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length in favour of this much-injured editor, but a few years, another was projected; and that to which I feel to be now becoming tedious, for, might be more adequate to the claims of Shakspears “And so to arms, victorious father, » and of Britain, the conduct of it was placed, in
homage to his just celebrity, in the hands of Pope. as the line is
being Pope showed himself more conscious of the nature
dis- of his task, and more faithful in his execution of syll
it than his predecessor. He disclosed to the public the very faulty state of his author's text, and
suggested the proper means of restoring it: he the collated many of the earlier editions, and he cleared
the page of Shakspeare from many of its deformihe ties: but his collations were not sufficiently extenis. sive; and he indulged, perhaps, somewhat too or much in conjectural emendation. This exposed ut him to the attacks of the petty and minute critics;
and, the success of his work falling short of his exh
pectations, he is said to have contracted that enmity to verbal criticism, which actuated him during the remaining days of his life. His edition was published in the year 1725. Before this was undertaken, Theobald, a man of no great abilities and of little learning, had projected the restoration of Shakspeare ; but his labours had been suspended, or their result had been withheld from the press, till the issue of Pope's attempt was ascertained by its accomplishment, and publication. The Shak
speare of Theobald's editing was not given to the world before the year 1733; when it obtained more of the public regard than its illustrious predecessor, in consequence
of its being drawn from a somewhat wider field of collation; and of its less frequent and presumptuous admission of conjecture. Theobald,
ndeed, did not wholly abstain from conjecture : put the palm of conjectural criticism was placed nuch too high for the reach of his hand.
To Theobald, as an editor of Shakspeare, suceeded Sir Thomas Hanmer, who, in 1744, publishda superb edition
of the great dramatist from the ress of Oxford. But Hanmer, building his work
that of Pope, and indulging in the wildest and ost wanton innovations, deprived his edition of pretensions to authenticity, and, consequently, to rit. The bow of Ulysses was next seized by a hty hand-by the hand of Warburton ; whose
kspeare was published in 1747. It failed of th
cess; for, conceiving that the editor intended to
make his author his showman to exhibit his erudi. of
surrendered to a new tion and intellectual power, the public quickly negschool (the French school) of the drama ; and its lected his work,
and it soon disappeared from cirmastery was held by Dryden, with many subordi- culation, though some of its proffered substitutions nates, during a long succession of years. Through- must be allowed to be happy, and some of its ex out this whole period, Shakspeare was nearly for-planations to be just. gotten by his ungrateful or blinded countrymen. His
After an interval of eighteen years, Shakspeare splendour, it is true, was gleaming above the horizon; obtained once more an editor of great name, and and his glory, resting in purple and gold upon the seemingly in every way accomplished to assert the hill-summits, obtained the homage of a select band rights of his author. In 1765 Doctor Samuel John of his worshippers : but it was still hidden from son presented the world with his long-promised the eyes of the multitude; and it was long before edition of our dramatist : and the public expectait gained its "meridian tower," whence it was to tion, which had been highly raised, was again throw its “glittering shafts” over a large portion doomed to be disappointed. Johnson had a powerof the earth. At length, about the commencement ful intellect, and was perfectly conversant with huof the last century, Britain began to open her eyes man life: 'but he was not sufficiently versed in to the excellency of her illustrious son, THE GREAT black-letter lore; and, deficient in poetic taste, he POET OF Nature, and to discover a solicitude for was unable to accompany our great bard in the the integrity of his works. A new and a more higher flights of his imagination. The public in perfect edition of them became the demand of the general were not satisfied with his commentary or public; and, to answer it, an edition, under the his text: but to his preface they gave the most unsuperintendence of Rowe, made its appearance in limited applause. The array and glitter of its 1709. Rowe, however, either forgetting or shrink-words; the regular and pompous march of its peing from the high and laborious duties, which heriods, with its pervading affectation of deep thought had undertaken, selected, most unfortunately, for and of sententious remark, seem to have fascinated his model, the last and the worst of the folio edi- the popular mind; and to have withdrawn from tions; and, without collating either of the first two the common observation its occasional poverty of folios or any of the earlier quartos, he gave to the meaning; the inconsistency of its praise and cen. disappointed public a transcript much too exact of sure; the falsity in some instances of its critical the impure text which lay opened before him. remarks ; and its defects now and then even with Some of its grosser errors, however, he corrected; respect to composition. It has, however, its merits, and he prefixed to his edition a short memoir of and Heaven forbid that I should not be just to them. the life of his author ; whích, meagre and weakly It gives a right
view of the difficulties to be encoun written as it is, still constitutes the most authentic tered by the editor of Shakspeare: it speaks mobiography that we possess of our mighty bard. dostly of himself
, and candidly of those who had On the failure of this edition, after the pause of preceded him in the path which he was treading :
tomon omith mich those poems of his,* that were plement is as beneficial to the sonsa, as in the ne printed under his own immediate eye, are altoge- cessary to the rhythm. Malone's line is, ther unstained ? But, establishing the double com- " And with the brands fire the traitors' houses: parative as cne of the peculiar anomalies of Shakspeare's grammar, Malone proceeds to arraign the the editor's unfortunate editor as a criminal, for substituting, in "And with the brands fire all the traitors' houses.” a passage of Coriolanus, more worthy for more wor: The next charge, brought against the editor, may thier ; in Othello-for," opinion, a sovereign mis- be still more easily repelled. In a noted passago tress, throws a more safer voice on you,”." opinion, of Macbeth &c. throws a more safe voice on you ;” and, in Ham. let, instead of “ Your wisdom should show itself ** I would while it was smiling in my face more richer to signify this to the doctor," “ Your Have pluck'd my nipple from its boneless gums, wisdom should show itself more rich to signify this tod
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn
As you have done to this." the doctor.” Need I express my conviction that in these passages the editor has corrected the text into “ Not perceiving,” says Malone," that sworn what actually fell from Shakspeare's pen? Can it was used as a dissyllable,” (the devil it was ?) be doubted also that the editor is accurate in his “He (the editor) reads "had 'I but so sworn, printing of the following passage in "A Midsum: much as we think, to the advantage of the senso mer Night's Dream?” As adopted by Malone it as well as of the metre; and supplying, as we constands.
ceive, the very word which Shakspeare had writ"So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
ten, and the carelessness of the transcriber omitted.
• Charms' our Poet sometimes uses, accordEre I will yield my virgin patent up, Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
ing to Malone, as a word of two syllables."-No! My soul consents not to give sovereignty."
impossible! Our Poet might, occasionally, be guilty
of an imperfect verse, or the omission of his trani. c., says the critic, to give sovereignty to, &c.—To scriber might furnish him with one : but never be sure-and, without the insertion, in this instance, could he use "charms” as a word of two syllables. of the preposition, the sentence would be nonsense. We feel, therefore, obliged by the editor's supply As it is published by the editor, it is,
ing an imperfect line in "The Tempest,” with the
very personal pronoun which, it is our persuasion, “So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
was at first inserted by Shakspeare. In the most
modern editions, the line in question standsUnto his lordship, to whose unwish'd yoke My soul consents not to give sovereigniy,"
“Cursed be I that did so! all the charms," &c.
but the second folio reads with unquestionable pto Having now sufficiently demonstrated the editor's priety, “Cursed be I that I did so !'all the charms, ignorance of Shakspeare's language, let us proceed &c. As "hour' has the same prolonged sound with his critic to ascertain his ignorance of Shak- with fire, sire, &c. and as it is possible, though, speare's metre and rhythm. In “The Winter's with reference to the fine ear of Shakspeare, Í Tale,”ť says Malone, we find,
think most improbable, that it might sometimes be
made to occupy the place of two syllables, I shall “What wheels, racks, fires; what flaying, boiling pass over the instance from “Richard II.” in which In leads and oils !"
Malone triumphs, though without cause, over his Not knowing that' fires' was used as a dissyllable, «All's Well that End's Well," in which a defec
adversary; as I shall also pass over that from the editor added the word burning, at the end of tive line has been happily supplied by our editor, the line (I wish that he had inserted it before boil. in consequence of his not knowing that 'sire' was ing')
employed as a dissyllable. In the first part of "What wheels, racks, fires ; what Naying, boiling, lish,” is prolonged by the editor with a syllablo
“ Honry VI.” “Rescued is Orleans from the Engburtong."
which he deemed nec ary because he was ignoIt is possible that fires may be used by Shakspeare rant that the word, 'English,' was used as a trias a dissyllable, though I cannot easily persuade syllable. According to him the line is—“Rescued myself that, otherwise than as a monosyllable, it is Orleans from the English wolves." We rejoice would satisfy an ear, attuned as was his, to the at this result of the editor's ignorance; and wo finest harmonies of verse; yet it may be employed wish to know who is there who can believe that as a dissyllable by the rapid and careless bard; 'English' was pronounced, by Shakspeare or his and I am ready to allow that the defective verse contemporaries, as Engerlish, or even as Engleish, was not happily supplied, in that place at least, with three syllables ? Again, not knowing that with the word, burning, yet I certainly believe that Charles' was used as a word of two syllables, (and Shakspeare did not leave the line in question as he was sufficiently near to the time of Shakspeare Malone has adopted it, and that some word has to know his pronunciation of such a common word : been omitted by the carelessness of the first tran- but the blockhead could not be taught the most scriber. In the next instance, from Julius Cæsar, common things, this provoking editor instead of I feel assured that the editor is right, as his sup- “Orleans the bastard, Charles, Burgundy.”
has printed, In his “Venus and Adonis," and his " Rape of Lu.
“Orleans the bastard, Charles, and Burgundy." crece," printed under his immediate inspections and in his 154 Sonnets, printed from correct MSS., and no doubt In the next instance, I must confess myself to bo with his knowledge, are not to be found any of these ignorant of Malone's meaning. “Astræa being barbarous anomalies. "The Passionate Pilgrim," and "The Lover's Complaint," are, also, free from them. used,” he says “as a word of three syllables,” (i Worser and lesser may sometimes occur in these po: conclude that he intended to say, as a word of four ems: but the last of these improprieties will occasionally syllables, the diphthong being dialytically separated And a place in the page of modern composition. In the into its component parts, and the word written and "Rape of Lucrece," the only, anomaly of the double pronounced Astraea,) for “ Divinest creature, As. negative, which I have been able to discover, is the fol. trma's daughter,” the editor has given “Divinest lowing :
creature, bright Astræa's daughter.”-Shameless "She touch'd no unknown baits, nor seard no hooks." | interpolation ! Not aware that sure' is used as a and the same impropriety may be found in three or four dissyllable, this grand corrupter of Shakspeare's Instances in the Sonnets. substituted for nor would text has substituted, "Gloster, wo'l moet to thy restors those few passages to perfect grammar.
dear cost, be sure,” for “Gloster, we'll meet to thy
cost, be sure."-Once moro, and to conclude an Ade IM. s. 9
examination which I could oxtond to a much greator
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE. length in favour of this much-injured editor, but a few years, another was projected, and that is which I feel to be now becoming tedious, for, might be more adequate to the claims of Shakspeare “And so to arms, victorious father,”
and of Britain, the conduct of it was placed, in
homage to his just celebrity, in the hands of Pope. as the line is sanctioned by Malone, 'arms,' being Pope showed himself more conscious of the nature used, as he asserts, for a dissyllable, (arms a dis- of his task, and more faithful in his execution of syllable!) the second folio presents us with it than his predecessor. He disclosed to the pub
“And so to arms, victorious, noble father.” lie the very faulty state of his author's text, and I have said enough to convince my readers of the collated many of the earlier editions, and he cleared
suggested the proper means of restoring it: he falsity of the charges of stupidity and gross igno- the page of Shakspeare from many of its deformirance, brought by Malone against the editor of the ties: but his collations were not sufficiently extensecond folio edition of our Poet's dramatic works. sive; and he indulged, perhaps, somewhat too I am far from assuming to vindicate this editor much in conjectural emendation. This exposed from the commission of many flagrant errors: but him to the
attacks of the petty and minute critics; he is frequently right, and was unquestionably con- and, the success of his work falling short of his exversant, let Malone assert what he pleases, with pectations, he is said
contracted that enhis author's language and metre. It was not, mity to verbal criticism, which actuated him during therefore, without cause, that Steevens held his la- the remaining days of his life. His edition was bours in much estimation. Malone was an inval- published in the year 1725. Before this was underuable collector of facts: his industry was indefati- taken,
Theobald, a man of no great abilities
and of gable: his researches were deep: his pursuit of little learning, had projected the restoration of truth was sincere and ardent: but he wanted the Shakspeare ; but his labours had been suspended, talents and the taste of a critic; and of all the edi-or their result had been withheld from the press, tors, by whom Shakspeare has suffered, I must till the issue of Pope's attempt was ascertained by consider him as the most pernicious. Neither the its accomplishment, and publication. The Shakindulged fancy of Pope, nor the fondness for inno- speare of Theobald's editing was not given to the vation in Hanmer, nor the arrogant and headlong world before the year 1733, when it obtained more self-confidence of Warburton has inflicted such of the public regard than its illustrious predecessor, cruel wounds on the text of Shakspeare, as the as- in consequence of its being drawn from
a somewhat suming dulness of Malone. Barbarism and broken wider field of collation ; and of its less frequent and rhythm dog him at the heels wherever he treads. presumptuous admission of conjecture. Theobald,
In praise of the third and the fourth folio editions indeed, did not wholly abstain from conjecture of our author's dramas, printed respectively in 1664 but the palm of conjectural criticism was placed and 1685, nothing can be advanced. Each of these much too high for the reach of his hand. editions implicitly followed its immediate predeces
To Theobald, as an editor of Shakspeare, sucsor, and, adopting all its errors, increased
them to ceeded Sir Thomas Hanmer, who, in 1744, publisha frightful accumulation with its own. With the ed a superb edition of the great dramatist from the text of Shakspeare in this disorder, the public of press of Oxford. But Hanmer, building his work Britain remained satisfied during many years, on that of Pope, and indulging in the wildest and From the period of his death he had not enforced most wanton innovations, deprived his edition of that popularity to which his title was undeniable. all pretensions to authenticity, and, consequently, to Great, though inferior, men, Jonson, Fletcher, merit. Massinger, Shirley, Ford, &c. got possession of
The bow of Ulysses was next seized by the stage, and retained it úll it ceased to exist un-mighty hand-by the hand of Warburton ; whose der the puritan domination. On the restoration of Shakspeare was published in 1747. It failed of the monarchy in 1660, the theatre indeed was again success; for, conceiving that the editor intended to opened; but, under the influence of the vicious taste make his author his showman to exhibit bis erudie of the new monarch, it was surrendered to a new tion and intellectual power, the public quickly negschool (the French school) of the drama ; and its lected his work ; and it soon disappeared from cirmastery was held by Dryden, with many subordi- culation, though some of its proffered substitutions nates, during a long succession of years. Through- must be allowed to be happy, and some of its ex out this
whole period, Shakspeare was nearly for- planations to be just. gotten by his ungrateful or blinded countrymen. His After an interval of eighteen years, Shakspearo splendour, it is true, was gleaming above the horizon; obtained once more an editor of great name, and and his glory, resting in purple and gold upon the seemingly in every way accomplished to assert the hill-summits, obtained the homage of a select band rights of his author. In 1765 Doctor Samuel John of his worshippers : but it was still hidden from son presented the world with his long-promised the eyes of the multitude ; and it was long before edition of our dramatist : and the public expectait gained its "meridian tower," whence it was to tion, which had been highly raised, was again throw its “glittering shafts” over a large portion doomed to be disappointed. Johnson had a powerof the earth. At length, about the commencement ful intellect, and was perfectly conversant with huof the last century, Britain began to open her eyes man life : but he was not sufficiently versed in to the excellency of her illustrious son, THE GREAT black-letter lore; and, deficient in poetic taste, he POET OF Nature, and to discover a solicitude for was unable to accompany our great bard in the the integrity of his works. A new and a more higher flights of his imagination. The public in perfect edition of them became the demand of the general were not satisfied with his commentary or public; and, to answer it, an edition, under the his text: but to his preface they gave the most unsuperintendence of Rowe, made its appearance in limited applause. The array and glitter of its 1709. Rowe, however, either forgetting or shrink- words; the regular and pompous march of its peing from the high and laborious duties, which heriods, with its pervading affectation of deep thought had undertaken, selected, most unfortunately, for and of sententious remark, seem to have fascinated his model, the last and the worst of the folio edi- the popular mind; and to have withdrawn from tions; and, without collating either of the first two the common observation its occasional poverty of folios or any of the earlier quartos, he gave to the meaning; the inconsistency of its praise and cendisappointed public a transcript much too exact of sure; the falsity in some instances of its critical the impure text which lay opened before him. remarks ; and its defects now and then even with Some of its grosser errors, however, he corrected; respect to composition. It has, however, its merits, and he prefixed to his edition a short memoir of and Heaven forbid that I should not be just to tiem. the life of his author ; which, meagre and weakly It gives a right view of the difficulties to be encoun written as it is, still constitutes the most authentictered by the editor of Shakspeare: it speaks mobiography that we possess of our mighty bard. dostly of himself, and candidly of those who had
on the failure of this edition, after the pause of preceded him in the path which he was treading : it assigns to Popo, Hanmer, and Warburton, those and was content to lose at !" Shakspoare lost the victims to tho rage of the minute critics, their due world! He won it in an age of intellectual giants proportion of praise : it is honourably just, in short, -the Anakims of mind were then in the land; to all, who come within the scope of its observa- and in what succeeding period has he lost it? But, tions, with the exception of the editor's great au- not to take advantage of an idle frolic of the edithor alone. To him also the editor gives abundant tor's imagination, can the things be which he as. praise; but against it he arrays such a frightful serts ? Can the author, whom he thus degrades, host of censure as to command the field ; and to be the man, whom the greater Jonson, of James's leave us to wonder at our admiration of an object reign, hails as, “The pride, the joy, the wonder so little worthy of it, though he has been followed of the age !" "No! it is impossible! and if wo by the admiration of more than two entire centuries. come to a close examination of what our preface But Johnson was of a detracting and derogating writer has here alleged against his author, of spirit. He looked at mediocrity with kindness : which I have transcribed only a part, we shall but of proud superiority he was impatient; and he find that one half of it is false, and one, some always seemed pleased to bring down the man of thing very like nonsense, disguised in a garb of tin the ethereal soul to the mortal of mere clay. His sel embroidery, and covered, as it moves statelily maxim seems evidently to have been that, which along, with a cloud of words :was recommended by the Roman poet to his countrymen,
Insert se septus nebula, mirabile dictu,
Per medios, miscelque viris neque cernitur ulli “ Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.”
To discover the falsity or the inanity of the ideas, In the pre-eminence of intellect, when it was imme- which strut in our editor's sentences against thó diately in his view, there was something which ex- fame of his author, we have only to strip them of cited his spleen; and he exulted in its abasement. the diction which envelopes them; and then, with In his page, “Shakspeare, in his comic scenes, is a Shakspeare in our hands, to confront them, in seldom successful when he engages his characters their nakedness, with the truth as it is manifested in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sar- in his page. But we have deviated from our casm : their jests are commonly gross, and their straight path to regard our cditor as a critic in his pleasantry licentious. In tragedy, his performance preface, when we ought, perhaps, to consider him seems to be constantly worse as his labour is more. only in his notes, as a commentator to explain the The effusions of passion, which exigence forces out, obscurities; or, as an experimentalist to assay are, for the most part, striking and energetic: but the errors of his author's text. As an unfolder of whenever he solícits' his invention or strains his intricate and perplexed passages, Johnson must faculties, the offspring of his throes is tumour, be allowed to excel. His explanations are always meanness, tediousness, and obscurity! In narra- perspicuous; and his proffered amendments of a tion he affects a disproportionate pomp of diction, corrupt text are sometimes successful. But the and a wearisome train of circumlocution, &c. &c. expectations of the world had been too highly His declamations or set speeches are commonly raised to be satisfied with his performance; and cold and weak, for his power was the power of it was only to the most exceptionable part of it, Nature! when he endeavoured, like other tragic the mighty preface, that they gave their unmingled writers, to catch opportunities of amplification; applause. In the year following the publication of and, instead of inquiring what the occasion demand- Johnson's edition, in 1766, George Steevens made ed, to show how much his stores of knowledge his first appearance as a commentator on Shakcould supply, he seldom escapes without the piiy speare; and he showed himself to be deeply conor resentment of his reader ?"" “But the admirers versant with that antiquarian reading, of which his of this great poet have never less reason to indulge predecessor had been too ignorant. In 1768, an their hopes of supreme excellence, than when he edition of Shakspeare was given to the public by seems fully resolved to sink them in dejection, and Capell; a man fondly attached to his author, but mollify them with tender emotions by the fall of much too weak for the weighty task which he ungreatness, the danger of innocence, or the crosses dertook. He had devoted a large portion of his of love. He is not long soft and pathetic without life to the collection of his materials: he was an some idle conceit or contemptible equivocation. He industrious collator, and all the merit, which he no sooner moves than he counteracts himself; and possesses, must be derived from the extent and terror and pity, as they are rising in the mind, are the fidelity of his collations. In 1773 was pub checked and blasted with sudden frigidity!” The lished an edition of our dramatist by the associaegregious editor and critic then proceeds to con- ted labours of Johnson and Steevens ; and this found his author with his last and most serious edition, in which were united the native powers charge, that of an irreclaimable attachment to the of the former, with the activity, the sagacity, and offence of verbal conceit. This charge the editor the antiquarian learning of the latter, still forms illustrates and enforces, to excite our attention and the standard edition for the publishers of our Poet. to make an irresistible assault on our assent, with In 1790 Malone entered the lists against them as & variety of figurative and magnificent allusion. a competitor for the editorial palm. After this First, "a quibble is to Shakspeare, what luminous publication, Malone seems to have devoted the vapours (a Will of the wisp) are to travellers : he remaining years of his life to the studies requisite follows it at all adventures : it is sure to lead him out for the illustration of his author; and at his death of his way, and sure to ingulf him in the mire. It he bequeathed the voluminous papers, which he has some malignant power over his mind, and its had prepared, to his and my friend, James Bosfascinations are irresistible," &c. It then becomes well, the younger son of the biographer of John a partridge or a pheasant; for whatever be the son ; and by him these papers were published in dignity or the profundity of his disquisition, &c. &c. twenty octavo volumes, just before the close of let but a quibble spring up before him and he leaves his own valuable life.' That the fund of Shakhis work unfinished.” It next is the golden apple spearian information has been enlarged by this of Atalanta :-—"A quibble is to Shakspeare the publication, cannot reasonably be doubted: that golden apple for which he will always turn aside the text of Shakspeare has been injured by it, may from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A confidently be asserted. As my opinion of Man quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such lone, as an annotator on Shakspeare, has been delight that he was content to purchase it at the already expressed, it would be superfluous to resacrifice of reason, propriety, and truth ;" and, peat it. His stores of antiquarian knowledge were lastly, the meteor, the bird of game, and the golden at least equal to those of Steevens : but he was apple are converted into the renowned queen of not equally endowed by Nature with that popular Egypt: for “a quibble is to him (Shakspeare) commentator: Malone's intellect was unquestion. cho fatal Cleopatra, for which he lost the world, ably of a subordinate class He could colloct and amass; but he could not combine and arrango. and their recurrence in cases wero their aid seorns Like a weak soldier under heavy armour, he is to be unnecessary. Mr. Singer and I may occaoppressed by his means of safety and triumph. sionally differ in our opinions respecting the text, He sinks beneath his knowledge, and cannot pro- which he has adopted : but, in these instances of fitably use it. The weakness of his judgment de- our dissent, it is fully, as probable that I may be prived the result of his industry of its proper effect. wrong as he. I feel, in short, confident, on the He acts on a right principle of criticism: but, ig- whole, that Mr. Singer is now advancing, not to norant of its right application, he employs it for claim, (for to claim is inconsistent with his modesty,) the purposes of error. He was not, in short, but to obtain a high place among the editors of formed of the costly materials of a critic; and no Shakspeare; and to have his name enrolled with kbour, against the inhibition of Nature, could the names of those who have been the chief bencfashion him into a critic. His page is pregnant factors of the reader of our transcendent Poet. with information : but it is thrown into so many We have now seen, from the first editorial atinvolutions and tangles, that it is lighter labour to tempt of Rowe, a whole century excited by the work it out of the original quarry than to select it greatness of one man, and sending forth its most amid the confusion in which it is thus brought to ambitious spirits, from the man of genius down to your hand. If any copy of indisputable authority the literary mechanic, to tend on him as the vashad been in existence, Malone would have produced sals of his royalty, and to illustrate his magrifi a fac-simile of it, and would thus, indeed, have been cence to the world. Has this excitement had an an admirable editor of his author, for not a prepo- adequate cause ? or has it been only the frenzy of sition, a copulative, a particle, a comma to be found the times, or a sort of meteorous exhalation from in his original, would have been out of its place in an idle and over-exuberant soil? Let us examino his transcript. But no such authentic copy of our great poet, and dramatist, with the eye of imShakspeare could be discovered ; and something partial criticism; and then let the result of our more than diligence and accuracy was required in examination form the reply to these interrogatorics his editor : and to nothing more than diligence and of doubt. accuracy could Malone's very humble and circum- Shakspeare took his stories from any quarter, scribed abilities aspire. Attaching, therefore, fic- whence they were offered to him; from Italian titious authority to some of the earlier copies, he novels; from histories; from old story-books; followed them with conscientious precision ; and, from old plays; and even from old ballads. In one disclaiming all emendatory criticism, he rejoiced in instance, and in one alone, no prototype has been his fidelity to the errors of the first careless or illi- found for his fiction; and the whole of " The Teme terate transcriber. He closed the long file of the pest," from its first moving point to the plenieditors of Shakspeare. But although no formal tude of its existence, must be admitted to be the editor or commentator has hitherto appeared to offspring of his wonderful imagination. * But supply the place left vacant by Malone, yet does whence soever he drew the first suggestion of his the importance of our bard continue to excite the story, or whatever might be its original substance, man of talents to write in his cause, and to refresh he soon converts it into an image of ivory and the wreath of fame, which has hung for two centu- gold, like that of the Minerva of Phidias ; and then, ries on his tomb. On this occasion I must adduce beyond the efficacy of the sculptor's art, he breathes the name of Skottowe, a gentleman who has recently into it the breath of life. This, indeed, is spoken gratified the public with a life of Shakspeare, invol- only of his tragedies and comedies : for his histories, ving a variety of matter respecting him, in 'a style as they were first called, or historical dramas, are eminent for its compression and its neatness. To transcripts from the page of Hall or Hollingshead; Mr. Skottowe I must acknowledge my especial and, in some instances, are his workings on old obligations, for not infrequently relieving me from plays, and belong to him no otherwise than as he the prolixities and the perplexities of Malone ; and imparted to them the powerful delineation of chasometimes for giving to me information in a com- racter, or enriched them with some exquisite scenes. pendious and lucid form, like a jewel set in the These pieces, however, which affect not the comrich simplicity of gold.
bination of a fable ; but, wrought upon the page of When I speak of Malone as the last of the editors the chronicler or of the elder dramatist, follow tho of Shakspeare, I speak, of course, with reference current of events, as it flows on in historic succes. to the time at which I are writing, when no later sion, must be made the first subjects of our recditor has shown himself to the world. But when marks ; and we will then pass to those dramas, I am placed before the awful tribunal of the Public, which are more properly and strictly his own. To a new Editor of our great dramatist will stand by these historical plays, then, whatever may be their my side : who, whilst I can be only a suppliant for original materials, the power of the Poet has compardon, may justly be a candidate for praise. With municated irresistible attraction ; not, as Samuel Mr. Singer, the editor in question, I am personally Johnson would wish us to believe, “hy being not unacquainted; and till a period, long subsequent to long soft or pathetic without some idle conceit or my completion of the little task which I had under contemptible' equivocation :" not “by checking taken, I had not seen a line of his Shakspearian and blasting terror and pity, as they are rising in illustrations. But, deeming it right to obtain some the mind, with sudden frigidity,” but by the strongknowledge of the gentleman, who was bound on est exertions of the highest poetry; and by comthe same voyage of adventure, in the same vessel manding, with the royalty of genius, every avenue with myself, I have since read the far greater part to the human heart. For the truth of what we of his commentary on my author ; and it would be assert, we will make our appeal to the frantic and unjust in me not to say, that I have found much in it soul-piercing lamentations of Constance in "King to applaud, and very lititle to censure. Mr. Singer's John ;" to the scene between that monarch and antiquarian learning is accurate and extensive : his Hubert; and between Hubert and young Arthur ; critical sagacity is considerable ; and his judgment to the subsequent scene between Hubert and his generally approves itself to be correct. He enters murderous sovereign, when the effects of the reon the field with the strength of a giant; but with ported death of Arthur on the populace are dethe diffidence and the humility of a child. We scribed, and the murderer quarrels with his agent , sometimes wish, indeed, that his humility had been to the scene, finally, in which the king dies, and less : for he is apt to defer to inferior men, and to which concludes the play. be satisfied with following when he is privileged For the evidence of the power of our great Poet io lead. His explanations of his author are fre- we might appeal also to many scenes and descrip quently happy; and sometimes they illustrate a tions even in “Richard II. ;” though of all his passage, which had been left in unregarded dark- historical dramas this, perhaps, is the least instinct ness by the commentators who had preceded him. The sole fault of these explanatory notes (if such * This, perhaps, may be affirmed also of " A Mid indeed can be deemed a fault) is their redundancy ; I summer Night's Dream