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best of them,) which hold now the place of manuscripts, no scrap of the author's writing having the luck to come down to us; and never to depart from them, but in cases where reason, and the uniform practice of men of the greatest note in this art, tell him-they may be quitted; nor yet in those, without notice. But it will be necessary, that the general method of this edition should now be lay'd open; that the publick may be put in a capacity not only of comparing it with those they already have, but of judging whether any thing remains to be done towards the fixing this author's text in the manner himself
It is said a little before, that we have nothing of his in writing; that the printed copies are all that is left to guide us; and that those copies are subject to numberless imperfections, but not all in like degree our first business then, was-to examine their merit, and see on which side the scale of goodness preponderated; which we have generally found, to be on that of the most ancient: it may be seen in the Table, what editions are judg'd to have the preference among those plays that were printed singly in quarto; and for those plays, the text of those editions is chiefly adher'd to: in all the rest, the first folio is follow'd; the text of which is by far the most faultless of the editions in that form; and has also the advantage in three quarto plays, in 2 Henry IV. Othello, and Richard III. Had the editions thus follow'd been printed with carefulness, from correct copies, and copies not added to or otherwise alter'd after those impressions, there had been no occasion for going any further: but this was not at all the case, even in the best of them; and it therefore became proper and necessary to look into the other old editions,
and to select from thence whatever improves the author, or contributes to his advancement in perfectness, the point in view throughout all this performance: that they do improve him, was with the editor an argument in their favour; and a presumption of genuineness for what is thus selected, whether additions, or differences of any other nature; and the causes of their appearing in some copies, and being wanting in others, cannot now be discover'd, by reason of the time's distance, and defect of fit materials for making the discovery. Did the limits of his Introduction allow of it, the editor would gladly have dilated and treated more at large this article of his plan; as that which is of greatest importance, and most likely to be contested of any thing in it: but this doubt, or this dissent, (if any be,) must come from those persons only who are not yet possess'd of the idea they ought to entertain of these ancient impressions; for of those who are, he fully persuades himself he shall have both the approof and the applause. But without entering further in this place into the reasonableness, or even necessity, of so doing, he does for the present acknowledgethat he has every-where made use of such materials as he met with in other old copies, which he thought improv'd the editions that are made the ground-work of the present text: and whether they do so or no, the judicious part of the world may certainly know, by turning to a collection that will be publish'd; where all discarded readings are enter'd, all additions noted, and variations of every kind; and the editions specify'd, to which they severally belong.
But, when these helps were administer'd, there was yet behind a very great number of passages,
labouring undervarious defects and those of various degree, that had their cure to seek from some other sources, that of copies affording it no more: For these he had recourse in the first place to the assistance of modern copies: and, where that was incompetent, or else absolutely deficient, which was very often the case, there he sought the remedy in himself, using judgment and conjecture; which, he is bold to say, he will not be found to have exercis'd wantonly, but to follow the establish'd rules of critique with soberness and temperance. These emendations, (whether of his own, or other gentlemen,') carrying in themselves a face of certainty, and coming in aid of places that were apparently corrupt, are admitted into the text, and the rejected reading is always put below; some others, that are neither of that certainty, nor are of that necessity, but are specious and plausible, and may be thought by some to mend the passage they belong to,-will have a place in the collection that is spoken of above. But where it is said, that the rejected reading is always put below, this must be taken with some restriction: for some of the
In the manuscripts from which all these plays are printed, the emendations are given to their proper owners by initials and other marks that are in the marin of those manuscripts; but they are suppressed in the print for two reasons: First, their number, in some pages, makes them a little unsightly: and the editor professes himself weak enough to like a well-printed book: In the next place, he does declare-that his only object has been, to do service to his great author; which provided it be done, he thinks it of small importance by what hand the service was administer'd: If the partizans of former editors shall chance to think them injur'd by this suppression, he must upon this occasion violate the rules of modesty, by declaring that he himself is the most injur'd by it; whose emendations are equal, at least in number, to all theirs if put together; to say nothing of his recover'd readings, which are more considerable still.
emendations, and of course the ancient readings upon which they are grounded, being of a complicated nature, the general method was there inconvenient; and, for these few, you are refer'd to a note which will be found among the rest: and another sort there are, that are simply insertions; these are effectually pointed out by being printed in the gothick or black character.
Hitherto, the defects and errors of these old editions have been of such a nature, that we could lay them before the reader, and submit to his judg ment the remedies that are apply'd to them; which is accordingly done, either in the page itself where they occur, or in some note that is to follow: but there are some behind that would not be so manag'd; either by reason of their frequency, or difficulty of subjecting them to the rules under which the others are brought: they have been spoken of before at p. 329, where the corruptions are all enumerated, and are as follows;-a want of proper exits and entrances, and of many scenical directions, throughout the work in general, and, in some of the plays, a want of division; and the errors are those of measure, and punctuation: all these are mended, and supply'd, without notice and silently; but the reasons for so doing, and the method observ'd in doing it, shall be a little enlarg'd upon, that the fidelity of the editor, and that which is chiefly to distinguish him from those who have gone before, may stand sacred and unimpeachable; and, first, of the division.
The thing chiefly intended in reprinting the list of titles that may be seen at p. 332, was,-to show which plays were divided into acts, which into acts and scenes, and which of them were not divided at all; and the number of the first class is
eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Lost, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is some division aim'd at; yet it is so lame and erroneous, that it was thought best to consider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the first class as those of the third, the plays of the second class were studiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this division: which rule might easily have been discover'd before, had but any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, since neither can the representation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjusted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own settling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following establish'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of some other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was best acquainted with his scene divisions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he observes a method in which perhaps he is singular, and he is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of scene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a succession of new persons: that liaison of the scenes, which Jonson seems to have attempted, and upon which the French stage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd; and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great strictness and greater happiness than can