« AnteriorContinuar »
dations, and of course the ancient readings upon which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, the general method was there inconvenient; and, for these few, you are refer'd to a note which will be found among the reft: and another fort there are, that are fimply infertions; thefe are effectually pointed out by being printed in the gothick or black character.
Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions have been of fuch a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and fubmit to his judgment the remedies that are apply'd to them; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in fome note that is to follow: but there are fome behind that would not be fo manag'd; either by reason of their frequency, or difficulty of fubjecting them to the rules under which the others are brought: they have been spoken of before at p. 329, where the corruptions are all enumerated, and are as follows;a want of proper exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, throughout the work in general, and, in fome of the plays, a want of divifion; and the errors are those of measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and filently; but the reasons for fo doing, and the method obferv'd in doing it, fhall be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, and that which is chiefly to diftinguifh him from those who have gone before, may ftand facred and unimpeachable; and, firft, of the divifion.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the lift of titles that may be seen at p. 332, was,-to fhow which plays were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and which of them were not divided at all; and the number of the first class is
eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Loft, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is fome divifion aim'd at ; yet it is fo lame and erroneous, that it was thought beft to confider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well thofe of the first class as thofe of the third, the plays of the fecond clafs were ftudiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this divifion: which rule might eafily have been discover'd before, had but any the least pains have been beftow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, fince neither can the reprefentation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjufted. The plays that are come down to us divided, muft be look'd upon as of the author's own fettling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following eftablifh'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of fome other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was beft acquainted with his fcene divifions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he obferves a method in which perhaps he is fingular, and he is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of fcene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a fucceffion of new perfons: that liaifon of the fcenes, which Jonfon feems to have attempted, and upon which the French ftage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great ftrictnefs and greater happiness than can
perhaps be met with in any other writer: the play meant is The Comedy of Errors; in which the action is one, the place one, and the time fuch as even Ariftotle himfelf would allow of the revolution of half a day but even in this play, the change of scene arifes from change of perfons, and by that it is regulated; as are alfo all the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for whoever will take the trouble to examine thofe that are divided, (and they are pointed out for him in the lift,) will fee them conform exactly to the rule above-mention'd; and can then have but little doubt, that it fhould be apply'd to all the reft. To have diftinguifh'd thefe divifions,-made (indeed) without the autho rity, but following the example of the folio,-had been useless and troublefome; and the editor fully perfuades himself, that what he has faid will be fufficient, and that he fhall be excus'd by the ingenious and candid for overpaffing them without further notice whofe pardon he hopes alfo to have for fome other unnotic'd matters that are related to this in hand, fuch as-marking the place of action, both general and particular; fupplying fcenical directions; and due regulating of exits, and entrances for the firft, there is no title in the old editions; and in both the latter, they are fo deficient and faulty throughout, that it would not be much amifs if we look'd upon them as wanting too; and then all thefe feveral articles might be
The divifions that are in the folio are religioufly adher'd to, except in two or three inftances which will be fpoken of in their place; fo that, as is faid before, a perufal of thofe old-divided plays will put every one in a capacity of judging whether the prefent editor has proceeded rightly or no: the current editions are divided in fuch a manner, that nothing like a rule can be collected from any of them.
confider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out than a declaration that they are fo: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon fome parts of them,-fuch as, the battle fcenes throughout; Cæfar's paffage to the fenatehoufe, and fubfequent affaffination; Antony's death; the furprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition,-will justify these infertions; and may, poffibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great aids which they afford to his conception.
It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies which are here amended without notice, to wit-the pointing, and wrong divifion of much of them refpecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is fo extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that small regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (inftead of being influenc'd by such a punctuation, or even cafting his eyes upon it, to attend clofely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point it accordingly was it the business of this editionto make parade of discoveries, this article alone would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of paffages are now first set to rights by this only, which, before, had either no fenfe at all, or one unfuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it; but all the emendations of this fort, though inferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are confign'd to filence; fome few only excepted, of paffages that have been much contested, and whofe prefent adjustment might poffibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in fome note, and a reafon given for embracing them : all the other parts of the works have been examin'd
with equal diligence, and equal attention; and the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has follow'd, (into which he has admitted fome novel ties,) will be found of so much benefit to his author, that those who run may read, and that with profit and understanding. The other great mistake in these old editions, and which is very infufficiently rectify'd in any of the new ones, relates to the poet's numbers; his verfe being often wrong divided, or printed wholly as profe, and his profe as often printed like verfe: this, though not fo universal as their wrong pointing, is yet fo extenfive an error in the old copies, and fo impoffible to be pointed out otherwife than by a note, that. an editor's filent amendment of it is furely pardonable at leaft; for who would not be difgufted with that perpetual fameness which muft neceffarily have been in all the notes of this fort? Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require proving; every good ear does immediately adopt them, and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that acceffion of beauty which results to him from them it is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet ftanding in his works much unpleafing mixture of profaick and metrical dialogue, and fometimes in places feemingly improper, as-in Othello, Vol. XIX, p. 273; and fome others which men of judgment will
arable to pick out for themfelves: but these blemishes
are not now to be wip'd away, at least not by an editor, whofe province it far exceeds to make a
"If the use of these new pointings, and alfo of certain marks that he will meet with in this edition, do not occur immediately to the reader, (as we think it will) he may find it explain'd to him at large in the preface to a little octavo volume intitl'd"Prolufions, or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry;" publifh'd in 1760 by this editor, and printed for Mr. Tonfon.