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when the limits of my own humbler shelves were reached. But the kindness which I have received from this distinguished collector and thorough and accomplished student of Shakespeare, I have endeavored elsewhere more worthily to acknowledge. To Mr. James Lenox my readers as well as myself also owe much for the very generous and unreserved manner in which he placed his collection of the early quartos the value of which is hardly known except to the best informed bibliographers — entirely at my service.
In the notes upon the regulation of the text, I have endeavored to assign each restoration of a corrupted passage to its author; for I do not understand how gentlemen and scholars can claim an edition as their own, and then take no small proportion of their text and of their notes from other editors without a word of acknowledgment. A similar course has been pursued with regard to quotations made in support of conjecture or in elucidation of obscurity; and these, including conjectural emendations thought worthy of notice, but not of a place in the text, being generally given in the order of time, a concise history of every restored or doubtful passage is presented. The reader of a critical edition of a great author's works has the right to know upon what authority any reading, gloss, or critical judgment is adopted. In every case, I believe, where no such credit is given for a restoration, I am responsible for it; and as much prominence need not be given to claims of this sort, in those cases it is merely remarked that hitherto the text has stood otherwise. On revising my labors I find that the number of such instances in these volumes is sufficiently large to give me some solicitude, even although I am conscious of the reverent spirit in which the corrections have been made, and the logical conditions to which I held myself bound, even after perception and judgment had done their work. The tables of restored and of corrupted readings indicate the textual points and those relating to the history of the several plays in which this edition differs from those which have preceded it in the present century. They are given for the purpose of presenting in a compact form, easy of reference, a view of the principal peculiarities of the edition in these respects. In the course of my
work I have often wished that previous editors had given such a synopsis of their dealings with the text. It would have saved their successors much trouble. This comparative view is limited by the present century, not only because the acquaintance of the large majority of even the more critical readers of Shakespeare with the individual labors of his editors and commentators is confined to that period, but because the first quarter of the century is marked by the appearance of a new spirit of criticism upon these plays, and the introduction of new methods of editing them. The efforts of the last century culminated in the BoswellMalone Variorum of 1821 ; and Mr. Singer's Chiswick edition of 1826 is imbued with the spirit of the eighteenth century, and is, in fact, but an abridgment of the 1821 Variorum.
The causes of the great corruption of the old texts of Shakespeare's plays are probably all included in the following enumeration : incorrectness in the copies made for stage purposes ; hasty and surreptitious procurement of copies by short-hand writers at the performances ; careless proof-reading, or none at all ; printing by the ear; * sophistication, i. e., the introduction by copyist, compositor, or editor of what he supposed was the author's word in a sound passage which be regarded as corrupt because he did not apprehend its meaning; and finally, carelessness, or even some obscurity of thought, on the part of the poet himself. In the regulation of the text of this edition it has not been assumed that Shakespeare, writing as a playwright for the stage only, and not as a poet for the press, always attained, or even strove to attain, faultless perspicuity of expression and clear syntactical coherence, or that he did not knowingly leave some verses imperfect. The whole body of the dramatic literature of his time shows that, had his plays been complete in the last respect, they would have been as singular in that as they are preëminent in all others. But assuming that there may be obscurity and imperfection in these works, which are due to the manner in which and the purpose
* Some persons are incredulous as to the possibility of misprints by the ear, or the representation of the sound which the compositor has in his mind instead of the form of the letters which are before his eyes. But a few somewhat peculiar examples will illustrate this strange cause of error. In Romeo and Juliet, Act I. Sc. 4, the quartos of 1598 and 1609, and the folio of 1623, all have the collocation of letters philom. which form no English word, and which are unknown to the language except as a contraction of Philomath.' Yet when we read, in Mercutio's description of Queen Mab's equipage, "the lash of philom,” we see that the compositor merely put in type a mispronunciation of film,' fillum, sometimes heard nowadays. The printing in the folio (Troilus and Cressida, v. 2) of " that test of eyes and ears,” for “th' attest of eyes and ears," is tov plainly a putting of sound instead of form into type to be doubted by any intelligent reader. This mistake also shows that where the' and an ensuing syllable were made to fill the place of one syllable, it was done not by a quick, light pronunciation of the two, according to modern custom, but by dropping the vowel from the article, as the typography of the day indicates. In the French scene of Henry the Fifth " il est appelle” is twice printed with the character & for est, showing that the copy was written by the ear, 'est' being taken for et.' A like instance of phonography appears in Act IV. Sc. 4 of the same play, where “a cette henre” is printed “asture." I know also of an instance in which Falstaff's exclamation in Henry the Fourth, Part I. Act II. Sc. 4, “ecce signum" appeared in the second proof “ esse signum," although it was put in type from correct printed copy. The compositor saw ecce, but read the word in his mind with the first c, as well as the second, soft; which same mistake was made in proof reading by the copy holder, who read aloud. It is difficult to account for some errors of another kind. I have known objurgation,' written in letters as plain as those upon this page, appear in a second proof as “ civilization." Yet candid men of letters will confess that their own oversights are often corrected by the care and attention of the printing office. I gladly confess my obligations in this respect. It is sometimes objected to the corrections of Shakespeare's text that they are based upon the supposition of typographical errors, transpositions, and the like, which are too ingeniously conjectured and too subtly unrayelled: for instance, Theobald's famous change of " a table of green fields” to "'a babbled of green fields." But a modern instance from a carefully and tastefully printed book, tho proofs of wbich had the benefit of the author's own perusal, will illustrate and justify almost any correction of this nature. In Mr. George William Curtis's Nile Notes of a Howadji, which are less notes than revelations of the poetic feeling roused in their accomplished writer by the ruined civilization of the past and sensuous luxuriance of the present in Egypt, a " love-drunken poet” is represented as bursting into song orer the sumptuous, alluring South; and these are the first lines of his song:
for which they were written, and to the facility and copiousness of word and thought noticed in their author by his contemporaries, and which therefore cannot, with safety, even if with propriety, be corrected, every means at command has been used for the restoration of corruptions attributable to the other causes above named. I have endeavored to guide myself by fixed but not inflexible principles ; to weigh carefully all the evidence, and every authority which bears upon each doubtful passage; to keep constantly in mind the customs, the manners, the cast of thonght, and the idioms peculiar to the poet's time; to trace through the chirography and the printing of the Elizabethan era the course of probable corruption ; and above all, to place myself, as nearly as possible, in the position of a reader of Shakespeare's day, whose mind was brought by Shakespeare's power into sympathetic action with that of the great master. Having come to my task in this spirit, and pursued it in this manner, I have at times not hesitated to make bold changes. Should I therefore be charged with presumption and temerity, I interpose between me and my censor this shield furnished me by the greatest of modern critics and editors — Porson. 66 Who shall decide what reading is indubitably certain? The decision must be in a great measure left to the discretion of the editor. "What! are we to give to every man who sets up for a critic an unlimited right of correcting ancient books at his pleasure?' Not at his pleasure, but in conformity to certain laws well known and established by the general consent of the learned. He may transgress or misapply those laws, but without disowning their authority. No critic in his senses ever yet declared his resolution to put into the text what he at the time thought to be a wrong reading; and if a man, after perusing the works of his author perhaps ten times as often as the generality of his readers,- after diligently comparing MSS. and editions, - after examining what others have written relative to him professedly or accidentally, — after a constant perusal of other authors with a special view to the elucidation of
" I muse, as a traniuce, whene'er
The languors of thy love-deep eyes
Float on me." - p. 225. Doubtless many a reader has puzzled himself in vain to discover the significance of that Eastern phrase “ a traniace.” But if the iu be taken out of the mysterious word, and the u turned over, we shall have in; and by placing this before the article we shall have,
" I muse, as in a trance, whene'er,” &c., which I am as sure as if I had asked him is what was written by the Howadji; and I here present him with the conjectural emendation without fee or hope of reward.