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fo numerous, that, when we take a furvey of them, they feem the productions of a life of twice that length for to the thirty-fix plays in this collection, we must add feven, (one of which is in two parts,) perhaps written over again; feven others that were publifh'd fome of them in his life-time, and all with his name; and another seven, that are upon good grounds imputed to him; making in all, fifty-eight plays; befides the part that he may reasonably be thought to have had in other men's labours, being himself a player and a manager of theatres: what his profe productions were, we know not but it can hardly be fuppos'd, that he, who had fo confiderable a fhare in the confidence of the Earls of Effex and Southampton, could be a mute spectator only of controverfies in which, they were so much interested; and his other poetical works, that are known, will fill a volume the fize of these that we have here. When the number and bulk of these pieces, the fhortness of his life, and the other bufy employments of it are reflected upon duly, can it be a wonder that he should be fo loose a transcriber of them? or why fhould we refuse to give credit to what his companions tell us, of the state of those transcriptions, and of the facility with which they were pen'd? Let it then be granted, that thefe quarto's are the poet's own copies, however they were come by; haftily written at first, and iffuing from preffes moft of them as corrupt and licentious as can any where be produc'd, and not overfeen by himself, nor by any of his friends: and there can be no ftronger reafon for fubfcribing to any opinion, than may be drawn in favour of this from the condition of
Vide, this Introduction, p. 327.
all the other plays that were first printed in the folio; for, in method of publication, they have the greatest likeness poffible to those which preceded them, and carry all the fame marks of hafte and negligence; yet the genuineness of the latter is attefted by thofe who publifh'd them, and no proof brought to invalidate their teftimony. If it be still afk'd, what then becomes of the accufation brought against the quarto's by the player editors, the answer is not fo far off as may perhaps be expected: it may be true that they were "ftoln;" but ftoln from the author's copies, by tranfcribers who found means to get at them :" and "maim'd" they must needs be, in refpect of their many alterations after the first performance: and who knows, if the difference that is between them, in some of the plays that are common to them both, has not been ftudioufly heighten'd by the player editors,who had the means in their power, being mafters of all the alterations,-to give at once a greater currency to their own lame edition, and fupport the charge which they bring against the quarto's ? this, at least, is a probable opinion, and no bad way of accounting for those differences.3
2 But fee a note at p. 330, which seems to infer that they were fairly come by which is, in truth, the editor's opinion, at least of fome of them; though, in way of argument, and for the fake of clearness, he has here admitted the charge in that full extent in which they bring it.
Some of these alterations are in the quarto's themselves; (another proof this, of their being authentick,) as in Richard II: where a large fcene, that of the king's depofing, appears firft in the copy of 1608, the third quarto impreffion, being wanting in the two former: and in one copy of 2 Henry IV. there is a scene too that is not in the other, though of the fame year; it is the first of A&t the third. And Hamlet has fome ftill more confiderable; for the copy of 1605 has these words :
It were easy to add abundance of other argu→ ments in favour of these quarto's ;-Such as, their exact affinity to almost all the publications of this fort that came out about that time; of which it will hardly be afferted by any reafoning man, that they are all clandeftine copies, and publifh'd without their authors' confent: next, the high improbability of fuppofing that none of these plays were of the poet's own fetting-out: whofe cafe is render'd fingular by fuch a fuppofition; it being certain, that every other author of the time, without exception, who wrote any thing largely, publifh'd fome of his plays himself, and Ben Jonfon all of them nay, the very errors and faults of these quarto's,-of fome of them at least, and thofe fuch as are brought against them by other arguers,-are, with the editor, proofs of their genuineness; for from what hand, but that of the author himself, could come those feemingly-ftrange repetitions which are spoken of at p. 329 ? thofe imperfect exits, and entries of perfons who have no concern in the play at all, neither in the scene where they are made to enter, nor in any other part of it? yet fuch there are in feveral of thefe quarto's; and fuch might well be expected in the hafty draughts of fo negligent an author, who neither faw at once all he might want, nor, in fome inftances, himself sufficient time to confider the fitness gave
"Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie :" now though no prior copy has yet been produc'd, it is certain there was fuch by the teftimony of this title-page: and that the play was in being at least nine years before, is prov'd by a book of Doctor Lodge's printed in 1596; which play was perhaps an imperfect one; and not unlike that we have now of Romeo and Juliet, printed the year after; a fourth inftance too of what the note advances.
of what he was then penning. These and other like arguments might, as is faid before, be collected, and urg'd for the plays that were first publish'd in the quarto's; that is, for fourteen of them, for the other fix are out of the question: but what has been enlarg'd upon above, of their being follow'd by the folio, and their apparent general likeness to all the other plays that are in that collection, is fo very forcible as to be fufficient of itself to fatisfy the unprejudic'd, that the plays of both impreffions fpring all from the fame ftock, and owe their numerous imperfections to one common origin and caufe, the too-great negligence and hafte of their over-careless producer.
But to return to the thing immediately treated,— the ftate of the old editions. The quarto's went through many impreffions, as may be feen in the Table: and, in each play, the laft is generally taken from the impreffion next before it, and fo onward to the firft; the few that come not within this rule, are taken notice of in the Table: and this further is to be obferv'd of them: that, generally speaking, the more distant they are from the original, the more they abound in faults; 'till, in the end, the corruptions of the laft copies become fo exceffive, as to make them of hardly any worth. The folio too had it's re-impreffions, the dates and notices of which are likewife in the Table, and they tread the fame round as did the quarto's: only that the third of them has feven plays more, (fee their titles below,4) in which it is follow'd by
4 Locrine; The London Prodigal; Pericles, Prince of Tyre; The Puritan, or, the Widow of Watling Street; Sir John Oldcaftle; Thomas Lord Cromwell; and The Yorkshire Tragedy: And the imputed ones, mention'd a little above, are these ;The Arraignment of Paris; Birth of Merlin; Fair Em; Ed
the laft; and that again by the firft of the modern impreffions, which come now to be spoken of.
If the stage be a mirror of the times, as undoubtedly it is, and we judge of the age's temper by what we fee prevailing there, what muft we think of the times that fucceeded Shakspeare ? Jonfon, favour'd by a court that delighted only in mafques, had been gaining ground upon him even in his life-time; and his death put him in full poffeffion of a poft he had long afpir'd to, the empire of the drama: the props of this new king's throne, were-Fletcher, Shirley, Middleton, Maffinger, Broome, and others; and how unequal they all were, the monarch and his fubjects too, to the poet they came after, let their works testify: yet they had the vogue on their fide, during all those bleffed times that preceded the civil war, and Shakspeare was held in difefteem. The war, and medley government that follow'd, fwept all these things away but they were reftor'd with the king;
ward III. Merry Devil of Edmonton; Mucedorus; and The Two Noble Kinfmen: but in The Merry Devil of Edmonton, Rowley is call'd his partner in the title-page; and Fletcher, in The Two Noble Kinfmen. What external proofs there are of their coming from Shakspeare, are gather'd all together, and put down in the Table; and further it not concerns us to engage : but let those who are inclin'd to dispute it, carry this along with them that London, in Shakspeare's time, had a multitude of playhouses; erected fome in inn-yards, and fuch like places, and frequented by the loweft of the people; fuch audiences might have been seen fome years ago in Southwark and Bartholomew, and may be seen at this day in the country; to which it was alfo a custom for players to make excurfion, at wake times and feftivals and for fuch places, and fuch occafions, might these pieces be compos'd in the author's early time; the worst of them fuiting well enough to the parties they might be made for :—and this, or fomething nearly of this fort, may have been the cafe too of fome plays in his great collection, which shall be spoken of in their place.