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The most anxious and responsible part of the duty of an editor of any of our elder poets relates to the integrity and purity of the text. In the case of Shakespeare this has necessarily been a matter of peculiar difficulty, delicacy, and perplexity; and, bearing in mind how little had been done, in this respect, by all the commentators during the last 150 years, the principle I laid down to myself, in my former edition, was that of adhering to the words and letters of the old copies in 4to and folio, whenever it was possible to extract from them anything like a consistent and perspicuous meaning. Where no such sense could be obtained, the best conjectures of previous editors, or the most guarded speculations of my own, wera resorted to; but not a few passages still remained so inextricably corrupt, that, like others who had preceded me in the same task, I was compelled to content myself with the mere reproduction of what had been handed down to us. The principle, to which I closely and constantly adhered in 1843, became afterwards modified by a circumstance which has excited attention at home and abroad, and which has been to me, most unfairly, the source of much personal attack and obloquy.
In the year 1849 it was my good, or ill, fortune to become possessed of a folio copy of “Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies," in the edition of 1632'.
accustomed acuteness, is unable to arrive at any approach to certainty regarding the writer of it, who has sometimes been supposed to be Mrs. Abington, or Hab. bington, sometimes Anne Vaux, sometimes Percy, and more probably Tresham, one of the conspirators. See Jardine’s “Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot,” 1857, p. 89 et seq. Greenway, the Jesuit, whom Mr. Jardine quotes, supposed that Tresham was employed by the government (p. 91); but whoever wrote Lord Monteagle's letter did not, like Marston, put his name to it; and, considering the position of the parties, it seems singular that we never hear either of Lord Kimbolton, or of his correspondent in the transaction. Whether Lord Kimbolton sent any trusty person to the Gate-bouse to confer with Marston, as was required, or whether he treated the whole affair with indifference, it is impossible now to say; but the terms the poet uses are very unequivocal, and indeed much less guarded than those of the writer of the letter wbich was read aloud by Ward at Lord Monteagle's suppertable, and which was subsequently made known to Secretary Cecill.
• Mr. Singer also seems to be in possession of a corrected folio, 1032, but ho
It was imperfect at the beginning and end, as well as in some places in the middle of the volume, and was besides in a very shabby and deteriorated condition. About two years afterwards I discovered, to my surprise, that it was annotated, from one end to the other, in a hand-writing not later than the date of the Restoration—that whole lines were supplied in various scenes—that many words were substituted in the margin for others erased in the text—that corrections of hundreds of undoubted misprints were introduced, and that the punctuation was amended in thousands of instances. I was amazed at my own discovery: I somewhat hastily and eagerly ran over the proposed emendations; and I frankly own that from the first I was disposed to attach more value to the whole body of alterations, than not a few of them really merited. That is my unreserved admission, and let my adversaries make the most of it.
It will, I think, be allowed that such a disposition on my part was not unnatural, and the result of it was the publication of a separate volume of “Notes and Emendations,” in which I expressed my opinion on most of the proposed changes. If I had been prudent, I should (as, indeed, I did afterwards) have merely printed the old text and the new in opposite columns, and have thus left the latter to make its way in the world. I was, however, too anxious to enforce
has not, that I am aware, stated the date when the emendations were probably made, and I happen never to have heard of it, until after the publication of my Vol. of “Notes and Emendations." However, I give him all credit for it, and for the manner in which it most opportunely comes in aid of some of the MS. changes in my corrected folio of the same date, made not very long after its publication. I also place full confidence in the Rev. Mr. Dyce's anticipations of what was contained in my corrected folio, 1632; and when he tells us, as he does several times over in his “ Shakespeare ” just printed, that he had made corresponding changes in bis “ Variorum Shakespeare " long before the emendation in my corrected folio, 1632, was mentioned, I never should dream of doubting his word. I was a willing witness to his accuracy not long since, when he was assailed, not merely for printing private conversations, but for misrepresenting them : I knew him to be incapable of any such practice, and said so both in public and private ; and be bimself printed my letter of exculpation. See Rogers's “Table Talk,” 3rd
and illustrate the merits of my extraordinary acquisition ; and I am now persuaded, that if I had accompanied the emendations by no comment, more of them would have been welcomed, even by subsequent editors of Shakespeare, as great and valuable improvements. My indiscreet claim for the admission of so large a mass of alterations into the text led persons, with about equal indiscretion, to reject without pause what, otherwise, they would have been disposed to accept without dispute.
I could hardly have been assailed with more virulence, if I had actually been the author of the worst changes in my corrected folio, 1632', and had palmed them off as the emendations of some person who had lived and died two hundred years ago. However, I was able satisfactorily to prove that the volume, and its notes, had been in the hands of a private gentleman (of whom I knew nothing) in the commencement of the present century. I found, too, that near the end of the last century the book had probably come out of an old Roman Catholic library in Berkshire, which, by the sale of it, had dispersed other volumes and tracts, now scattered over the neighbourhood of Reading and Newbury, some of which are still almost daily making their reappearance. Only a short time since a copy of the earlier folio of Shakespeare's Plays in 1623 (very imperfect, and without any note but one, which led to the belief that it had been obtained from the same library at Ufton Court) was found in the possession of a gardener, who had bought it for a few shillings; and an edition of Spenser's “Fairy Queen" of the folio of 1611, with the autograph of Drayton, (to say nothing of several smaller productions by other poets and proge-writers) was comparatively recently rescued, perhaps from destruction, in
$ Wherever in the ensuing volumes I bave bad occasion to refer to, or to quote from it, the reader will be so good as to observe, that for the sake of brevily I have invariably designated it in this form-corr. fo. 1632. It is necessary to bear this in mind throughout my notes.
the same vicinity. The Spenser, I am glad to say, is now in
I did all in my power to give publicity to my discovery of the corrected folio, 1632. I produced it at the Council of the Shakespeare Society, and laid it before the general meeting of that body; I carried it with me to two, if not three, evening assemblies of the Antiquaries of London, and I laid it open on their library-table for the examination of any persons who took an interest about it. I mentioned it to my relations and friends, and showed them many of the most remarkable emendations. The late Duke of Devonshire came up from Chatsworth purposely to inspect it: I left it for several days in the care of the late Earl of Ellesmere; and one of our great London publishers had it for nearly a week in his possession, that he might take opinions upon the subject. In short, it was freely inspected by every body who expressed the least anxiety to see it.
Could I have done more ? Yes, I could have done one thing more, which I did not do, and which I carefully avoided doing.
I had been, for more than twenty years, upon terms of the greatest intimacy and, on my part at least, confidence with the Rev. Alexander Dyce'. I had shown him many
I owe, and, on the first mention of his name in the text of my preface, willingly pay to the Rev. Mr. Dyce an apology for an oversight of mine, when quoting from his edition of Webster in the preface to the "Seven Lectures of Coleridge on Shakespeare and Milton,” p. lxxxv.
My error was printing w instead of
"wate" instead of rate. Mr. Dyce says that I " carefully concealed” the fact that rate is the reading in his text of Webster : I assure bim that I never meant to conceal it; it was a mere oversight. I do not for an instant charge him with intentional misrepresentation, in a much more obvious matter than putting w for r.
In bis 9th note on “The Tempest,” in his Shakespeare just published, he says that in the line
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence,” the MS. corrector alters" purpose" to practice. This is an error; as the Rev. Mr. Dyce will see, if he refer to either edition of “ Notes and Emendations," or to the one-volume “Shakespeare ” of 1853: it is the word ". lines above the one he has quoted, that is altered to practice, and, as I venture to contend, most properly:
one midnight, Fated to the practice, did Antonio open
book-purchases, I had consulted him upon all my literary undertakings; and he had often resorted to me, when he was in a difficulty, for the improvement or completion of his reprints. I had furnished him with original manuscripts for his edition of Peele ; I had procured him the use of unique Pageants for his Webster, and for his Middleton I lent him two tracts from my own shelves that, as far as I know, do not exist elsewhere in Europe. It seems ungracious to allude to these mere trifles in friendship, and I only notice them in order to show the terms that subsisted between us. When, in 1841, I undertook the supervision of an edition of Shakespeare, Mr. Dyce was the first person (including even the members of my own family) to whom I stated the fact. The announcement did not seem very satisfactory to him: he said that, at some time or other, he had contemplated such an undertaking himself; but he warned me of the difficulty of the task, and added that, in the then state of his information, he should be afraid of attempting it. To my surprise and, I may add, vexation he never proffered me assistance until I asked for it; and then he informed me, that for nearly all his notes he had trusted to his memory, and to jottings in his Variorum Shakespeare.
The gates of Milan; and in the dead of darkness,
burried thence Me and thy crying self.”—See this Vol. It is just as proper to alter “purpose" to practice (meaning treachery) in the first instance, as it would be improper to do it in the second instance; and yet the Rev. Mr. Dyce, apparently in his haste to condemn the old corrector of the folio, 1632, charges him with an absurdity of which he never was guilty. Neither is the above the only example of the same sort of treatment; but I never can be made to believe, that there has been any “ careful concealment” on the part of the Rev. Mr. Dyce. Recurring to Webster, it is rather surprising that among all the mistakes committed by Mr. Dyce and pointed out in the “preface” to which he adverts, he can only fix upon the solitary error, on my part, of printing w for r. I wish he could relieve himself from the load I laid upon his shoulders, -and upon my own, for I pointed out my own blunders also. Can be show, for instance, that he did not print “plam" for plume, “martins" for martyrs, “usher" for issue, "action" for axiom,“ sectious" for factious, "funeral" for several, “ring" for rug,
" loveless for lawless, “ram plulantia " for philautia, &c. ? I hope he can show it.
" for raven,