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entitle an editor of Shakspeare to the favour of the publick.

I have faid that the comparative value of the various ancient copies of Shakspeare's plays has never been precifely afcertained. To prove this, it will be neceffary to go into a long and minute difcuffion, for which, however, no apology is neceffary for though to explain and illuftrate the writings of our poet is a principal duty of his editor, to ascertain his genuine text, to fix what is to be explained, is his first and immediate object: and till it be established which of the ancient copies is entitled to preference, we have no criterion by which the text can be afcertained.

Fifteen of Shakspeare's plays were printed in quarto antecedent to the firft complete collection of his works, which was published by his fellowcomedians in 1623. These plays are, A Midfummer-Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Loft, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Two Parts of King Henry IV. King Richard II. King Richard III. The Merchant of Venice, King Henry V. Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Troilus and Crefsida, King Lear, and Othello.

The players, when they mention these copies, represent them all as mutilated and imperfect; but this was merely thrown out to give an additional value to their own edition, and is not ftrictly true


any but two of the whole number; The Merry Wives of Windfor, and King Henry V.-With respect to the other thirteen copies, though undoubtedly they were all furreptitious, that is, ftolen from the playhouse, and printed without the consent of the author or the proprietors, they in general are preferable to the exhibition of the fame plays in the

folio; for this plain reafon, because, inftead of printing these plays from a manufcript, the editors of the folio, to fave labour, or from fome other motive, printed the greater part of them from the very copies which they reprefented as maimed and imperfect, and frequently from a late, inftead of the earliest, edition; in fome inftances with additions and alterations of their own. Thus therefore

the first folio, as far as refpects the plays above enumerated, labours under the difadvantage of being at leaft a fecond, and in fome cafes a third, edition of these quartos. I do not, however, mean to say, that many valuable corrections of paffages undoubtedly corrupt in the quartos are not found in the folio copy; or that a fingle line of these plays fhould be printed by a careful editor without a minute examination, and collation of both copies ; but thofe quartos were in general the bafis on which the folio editors built, and are entitled to our particular attention and examination as firft editions.

It is well known to those who are converfant with the bufinefs of the prefs, that, (unless when the author corrects and revifes his own works,) as editions of books are multiplied, their errors are multiplied also; and that confequently every such edition is more or lefs correct, as it approaches nearer to or is more diftant from the firft. A few inftances of the gradual progrefs of corruption will fully evince. the truth of this affertion.

In the original copy of King Richard II. 4to. 1597, Act II. fc. ii. are thefe lines:

"You promis'd, when you parted with the king,
"To lay afide life-harming heaviness."

In a fubfequent quarto, printed in 1608, instead of life-harming we find HALF-harming; which being perceived by the editor of the folio to be nonfenfe, he substituted, inftead of it,-SELFharming heaviness.

In the original copy of King Henry IV. P. I. printed in 1598, Act IV. fc. iv. we find

"And what with Owen Glendower's abfence thence, (Who with them was a rated finew too,)" &c,

In the fourth quarto printed in 1608, the article being omitted by the negligence of the compofitor, and the line printed thus,

"Who with them was rated finew too,"

the editor of the next quarto, (which was copied by the folio,) inftead of examining the first edition, amended the error (leaving the metre still imperfect) by reading

"Who with them was rated firmly too,"

So, in the fame play, Act I. fc. iii. inftead of the reading of the earlieft copy

"Why what a candy deal of courtesy-"

caudy being printed in the first folio instead of candy, by the accidental inversion of the letter n, the editor of the fecond folio corrected the error by fubftituting gawdy.

So, in the fame play, Act III. fc. i. instead of the reading of the earlieft impreffion,

"The frame and huge foundation of the earth

in the fecond and the fubfequent quartos, the line by the negligence of the compofitor was exhibited without the word huge:

"The frame and foundation of the earth-"

and the editor of the folio, finding the metre imperfect, fupplied it by reading,

"The frame and the foundation of the earth.”

Another line in Act V. fc. ult. is thus exhibited in the quarto, 1598:

"But that the earthy and cold hand of death-"

Earth being printed instead of earthy, in the next and the subsequent quarto copies, the editor of the folio amended the line thus:

"But that the earth and the cold hand of death-."

Again, in the preceding scene, we find in the first copy,

"I was not born a yielder, thou,proud Scot-."

instead of which, in the fifth quarto, 1613, wẹ have

"I was not born to yield, thou proud Scot."

This being the copy that was used by the editor of the folio, instead of examining the most ancient impreffion, he corrected the error according to his

own fancy, and probably while the work was paffing through the prefs, by reading

"I was not born to yield, thou haughty Scot."

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet fays to her Nurse,

"In faith, I am sorry that thou art not well."

and this line in the firft folio being corruptly exhibited

"In faith, I am forry that thou art so well.".

the editor of the fecond folio, to obtain fome sense, printed

"In faith, I am forry that thou art fo ill."

In the quarto copy of the fame play, published in 1599, we find—

O happy dagger,

"This is thy fheath; there ruft, and let me die."

In the next quarto, 1609, the laft line is thus represented:

"'Tis is thy fheath," &c.

The editor of the folio, manifeftly wrong, abfurdly


feeing that this was corrected the error

"'Tis in thy fheath; there ruft, and let me die."

Again, in the fame play, quarto, 1599, mishav'd being corruptly printed for misbehav'd,

"But like a mishav'd and fullen wench-"

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