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about you, and draw what troope you can from the stage after you : the mimicks are beholden to you, for allowing them elbow roome : their poet cries perhaps, a pox go with you, but care not you for that; there's no mufick without frets.
Mary, if either the company', or indisposition of the weather binde you to fit it out, my counsell is then that you turne plaine ape : take up a rush and tickle the earneit eares of
fellow gallants, to make other fooles fall a laughing : mewe at the passionate speeches, blare at merrie, finde fault with the musicke, whewe at the children's action , whistle at the songs; and above all, curse the sharers, that whereas the fame day you had bestowed forty shillings on an embroidered felt and feather (Scotch fashion) for your mistres in the court, or your punck in the cittie, within two houres after , you encounter with the very fame block on the flage, when the haberdasher fwore to you the impression was extant but that morning.
" To conclude , hoord up the finest play-scraps you can get, upon which your leane wit may most favourly feede, for want of other stuffe, when the Arcadian and Euphuis'd gentlewomen have their tongues sharpened to set upon you, that qualitie (next to your shittlecocke) is the only furniture to a courtier that's but a new beginner , and is but in his ABC of complement. The next places that are fil'd after the play-houses bee emptied , are (or ought to be) tavernes : into a taverne then let us next march, where the braines of one hogshead muft be beaten out to make up another.”
I should have attempted on the present occasion to enumerate all other pamphlets, &c. from whence
particulars relative to the conduct of our carly theatres might be collected, but that Dr. Percy, in his first volume of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, (third edit. p. 128 , &c.) has extracted such passages from them as tend to the illustration of this subject; to which he has added more accurate remarks than my experience in these matters would have enabled me to supply. STEEVENS,
P R E F A C E
MR. M. MASON'S COMMENTS, &c.
O former editions of Shakspeare ,
even that of Johnson, I had resolved to venture upon one of my own, and had actually collected materials for the purpose, when that,' which is the subject of the following Observations, made its appearance; in which I found that a considerable part of the amendments and explanations I had intended to propose were anticipated by the labours and eccentrick reading of Steevens, the ingenious researches
9 Edit. 1778.
of Malone, and the fagacity of Tyrwhitt. — I will fairly confefs that I was somewhat mortified at this discovery, which compellid me to relinquish a favourite pursuit, from whence I'had vainly expected to derive fome degree of credit in the literary world. This, however, was a secondary consideration; and my principal purpose will be answered to my wish , if the Comments, which I now submit to the publick fall, in any other hands, contribute materially to a more complete edition of our inimitable poet.
If we may judge from the advertisement prefixed to his Supplement, Malone seems to think that no other edition can hereafter be wanted; as in speaking of the last, he says, “ The text of the author feems now to be finally settled, the great abilities and unwearied researches of the editor having left little obscure or unexplained."*
Though I cannot subscribe to this opinion of Malone, with respect to the final adjustment of the text, I shall willingly join in his encomium on the editor, who deserves the applause and gratitude of the publick, not only for his industry and abilities, but also for the zeal with which he has prosecuted the object he had in view, which prompted him, not only to the wearisome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar course of reading, neither pleasing nor profitable for any other purpose.
But I will' 'venture to assert, that his merit is
* As I was never vain enough to suppose the edit. 1778 was entitled to this encomium, I can find no difficulty in allowing that it has been properly recalled by the gentleman who bestowed it. See his Preface; and his Letter to the Reverend Dr. Farmer, p. 7 and 8. STEEVENS.
more conspicuous in the comments than the text; in the regulation of which he seems to have acted rather from caprice , than any settled principle; admitting alterations, in some passages, on very insufficient authority, indeed, whilst in others he has retained the antient readings, though evidently corrupt, in preference to amendments as evidently just: and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himself has proved to be false. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgement, Malone's observation would have been nearer to the truth ; but as it now flands, the last edition has no signal advantage, that I can perceive, over that of Johnson, in point of correctness.
But the object that Steevens had most at heart, was the illustration of Shakspeare , in which it inust be owned he has clearly surpassed all the former editors. If without his abilities , application, or reading, I have happened to succeed in explaining some passages, which he misapprehended, or in suggesting amendments that escaped his fagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have studied every line of these plays , whilst the other commentators, I will not except even Steevens himself, have too generally confined their observation and ingenuity to those litigated passages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, 'as requiring either amendment cr explanation, and have suffered many others to pass unheeded, that, in truth, were equally erroneous or obscure. It. may poslibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trilling mistakes in the printing, which every reader perceives to be
fuch, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, howeyer immaterial, should escape unnoticed.
-- There is perhaps no species of publication whatever, more likely to produce diversity of opinion than verbal criticisms; for as there is no certain criterion of truth, no established principle by which we can decide whether they be jusly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these observations will be generally approved of; some of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satisfactory even to myself, and are hazarded, rather than relied on:--But there are others which I offer with some degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers ofShakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of passages which have hitherto been misprinted or misunderstood.
In forming these comments, I have confined myself solely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnson: not doubting but the editors had faithfully stated the various readings of the first editions, I resolved to avoid the labour of collating; but had I been inclined to undertake that talk, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I reside.
I have selected from the Supplement, Pericles Prince of Tyre, because it is supposed by some of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at least as faulty as any of the