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we must have recourse to it; but, like the machinery of the ancient drama, let it not be resorted to except in cases of difficulty; " nisi dignus vindice nodus." "I wish (says Dr. Johnson) we all conjectured less, and explained more." When our poet's entire library shall have been discovered, and the fables of all his plays traced to their original source, when every temporary allusion shall have been pointed out, and every obscurity elucidated, then, and not till then, let the accumulation of notes be complained of. I scarcely remember ever to have looked into a book of the age of Queen Elizabeth, in which I did not find somewhat that tended to throw a light on these plays. While our object is, to support and establish what the poet wrote, to illustrate his phraseology by comparing it with that of his contemporaries, and to explain his fugitive allusions to customs long since disused and forgotten, while this object is kept steadily in view, if even every line of his plays were accompanied with a comment, every intelligent reader would be indebted to the industry of him who produced it. Such uniformly has been the object of the notes now presented to the publick. Let us then hear no more of this barbarous jargon concerning Shakspeare's having been elucidated into obscurity, and buried under the load of his commentators. Dryden is said to have regretted the success of his own instructions, and to have lamented that at length, in consequence of his critical prefaces, the town had become too skilful to be easily satisfied. The same observation may be made with respect to many of these objectors, to whom the meaning of some of our poet's most difficult passages is now become so familiar, that they fancy they originally understood them "without a prompter" and with great gravity exclaim against the unnecessary illustrations furnished by his Editors; nor ought we much to wonder at this; for our poet himself has told us,
'tis a common proof,
"That lowliness is young ambition's ladder.
I have constantly made it a rule in revising the notes of former editors, to compare such passages as they have
cited from any author, with the book from which the extract was taken, if I could procure it; by which some inaccuracies have been rectified. The incorrect extract made by Dr. Warburton from Saviola's treatise on Honour and Honourable Quarrels, to illustrate a passage in As You Like It, fully proves the propriety of such a collation.
At the end of the tenth volume I have added an Appendix, containing corrections, and supplemental observations, made too late to be annexed to the plays to which they belong. Some object to an Appendix; but, in my opinion, with very little reason. No book can be the worse for such a supplement; since the reader, if such be his caprice, need not examine it. If the objector means, that he wishes that all the information contained in an Appendix, were properly disposed in the preceding volumes, it must be acknowledged that such an arrangement would be extremely desirable; but as well might he require from the elephant the sprightliness and agility of the squirrel, or from the squirrel the wisdom and strength of the elephant, as expect, that an editor's latest thoughts, suggested by discursive reading while the sheets that compose his volumes were passing through the press, should form a part of his original work; that information acquired too late to be employed in its proper place, should yet be found there.
That the very few stage directions which the old copies exhibit, were not taken from our author's manuscripts, but furnished by the players, is proved by one in Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. I. where " A show of eight kings" is directed,
and Banquo last, with a glass in his hand;" though from the very words which the poet has written for Macbeth, it is manifest that the glass ought to be borne by the eighth king, and not by Banquo. All the stage-directions ther fore throughout this work I have considered as wholly in my power, and have regulated them in the best manner I could. The reader will also, I think, be pleased to find the place in which every scene is supposed to pass, precisely ascertained: a species of information, for which, though it often throws light on the dialogue, we look in vain in the ancient copies, and which has been too much neglected by the modern editors.
The play of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, which is now once more restored to our author, I originally intended to have subjoined, with Titus Andronicus, to the tenth volume;
but, to preserve an equality of size in my volumes, have been obliged to give it a different place. The hand of Shakspeare being indubitably found in that piece, it will, I doubt not, be considered as a valuable accession; and it is of little consequence where it appears.
It has long been thought, that Titus Andronicus was not written originally by Shakspeare; about seventy years after his death, Ravenscroft having mentioned that he had been "told by some anciently conversant with the stage, that our poet only gave some master-touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters." The very curious papers lately discovered in Dulwich College, from which large extracts are given at the end of the History of the Stage, prove, what I long since suspected, that this play, and The First Part of King Henry VI. were in possession of the scene when Shakspeare began to write for the stage; and the same manuscripts show, that it was then common for a dramatick poet to alter and amend the work of a preceding writer. The question therefore is now decisively settled; and undoubtedly some additions were made to both these pieces by Shakspeare. It is observable that the second scene of the third act of Titus Andronicus is not found in the quarto copy printed in 1611. It is therefore highly probable, that this scene was added by our author; and his hand may be traced in the preceding act, as well as in a few other places *. The additions which he made to Pericles are much more numerous, and therefore more strongly entitle it to a place among the dramatick pieces which he has adorned by his pen.
With respect to the other contested plays, Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, &c. which have now for near two centuries been falsely ascribed to our author, the manuscripts above mentioned completely clear him from that imputation; and prove, that while his great modesty made him set but little value on his own inimitable productions, he could patiently endure to have the miserable trash of other writers publickly imputed to him, without taking any measure to vindicate his fame. Sir John Oldcastle, we find from indubitable evidence, though
*If ever the account-book of Mr. Heminge shall be discovered, we shall probably find in it-" Paid to William Shakspeare for mending Titus Andronicus." See vol. iii.
ascribed in the title-page to " William Shakspeare," and printed in the year 1600, when his fame was in its meridian, was the joint-production of four other poets; Michael Drayton, Anthony Mundy, Richard Hathwaye, and Robert Wilson*.
In the Dissertation annexed to the three parts of King Henry the Sixth, I have discussed at large the question concerning their authenticity; and have assigned my reasons for thinking that the second and third of those plays were formed by Shakspeare, on two elder dramas now extant. Any disquisition therefore concerning these controverted pieces is here unnecessary.
Some years ago I published a short Essay on the economy and usages of our old theatres. The Historical Account of the English Stage, which has been formed on that essay, has swelled to such a size, in consequence of various researches since made, and a great accession of very valuable materials, that it is become almost a new work. Of these, the most important are the curious papers which have been discovered at Dulwich, and the very valuable Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King James and King Charles the First, which have contributed to throw much light on our dramatick history, and furnished some singular anecdotes of the poets of those times.
Twelve years have elapsed since the Essay on the order of time in which the plays of Shakspeare were written, first appeared. A re-examination of these plays since that time has furnished me with several particulars in confirmation of what I had formerly suggested on this subject. On a careful revisal of that Essay, which, I hope, is improved as well as considerably enlarged, I had the satisfaction of observing that I had found reason to attribute but two plays to an era widely distant from that to which they had been originally ascribed; and to make only a minute change in the arrangement of a few others. Some information, however, which has been obtained since that Essay was printed in its present form, inclines me to think, that one of the two plays which I allude to, The Winter's Tale, was a still later production than I have supposed; for I have now good reason to believe, that it was first
Vol. iii. p. 329.
exhibited in the year 1613*; and that consequently it must have been one of our poet's latest works.
Though above a century and a half has elapsed since the death of Shakspeare, it is somewhat extraordinary, (as I observed on a former occasion,) that none of his various editors should have attempted to separate his genuine poetical compositions from the spurious performances with which they have been long intermixed; or have taken the trouble to compare them with the earliest and most authentick copies. Shortly after his death, a very incorrect impression of his poems was issued out, which in every subsequent edition, previous to the year 1780, was implicitly followed. They have been carefully revised, and with many additional illustrations are now a second time faithfully printed from the original copies, excepting only Venus and Adonis, of which I have not been able to procure the first impressiont. The second edition, printed in 1596, was obligingly transmitted to me by the late Reverend Thomas Warton, of whose friendly and valuable correspondence I was deprived by death, when these volumes were almost ready to be issued from the press. It is painful to recollect how many of (I had almost said) my coadjutors have died since the present work was begun: -the elegant scholar, and ingenious writer, whom I have just mentioned; Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Tyrwhitt: men, from whose approbation of my labours I had promised. myself much pleasure, and whose stamp could give a value and currency to any work.
With the materials which I have been so fortunate as to obtain, relative to our poet, his kindred, and friends, it would not have been difficult to have formed a new Life of Shakspeare, less meagre and imperfect than that left us by Mr. Rowe: but the information which I have procured having been obtained at very different times, it is necessarily dispersed, partly in the copious notes subjoined to Rowe's Life, and partly in the Historical Account of our old Actors. At some future time 1 hope to weave the whole into one uniform and connected narrative.
* See the Essay on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ii. BOSWELL.
He afterwards procured the first edition, from which that poem is now printed. BOSWELL.