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others (particularly Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, and Titus Andronicus), that only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. "It is very probable what occasion'd some Plays to be supposed Shakespear's was only this ; that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the Theatre while it was under his administration : and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give Strays to the Lord of the Manor : A mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the House to remove. Yet the Players themselves, Hemings and Condell, afterwards did Shakespear the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition ; tho' they were then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and acted with some applause (as we learn from what Ben Johnson says of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn). That Titus Andronicus is one of this class I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same Author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to BartholomewFair, in the year 1614, when Shakespear was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, than for the former, which were equally published in his lifetime.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect upon this great Genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his account from arbitrary Additions, Expunctions, Transpositions of scenes and lines, confusion of Characters and Persons, wrong application of Speeches, corruptions of innumerable Passages by the Ignorance, and wrong Corrections of 'em again by the Impertinence, of his first Editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily perswaded, that the greatest and the grossest part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one, in which it now appears to us.
This is the state in which Shakespear's writings lye at present ; for since the above-mentioned Folio Edition, all the rest have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or ever making the comparison between them. It is impossible to repair the Injuries already done him ; too much time has elaps'd, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him justice. I have discharg'd the dull duty of an Editor to my best judgment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a religious abhorrence of all Innovation, and without any indulgence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this Edition will show it self. The various Readings are fairly put in the margin, so that every one may compare 'em ; and those I have prefer'd into the Text are constantly ex fide Codicum, upon authority. The Alterations or Additions which Shakespear himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some suspected passages which are excessively bad (and which seem Interpolations by being so inserted that one can intirely omit them without any chasm or deficience in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page ; with an Asterisk referring to the places of their insertion. The Scenes are mark'd so distinctly that every removal of place is specify'd ; which is more necessary in this Author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently : and sometimes, without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obsolete or unusual words are explained. Some of the most shining passages are distinguish'd by comma's in the margin ; and where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a star is prefix'd to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less ostentatious method of performing the better half of Criticism (namely the pointing out an Author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with general Applauses, or empty Exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoin'd a Catalogue of those first Editions by which the greater part of the
various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised (most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them). These Editions now hold the place of Originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiences or restore the corrupted sense of the Author : I can only wish that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end.
I will conclude by saying of Shakespear, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his Drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finish'd and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick Architecture, compar'd with a neat Modern building : The latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more solemn. It must be allow'd that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, tho' many of the Parts are childish, ill-plac'd, and unequal to its grandeur.
Preface to Edition of Shakespeare
The Attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like going into a large, a spacious, and a splendid Dome thro' the Conveyance of a narrow and obscure Entry. A Glare of Light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the Avenue at first promis'd : and a thousand Beauties of Genius and Character, like so many gaudy Apartments pouring at once upon the Eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the Mind. The Prospect is too wide to come within the Compass of a single View : 'tis a gay Confusion of pleasing Objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general Admiration ; and they must be separated, and ey'd distinctly, in order to give the proper Entertainment.
And as in great Piles of Building, some Parts are often finish'd up to hit the Taste of the Connoisseur; others more negligently put together, to strike the Fancy of a common and unlearned Beholder : Some Parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast Design and Execution of the Architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his Neatness and Elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find Traits that will stand the Test of the severest Judgment; and Strokes as carelessly hit off, to the Level of the more ordinary Capacities : Some Descriptions rais'd to that Pitch of Grandeur, as to astonish you with the Compass and Elevation of his Thought; and others copying Nature within so narrow, so confined a Circle, as if the Author's Talent lay only at drawing in Miniature.
In how many points of Light must we be obliged to gaze at this great Poet! In how many Branches of Excellence to consider and admire him !
Whether we view him on the side of Art or Nature, he ought equally to engage our Attention : Whether we respect the Force and Greatness of his Genius, the Extent of his Knowledge and Reading, the Power and Address with which he throws out and applies either Nature or Learning, there is ample scope both for our Wonder and Pleasure. If his Diction and the cloathing of his Thoughts attract us, how much more must we be charm’d with the Richness and Variety of his Images and Ideas! If his Images and Ideas steal into our Souls, and strike upon our Fancy, how much are they improv'd in Price, when we come to reflect with what Propriety and Justness they are apply'd to Character ! If we look into his Characters, and how they are furnish'd and proportion'd to the Employment he cuts out for them, how are we taken up with the Mastery of his Portraits ! What Draughts of Nature! What Variety of Originals, and how differing each from the other ! How are they dress'd from the Stores of his own luxurious Imagination ; without being the Apes of Mode, or borrowing from any foreign Wardrobe ! Each of them are the standards of Fashion for themselves : like Gentlemen that are above the Direction of their Tailors, and can adorn themselves without the aid of Imitation. If other Poets draw more than one Fool or Coxcomb, there is the same Resemblance in them as in that Painter's Draughts, who was happy only at forming a Rose : you find them all younger Brothers of the same Family, and all of them have a Pretence to give the same Crest : But Shakespeare's Clowns and Fops come all of a different House ; they are no farther allied to one another than as Man to Man, Members of the same Species : but as different in Features and