« PreviousContinue »
“ equal judgment, though not always with the same “ success, attempted to clear the genuine plays from “ the interpolated scenes. He then consulted the old “ editions; and, by a careful collation of them, recti* fied the faulty, and supplied the imperfect reading, in *** a great number of places: and, lastly, in an admi"" rable preface, hath drawn a general, but very lively "" sketch of SHAKESPEARE's poetic character; and, in * the corrected text, marked out those peculiar strokes “ of genius which were most proper to support and il« lustrate that character.”. But though Mr. Pope had a juft title to the public thanks; yet Mr. Theobald attacked him with great acrimony of expreffion, evidently flowing from personal prejudice. He interlards his notes with many severe reflections against Mr. Pope, represents his collation of old copies as a mere pretence, and ranks his edition among those of no authority. In short, he goes fo far as to alledge, that “ Mr. Pope has feldom « corrected SHAKESPEARE's text but to its injury : that ** he has frequently-inflicted a wound where he intended
a cure; that he has attacked his author like an un« handy flaughterman, and not lopped off the errors, " but the poet.” But Mr. Warburton, the great friend of Mr. Pope, returned him measure for measure, as we will see anon.
This Mr. Theobald was the next editor after Mr. Pope. c. He (fays Mr. Warburton) was naturally turned to in
duftry and labour. What he ad, he could tran“ scribe; but as what he thought, if ever he did think, “ he could but ill express ; so he read on; and by that " means gut a character of learning, without risking, to
every observer, the imputation of wanting a better do talent. By a punctilious collation of the old books, “ he corrected what was manifestly wrong in the latter is editions, by what was manifeftly right in the earlier. << And this is his real merit, and the whole of it. For “ where the phrase was very obsolete or licentious in o the common books, or only slightly corrupted in the
other, he wanted fufficient knowledge of the progress ** and various stages of the English tongue, as well as acquaintance with the peculiarity of SHAKESPEARE's
“ language, « language, to understand what was right; nor had he “ either comnion judgment to see, or critical fagacity “ to amend, what was inanifestly faulty. Hence he ge“ nerally exerts his conjectural talent in the wrong "place: he tampers with what is found in the common "books; and, in the old ones, omits all notice of varia “ ations the sense of which he did not understand.”
As to the Oxford editor, Sir Thomas Hanmer, the next editor: “ How he (says Mr. Warburton) came to " think himself qualified for this office (criticism,] from “ which his whole course of life had been so remote, is
ftill more difficult to conceive. For whatever parts " he might have either of genius or erudition, he was “absolutely ignorant of the art of criticism, as well as " of the poetry of that time, and the language of his "author. And so far from a thought of examining the " forf editions, that he even neglected to compare Mr. "Pope's, from which he printed his own, with Mr. " Theobald's; whereby he loft the advantage of many “ fine lines which the other had recovered from the old " quarto's. Where he trufts to his own fagacity, irr “ what affects the sense, his conjectures are generally " abfurd and extravagant, and violating every rule of "criticism.--His principal object was, to reform his « author's numbers: and this, which he hath done, on
every occafion, by the insertion or omission of a fet " of harmless unconcerning expletives, makes up the "gross body of his innocent corrections. And so, in " spite of that extreme negligence in numbers, which
diftinguishes the first dramatic writers, he hath tricked
up the old bard, from head to foot, in all the finical “exactness of a modern measurer of syllables.”
Mr. Warburton was the next, and the last editor. He tells us, that the world had never been troubled with his edition, but for the conduct of the two last editors (Theobald and Hanmer,) and the persuasions of dear Mr. Pope, who desired him to give a new edition of SHAKESPEARE, as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to the folly which prevailed of altering the text of celebrated authors, without talents or judgment; and that a 2
his main care has been, to restore the genuine text; but in those places only where it labours with inextricable nonsense.
“ In which (adds he) how much foever 1 may have given scope to critical conjecture, where the " old copies failed me, I have indulged nothing to fancy " or imagirration, but have religioully observed the severe “ canons of literal criticism."
Since the publication of the laft of the aforemen. tioned editions, a work has come abroad, in' two volumes, intitled, The beauties of Shakespeare, regularly felected from each play By William Dodd, B. A. As this gentleman has taken some notice of SHAKESPEARE's editors, we shall conclude our account of them, with a few of his remarks.
“ Mr. Theobald (says Mr. Dodd) has approved him“ self the best editor of SHAKESPEARE that has yet ap. “peared, by a close attention to, and diligent survey of “ the old editions, and by a careful amendment of those “ fight faults, which evidently proceeded from the press, " and corrupted the text.” And, after observing that Mr. Theobald had left many passages untouched and unregarded, which were truly difficult and called for the editor's affittance, he adds, “ It is plain, then, much “ work remained for subsequent commentators; and, “ shall we add? still remains: for though succeeded by “ two eminent rivals [Hanmer and Warburton,] we must " with no small concern behold this imperfect editor ftill “ maintaining his ground; and with no little sorrow ab. “ serve the best judges of SHAKESPEARE preferring Theo“ bald's to any modern edition.” He gives the reasons of this preference as follows.
“ Sir Thomas Hanmer (says he) proceeds in the most “ unjustitiable method, foilting into his text a thousand “ idle alterations, without ever advertising his readers, “ which are and which are not SHAKESPEARE's genuine “ words: fo that a multitude of idle phrases and ridicu“lous expreffions, infinitely beneath the fublimity of this prince of poets, are thrown to his account; and his
“ imperfections, so far from being diminished, numbered “tenfold upon his head."
“Mr. Warburton (continues Mr. Dodd) hath been " fomewhat more generous to us: for though he has for " the most part preferred his own criticisms to the au“ thor's words, yet he hath always too given us the au" thor's words, and his own reasons for those criticisms. " Yet his conduct can never be justified for inserting
every fancy of his own in the text, when I dare vena "ture to fay, his better and cooler judgment must con" demn the greatest part of them. What the ingenious "Mr. Edwards says of hiin, seems exactly just and "true.---That there are good notes in his edition of “SHAKESPEARE, I never did deny: but as he has had " the plundering of two dead men (Theobald and Han
mer,] it will be difficult to know which are his own. " Some of them I suppose may be: and hard indeed " would be his luck, if among so many bold throws he " should have never a winning cart. But I do infift, that " there are great numbers of such shameful blunders as
disparage the rest, if they do not discredit his title to “ them, and make them look rather like lucky hits, than, “ the result of judgment.”
Mr. Dodd adds the following remark, to which every reader will chearfully give his affent. “ For my own part, (says he,) I cannot but read with
the con" ftant jarring and triumphant insults, one over another, “ found amidst the commentators on SHAKESPEARE.. “ This is one of the reasons that has impeded our ar, " rival at a thorough knowledge in his works: for some " of the editors have not so much laboured to elucidate " their author, as to expose the follies of their brethrena " How much better would it have been for SHAKE"SPEARE, for us, and for literature in general; how "much more honour would it have reflected on them“ felves, had these brangling crities sociably united; and, " instead of putting themfelves in a pofture of defence
one against another, jointly taken the field, and united " all their efforts, to rescue fo inimitable an author from a 3
“ the Gothic outrage of dull players, duller printers, " and still duller editors;”
Amidtt such a variety of editors, and such different characters' of them, no one could be implicitly followed. We have therefore consulted them all; and, of the various readings and conjectures, those only have been adopted, and inserted in the text, that seemed to agree best with the meaning of the author. No scope has been given to conjecture or imagination; not a fingle line, not even a fingle word, is inserted, but what is warranted by the authority of preceeding editors. No regard has been had to the Oxford editor's reformation of SHAKESPEARE's numbers, or to his other almost innumerable conjectures and interpolations, farther than as some of the latter have received the sanction of succeeding critics. But the reader will see from a lift fubjoined to the Indexes in the last volume, what conjectures or alterations of the critics are adopted in this edition; and perhaps it may not be loft labour to consult the various readings in that list, as it may give those who have not seen former editions, fome idea of the art of literal criticism, so long hackneyed among the learned; and they may reject or prefer as they judge proper.
The utmost care has been taken to print this edition correctly, especially with respect to the pointing. As to which, due regard has always been had to the several instances of false or depraved pointing, whereby the sense was marred, and some passages rendered almost quite unintelligible, as observed by Meff. Theobald and Warburton. And though it is not intended to affirm, that this edition is free from faults, yet such care has been taken, that 'tis thought it may well vie with any of those hitherto published in England; at least we flatter ourselves it will not be found inferior either in beauty or correctness.
The acts and scenes are divided according to Pope's and Warburton's editions; and not according to Theobald's or Hanmer's, the former of whom has not numbered the scenes.
In Pope's edition, the passages which he thought the