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of my discovery, I was once disposed to approve, I have since seen reason to discard.
The ensuing volumes will afford proofs of the change of my opinion; for I have admitted no merely plausible alteration of the old text, but such only as seem absolutely required by the unintelligibility of the ancient copies, or such as are forced upon us by such manifest and indisputable fitness, as almost showed, in the words of the Rev. Mr. Dyce, that they “could hardly be conjectural •.”
I have never gone beyond this, or even to this extent, in the expression of my admiration for some of the old corrector's indubitable improvements; for I am "more and more convinced (as I said in my preface to “ Coleridge's Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton,” p. lxxiii) that the great majority of the corrections in my folio, 1632, were made, not from better manuscripts, still less from unknown printed copies of the plays, but from the recitation of actors while the performance was proceeding. In the Introduction to the first edition of *Notes and Emendations' I assigned reasons for thinking it very possible, that the repetition of their parts by painstaking players might easily be more accurate, than the printed editions of the dramas they represented.” In the same preface I have also particularly enforced my opinion, that not a few of the alterations in my corrected folio, 1632, were merely arbitrary, and that they were often introduced by careless actors, who did not well understand their parts, or who wished to substitute a word in common use for one which had become a little obsolete (p. lxxxii). All these, I trust, are carefully excluded in the ensuing volumes ; and though the expressions of the Rev. Mr. Dyce, in his private note, were somewhat calculated
3 My chief fear is that I have excluded some emendations from the text which readers will lament to see only in notes. I own that, in more than perhaps a few cases, I have been unwilling to disturb the habitually received reading, and thereby to do violence to the ears and eyes of such as take up these volumes. I almost accuse myself of a want of literary courage as regards several words ; but I have sometimes acted upon the principle, obviously observed by the Rev. Mr. Dyce, that of enabling readers to judge for themselves, by placing without comment in a note what he must mention, but could not prevail upon himself to insert.
to mislead, I entirely acquit him of intending to do so ; and I hope and believe that, as a friend of now thirty years' standing, and with some lingering recollection of the many hours we have spent together, he will be glad to see that I have not been misled, and that I have not fallen into any of the errors which he too acknowledges himself to have committed. His observations, in his Shakespeare just published, seem to have been formed not even upon the second edition of “Notes and Emendations,” in which sundry points were set right; and although I did not, for obvious reasons, again send him the result of my labours, as I proceeded with the work in the hands of the reader, Mr. Dyce will there find farther ground to rejoice, that while, to use his own not very novel figure, I gladly accept the “gold " he has himself
” discovered in my corrected folio, 1632, I very cautiously exclude the “ dross"."
The only real question between us is, as to the respective quantities of the one or of the other. The volume to which we are indebted not having come into his hands, Mr. Dyce seems to have made it his business rather to rake together the “ dross” than to collect the "gold;" but the "particles ” (as he is pleased to call them) have been, in many instances, so large, and so abundant, that he could not refuse to secure them; and how frequently he has actually stumbled over them, he has himself been compelled to record. If in various places, too numerous to be pointed out, he has quietly pocketed what he picked up, it must be attributed to the natural odium he feels of the MS. corrector, because he so readily solves many difficulties that have, for a long series of years, puzzled commentators of Mr. Dyce's class.
4 The use of the word “dross” reminds me of a sufficiently obvious correction in Middleton's “ Michaelmas Term " (edit. Dyce, i. p. 425), of an error that has
i not been observed. It is where Lethe says,
“ Esteem is made of such a dizzy metal.” What kind of metal is “a dizzy metal ?" To use a phrase of the Rev. Mr. Dyce, “it is stark nonsense.” Lethe is speaking of convenient defect of memory, which renders esteem so worthless in its nature, that favours done at night are forgotten by the morning : we must inevitably read,
“Esteem is made of such a drossy metal.” No doubt in the old Ms. the word was not clearly written, and the compositor read “ drossy” dizzy, the last being then spelt with the double s. When the Rev. Mr. Dyce republishes his Middleton's Works" he will thank me for this emendation ; though he will then probably withdraw the dedication for which I felt so much oblized to him in 1840.
It would not be easy to point out a stronger, or a stranger instance of the manner in which the Rev. Mr. Dyce consents rather to injure his text than to owe an obligation to my corrected folio, 1632, than is to be met with in "The Merry Wives of Windsor,” A. v. sc. 2, where every syllable of a page and a half is in rhyme, excepting a single line, which single line is made by the old annotator to jingle, like all the rest, by the smallest possible change, little more than altering “leap” to leapt, which change Mr. Dyce can repudiate for no other reason, but because it comes to him recommended by an unwelcome authority. The folio, 1623, has it thus :
“Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap;
There pinch the maids," &c. For between forty and fifty lines together the rhyme is invariable, and the change, in order to restore the rhyme, is so direct and facile, that we may be sure that the first line quoted above has been corrupted in the press. The remedy, though never seen, is as "plain as way to parish church,” and the old corrector points it out :
“ Cricket, to Windsor chimneys when thou'st leapt,
Where fires thou find'st unrak'd and hearths unswept,
There pinch the maids,” &c. Can any body doubt that “leap" of the old copies ought to be leapt? Yes; the Rev. Mr. Dyce denies it, if he do not doubt it; for he tells us in a note what the MS. corrector proposes, and yet without the slightest reason assigned (for how could he assign one ?) he reprints the old blunder, and seems just as well satisfied with rejecting what Shakespeare must have written, as if he had himself recovered a portion of the lost language of the poet: this, too, merely that it might not be said, that he admitted the existence of one more “particle of gold.”
Really and truly, this spirit of perverseness is an odd principle on which to edit an author like Shakespeare. I have never hesitated to receive hints or instruction from friends or enemies : all I want is to settle the text of the poet on as good a foundation as we can; and it will be seen, in the course of my undertaking, that I have, not unfrequently, and heartily, expressed my obligations both to Mr. Singer and to Mr. Dyce when I thought they were right. I may have thought that Mr. Dyce was formerly right in one or two places, where he now thinks that he was wrong; but perhaps, even by this time, he has reverted to his old opinions, though it might not be well, in the face of his own edition of Shakespeare, to confess it. When half a dozen years have gone by, and his aversion to the MS. corrector has somewhat subsided, and when his intemperate notes (like some of those in his “Remarks”) have misled a few too credulous followers, he will perhaps considerately withdraw them, and admit that he was too hasty and too positive. I am confident that such will be the case with about half his objections to the changes in my corrected folio, 1632; and he and I may live to see the day, when his six volumes octavo, recently published, will be laid upon an upper shelf, where accumulating dust will obscure even the “particles of gold” he admits that he has sifted out of my corrected folio, 1632. The work will not however lose all usefulness, for it will afford a practical illustration of the "gold o'erdusted” of the object of our common toil.
I assure the reader that it gives me nothing but pain to write in this strain of a gentleman with whom I was formerly on terms of such constant and unrestrained intercourse. Let it be my satisfaction, that in the whole course of my life I never uttered a word to his disparagement: I always respected his labours and his learning, and it gave me sincere satisfaction when I heard that he had engaged, one after the other, to revive the memory of our forgotten dramatists. It was only when I anticipated him as regards Shakespeare, that he seemed “to sicken that a friend prevailed ;” and then it was that in his “Remarks,” as well as in his “Few Notes,” he pursued my steps, as if only to give the hic est to a less competent editor than himself. How little I regretted, nevertheless, that he should come forward as an open and fair competitor (for such I then believed he would be) may be judged by the terms in which I spoke of him, at the very time when my own second edition of Shakespeare was passing through the press'.
I found my observations as to his Shakesperian labours chiefly upon the manner in which he has treated the emendations in my folio, 1632, and me as the medium of bringing them before the world. Excepting on the score of unqualified dislike of the MS. corrector, and of unprovoked offence at me, it is in general impossible to account for much of his resistance to proposed changes, in themselves so selfevident that they force themselves upon us.
Now and then, however, other reasons, as if afraid to show themselves, seem to peep out; such for instance as with regard to the word woolless in “Coriolanus," (A. ii. sc. 3, which the Rev. Mr.
” () Dyce perseveres in reading “wolvish.” It has clear reference to the "napless vesture of humility,” mentioned in an earlier part of the tragedy (A. ii. sc. 1); and, as in one place it is called a “napless vesture," so in the other it is spoken of
“woolless togue,” or gown, in which the hero was to ask the suffrages of the people. Nothing can be plainer ; and I cannot help thinking that the Rev. Mr. Dyce would himself have printed woolless, if, unluckily, in his edition of Middleton (Vol. iv. p. 425) he had not fallen into the very
5 See the Preface to Coleridge's “Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton,” 8vo, 1856, p. lxxxii, where I say that the Rev. A. Dyce is “ a gentleman who has been for a considerable time employed on a new edition of Shakespeare, for which his good taste and extensive reading abundantly qualify hiun."