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them even traditional authority, depends entirely upon their appositeness. Their authority is to be derived solely from their intrinsic worth. The passage corrected must, in the first place, unquestionably need correction as it stands in the original folio ; and, in the next, the correction proposed must be such as to recommend itself implicitly to those who are most familiar with the text of the poet and the literature of his time. This is the only safe rule to adopt with regard to any arbitrary emendations of Shakespeare's text ;-a rule which Malone thus laid down in one of his controversies with Steevens, upon a passage in the Two Gentlemen of Verona.

"By arbitrary emendations, I mean conjectures made at the will and pleasure of the conjecturer, and without any authority. Such are Rowe's, Pope's, Theobald's, Hanmer's, &c., and my assertion is, that all emendations not authorized by authentic copies, printed or manuscript, stand on the same footing, and are to be judged of by their reasonableness or probability; and therefore, if Sir Thomas Hanmer or Dr. Warburton, had proposed an hundred false conjectural emendations, and two evidently just, I should have admitted these two, and rejected all the rest.—Boswell's Malone, Vol. IV., p. 129.

But this folio of Mr. Collier’s is not only without the slightest supporting evidence to give it authority, ex cathedra, but contains within itself the most conclusive proof that it has not the shadow of a claim to any such authority. In examining it, we shall find that the corrector has showed a great, though by no means singular incapacity to appreciate the poetry, the wit, and the dramatic propriety of Shakespeare's writing : that some of the most important of his corrections were made with a disregard of the context, and are at variance with it: that a long time had passed between the publication of the volume and the making of the corrections: that the maker of them conformed to the taste and usages of a period at least half a century subsequent to the date of the production of the Plays : that, according to Mr. Collier's own showing, he continually made corrections merely because he did not understand the text as he found it: that the corrector himself blundered, and corrected his own corrections, which could not have been the case if they had been made from “a higher authority :” and that some of those emendations, the peculiar character of which has been regarded by many as convincing proof that they could not have been conjectural, but must have been made in conformity with some authority, have, on the contrary, been suggested as the fruit of mere conjecture or deduction by other recent correctors, some of whom are among the most wrongheaded and ignorant of Shakespeare's many wrongheaded and ignorant commentators.

And first, as to evident miscomprehension of Shakespeare's meaning. In As You Like it, Act III., Sc. 4, is this

passage : Orlando. Who could be out being before his beloved mistress ?

Rosalind. Marry, that should you, if I were your mistress, or I should think my honesty ranker than my wit.”

It would seem impossible to misunderstand this; and yet the MS. corrector proposes that Rosalind should say,

“Marry, that should you, if I were your mistress, or I should thank my honesty rather than my wit :"

—a change which makes absurd nonsense of the passage ; for, in the case supposed by Rosalind, she would have no honesty to thank.

In the first scene of All's Well that Ends Well, poor Helena, giving language to her hope that the distance between her and Count Bertram might prove no obstacle to her happiness, says,

"The mightiest space in fortune, nature brings

To join like likes, and kiss like native things."

That is,-obviously and pertinently,—that the gifts of nature, in which she supposed herself not wanting, are sometimes able to overcome the greatest differences in fortune. But Mr. Collier's folio reads,

"The mightiest space in nature, fortune brings
To join like likes,” &c. ;

thus making Helena say exactly the reverse of what Shakespeare made her say, and of what she should say. As the alteration is also entirely at variance with the rest of the speech, this blunder must also be regarded as one of those which show misunderstanding or disregard of the context.

In the chorus of the third Act of Henry V., are the following lines :

“Behold the threaden sails,
Borne with th' in visible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow'd sea ;"

the second of which, the corrector would make,

Blown with th' invisible and creeping wind,"

thus substituting a prosaic statement of a material fact for a poetical and picturesque description of it.

In the first scene of Act IV. of the same play, Henry speaks of

“The wretched slave,
Who, with a body fill’d and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread."

This ruthless man would take the very life of the last line, by reading it,

Gets him to bed cramm'd with distasteful bread."

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Unhappy corrector! Because you cannot see that in those felicitous words, “ distressful bread,” are pictured the hard lot of the poor slave, whose homely food, whose very sustenance, is bought by suffering,–because you cannot see this, would you in revenge take that sweet “distressful’ morsel out of our mouths ? and will John Payne Collier, Esq., F. S. A., abet you in your vile design ?

In Troilus and Cressida, Act IV., Sc. 4, Troilus says,

“ And sometimes we are devils to ourselves,
When we will tempt the frailty of our powers,
Presuming on their changeful potency."

The last line means, obviously,--presuming on their potency or stability, which proves to be changeful : but the corrector wonld make it needlessly and prosaically,

“Presuming on their chainful potency."

Romeo says to Juliet in that matchless scene of parting which is to be followed by no greeting,

"I'll say yon gray is not the morning's eye,

'Tis but the pale reflex of Cynthia's brow."

The literal gentleman dissents. He cannot see the beauty of a reflex from the pale brow of Diana ; but must drag the poetry down so far as to allude to the shape of the crescent moon, and read bow for “brow.” Why was he not thorough and consistent enough to make a corresponding change in the first line, take out the poetical thought of "the morning's eye,” and read,

“I'll say yon gray is not the morning sky,

'Tis but the pale reflex of Cynthia's bow?

Mr. Collier calls it “a very acceptable alteration, ” when, in Lady Macbeth's invocation :

“Come thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry, ‘Hold! hold !'”

this MS. corrector would read,

"Nor heaven peep through the blankness of the dark.”

To say nothing of the difficulty of peeping through blankness, what obtuseness must that be which, after night has been invoked to assume a pallof the “dunnest smoke of hell,” cannot see the eminent fitness of the phrase, “the blanket of the dark" ? It is to be expected that such a person would, in the previous scene, change the poetical word,

The swiftest wing of recompensu is slow,”

for the prosaic

“The swiftest wind of recompense is slow;"

and in the first scene of Act II. of Julius Caesar, substitute for,

the honey-heavy dew of slumber,"
the heavy honey-dew of slumber:”

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because, forsooth, there is "a well-known glutinous deposit ” upon the leaves of trees,“ which may be called honeydew."

We might disregard, if not pardon, this anonymous and irresponsible corrector for the following attempt at mutilation ; but what must be thought of Mr. Collier, who says that “the emendation proposed should probably be the text.” In Hamlet's second soliloquy, he says,

“For it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter.”

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