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Having said thus much, perhaps we ought to add that, highly as we prize some of the old corrector's work, we would nevertheless much rather part with it all than be obliged to accept it all. If he had not made six times as many bad changes as good ones, and in numerous instances marred the text merely because he did not understand it, we inight perhaps be justified in accepting a few doubtful cases on account of the good company they were in. As to his having access to some authentic source, all we have to say is, that, if so, then he certainly mixed up with what he derived therefrom such a mass of clumsy and awkward conjecture as to deprive his work of all external support. Such, for example, is bis turning of mother into smother, in Cymbeline, Act iii., Scene iv., vol. ix., page 91 :
"Some jay of Italy, Whose mother was her painting, hath betray'd him."
And again, his substitution of boast for beast, in Macbeth, Act i., Scene vii., vol. iv., page 264:
What benst was't, then,
All which infers, plainly enough, that we do not regard the changes in question as standing on any thing that can properly be termed authority. Any claim or pretence of that kind is simply absurd. We can discover no reasonable or even plausible ground for adopting any of them, but their intrinsic fitness; precisely the same as in case of any other editorial emendations. And the only argument worth considering that has been urged for
their authenticity rests upon this very fitness, and has no other basis; which of course concludes only such of them to be authentic as are judged to be fit, and so leaves us just where we were before. In fact, with the best study we could give them, which is somewhat more than a little, we have not been able to tie up in any general rules concerning them: we have still had to consider them severally, and to form a separate and independent judgment of each one of them, as it came before us ; wbich, we are right well persuaded, is the only judicious or safe way of treating them. This is indeed a slow and tedious process, and by no means agreeable to one who aspires to the honour of despatching a great work all in a lump: nevertheless it stands within the scope of the old maxim, “Stay awhile, and make an end the sooner.”
But indeed Mr. Collier bimself has not been able to rest in his first conclusion upon the matter. In the Prefare to his Notes of Coleridge's Lectures, published in 1856, he confesses to have fallen back upon his old common-sense principles in regard to Shakespeare's text. “I am more and more convinced," says be, " that the great majority of the corrections were made, not from better manuscripts, still less from unknown printed copies of the plays, but from the recitations of old actors while the performance was proceeding;” and he takes this as going far to explain what would else be "an anomalous instance of one and the same mind displaying a sagacity worthy of Bentley, and yet capable of sinking below the dullest pedant.” It is a real pleasure to us to record such proofs of this old Shakespearian's happy return to reason and sobriety.
Well, the question has since been taken in hand by the most competent authorities; the character of the corrections has been sisted thoroughly; chemical science and paleographic skill have been brought to bear upon it; and the result goes near to make out a pretty decided case of imposture and fraud. Yet we are far from being convinced that Mr. Collier has at any time acted or spoken otherwise than in perfect honesty and good faith in the matter. He surely could not afford to peril his well-earned reputation on the chances of so loose and bungling a device. The argument is much too long and intricate for any attempt to trace it here; and we must content ourselves with saying, that while it succeeds in proving a fraud somewhere, it does not succeed in fixing the fraud upon him. Call him the victim of a poor innposture, if you will, but not the author of it: we are satisfied that the worthy gentleman does not deserve that; and even if he did, he has already received exemplary punishment in the ugly exposure that followed. But indeed we frankly acquit him of any further blame in the matter than is implied in saying that “he was old enough, and big enough, and ought to have known better " than to rush upon the public such an undigested hodge-podge of reason and absurdity.
The learned Mr. Singer, the accomplished Mr. Dyce and several others well qualified for the office, have spoken inore or less touching these emendations. For ourselves, we have ventured to admit very few of them, relying solely on our own opinion: in most of our adoptions, and in many of our rejections, we have had the judgment of other and better men, to instruct or confirm our own. And among those which we do not accept, there are some, no doubt, that may justly stand as candidates for future adoption; nor is it anywise unlikely that a few of these may sooner or later make good their claim. On the other hand, it is probable enough that some of those which we have admitted may, on better consideration, need to be ruled out of the text. All we can say is, that we have aimed and endeavoured
to be both cautious and liberal respecting these proffered emendations; nor are we sensible of having, as indeed there is no reason why we should have, any bias one way or the other, to hinder a fair and candid treatment of them.
Remains but to add, that a few of our changes in the plates are derived from other sources than Mr. Collier's second folio; which few have also been proposed since the original stereotyping of the text.
Besides the textual changes, the present issue corrects whatever typographical errors were missed in the reading of the proofs, and have since been discovered.
Page 22 "I have with such prevision in mine art." Instead of prevision, the original has provision. The sense of prevision just suits the context, and the misprint was of a kind apt to be made.
Most busiest when I do it." The original has labours and busy blest. The present reading was proposed by Holt White, and is approved by Singer. The Poet as every reader of him knows, often uses the double superlative. Of course the sense as here given is, “But these sweet thoughts, being busiest when I am at work for such a prize, turn my labour into delight."
“What do you mean, To dote thus on such luggage? Let's along,
And do the murder first." The old copy reads, “Let's alone." The change is proposed by Mr. Dyce, in his “Few Notes on Shakespeare," 1853.
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
Page 118. "'Tis true; but you are over boots in love." The original has for instead of but. For does not suit the context, and probably got repeated from the preceding line.
Page 178. “Come, go with us: we'll bring you to our cave.” The original reads crews instead of cave. It appears in Act v., Scene iii., that cave is right: “Come, I must bring you to our captain's cave.”
Page 188. “The other squirrel was stolen from me by the hangman boys." The original has “hangman's boys." Hangman means rascally. The Poet elsewhere has “a gallows boy," in a similar sense.
Page 197. “These shadowy, desert, unfrequented woods." The old copies have this instead of these. The change ought not to bave waited for Collier's discovery.