hand the service was administer'd: If the partizans of former editors shall chance to think them injur'd by this fuppreffion, he must upon this occafion vio-, late the rules of modesty, by declaring that he himself is the most injur'd by it; whose emendations are equal, at least in number, to all theirs if put together; to say nothing of his recover'd readings, which are more considerable fill.