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In sending forth to the public this third and last volume of the present series, I cannot refrain from expressing my gratification at the favourable manner in which the attempt has been received—much more favourable, indeed, than I had ventured to expect. For not only was I fully conscious that I could not reasonably hope to be able to produce a faultless work in a field so far removed from my ordinary studies and pursuits, but, coming forward as an idiótns among the professed åo kytać of Shakspearian literature, I feared that some, at least, of the less generous spirits among them might be inclined to resent my intrusion upon ground which they had preoccupied, and by skilful and continuous labour had made, they might think, peculiarly their own. As it is, with only a single exception, among the numerous notices which I have seen of various kinds, even where there has been found something to censure, the amount of praise has largely predominated. On the one hand, the more prominent features of the work—viz., the marginal notes, intended
to contain interpretations of every word and phrase that requires to be explained, and the illustrations of historical events and characters, now for the first time brought to bear upon the text throughout the entire series of the plays—have met with unqualified approval from all quarters : on the other hand, of my dealings with the text, there have been (as was to be looked for) some few complaints—partly on the score of insertion, and still more of alteration or excision, and I am far from wishing to maintain that they have been altogether unfounded. With regard to the formerviz., cases of insertion—I have already admitted, in the Preface to vol. ï. p. ix, note, that the attempt to fill up such imperfect lines as come under the protection of Walker's canon—viz., that “single lines of four, or five, or six, or seven syllables are not to be considered as irregularities” (see vol. i., Pref., p. xxvi) — was injudicious, and in the rare instances — not more than three or four-in which it has been made, will in future editions be abandoned. But I am not aware that fault has been found with any one of the far more numerous cases in which, in deference to the latter part of that same canon—viz., that “lines of eight or nine syllables are at variance with the general rhythm of Shakspeare's poetry" — the defective lines have been made good ;7 and if I have succeeded in this, I have
1 The only instances, I think, in which I have allowed a line of eight syllables to remain are: Cor., i. 1. 158, where I cannot but think that “For that,” in the beginning of Menenius's speech, belongs to that line (comp. line 109), and that a word like “vilest” has dropped out in the line following-see Walker, ‘Crit. Exam.,' ii. p. 13; Ibid., v. 2. 2,
done something to render the text of these plays less imperfect, and consequently more agreeable both to be read and to be heard. Moreover, in regard to my treatment of the text under the other head—viz., of alteration or excision—it is to be borne in mind that, in the Preface to vol. i. p. xxi, I distinctly state that the right of restitution—jus postliminii—would be readily allowed “in any case where it can be shown that a passage has been altered or rejected without sufficient reason.” And what has been the result ? While one, at least, of my critics, who has evidently taken pains to make himself acquainted with the merits and bearings of the question, declares that, in his opinion, I have “erred rather on the side of caution than of courage ;” and while another testifies that I “ furnish the family circle with a text of Shakspeare which will never offend the purest delicacy, and yet sacrifices no literary beauty to mere prudery;" there have not been wanting two or three others who, in these same respects, have seen cause not only to withhold commendation, but to administer reproof. For instance, Professor E. Dowden, in the ? Academy,' takes a directly opposite line to that of my critics in the 'Dublin Even
where "fellow," I think, should be inserted after “stand"; J. Cæs., ii. 1. 60, where I would place "'tis good” at the end of the preceding line, and after “gate” insert "and look”; Ibid., 2. 113, where I would take a similar course, throwing back “And look," and adding “forth ” after “fetch me”; Ant. and Cleop., i. 4. 88, where may be read, “So fare you well”; iv. 4, last line, where the text appears doubtful; and K. Rich. 3, iii. 3. 94, where there is everything to excuse the defect. In Cor., i. 1. 74, “Enemies”
may be a dissyllable. Respecting “lines of nine syllables as alien to Shakspeare,” see Appendix at the end of this volume, Sect. VI.
ing Mail’ and the 'Edinburgh Courant, and denounces me, “in a strictly editorial sense, as a bold, bad man." In support of this charge, he brings prominently forward two alterations (J. Cæs., ii. 1. 299 and 313) put into the mouth of Brutus's Portia, as instances of an “immodesty of prudery, which, when detected, ought to be courageously exposed;' and in this adverse judgment my friend, Professor L. Campbell, though in more measured terms, substantially concurs. Professor E. Dowden has written so admirably upon Shakspeareand not upon Shakspeare only, for his “Southey” in 'English Men of Letters' is, I think, one of the very best and ablest of that most interesting and instructive series that I should be loth to uphold an opinion contrary to his; and I have already intimated elsewhere the high value I attach to the judgment of Professor L. Campbell upon all matters, critical and poetical, both of classical and English literature. It must, however, be confessed that, when I made the slight changes in question, I had in view the case, not of middle-aged professors— deeply versed in all kinds of dramatic and other lore--nor, indeed, of men at all, but of ladies called upon to read the part of Portia before a mixed company, some of whom would, in all probability, be younger than themselves : and the ghost that haunted me was certainly not, as Professor Dowden would suggest, the consciousness of being “a Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church,” but the "macima revercntia," which even a Roman heathen and a satirist, far enough exempt from all taint of prudery, could pronounce to be “due” even “to boys.” And while I am