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he rejected, as interpolations, those words which are printed in Italic letters, and
“'Tis sweet and commendable in you, Hamlet,
you must know, your father lost a father;
He removes the 'from’in all cases in which it is used with whence,' or 'thence,' because it is tautological ; thus endeavoring to conform the language of Shakespeare's day to that of his own; and he seeks, by mutilation, addition, and transposition, to make an unbroken series of perfect lines of ten syllables, from the beginning to the end of every play; and in all these points his labors are rivalled by, and in some cases are identical with, the labors of Mr. Collier's folio corrector.
It is difficult to speak with patience or decorum of Mr. Becket. His work is stupidity run mad; and a just idea of it can only be obtained from extracts. Opening the first volume at random, we find the following :
“Hamlet.-Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most excellent music.'
“ Ventages and thumb,' I would read thus : 'Govern these ventages and the umbo with your fingers,' &c. Umbo, (Lat.) a knob; a button. The piece of brass at the end of a flute might very well be called a button.”—Vol. I., pp. 54, 55.
Again, from the same play,—Hamlet, in the grave with Laertes, is taunting him :
“Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast I woo't tear thyself?
Woo't drink up Esil? eat a crocodile ?' &c.
“This proposition of Hamlet is too extravagant, too ridiculous to remain in the text. By such a reading the Danish Prince appears to be a very Dragon of Wantley for voraciousness." [Becket is serious. ] “I regulate the passage thus :
· Woo't weep, woo't drink, woo't eat? woo't fast? woo't fight!
"Up' is misprinted for 'Ape,'Esel,' in old language, is 'Ass.'”– Vol. I., p. 67.
If that were all the commentator needed, why did he not read,
" Ape! Becket! Crocodile?”
The metre,—and the signification, would have been quite as well preserved, and the new arrangement would not have been a whit more impertinent. I will add only the following from Macbeth, by turning a few leaves. Lady Macbeth says
“ “Come thick night
“I correct the whole as follows:
“Come thick night
It was necessary that we should look at Mr. Becket's work ; but have we not had enough of it ?
Zachary Jackson was a printer ; and as the greater portion of the corruptions of Shakespeare's works have crept into the text by the carelessness of compositors and proofreaders, he justly thought that a practical knowledge of his art would be of service in the conjectural correction of the sadly misprinted folio. His knowledge of the composing case, and of the various accidents to which matter'—as standing type is called—is subjected, from the time it is set up until it goes to press, did enable him to make a few happy guesses, or rather deductions, as to the errors which had been committed and neglected by the first printers of Shakespeare. He had corrected a great deal of proof, and was thus able to conjecture, with occasional good fortune, what accident had produced the error in the book before him. But even in this he was by no means infallible ; and when, forgetting the “ne sutor,” he ventured into the field of general comment and criticism, he made such absurd and atrocious changes in the text, that it is difficult to believe them the work of a mind above that of an idiot ; and yet he utters them with an owlish sapience that makes him the very Bunsby of commentators. Ecce signum. First, in Much Ado About Nothing, Act III. Sc. 1:
“Ursula. Signior Benedick,
“ Thus the text makes Benedick support a greater weight than any porter in all Italy. For argument, I shall only say, it is the very worst recommendation to a lady's love, as it is not only productive of serious quarrels abroad, but also the strong. est poison to domestic happiness.
“ Our author wrote :
“ Thus the recommendation is strong; for though Benedick is the most valorous man throughout Italy, yet, he ever forbears argument, in order to avoid dissension : such endowments, I think, could not fail of finding sufficient influence in the heart of Beatrice.”—P. 35.
The next jewel of criticism and emendation is upon a passage in Love's Labors Lost, Act I, Sc. 1:
Longaville. A high hope for a low having: God grant us patience.'
“ The old copies read, a low heaven : the transcriber mistook the word, and wrote heaven instead of haven.
“ The allusion is to a ship’s head, decorated with the figure of Hope. Longaville compares the high flowing words of Armado to the awkward appearance of a ship, with an elevated figure of Hope, lying in a low haven. Longaville also plays on the word hope, which is used as a verb by Biron, but, by himself, as a substantive; and Hope being symbolical of Patience, he concludes his speech with, God grant us patience.”—P. 51.
And we echo his supplication. Can any thing be more absurd, except the following reading in As You Like It, Act III. Sc. 2, of goad, for “good,” and the justification of it?
“ Rosalind. Good my complexion ! dost thou think, though I am caparison'd like a man, I have a doublet and hose in my disposition ?”
“ The circumstance of the chain has already whispered to the heart of Rosalind, that Celia means Orlando; but, pretending ignorance, she displays all that agitation of mind, prompted by curiosity, which the natural feelings of a female, who knows her own charms, testifies, on hearing that she is the theme of admi. ration; and, therefore, with most petitionary vehemence, she desires to know the name of her woodland admirer : but Celia still sports with her agitation, and wishes to make her blush; which playful maliciousness being perceived by Rosalind, she tells her, the only means to effect her purpose is to name her admirer: which will have such influence as to stimulate her blood, and cause a sensation in her heart, that must mantle her face with blushes; therefore, she says:
• Goad my complexion!'
“ Sound but the name! you stimulate my blood, and rouse it from my heart to strike upon my face; for, though I am caparison'd like a man, dost thou think I have a doublet and hose in my disposition that can veil my blushes, as they do my sex ?
“ Thus, by the aid of the verb, the phrase gains corresponding uniformity; but which, in its present state, as Mr. Theobald justly observes, cannot be reconciled to common sense.
" This word is doubly applicable ; for, if struck with a goad on the face, the part must become inflamed and red.” P. 72.
As a specimen of critical fatuity, the following, upon a passage in Al's Well That Ends Well, Act I, Sc. 3, might challenge a rival-outside of Shakesperian comment.
“ • Clown.
an we might have a good woman born, but every
“How can a woman be born? A female, when introduced into life, is an infant :-the reading is highly injudicious; and the correction seems to have been made without reflecting on the incongruity which it produced. The old copy reads :—but o'er every blazing star.' In my opinion, from the word on being badly formed, the compositor mistook it for ore. I read:
'an we might have a good woman, but on every blazing star, or at an earthquake, &c.'”-P. 84.
But Jackson could be a rival to himself, as this last selection from his pages, bristling with absurdities, will amply prove. It is on a speech in Troilus and Cressida, Act I. Sc. 1:
Hector, whose patience
Is, as a virtue, fix'd, to-day was mov'd. "Patience being a virtue, the fir'd virtuc has nothing to do with the passage.
We should read :
Hector, whose patience