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the editor of the firft folio, to obtain fomething like fenfe, reads
"But like a mishap'd and fullen wench-."
and instead of this, the editor of the fecond folio, for the fake of metre, gives us.
"But like a misfhap'd and a fullen wench-."
Again, in the firft fcene of King Richard III. quarto, 1597, we find this line:
"That tempers him to this extremity."
In the next quarto, and all fubfequent, tempts is corruptly printed inftead of tempers. The line then wanting a fyllable, the editor of the folio printed it thus:
"That tempts him to this harsh extremity."
Not to weary my reader, I fhall add but two more inftances, from Romeo and Juliet;
"Away to heaven, respective lenity,
says Romeo, when provoked by the appearance of his rival. Inftead of this, which is the reading of the quarto 1597, the line, in the quarto, 1599, is thus corruptly exhibited :
"And fire end fury be my condu& now !"
In the fubfequent quarto copy and was fubftituted for end; and accordingly in the folio. the poet's fine imagery is entirely loft, and Romeo exclaims,
"And fire and fury be my conduct now!"
The other inftance in the fame play is not lefs remarkable. In the quarto, 1599, the Friar, addreffing Romeo, is made to fay,
"Thou puts up thy fortune, and thy love."
The editor of the folio perceiving here a grofs corruption, fubftituted these words:
Thou putteft up thy fortune, and thy love;"
not perceiving that up was a misprint for upon, and puts for pouts, (which according to the ancient mode was written instead of powt'ft,) as he would have found by looking into another copy without a date, and as he might have conjectured from the correfponding line in the original play printed in 1597, had he ever examined it:
"Thou frown'ft upon thy fate, that smiles on thee."
So little known indeed was the value of the early impreffions of books, (not revised or corrected by their authors,) that King Charles the First, though a great admirer of our poet, was contented with the fecond folio edition of his plays, unconscious of the numerous mifrepresentations and interpolations by which every page of that copy is disfigured; and in a volume of the quarto plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, which formerly belonged to that king, and is now in my collection, I did not find a fingle firft impreffion. In like manner, Sir William D'Avenant, when he made his alteration of the play of Macbeth, appears to have used the third folio printed in 1664.8
* In that copy anoint being corruptly printed instead of aroint, "Anoint thee, witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries." the error was implicitly adopted by D'Avenant.
The various readings found in the different impreffions of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the late editors: it is obvious from what has been already ftated, that the first edition of each play is alone of any authority, and accordingly to no other have I paid any attention. All the variations in the fubfequent quartos were made by accident or caprice. Where, however, there are two editions printed in the fame year, or an undated copy, it is neceffary to examine each of them, because which of them was firft, can not be ascertained; and being each printed from a manufcript, they carry with them a degree of authority to which a re-impreffion cannot be entitled. Of the tragedy of King Lear there are no less than three copies, varying from each other, printed for the fame bookfeller, and in the fame year.
Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only authentick edition.
An opinion has been entertained by fome that the fecond impreffion of that book, published in 1632, has a fimilar claim to authenticity. "Whoever has any of the folios, (fays Dr. Johnson,) has all, excepting thofe diverfities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards ufed only the firft, from which (he afterwards adds,) the fubfequent folios never differ but by accident or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not subfcribe to this opinion. "The edition of 1632,
9 Except only in the inftance of Romeo and Juliet, where the firft copy, printed in 1597, appears to be an imperfect sketch, and therefore cannot be entirely relied on. Yet even this furnishes many valuable corrections of the more perfect copy of that tragedy in its prefent ftate, printed in 1599.
(fays that gentleman,) is not without value; for though it be in fome places more incorrectly printed than the preceding one, it has likewife the advantage of various readings, which are not merely fuch as re-iteration of copies will naturally produce."
What Dr. Johnson has ftated, is not quite accurate. The fecond folio does indeed very frequently differ from the first by negligence or chance; but : much more frequently by the editor's profound ignorance of our poet's phrafeology and metre, in confequence of which there is fcarce a page of the book which is not disfigured by the capricious alterations introduced by the perfon to whom the care of that impreffion was entrusted. This perfon in fact, whoever he was, and Mr. Pope, were the two great corrupters of our poet's text; and I have no doubt that if the arbitrary alterations in'troduced by these two editors were numbered, in the plays of which no quarto copies are extant, they would greatly exceed all the corruptions and errors of the prefs in the original and only authentick copy of thofe plays. Though my judgment on this fubject has been formed after a very careful examination, I cannot expect that it fhould be received on my mere affertion: and therefore it is neceffary to fubftantiate it by proof. This cannot be affected but by a long, minute, and what I am afraid will appear to many, an uninterefting difquifition but let it ftill be remembered that to afcertain the genuine text of these plays is an object of great importance.
On a revifion of the fecond folio printed in 1632, it will be found, that the editor of that book was entirely ignorant of our poet's phraseology and metre, and that various alterations were made by
him, in confequence of that ignorance, which render his edition of no value whatsoever.
I. His ignorance of Shakspeare's phrafeology is proved by the following among many other inftances.
He did not know that the double negative was the cuftomary and authorized language of the age of Queen Elizabeth, and therefore, inftead of
"Nor to her bed no homage do I owe."
"Nor to her bed a homage do I owe."
So, in As you like it, Act II. fc. iv. inftead of→ "I can not go no further," he printed-" I can go no further."
In Much Ado about Nothing, Act III. fc. i. Hero, speaking of Beatrice, fays,
"To liften our purpose."
for which the fecond folio fubftitutes-
Again, in The Winter's Tale, Act I. fc. ii:
"Thou doft make poffible, things not fo held."
The plain meaning is, thou doft make those things poffible, which are held to be impoffible: But the editor of the fecond folio, not understanding the line, reads
"Thou doft make poffible things not to be so held;"