« AnteriorContinuar »
being thus neglected, were soon destroyed; and though the capital authors were preserved, they were preserved to languish without regard. How little Shakspeare himself was once read, may be understood from Tate,' who, in his dedication to the altered play of King Lear, speaks of the original as of an obscure piece, recommended to his. notice by a friend; and the author of the Tatler, having occasion to quote a few lines out of Macbeth, was content to receive them from D'Avenant's alteration of that celebrated drama, in which almost
1 In 'the year 1707 Mr. N. Tate published a tragedy called Injured Love, or the Cruel Husband, and in the title-page calls himself" Author of the tragedy called King Lear."
In a book called The Actor, or a Treatise on the Art of Playing, 12mo. published in 1750, and imputed to Dr. Hill, is the following pretended extract from Romeo and Juliet, with the author's remark on it:
“The saints that heard our vows and know our love,
"Will sure take care, and let no wrongs annoy thee.
Upon my knees I'll ask them every day
"How my kind Juliet does; and every night,
"As I perhaps shall wander through the desert,
"The reader will pardon us on this and some other occasions, that where we quote passages from plays, we give them as the author gives them, not as the butcherly hand of a blockhead prompter may have lopped them, or as the unequal genius of some bungling critic may have attempted to mend them. Whoever remembers the merit of the player's speaking the things we celebrate them for, we are pretty confident will wish he spoke them absolutely as we give them, that is, as the author gives them."
Perhaps it is unnecessary to inform the reader that not one of the lines above quoted, is to be found in the Romeo and Juliet of Shakspeare. They are copied from the Caius Marius of Otway. STEEVENS.
every original beauty is either aukwardly disguised, or arbitrarily omitted. So little were the defects or peculiarities of the old writers known, even at the beginning of our century, that though the custom of alliteration had prevailed to that degree in the time of Shakspeare, that it became contemptible and ridiculous, yet it is made one of Waller's praises by a writer of his life, that he first introduced this practice into English versification.
It will be expected that some notice should be taken of the last editor of Shakspeare, and that his merits should be estimated with those of his predecessors. Little, however, can be said of a work, to the completion of which, both a large proportion of the commentary and various readings is as yet wanting. The Second Part of King Henry VI. is the only play from that edition, which has been consulted in the course of this work; for as several passages there are arbitrarily omitted, and as no notice is given when other deviations are made from the old copies, it was of little consequence to examine any further. This circumstance is mentioned, lest such accidental coincidences of opinion, as may be discovered hereafter, should be interpreted into plagiarism.
It may occasionally happen, that some of the remarks long ago produced by others, are offered again as recent discoveries. It is likewise absolutely impossible to pronounce with any degree of certainty, whence all the hints, which furnish matter for a commentary, have been collected, as they lay scattered in many books and papers, which were probably never read but once, or the particulars which they contain received only in the course of common conversation; nay, what is
called plagiarism, is often no more than the result of having thought alike with others on the same subject.
The dispute about the learning of Shakspeare being now finally settled, a catalogue is added of those translated authors, whom Mr. Pope has thought proper to call
"The classicks of an age that heard of none.'
The reader may not be displeased to have the Greek and Roman poets, orators, &c. who had been rendered accessible to our author, exposed at one view; 2 especially as the list has received the ad-. vantage of being corrected and amplified by the Reverend Dr. Farmer, the substance of whose very decisive pamphlet is interspersed through the notes which are added in this revisal of Dr. Johnson's Shakspeare.
To those who have advanced the reputation of our poet, it has been endeavoured, by Dr. Johnson, in a foregoing preface, impartially to allot their dividend of fame; and it is with great regret that we now add to the catalogue, another, the consequence of whose death will perhaps affect not only the works of Shakspeare, but of many other writers. Soon after the first appearance of this edition, a disease, rapid in its progress, deprived the world of Mr. Jacob Tonson; a man, whose zeal for the improvement of English literature, and whose liberality to men of learning, gave him a just title to all the honours which men of learning can bestow. To suppose that a person employed in an extensive trade, lived in a state of
? See Vol. II.
indifference to loss and gain, would be to conceive a character incredible and romantick; but it may be justly said of Mr. Tonson, that he had enlarged his mind beyond solicitude about petty losses, and refined it from the desire of unreasonable profit. He was willing to admit those with whom he contracted, to the just advantage of their own labours; and had never learned to consider the author as an under-agent to the bookseller. The wealth which he inherited or acquired, he enjoyed like a man conscious of the dignity of a profession subservient to learning. His domestick life was elegant, and his charity was liberal. His manners were soft, and his conversation delicate: nor is, perhaps, any quality in him more to be censured, than that reserve which confined his acquaintance to a small number, and made his example less useful, as it was less extensive. He was the last commercial name of a family which will be long remembered; and if Horace thought it not improper to convey the Sosi to posterity; if rhetorick suffered no dishonour from Quintilian's dedication to TRYPHO; let it not be thought that we disgrace Shakspeare, by appending to his works the name of TONSON.
To this prefatory advertisement I have now subjoined a chapter extracted from the Guls Hornbook, (a satirical pamphlet written by Decker in the year 1609) as it affords the reader a more complete idea of the customs peculiar to our ancient theatres, than any other publication which has hitherto fallen in my way. See this performance, page 27.
3 This addition to Mr. Steevens's Advertisement was made in 1778. MALOne.
"How a Gallant should behave himself in a Playhouse.
"The theatre is your poet's Royal Exchange, upon which, their muses (that are now turn'd to merchants) meeting, barter away that light commodity of words for a lighter ware than words, plaudities and the breath of the great beast, which (like the threatnings of two cowards) vanish all into aire. Plaiers and their factors, who put away the stuffe and make the best of it they possibly can (as indeed 'tis their parts so to doe) your gallant, your courtier, and your capten, had wont to be the soundest pay-masters, and I thinke are still the surest chapmen: and these by meanes that their heades are well stockt, deale upon this comical freight by the grosse; when your groundling, and gallery commoner buyes his sport by the penny, and, like a hagler, is glad to utter it againe by retailing.
"Sithence then the place is so free in entertainment, allowing a stoole as well to the farmer's sonne as to your Templer: that your stinkard has the self same libertie to be there in his tobacco fumes, which your sweet courtier hath and that your carman and tinker claime as strong a voice in their suffrage, and sit to give judgment on the plaies' life and death, as well as the proudest Momus among the tribe of critick; it is fit that hee, whom the most tailors' bils do make room for, when he comes, should not be basely (like a vyoll) cas'd up in a corner.
"Whether therefore the gatherers of the pub