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“ Have me excused if I speak amiss ;
“ I cannot forbear,” says Mr. Hunter, “ to make one or two remarks on editorial duties in general, and particularly on such duties as applied to Shakespeare. We see the value of the old copies, and the wisdom of reading them, rather than the sophisticated text which the modern editors have given us, if we desire to know what Shakespeare really left to us. They have, to be sure, some very strange corruptions ; but then the very strangeness and the grossness work their own correction. We see, at once, that Shakespeare did not write what is set down for him; and we can often see at once what he did write, through the same disguise; while the modern editors, by the application of their principles, too frequently lay suspicion asleep, giving us a text which, without being very bad, is not so good as that which this fine spirit had itself bequeathed to us. It is quite manifest, therefore, that in any modern edition, the old copies should form the basis of any new text, to the entire exclusion, in the first instance, of the text of Rowe, and I am sorry to add, of every other editor who has yet followed him.”
To these just remarks we have little to add. Every one who has critically studied the text of Shakespeare must be convinced of the truth of Mr. Hunter's statement, and we are glad to fortify an opinion, which we could wish were more generally adopted, by the authority of so distinguished a writer. But we might with propriety proceed further, and say that no alteration from the original text of Shakespeare's plays is justifiable, unless it can be clearly proved that the typographical error which such an alteration must or ought necessarily to imply, could have been committed by the compositor of the time. We are convinced that this is really the only safe method to be adopted, and we most strongly deprecate the wholesale system of conjectural emendation employed by Theobald and a few other editors.
We will now venture to offer our readers a few observations on some passages of the Midsummer Night's Dream.
Act I. Sc. 1.
A similar passage occurs in Shakespeare's poem of Venus and Adonis, where he represents Venus, after the loss of her lover, denouncing her vengeance on the unlucky passion :
“ Since thou art dead, lo! here I prophesy,
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend;
Ne'er settled equally to high or low;
That all love's pleasures shall not match his woe.
And shall be blasted in a breathing while,
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
The fifth line satisfactorily shows that the alteration which has been made from love to low in another line is perfectly correct :
“ O cross! too high to be enthrallid to low!" It cannot, however, be denied, that Lysander's speech would be improved by the omission of the interpositions of Hermia. It has been so printed by Dodd and Planché.
In the second folio we have Hermia in the place of the words Ah me, which the first folio omits altogether. The remainder of this line has been used by Butler, in Hudibras, Part I. Canto 3. I. 1026.
An old proverb which we find in MS. Sloane, No. 1825, is to the same effect:
“ Y shal you say, and well y can,
Act I. Sc. 1.
“ If thou lov'st me, then
At the present day the celebration of the first of May is chiefly confined to those of our fellow creatures who employ themselves the remainder of the year in sweeping chimneys, and on that day recreate themselves with parading through all places with rude music, and a "jack in a green” habitation made expressly for the purpose. Formerly, the case was very different; and princes even “ performed their observation.” Churchyarde published one of his works on the first of May; to ensure its success, we
suppose, as the subject of the volume was political. The reign of puritanical doctrines contributed, perhaps, in a great measure to the neglect of observing this custom; and in MS. Harl. 1221, is a curious poem against it, entitled, “ A maypooles speech to a traveller," from which we extract the following :
“ Men, women, children, one a heap,
“ Hath holy Pope his holy guard,
“ Of fidlers, pedlers, fayle scape slaves,
“ The hobby horse doth hither prance,
Act I. Sc. 1.
you me fair! that fair again unsay.
My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.” We print this as it stands in the first quarto, without preserving the orthography of the time. Some discussion has arisen on the meaning of the seventh line, and Hanmer has altered it to
“ Your's would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go."
The second folio, however, gives another reading, which is doubtlessly the genuine one
“ Your words I'd catch, fair Hermia, ere I go."
For favour is not here used, as all editors and commentators have supposed, in the sense of countenance, but evidently in the common acceptation of the term—“O, were favour so," i. e., favour in the eyes of Demetrius; a particular application of a wish expressed in general terms. The reading of the second folio renders the whole passage perfectly intelligible.
Something similar to a portion of the above may be found in Grange's Garden, 1577 :
“ Eache leafe upon the tree, the grasse upon the grounde,
Act. I. Sc. 1.
“ And in the wood, where often you and I