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pamphlet, An Inquiry into the Genuineness of the Manuscript Corrections in Mr. J. Payne Collier's Annotated Shakespeare, folio, 1632, &c. In this work he not only recapitulates all the former evidence against the Collier folio annotations, but publishes the result of an examination of certain other documents connected with Shakespeare, which Mr Collier professed to have discovered in Devonshire House ; among the archives of Lord Ellesmere, at Bridgewater House; in Dulwich College ; and in the State Paper Office proving, what had long been suspected, that a systematic series of Shakespearian forgeries has been perpetrated of late years, and apparently by one hand.
To the additional charges of uninquisitive credulity, not to say positive imposition suggested in this “Inquiry,” Mr. Collier has published a formal “Reply.” In this reply he fails entirely to grapple with the main question at issue; he brings no evidence to rebut the technical and professional testimony against the impeached documents. Не does not even propose the obvious course to any one circumstanced as he is, who believed the papers genuine—that of submitting them to the scrutiny of an authoritative tribunal of literary men and paleographers. Beyond the indulgence of much ill-judged personality against those gentlemen, who from a sense of duty have brought the subject before the public, he contents himself with a simple denial of culpability, an ignoring of the most palpable facts, and an appeal ad misericordiam.
But enough of this disreputable topic. Without taking into account these “New Particulars," the value of which will be more fittingly considered in the Memoir that follows, we may rest satisfied that the authority of the Collier folio is at an end. Such of its readings as are of worth will be restored to their rightful owners, for the paternity of nearly all such is known; and the rest will speedily find the oblivion they so well deserve.
A few words may be desirable to explain the principle which has been followed in the present attempt to supply the best text of Shakespeare which the means at command allow. It has before been stated that we possess no play or poem, or even fragment of one, in the poet's writing. The early printed copies of his works are therefore the sole authority for what he wrote, and an accurate collation of them becomes the first and indispensable business of a modern editor. This portion of my duty has been performed at least with care, I hope with fidelity. Not only have I collated the quarto editions with the folio ; but the former, where more than one of the same play existed, with themselves; and then, both quarto and folio with the best editions of modern times.'
Having mastered and noted the variæ lectiones in the old copies, the task of selection in a play found only in the folios was not difficult, the first copy, 1623, being in almost all cases preferable to the subsequent impressions. Where, however, a play exists both in quarto and folio form, and there are more than one edition of it in quarto, and, as is always the case, each.copy abounds in corruptions, the choice is embarrassing. In these instances, taking the first folio as the basis of the text throughout, and when substituting a letter, word, or passage from any other source, always showing the folio reading in a note, I have trusted sometimes to the judgment of my predecessors, and occasionally to the dictates of my own. As a general rule it may be affirmed, that as in the folios, the first is freer from errors than the second, the second than the third, &c., so the earlier quartos exhibit a better text than the later ones, and, since the folio often prints from these later ones, of course in such cases a better one than the folio. When everything has been done in the shape of comparison which time, unwearied industry, and commodious access to old editions will allow, and when the labour of selecting from so many authorities in so many thousand instances has been fully accomplished, it is surprising how much remains to do. Dr. Johnson, after enumerating the various circumstances which tended to the corruption of Shakespeare's text, observes, “It is not easy for invention to bring together so many causes concurring to vitiate a text. No other author ever gave up his works to fortune and time with so little care ; no books could be left in hands so likely to injure them, as plays frequently acted, yet continued in manuscript; no other transcribers were likely to be so little qualified for their task, as those who copied for the stage, at a time when the lower ranks of the people were universally illiterate; no other editions were made from fragments so minutely broken, and so fortuitously re-united; and in no other age was the art of printing in such unskilful hands.” With a text thus pitiably depraved, it is not surprising that when collation is exhausted there should hardly be a page which does not present passages either dubious or positively corrupt. In those of the former category my rule has been to give the original lection in the text, but, as old Fuller well says, that “conjectures, if mannerly observing their distance, and not imprudently intruding themselves for certainties, deserve, if not to be received, to be considered,” — I have subjoined the emendations proposed by other commentators with my own, in the margin. The remedy for those of the latter class, I sought firstly in the modern editions, and did not often seek in vain. When they failed to rectify the error, recourse was had to my own sagacity. In no instance, however, has any deviation from the authentic copies been adopted without the change being notified. Mindful, too, of the Roman sentiment quoted by Johnson, “that it is more honourable to save a citizen than to destroy an enemy,” I have in most cases, unless the emendation is indisputable on the ground of internal evidence, retained the ancient reading, and placed the proposed correction in a note. On the same principle, I have in some important instances, by citing examples of the disputed expression from Shakespeare himself, or from the authors he read, succeeded in restoring words found in the original, but which have been banished from all subsequent editions.
7 The modern editions consulted are Rowe's, Pope's, Theobald's, Hanmer's, Warburton's, Johnson's and Steevens' Those collated, Capell's, Malone's, Knight's, Col
lier's, and Dyce's; the two last-named, however, having appeared after great part of the present work was published, were available only for a portion of the plays.
After exhibiting what Shakespeare wrote, according to the ancient copies, and the best modern glosses thereon, I have endeavoured, with the aid of those who have preceded me in the same task, and to the extent of a long familiarity with the literature and customs of his day, to explain his obscurities, to disentangle his intricacies, and to illustrate his allusions. In this attempt, the amount of reference and quotation will be seen to have been very great. It has, however, been much greater than it appears, since, with a few exceptions where the books or MSS. were unattainable, every extract throughout the work has been made at first hand. This is a circumstance I should have thought undeserving notice, but that in a standard edition of Shakespeare, like the Variorum o 1821, I have not found one quotation in ten without an error.
For the rest, it may suffice in this brief sketch of my plan to add, that by a carefu regulation of the pointing, in some passages the lost sense has been retrieved, and in others the meaning has been rendered more conspicuous.
8 Suum cuique. As some few of my readings have received the honour of adoption by more than one editor of Shakespeare, lately, the date above without explanation might expose me to the censure of plagiarism. I shall be
forgiven therefore for stating that the present work was begun in Nov. 1857, and has been published month by month in parts up to the first of May, 1860.
THE LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE.
For such of the information on Shakespeare's personal history as can be deemed authentic, we are chiefly indebted to modern research. No memoir of him was published in his own time, nor do the several “Commendatory” effusions of which his contemporaries and immediate successors made him the object, imply that their writers knew aught of him except as a poet. Writing nearly a century after Shakespeare's death, Rowe was only able to fill six or seven pages with personal matter ; a great portion of his “Life” being devoted to criticism. He derived his memorials from the famous actor, Betterton, who was born in 1635;' and what he did was serviceable as a nucleus for more extended treatises ; but Betterton ought to have known Shakespeare's private history better, than from Rowe's meagre and questionable narrative he appears to have done, since he was intimately associated with Sir William Davenant (born in 1605), and was apprenticed to a bookseller named Rhodes, who in his younger days was wardrobe-keeper to the theatre in Blackfriars.
From the time of Rowe to that of Malone, great part of another century, though editions of Shakespeare's works were issued by the most distinguished literary characters of the period, and much was done to increase our knowledge of the poet, very little was added to our enlightenment respecting the man. A few odd scraps and memoranda picked out of Aubrey, Oldys, Wood and others, spring up here and there among their notes and illustrations ; but of a comprehensive biography we find no trace. In 1790, however, Malone published a Life of Shakespeare, for which, although the time for collecting accounts of private occurrences in the poet's career had passed away, every available source of intelligence regarding his public course was industriously and profitably examined. Guided by this luminary, whose services, whether as biographer or commentator, have never been adequately acknowledged, other inquirers, as Messrs. Dyce, Halliwell, Collier, and Knight, have gone over the same field, each adding something to our scanty store of information on the subject. With materials derived from these authorities, the following sketch, containing an abstract of the most essential particulars really ascertained concerning his origin, family, life, property, and character, has been compiled.
1 “I must own a particular obligation to him (Betterton), for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here traremitted to the pablick; his veneration for the memory of . Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a veneration."-Rowe's Life of Skakspeare.
“All that insatiable curiosity and unwearied diligence have hitherto detected about Shakespeare, serves rather to disappoint and perplex us, than to furnish the slightest illustration of his character. It is not the register of his baptism, or the draft of his will, or the orthography of his name that we seek. No letter of his writing, no record of his conversation, no character of him drawn with any fullness by a contemporary, has been produced.”—HALLAM'S Introduction to the Literature of Europe, ii. 176. 1843.
The family of Shakespeare, Rowe says, “as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town (Stratford-upon-Avon), were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen.” This is an error. The register styles none of the family “gentleman” except the poet himself, and even he is so distinguished only after he had returned to his native place with the glory and fortune acquired by his genius and talents. Nor is it probable that his father was originally a Stratford man. Many families of the name had long been settled in different parts of Warwickshire; as at Warwick, Knowle, Rowington, Wroxhall, Hampton, Lapworth, Nuneaton and Kineton. To which of these branches the dramatist belonged, was until recently an insoluble problem. It has now been pretty clearly established, by the researches of Mr. Collier and Mr. Halliwell, that his father, John Shakespeare, was a son of Richard Shakespeare, of Snitterfield, a village three or four miles from Stratford. The evidence in favour of this descent consists in the facts, that the said Richard was a tenant of Robert Arden, whose daughter John Shakespeare married, and that the poet's uncle, Henry Shakespeare, resided at Snitterfield ; but this discovery, if such it may be termed, throws little light upon the family itself, and affords no assistance in our endeavours to ascertain from which particular stock the poet's branch descended. With reference to the status of the family, it appears to have been of the class of small farmers in the villages, and of respectable shopkeepers in the towns; no proof having been found, that any public honour or private fortune was ever acquired by its members.
About 1551, John Shakespeare, the father of William, settled in some kind of occupation at Stratford-upon-Avon. There is clear proof that he lived in Henley Street, where the dramatist is supposed to have been born, as early as 1552. In 1556, we find him in the registers of the bailiff's court described as a glover ; at the same time he was evidently engaged in agricultural pursuits, since he is mentioned in a deed bearing that date as “John Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, yeoman." Aubrey says he was a butcher: 6 6 according to Rowe, he was “a considerable dealer in wool.” 7 It would be a material addition to our knowledge of William Shakespeare, if the standing and means of his father could be accurately determined. We could then understand, in some degree, what is now extremely doubtful, the manner in which the dramatist was bred and educated. From the slender facts before us, we
can only suppose, that John Shakespeare was the son of a respectable farmer at Snitterfield ; that he came into the borough of Stratford with a moderate inheritance at his command, and then entered into business as a local merchant; dealing in wool, gloves, timber,
3 From the Survey book of the Manor of Warwick, and Ben Jonson having said of him, from the Muniments at Warwick Castle, we know that a
“Look how the father's face Thomas Shakespeare was possessed of lands and tenements Lives in his issue ; even so the race in Warwick, in 1594.
Of Shakespeare's mind and manners brightly shines 4 The word Shakespeare has been made a subject of
In his well-torned and true-filed lines; some discussion, perhaps more than it deserves. Guided In each of which he seems to shake a lance, by fac-similes of original signatures, in some cases wrongly As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance." traced, certain editors have endeavoured to give the name in the poet's own fashion. The old familiar Shakespeare
Using an authority as ancient as the human imagination, has thus become converted into Shackspeare, Shakspeare,
Verstegan, in his Restitution of Decayed. Intelligence, and Shakspere. This seems a purely idle fancy. The art
explains the word in the following grave sentence : of spelling was in a very primitive condition at the time
Breakspear, Shakspear and the lyke have byn surof Shakespeare's signing his name, and, if he had wished
names imposed upon the first bearers of them for valour
and feates of armes. to attain great accuracy in his own signature, as some of his literary sponsors have done since, he would not have
Without implicitly assenting to this doctrine, as confound it an object very easy of accomplishment. In the
cerns the name in question, we may fairly act upon it so different records of Warwickshire, the word is spelt in
far as to spell the word in accordance with its asserted
root, --Shakespearo-which seems the least affected as innumerable ways, appearing for instance, as Shaxper,
well as most correct practice that can be followed. Shaxpeer, Shakspere, Schakespere, Schakespeire, Chacsper,
5 From a Court Roll, dated April 29th, 1552, preserved Shakespeyre, and Shakespeere. Whatever may have been
in the Record Office, by which we learn that he with the root and original meaning of the word (a point
others incurred a fine of xijd. for a sterquinarium before perhaps less obvious than the multitude suppose), it
his dwelling " in Hendley Strete contra ordinationem has always been held to signify a race of speare shakers,
curiæ." or warriors. That the poet's contemporaries interpreted
6 “His William Shakespeare's) father was a butcher.” it in this sense, is shown in Greene having sarcastically
-AUBREY'S Mss. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon. designated Shakespeare the only “Shake-scene,” and in
7 ROWE's Life of Shakspeare.