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might escape the suspicion of greater*, or perhaps to intimate that no greater could be detected. Both little and great and doubtless there may be the usual proportion of both) are here exposed (with very few exceptions) to the candour and perspicacity of the reader, who needs not to be told that in fifteen volumes octavo, of intricate and variegated printing, gone through in the space of about twenty months, the most vigilant eyes must occasionally have been overwatched, and the readiest knowledge intercepted. The sight of the editors, indeed, was too much fatigued to encourage their engagement in so laborious a revision; and they are likewise convinced that substitutes are not always qualified for their task; but instead of pointing out real mistakes, would have supposed the existence of such as were merely founded on their own want of acquaintance with the peculiarities of ancient spelling and language; for even modern poetry has sometimes been in danger from the chances of their superintendance. He whose business it is to offer this unusual apology, very well remembers to have been sitting with Dr. Johnson, when an agent from a neighbouring press brought in the proof sheet of a republication, requesting to know whether a particular word in it was not corrupted. “So far
“ from it, Sir, (replied the Doctor, with some harshness,) that the word you suspect and would displace, is conspicuously beautiful where it stands, and is the only one that could have done the duty expected from it by Mr. Pope."
As for cancels, it is in the power of every careless binder to defeat their purpose ; for they are so seldom lodged with uniformity in their proper places, that they as often serve to render copies imperfect, as to screen an author from the charge of ignorance or inattention. The leaf appropriated to one volume, is sometimes shuffled into the corresponding page of another; and sometimes the faulty leaf is withdrawn, and no other substituted in its room. These circumstances might be exemplified;
. but the subject is scarcely of consequence enough to be more than generally stated to the reader, whose indulgence is again solicited on account of blemishes which in
." — the hospitable door
Paradise Lost, b. i. v. 504.
the course of an undertaking like this are unavoidable, and could not, at its conclusion, have been remedied but by the hazard of more extensive mischief ;-an indulgence, indeed, that will more readily be granted, and especially for the sake of the compositors, when it is understood, that, on an average, every page of the present work, including spaces, quadrats, points, and letters, is (to speak technically) composed of 2680 distinct pieces of metal
As was formerly therefore observed, he who waited till the river should run dry, did not act with less reason than the editors would do, who should suspend a voluminous and complicated publication, in the vain hope of rendering it absolutely free from literary and typographical
• Number of letters, &c. in a page of Shakspeare, 1793.
TEXT. The average number in each The average number in each
line (including letters, points, line (including letters, points, spaces, &c.) is 47; the num- spaces, &c.) is 67; the num. ber of lines in a page—37.
ber of lines in a page-47. 47
1739 in a page.
3149 in a page. From this calculation it is clear, that a common page, admitting it to consist of 1-3d text, and 2-3ds notes, contains about 2680 distinct pieces of metal ; which multiplied by 16, the number of pages in a sheet, will amount to 42,880--the misplacing of any one of which would inevitably cause a blunder.
THE merits of our great dramatick Bard, the pride and glory of his country, have been so amply displayed by persons of various and first-rate talents, that it would appear like presumption in any one, and especially in him whose name is subscribed to this Advertisement, to imagine himself capable of adding any thing on so exhausted a subject. After the labours of men of such high estimation as Rowe, Pope, Warburton, Johnson, Farmer, and Steevens, with others of inferior name*, the rank of Shakspeare in the poetical world is not a point at this time subject to controversy. His pre-eminence is admitted ; his superiority confessed. Long ago it might be said of him, as it has been, in the energetick lines of Johnson, of one almost his equal,
“ At length, our mighty bard's victorious lays
a renown, established on so solid a foundation, as to bid defiance to the caprices of fashion, and to the canker of time.
Leaving, therefore, the Author in quiet possession of that fame which neither detraction can lessen nor panegyrick increase, the editor will proceed to the consideration of the work now presented to the publick.
It contains the last improvements and corrections of
* It would not be easy to produce a stronger instance of a writer acting in the character of a partisan than this passage
furnishes. When Mr. Reed was enumer
herating the criticks on Shakspeare, who were of “high estimation, was Mr. Malone forgotten? or was he meant to be classed with « others of inferior name?" Boswell.
Mr. Steevens*, by whom it was prepared for the press, and to whom the praise is due of having first adopted, and
* Of one to whom the readers of Shakspeare are so much obliged, a slight memorial will not here be considered as misplaced.
George Steevens was born at Poplar, in the county of Middlesex, in the year 1736. His father, a man of great respectability, was engaged in a business connected with the East India Company, by which he acquired an handsome fortune. Fortunately for his son, and for the publick, the clergyman of the place was Dr. Gloucester Ridley, a man of great literary accomplishments, who is styled by Dr. Lowth poeta natus. With this gentleman an intimacy took place that united the two families closely together, and probably gave the younger branches of each that taste for literature which both afterwards ardently cultivated. The first part of Mr. Steevens's education he received under Mr. Wooddeson, at Kingston-upon-Thames, where he had for his school-fellows George Keate the poet, and Edward Gibbon the historian. From this seminary he removed in 1753 to King's College, Cambridge, and entered there under the tuition of the Reverend Dr. Barford. After staying a few years at the University, he left it without taking a degree, and accepted a commission in the Essex militia, in which service he continued a few years longer. In 1763 he lost his father, from whom he inherited an ample property, which if he did not lessen he certainly did not increase. From this period he seems to have determined on the course of his future life, and devoted himself to literary pursuits, which he followed with unabated vigour, but without any lucrative views, as he never required, or accepted, the slightest pecuniary recompence for his labours. His first residence was in the Temple, afterwards at Hampton, and lastly at Hampstead, where he continued near thirty years. In this retreat his life passed in one unbroken tenor, with scarce any variation, except an occasional visit to Cambridge, walking to London in the morning, six days out of seven, for the sake of health and conversation, and returning home in the afternoon of the same day. By temperance and exercise he continued healthy and active until the last two years of his life, and to the conclusion of it did not relax his attention to the illustration of Shakspeare, which was the first object of his regard. He died the 22d of January, 1800, and was buried in Poplar chapel.
To the eulogium contained in the following epitaph by Mr. Hayley, which differs in some respect from that inscribed on the monument in Poplar chapel, those who really knew Mr. Steevens will readily subscribe:
“ Peace to these ashes! once the bright attire
carried into execution, Dr. Johnson's admirable plan of illustrating Shakspeare by the study of writers of his own time. By following this track, most of the difficulties of the author have been overcome, his meaning (in many instances apparently lost) has been recovered, and much wild unfounded conjecture has been happily got rid of. By perseverance in this plan, he effected more to the elucidation of his author than any if not all his predecessors, and justly entitled himself to the distinction of being confessed the best editor of Shakspeare.
The edition which now solicits the notice of the publick is faithfully printed from the copy given by Mr. Steevens to the proprietors of the preceding edition, in his lifetime; with such additions as, it is presumed, he would have received, had he lived to determine on them himself. The whole was entrusted to the care of the present editor, who has, with the aid of an able and vigilant assistant, and a careful printer, endeavoured to fulfil the trust reposed in him, as well as continued ill health and depressed spirits would permit.
By a memorandum in the hand-writing of Mr. Steevens it appeared to be his intention to adopt and introduce into the prolegomena of the present edition some parts of two late works of Mr. George Chalmers. An application was therefore made to that gentleman for his consent, which was immediately granted; and to render the favour more acceptable, permission was given to divest the extracts of the offensive asperities of controversy.
« Whose talents, varying as the diamond's ray,
“ How oft has pleasure in the social hour
“ Learning, as vast as mental power could seize,
“ This tomb may perish, but not so his name