Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

T

forward conduct, which especially becomes a man of birth and education. If the Rev. Mr. Dyce can produce any impression of “The Tempest” (even by Scott and Webster) from 1623 to 1853 containing such a stage-direction, I, of course, not only at once withdraw my accusation, but very sincerely apologize for it, and will, publicly and privately, make every amends in my power'.

Again, with regard to exits and entrances, my corrected folio, 1632, sometimes makes striking changes, greatly to the improvement of the action of a drama, and these are often tacitly adopted by Mr. Dyce, and incorporated in his volumes. I only request the reader's attention to one example: it is in Coriolanus," A. iii. sc. 2, where the entrance of Volumnia is entirely altered. In all previous editions, the heroine is made to come upon the stage eight lines too early, viz. when the First Patrician says “You do the nobler;" but the corrected folio, 1632, shows that she ought not to make her appearance before the audience, until her son observes, “I talk of you.” Of this change, much for the better, the Rev. Mr. Dyce avails himself, but never drops a word (I will not say he “carefully conceals ") to show that in this respect he varies from all previous impressions, and that the variation has been occasioned by my discovery of the amended second folio?. All I can say is, that if Mr. Dyce is satisfied with this course, I am heartily sorry for it; I hoped I knew him better; and as far as I know myself, I would not so have treated him,

1 I necessarily except Mr. Singer's edition, because he actually set the example in 1856 ; and Mr. Dyce's best excuse, bad as it is, in 1857, may be, that he only followed his leader, both here and in various other places where the same (I am reluctant to call it discreditable) line of conduct has been pursued.

The Rev. Mr. Dyce cannot be blamed for taking lessons from any body on such points; but, then, let him honestly confess that he has taken them. In his “ Beau. mont and Fletcher" are several serious faults of this description : see, for instance, The Humorous Lieutenant," A. iv. sc. 2 (Dyce's edit. vi. 499), where, after we have been told that the hero has gone out, leaving only Leontius and the Host on the stage, three separate speeches are given to the Lieutenant, and he is actually twice addressed by Leontius. This is by no means a solitary case, and, in the course of eleven octavo volumes, it would be wonderful if it were.

had he been the person first to meet with the extraordinary volume that fell into my hands.

The remedy, too, would have been so easy. As he is well aware, he is welcome to every scrap of emendation contained in that volume: though others have asked my leave, he never did so; for he was sure, that, if barely acknowledged, to nobody could a more unrestricted use of it have been conceded : he has filled pages upon pages with feeble notes and inapplicable quotations, and a single line, stating the source of any welcome improvement, would have been the utmost that was necessary.

Every editor must fall into errors: I am, of course, no more free from them than my predecessors,—perhaps, less free from them—but I do my best to avoid them, and when I commit a mistake, I confess it. The Rev. Mr. Dyce, I must be permitted to remark, is quite as faulty as his rivals, and in spite of a certain assumed infallibility-in spite of his assertions that “this is right” and “that is wrong;" "my conviction is so and so;" “such an explanation is absurd;" “such an editor is obtuse;" “such a remark is foolish ;" “such a proposed change is ludicrous,” or degree beyond the ridiculous," he has been obliged, over and over again, to contradict himself, and to admit that

my Remarks,” and “in my Few Notes" (to say nothing of “my Peele,” “my Greene,” “my Webster,” “my Middleton," "my Beaumont and Fletcher,” &c.), he has committed blunders, almost as if for the purpose of misleading his successors. His “Remarks” of 1844 were specially directed against the “Shakespeare ” I published in 1843: it followed it instantly, as if intended to damage it; but in his notes to his “Shakespeare” he has been compelled to acknowledge his own errors so often that, if I take his self-recalled opinions in a single play as a specimen, (and I have looked no farther with this object) he will have overturned his own criticisms, as regards the other plays of our great dramatist, in above a hundred places.

b

a

[ocr errors]

VOL. I.

Much of our faith in the text offered to us must depend upon an accurate knowledge of how particular passages stand in the old copies ; but the Rev. Mr. Dyce's mode of printing the plays gives us no sort of notion of the manner in which they appear in the 4tos. and folios : in his notes he is often very particular and emphatic about “the," “me," "of," "with," or,” &c., but when he comes to really important words, he changes them, at his own good will and pleasure, without giving a particle of information that he has done so: thus (only to take a portion of a volume) he substitutes “fair” for farther, “speakers” for keepers °, “ behowls” for beholds, “ mistress for master, "name" for maine, and many others, including sometimes the silent insertion of words for which there is no authority whatever*. It may be right, or it may be wrong to change terms thus unscrupulously: those Mr. Dyce selects may be better than those he rejects; but surely the reader ought to be permitted to know where the modern text differs from the old, or he is prevented from exercising his own judgment, and, above all, a most erroneous impression is thus conveyed of the value or worthlessness of the ancient editions.

This explicitness on the part of an editor is the more necessary, because it has been a growing persuasion (it amounts to conviction in my own mind) that Shakespeare never

66

(Vol. ii.

3 Although in the immediately preceding line he has an insignificant note about the change of his to “her."

4 We have a specimen of the mode in which the Rev. Mr. Dyce would improve the text of Shakespeare in the opening of The Taming of the Shrew" p. 499), where he declares in favour of Trash Merriman " instead of " Brach Merriman.” To trash a dog was unquestionably to put a rope, strap, or clog upon him, and the object of it was to prevent his hunting too fast, and outstripping the other hounds ; but here nothing of the sort could be intended for two very obvious reasons, though they do not appear to have occurred to Mr. Dyce ; viz. first, that the Lord was at this time returning from the chase, and next, that “ Brach Merriman, the poor cur, was embossed,” i. e. foaming at the mouth from over fatigue. The hunt for the day was done, and Merriman could therefore not need restraining; still less because the “poor cur was already exhansted: his weariness trashed him quite sufficiently. In his satisfaction at the supposed emendation, Mr. Dyce has quite forgotten to attend to the context.

was in the smallest degree instrumental in printing a single play, and that the managers of our old theatres were invariably averse to the practice. The appearance of a popular drama from the press not only diminished auditors by multiplying readers, but it enabled other companies, if not to outstrip, at least to compete. When there existed no painted scenery, and when there needed only a few ordinary properties, which were always in readiness, a new play could be got up, at a rival theatre, with as much dispatch as well practised actors could learn their parts.

It remains for me to state, that the text of the ensuing volumes was completed some months ago; but that the preliminary matter has been unavoidably delayed by the severest domestic afflictions. During the preparation and printing of the work I have been deprived of a wife, two daughters, and a sister, while my own health and strength have been, almost necessarily, impaired. Still more recently, death has also bereaved me of the noblest and most generous patron, to whom my former edition was inscribed, and to whom the present was to have been dedicated : fortunately, the successor to the title has consented to become the successor to this very humble and inadequate tribute ; but the loss of the favour and friendship (during the last twenty years the late Duke of Devonshire insisted that I should use that word) of a nobleman so exalted and enlightened, and with such an earnest and exact acquaintance with this branch of our national literature, can never be compensated'. Not long before, I had sustained another calamity in the demise of the Earl of Ellesmere, a nobleman never weary of showing kindness and of affording assistance; and who, shortly anterior

5 To show what pains the Duke of Devonshire took, some years ago, to be acquainted with the subject of the early drama of England, I may mention that, with his own eye and hand, he went through an interleaved copy of the " Biographia Dramatica,” intro

get! with his own notes, all those which the late John Philip Kemble had made in his “ Catalogue of English Plays” from the origin of printing to about the year 1823. As soon as the Duke had completed it, he presented the book to me, and I use it for almost daily reference. I have seen him at his work upon his plays at half-past six and seven in the morning.

to his death, wrote me his strong opinion in support of the emendations in my corrected folio, 1632, when he said that “they were so excellent, that they would almost make old Tieck turn in his grave.”

All these distressing visitations have come upon me since I sent the first of the following sheets to press; but I only allude to them here, because I am afraid that in some few instances my sorrows may

have soured

my remarks, and that in one or two of my notes more asperity may have been evinced than I really feel. If I have thus erred, I sincerely regret it; and in pointing out the mistakes of others, if I have committed some of my own, I trust that I have always observed a degree of literary courtesy and decorum, that has seldom been extended to myself. I have not touched upon sore places for the sake of irritating adversaries, but for the purpose of proving, that the very blunders they charge against me they have themselves fallen into, and that my oversights claim especial forbearance from such as have not been able to shun them themselves. Where I have directed attention to errors in the recent reprints of old dramatists, I had one main object--not to retaliate—but to establish that, after all the pains bestowed by capable editors upon them, their text remains even in

worse condition than that of Shakespeare. As I am writing I have before me notes of hundreds of misprints, quite as glaring as any I have exposed'.

a

..

• See particularly the notes on “ Love's Labour's Lost,” A. ii. sc. 1 (Vol. ii. p. 115), and on “ Troilus and Cressida,” A. i. sc. 2 (Vol. iv. p. 492).

? It was originally my intention to have added to this preface a selection from these misprints, in order to show the real state of the text of our old dramatists : where, however, errors are so many and so obvious, the difficulty of choice is great, and my preface has already run out to a length I did not contemplate. I subjoin the following in a note, only because it has reference to an excellent emendation in “ Midsummer-Night's Dream,” A. iii. sc. 2 (Vol. ii. p. 227), where Hermia absurdly asks, in the old copies (and as Mr. Dyce repeats), “ What news, my love ?" instead of “What means my love ?" The change of news to

means" in the corr. fo. 1632 is confirmed by a very similar misprint in Marlowe and Nash's “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” A. iii. (edit. Dyce, ii. p. 398), where the heroine offers to refit the Trojan ships, and re-clothe the mariners, if

« EdellinenJatka »