Imagini ale paginilor




WE HEN (in 1802) this work was first suggested by the Proprietors of Mr. Steevens's elaborate edition, it was the Editor's intention to illustrate the plays of our immortal bard, by a SELECTION of the most important and interesting notes which the labours of the various commentators had accumulated. In this he was encouraged by Mr. Steevens himself, who, in the Advertisement to his edition of fifteen volumes, 1793, after apologizing for the prolixity and number of his notes, seems to anticipate the time when "a judicious and frugal selection" might be made from the labours of all his coadjutors.

In attempting to form such a SELECTION, which the present Editor published in 1803, and which is now reprinted for the third time, his object was to separate the conjectural from the decisive explanations and amendments, to leave the reader under no difficulty which investigation had already removed,-and to furnish

every information that could contribute to a knowledge of the text, or of the history of the play.

Whatever regarded questions of taste or emendation, it was his wish to retain, but the prescribed limits of an edition like the present, an edition that was intended to be strictly useful, and easily to be consulted-one in which whatever was wanted might be found without effort, and comprehended without study-must be expected to exclude the tedious and angry contests of rival critics, and the prolix quotations from authorities in support of their opinions. These, however necessary to the niceties of verbal criticism and antiquities of phraseology, and often honourable to the industry and judgment of the gentlemen who have devoted their whole time and attention to the purification of the text, are obstructions in the way of the general reader, unless where they can be brought to a conclusion which may in few words convey some useful information.

The text of the editions of this SELECTION, printed in 1803 and 1811, was that of the corrected copy left by Mr. Steevens, and edited by Mr. Isaac Reed, 21 vols., 1803. In the present republication, we have availed ourselves of the various readings pointed out by Mr. Malone in his last edition (1821): and thus, by repeated

collations, and every mode of critical investigation, the text may now be thought to be fixed beyond the hope, or at least the probability, that any future discoveries will be able to add much to its purity. The obscurities, however, which yet remain, and the doubts which have not yet been resolved, are stated in the notes, to prevent the reader from being ashamed of not understanding what the most profound critics have been hitherto unable to explain.

In selecting the notes, the names of the annotators have seldom been retained, unless where they relate to contested points. Notes of CRITICISM, however, have generally their authors' names, and it is hoped that the preservation of all Dr. Johnson's remarks of this kind will not be thought superfluous, since they are almost universally quoted as authorities, and are indeed inestimable both for matter and manner. These, and his celebrated PREFACE, seem indispensable to every edition of Shakspeare, in which illustration is at all admitted. It is at his recommendation that Mr. Pope's preface is also prefixed, "valuable alike for composition and justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his author, so extensive that little can be added, and so exact that little can be disputed;" a character which many will probably think ought to be transferred to Johnson's more elaborate,

and complete investigation of the genius of Shakspeare.

But while it is hoped that nothing has been omitted which can assist in removing the obscurities of the poet's style, his indecencies have been left without notice or comment, the present editor being of opinion that the principal annotators have disgraced their characters, and insulted public decency by loading their pages with such discussions as would not be tolerated in any other work.

The HISTORY OF THE STAGE is merely an abridgement of Mr. Malone's labours on that subject, to which he made no addition, in his subsequent inquiries. Having originally brought it down to the age of Garrick, he had executed all that he intended-a history of the gradual progress of the stage from the first barbarous attempts at dramatic exhibition, until it arrived at the state in which Garrick found it, and in which it still remains. Show and splendour have perhaps in our time, too frequently predominated, but the public has lost none of its enthusiasm for Shakspeare, when his works have been illustrated by the talents of the eminent performers who have appeared within the last forty years.

Instead of a verbal index, a complete GLOSSARY of Shakspearean language has been com

« ÎnapoiContinuă »