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type, style of execution, and adaptedness to the wants of both the scholar and the general reader, it presented a combination of advantages possessed by no other edition at the time of its appearance. The text, however, abounds in corruptions introduced by preceding editors under the name of corrections Of the number and nature of these no adequate idea can be formed but on a close comparison, line by line, and word by word, with the original editions.
The Chiswick Shakespeare has never been reprinted in this country. For putting forth an Amer ican edition retaining the advantages of that without its defects, no apology, it is presumed, will be thought needful. How far those advantages are retained in this edition, will appear upon a very slight comparison how far those defects have been removed, the Editor may be allowed to say that no little study and examination will be required to the forming of a right judgment.
Until the present, there has been no American edition of Shakespeare proceeding upon a fresh revisal and collation of the text with the original copies. So that, properly speaking, this is the first time the Poet's text has been edited in this country. Here it has been ascertained from the primitive sources; the Editor having, in this respect, taken nothing upon hearsay, nor rested with any thing short of a continual reference to the first editions. By this process, the Editor has detected and restored a few original readings which appear to have escaped all the other modern editors. But, notwithstanding all the care
and vigilance he could use, some things, as might be expected, escaped his eye in the original stereotyping of the text. Esteeming nothing unimportant on this score, however small and trivial it might appear, he has since made, with much care, a second collation of his text with the originals; and whatever oversights or inaccuracies he could detect have been rectified in the plates.
So that, if a thorough revisal of every line, every word, every letter, and every point, with a continual reference to the original copies, be a reasonable ground of confidence, then the reader may be confidently assured that he will here find the genuine text of Shakespeare.
The process of purification has been rendered much more difficult, and therefore much more necessary, by the mode in which it was for a long time customary to edit the Poet's works. This mode is well exemplified in the case of Steevens and Malone, who seem to have vied with each other which should most enrich his edition with textual emendations. Both of them had been very good editors, but for the unwarrantable liberty with which they reformed the Poet's text; and, even as it was, they undoubtedly rendered much valuable service. And the same work, though not always in so great a degree, has been carried on by many others: sometimes the alleged corrections of several editors have been brought together, that the advantages of them all might be combined and presented in one. Thus corruptions of the text have accumulated, each successive
editor adding his own to those of his predecessors. Nor were any decisive steps taken in the way of a return to the original text, till within a very limited period. The later editors, Knight, Collier, and Verplanck, to all of whom this Editor is under great obligations, have pretty effectually put a stop to the old mode of Shakespearian editing; nor is there much reason to apprehend that any one will now venture upon a revival of it.
Of the editions hitherto printed in this country, Verplanck's is believed to be the only one that is at all free from these accumulated corruptions. Adopt ing, for the most part, the text of Collier as published in 1842–4, he brought to the work, however, his own taste and judgment, wherein he as far surpasses the English editor as he necessarily falls short of him in such external advantages as the libraries, public and private, of England alone can supply. And Collier's text of 1842-4 is indeed remarkably accurate and pure: nor, perhaps, can any other man of modern times be named, to whom Shakespearian literature is, on the whole, so largely indebted. How much he has done need not be dwelt upon here, as the results thereof will be found scattered all through this edition. Yet it must be confessed that both he and Knight, revolting from the extreme liberty of preceding editors, have gone to the opposite extreme of rejecting many valuable, and some indispensable corrections of the text. This excessive, not to say slavish adherence to the old copies, often in probable, sometimes in palpable misprints, greatly reduces the
In this par
value of their editions for general use. ticular, Mr. Verplanck has judiciously deviated from his English standard, and his good judgment appears equally in what he adopts and in what he rejects. Of the critical remarks that enrich his edition, it is enough at present to express the belief that in this department he has no rival in this country, and will not soon be beaten.
There is one class of restorations which the Editor hopes to be excused for mentioning, inasmuch as, while they are separately so small as to escape notice, the number of them is so great as to be a matter of considerable importance. Every one at all conversant with the old writers must be aware that in their use of verbs, participles, and participial adjectives, the termination ed generally made a syllable by itself. This class of words being very numerous, not a little variety and flexibility of language were gained by omitting or retaining the e at an author's discretion. In Shakespeare's verse the pronouncing of ed as a distinct syllable is very often required by the measure: yet all the current texts of the poet are utterly disordered in this respect, so that the reader's ear, if it be at all sensitive, is continually put at odds with his eye, and the silent pleasure of the verse is marred either by discords or by watchfulness against them. Both forms often occur in the same line; which makes the distinction still more important to be marked in the printing. Here is an instance:
"For this they have engrossed and pil'd up
The canker'd heaps of strange-achieved gold.”
The same is to be said of verbs in the second person singular, and also of many adjectives, where the ending est makes a syllable by itself, or blends with the preceding syllable, according as the e is retained or omitted. In these respects, the original editions are printed with remarkable exactness; so that, for keeping the Poet's verse rightly in tune, there needs but a scrupulous adherence to them. And the same holds true, in an equal degree, of his prose, which has as much variety in this particular as his verse. Now, in all the modern editions since Capell's, the Poet's usage in this matter has been quite ignored, and the rhythm of his prose (for good prose, no less than verse, has a rhythm of its own) thereby greatly marred. The present Editor has spent a great deal of care and labour upon these small items of restoration, deeming it of consequence to preserve, as nearly as might be, the words and even the syllables exactly as Shakespeare wrote them.
It may be worth the while, indeed it seems rather needful, to remark that of the Poet's thirty-seven dramas seventeen were first printed, separately, in quarto form, - all of them but one, Othello, during his life. Several of these issues, however, were evidently stolen, and, withal, so mangled and mutilated in the stealing, as to be of little if any real authority; though all of them are of more or less value in ascertaining or completing the text. The remaining twenty plays were first printed in the folio of 1623; and in respect of these, that edition, and the reprint of it, under some revising hand, in 1632, are our only authorities for the text.