Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

HISTORIE S. The Life of King Henry

the Fift. The Life and Death of The First part of King

King John.* [a & S.] Henry the Sixt.
The Life & Death of The Second Part of King

Richard.the second.* [a Hen: the Sixt.
& S.)

The Third part of King The First part of King Henry the Sixt.

Henry the fourth. [a&S.] The Life & Death of The Second Part of K. Richard the Third, *

Henry the fourth.* ( a ( a &c S:}
& f.)

The Life of King Henry

the Eight. [a & S.]

Having premis'd thus much about the state and condition of these first copies, it may not be improper, nor will it be absolutely à digression, to add fomething concerning their authenticity: in doing which, it will be greatly for the reader's case, and our own, to confine ourselves to the quarto's: which, it is hop'd, he will allow of; especially, as our intended vindication of thém will also include in it (to the eye of a good obe ferver) that of the plays that appear'd first in the folio: which therefore omituing, we now turn ourfelves to the quarto's.

We have seen the slur that is endeavour'd thrown upon them indiscriminately by the player

encombe editors, and we fee it too wip'd off by their having themselves follow'd the copies that they condenin following their foolish ambitious huirors, feeing how his ambition made hith kill his brother, his nephews, his wife, beside infinit others; and last of all after a short and troubles some raigne, to end his miserable life, and to have his body harried after his death."

[ocr errors]

A modern editor, who is not without his followers, is pleas'd to assert confidently in his preface, that they are printed from “

piece-meal parts, and copies of prompters:" but his arguments for it are some of them without foundation, and the others not conclusive, and it is to be doubted, that the opinion is only thrown out to countenance an abuse that has been carry'd to much too great lengths by himself and another editor, – that of putting out of the text passages that they did not like. These censures then and this opinion being set aside, is it criminal to try another conjecture, and see what can be made of it? It is known, that Shakspeare liv'd to no great age, being taken off in his fifty-third year; and yet his works are fo numerous, that, when we take a survey of them, they seem 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;" seven others that were publish'd some 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; besides the part that he may reafonably be thought to have had in other men's Jabours, being himself a player and a manager of theatres: what his prose productions were, we know not: but it can hardly be fuppos'd, that he, who had fo confiderable a share in the confidence of the earls of Effex and Southampton, could be a mute fpectator only of controversies in which they were fo much interefted; and his other poeti

9 Vide, this Introduction, p. 278.

cal 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 shortness of his life, and the other busy employments of it are reflected upon duly, can it be a wonder that he should be so loose a transcriber of them? or why should we refuse to give credit to what his companions tell us, of the state of those tranfcriptions, and of the facility with which they were pen'd? Let it then be granted, that these quarto's are the poet's own copies, however they were come by; hastily written at first, and issuing from presses most of them as corrupt and licentious as can any where be produc'd; and not overseen by himself, nor by any of his friends: and therë can be no stronger reason for fubfcribing to any opinion, than may be drawn in favour of this from the condition of all the other plays that were first printed in the folio: for, in method of publication, they have the greatest likeness possible to those which pret ceded them, and carry all the fame marks of hafte and negligence; yet the genuineness of the latter is attested by those who publish'd them, and no proof brought to invalidate their testimony. If it be still alk'd, what then becomes of the accusation brought against the quarto's by the player editors, the answer is not so far off as may perhaps be expected: it may be true that they

be true that they were “ stoln; but stoln from the author's copies, by transcribers who found means to get at them:* and “ maim'd"

* But see a note at p. 281, which feem's 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 sake of clearness, he has here admitted the charge in that full extent in which they bring it.

71

many

they must needs be, in respect of their 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 studiously heighten'd by the player editors, who had the means in their power, being masters of all the alterations, ---to give at once a greater currency to their own lame edition, and support the charge which they bring against the quarto's ? this, at least, is a probable opinion, and no bad: vay of accounting for those differences.?

Ít were easy to add abundance of other arguments in favour of these quarto's;--Such as, their exa& affinity to almost all the publications of this fort that came out about that time; of which it i will hardly be asserted by any reasoning man, that they are all clandestine copies, and publish'd without their authors' consent: next, the high. improbability of supposing that none of these plays were of the poet's own setting-out: whose case is ren

3 Some of thefe alterations are in the quarto's themselves ; (another proof this, of their being authentick,) as in Richdvd II: where a large scene, that of the king's deposing, appears first in the copy of 1608, the third quarto impression, 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 same year; it is the first of act the third. Arid Hamlet has soñé ftill more considerable ; for the

copy of 1605 has thefe words:--"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 testimony of this title-page: and that the play was in being at least nine

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 instance tou of what the note advances.

years

der'd singular by such a supposition; it being certain, that every other author of the time, with out exception, who wrote any thing largely, publish'd some of his plays himself, and Ben Jonson all. of them: nay, the very errors and faults of these quarto's, ,- of some of them at least, and those 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 seemingly-strange repetitions which are fpoken of at p. 280? those imperfect entries, and entries of persons 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 such there are in several of these quarto's; and such might well be expected in the hasty draughts of fo negligent an author, who neither faw at once all he might want, nor, in some instances, gave himself fafficient tiine to consider the fitness of what he was then penning. These and other like arguments might, as is said 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 six 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 col. lection, is fo very forcible as to be sufficient of itself to satisfy the unprejudic'd, that the plays of both impressions spring all from the same stock, and owe their numerous imperfections to one common origin and cause, -the too-great negligence and haste of their over-careless producer. VOL. I.

V

« ForrigeFortsæt »