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how are these assertions proved ? By exposing its errors (some of which nevertheless are of a very questionable shape) and by observing a careful silence about its deserts.* The latter surely should have been stated as well as the former. Otherwise, this proof will resemble the “ill-roasted egg” in As You Like It, which was done “ only on one side."- If, in the mean time, some critical arithmetician can be found, who will impartially and intelligently ascertain by way of D’and the faults and merits of this book, and thereby prove the former to have been many, and the latter scarce any at all, we will most openly acknowledge our misapprehension, and subscribe (a circumstance of which we need not be ashamed) to the superior sagacity and judgment of Mr. Malone.
To conclude, though we are far from asserting that this republication, generally considered, is preferable to its original, we must still regard it as a valuable supplement to that work; and no stronger plea in its' favour can be advanced, than the frequent use made of it by Mr. Malone. The numerous corrections from it admitted by that gentleman into his text,* and pointed out
* Thus (as one instance out of several that might be produced) when Mr. Malone, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, very judiciously restores the uncommon word-ging, and supports it by instances from The New Inn and The Alchemist, he forbears to mention that such also is the reading of the second, though not of the first folio. See vol. viii. p. 153, n. 5.
† Amounting to (as we are informed by a very accurate compositor who undertook to count them) 186. Instances wherein Mr. Malone has admitted the Corrections of the
11 Much Ado about Nothing
0 Love's Labour's Lost ...
13 Midsummer-Night's Dream
4 Merchant of Venice
2 As You Like It
15 Taming of the Shrew.
16 All's Well that Ends Well
in his notes, will, in our judgment, contribute to its eulogium: at least cannot fail to rescue it from his prefatory imputations of “ being of no value whatever,” and afterwards of—“ not being worth-three shillings *." See Mr. Malone's Preface, and List of Editions of Shakspeare.
PLYMSELL. * This doctrine, however, appears to have made few proselytes : at least, some late catalogues of our good friends the booksellers, have expressed their dissent from it in terms of uncommon force. _I must add, that on the 34th day of the auction of the late Dr. Farmer's library, this proscribed volume was sold for three guineas; and that in the sale of Mr. Allen's library, April 15th, 1799, at Leigh and Sotheby's, York Street, Covent Garden, the four folio editions of our author's plays were disposed of at the following prices : Sale No.
d. 1460 1st folio.....
40 19 0 61 2d do.
5 10 0 62 3d do.
5 15 6 63 4th do.
3 13 6
Our readers, it is hoped, will so far honour us as to observe, that the foregoing opinions were not suggested and defended through an ambitious spirit of contradiction. Mr. Malone's Preface, indeed, will absolve us from that censure; for he allows them to be of a date previous to his own edition. He, therefore, on this subject, is the assailant, and not the conductors of the present republication.
But though, in the course of succeeding strictures, several other of Mr. Malone's positions may be likewise controverted, some with seriousness, and some with levity, (for our discussions are not of quite so solemn a turn as those which involve the interests of our country,) we feel an undissembled pleasure in avowing, that his remarks are at once so numerous and correct, that when criticism “ has done its worst,” their merit but in a small degree can be affected. We are confident, however, that he himself will hereafter join with us in considering no small proportion of our contested readings as a mere game at literary push-pin; and that if Shakspeare looks down upon our petty squabbles over his mangled scenes, it must be with feelings similar to those of Lucan's hero:
ridetque sui ludibria trunci. In the Preface of Mr. Malone, indeed, a direct censure has been levelled at incorrectness in the text of the edition 1778. The justice of the imputation is unequivocally allowed; but, at the same time, might not this acknowledgement be seconded by somewhat like a retort ? For is it certain that the collations, &c. of 1790 are wholly secure from similar charges? Are they accompanied by no unauthorized readings, no omission of words, and transpositions ? Through all the plays, and especially those of which there is only a single copy, they have been with some diligence retraced, and the frailties of their collator, such as they are, have been ascertained. They shall not, however, be ostentatiously pointed out, and for this only reason :-That as they decrease but little, if at all, the vigour of Shakspeare, the critick who in general has performed with accuracy one of the heaviest of literary tasks, ought not to be molested by a display of petty faults, which might have eluded the most vigilant faculties of sight and hearing that were ever placed as spies over the labours of each other. They are not
even mentioned here as a covert mode of attack, or as a “ note of preparation” for future hostilities. The office of “ devising brave punishments" for faithless editors, is therefore strenuously declined, even though their guilt should equal that of one of their number, (Mr. Steevens,) who stands convicted of having given winds instead of wind, stables instead of stable, sessions instead of session, sins instead of sin, and (we shudder while we recite the accusation) my instead of mine *.
Such small deer “ Have been our food for many a year;” so long, in truth, that any further pursuit of them is here renounced, together with all triumphs founded on the detection of harmless synonymous particles that accidentally may have deserted their proper places and wandered into others, without injury to Shakspeare.-A few chipped or disjointed stones will not impair the shape or endanger the stability of a pyramid. We are far from wishing to depreciate exactness, yet cannot persuade ourselves but that a single lucky conjecture or illustration, should outweigh a thousand spurious haths deposed in favour of legitimate has's, and the like insignificant recoveries, which may not too degradingly be termed—the haberdashery of criticism : that “stand in number, though in reckoning none;" and are as unimportant to the poet's fame,
“ As is the morn-dew on the myrtle leaf
“ To his grand sea.” We shall venture also to assert, that, on a minute scrutiny, every editor, in his turn, may be charged with omission of some preferable reading; so that he who drags his predecessor to justice on this score, will have good luck if he escapes ungalled by recrimination.
If somewhat, therefore, in the succeeding volumes has been added to the correction and illustration of our author, the purpose of his present editors is completely answered. On any thing like perfection in their labours they do not presume, being too well convinced that, in defiance of their best efforts, their own incapacity, and that of the original quarto and folio-mongers, have still left sufficient work for a race of commentators who are yet unborn. “ Nos,” says Tully, in the second book of his Tusculan Questions,“ qui sequimur probabilia, nec ultra quàm id quod verisimile occurrerit, progredi possumus; et refellere sine pertinacia, et refelli sine iracundia, parati sumus.”
* See Mr. Malone's Preface.
Be it remembered also, that the assistants and adversaries of editors, enjoy one material advantage over editors themselves. They are at liberty to select their objects of remark:
Desperant tractata nitescere posse, relinquunt. The fate of the editor in form is less propitious. He is expected to combat every difficulty from which his auxiliaries and opponents could secure an honourable retreat. It should not, therefore, be wondered at, if some of his enterprizes are unsuccessful.
Though the foregoing Advertisement has run out into an unpremeditated length, one circumstance remains to be mentioned.-The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged since it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful custom the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn: but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. Samuel Johnson. This is a distinction which malevolence cannot obscure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour.
It may possibly be expected, that a list of errata should attend so voluminous a work as this, or that cancels should apologize for its more material inaccuracies. Neither of these measures, however, has in the present instance been adopted, and for reasons now submitted to the publick.
In regard to errata, it has been customary with not a few authors to acknowledge small mistakes, that they