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THE REVISED EDITION.
Of these eleven volumes six were stereotyped and in print before the appearance of what have come to be known as “The Collier Emendations.” In the five volumes stereotyped since, we have aimed, as our footnotes will show, to make a cautious, but not illiberal use of them. The same is now done in the first six volumes, the requisite alterations of the text being made in the plates. Of course it is impracticable to supply foot-notes of these changes; and, as it were scarce allowable to adopt them without some notice, there is no way but to point them out in the manner here used.
This is not the place for canvassing at length the general subject of those emendations. But it seems very proper to add a few remarks, by way of intimating our judgment concerning them, and the use Mr. Collier saw fit to make of them. First, however, we must state a few items of history.
In the years 1842-4, Mr. Collier set forth a complete edition of Shakespeare's Works, restoring the text with great care and accuracy, and embodying a large fund of antiquarian and other lore in the form of introductions and notes. The edition has many points of excellence; but there is one fault running through it, which must over ke“p it from passing into general use. This fault is a vicious and absurd extreme of adherence to the original copies. Previous editors had licentiously tampered with the text, acting too much on the principle of giving what, in their judgment, Shakespeare ought to have written : Mr. Collier rightly acted on the principle of giving what Shakespeare did write, but made far too little allowance for the errors of transcribers and printers.
The first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays was printed in 1623, in folio form. Before this, seventeen of his plays had been separately issued, some of them several times, in quarto. The folio of 1623 was reprinted, with some corrections and some corruptions, in 1632. These several issues are our only authorities for ascertaining the text. All of them abound in palpable misprints; besides, they vary a good deal among themselves, and thus give large scope for criticism in a choice of readings.
In 1851, Mr. Collier lighted on a copy of the second folio containing a large number of manuscript alterations, amounting, in all, to some 20,000, though much the greater portion were mere changes in the punctuation. The source of them was unknown, the date uncertain Mr. Collier at first supposed them to be nearly as old as the volume itself, and that the maker of them might have had access to the Poet's own manuscripts, or something about as good. In 1853, Mr. Collier published most of the verbal changes in a separate volume, with an Introduction, arguing strongly for their authenticity. He put forth a theory as to their genesis, which, if fully made out, would leave us no choice in regard to them. The theory, however, was mostly spun out of his own brain, and had no competent facts to rest upon. But, though maintaining those changes to be authentic in the mass, he nevertheless took the liberty of questioning and disallowing their authority in particular cases; as if he had
somehow got it fixed in his head, that they were to be authoritative on others, and the prerogative of overruling them limited to himself. This of course provoked a good deal of controversy. Dyce and Singer, both veteran Shakespearians, put forth each a volume stoutly repudiating the claim of those changes to be received as authentic, but admitting, in respect of some of them, whatever claim could grow from intrinsic fitness.
Not long afterwards, Mr. Collier set forth, evidently for popular use, a reprint of his text of 1812-4, incorporating therein those aforesaid verbal changes. Surely, in every right view of the matter, this was a very unwarrantable procedure. Shakespeare is the great English classic. As such, his text is a sacred thing, and ought to be so held. And no man must arrogate to himself the prerogative of making and circulating such a wholesale innovation. Moreover, Mr. Collier was in all justice precluded, by his own mode of treating those changes, from the liberty of thus giving them to the public as a part of the Poet's authentic text. In his first edition, he took extreme ground against textual changes, even going so far as to reject many valuable and some indispensable corrections. In bis second, he vaulted plump into the opposite extreme, setting forth as authentic a huge mass of ignorant tampering, and thereby, so far as in him lay, corrupting the text more than all the other modern editors put together.
There is in literature, as in many other things, a sort of cummon law which, in so grave and delicate a matter as the text of Shakespeare, requires that changes, especially if at all numerous and important, should in some way be passed upon by the literary public or its representatives, before being admitted into popular use and circulation, Nor can any individual, however learned and sagacious, set up a peculiar, much less an exclusive, jurisdiction of Shakespeare's text: there is a literary Senate to whose collective judgment questions of that nature must be referred. For men, and editors of Shakespeare as well as others, are naturally partial to their own notions and discoveries; and when these are on trial the case is so much their own that they can hardly be indifferent
judges. They who, at least in a moral sense, are best qualified for such an office, will be most apt to distrust their own judgment, and to invoke a more disinterested verdict upon the points in issue.
That some of the emendations in question are exceedingly apt and valuable, is now commonly admitted ; and our foot-notes in Coriolanus will furnish enough, we apprehend, to satisfy any fair-minded reader that such is the case. A portion of them, no doubt, will pass at once into the Poet's text, not to be disputed by future editors. But the number of such is not very large in comparison of the whole list. Of by far the larger portion, some are, to say the least, of very questionable merit, and many of very unquestionable demerit. To do the thing out somewhat in detail : The whole number of verbal changes found in Mr. Collier's folio of 1632 falls, in our counting, a little short of 3,500. Of these, only about 500, it seems to us, can be justly regarded as deserving of any consideration. Of these 500, again, about one-half had been adopted into the text, or proposed for adoption, long before any thing was heard of Mr. Collier's second folio; a portion of those so adopted being taken from the quarto copies of such plays as were first printed in that form. And of the remaining 250, more than 100 are of doubtful merit, plausibility being the best that can be affirmed of them. Which leaves us less than 150 desirable or admissible changes to be credited to the unknown manuscript corrector. This estimate proceeds, too, upon a pretty free and
liberal view of the matter: any thing like severity of criticism would considerably reduce the amount of obligation to the corrector aforesaid.
But, small, comparatively, as is the number of acceptable changes from this source, there are yet enough to deserve our grateful acknowledgment; and we freely confess that the cause of Shakespearian literature is in no slight measure indebted to Mr. Collier's discovery. It is indeed a very important addition to our means of arriving at a satisfactory text of the Poet. It does an old Shakespearian's heart good to light, for instance, upon such an item of relief as the substitution of bisson multitude for bosom multiplied, in Coriolanus, Act iii., Scene i., vol. viii., page 226 :
“How shall this bisson multitude digest
The Senate's courtesy?".
Also, the substitution of mirror'd for married in Trorlus and Cressida, Act iii., Scene iii., vol. vii., page 450:
"For speculation turns not to itself,
Till it hath travell’d, and is mirror'd there
Yet these cbanges are not more happy than that proposed by Singer, which substitutes wearer's for weary in As You Like It, Act ii., Scene vii., vol. iii., page 186 :
“Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea,
Till that the wearer's very means do ebb?"
Still more delightful, perhaps, is Mr. Richard Grant White's restoration in The Winter's Tale, Act iii., Scene iii., vol. iv., page 74: “A god, or a child, I wonder ?” where the old copy has boy instead of god.