HE distinguished character of SHAKESPEAR as a dramatic writer, the great demand for

his works among the learned and polite, and à laudable zeal for promoting home manufactures, were the principal motives for undertaking an edition of his works in Scotland.

Before we give an account of the method used in conducting this edition, it may not be improper to take fome notice of our author's modern editors. Nor will it perhaps be a disagreeable entertainment to the reader, to see their sentiments of one another, in their own words.

* Mr. Rowe (the first of these editors) was indeed a * wit (says Mr. Warburton); but fo utterly unacquaintmo

ed with the whole business of criticism, that he did “ not even collate or consult the first editions of the a work he undertook to publish.”—“ This gentleman is (fays Mr. Theobald) had abilities, and a fufficient “ knowledge of his author, had but his industry

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“ and, with equal judgment, though not always with “ the same success, attempted to clear the genuine “ plays from the interpolated scenes. He then consult« ed the old editions; and, by a careful collation of “ them, rectified the faulty, and supplied the imperfect “ reading, in a great number of places : and, lastly, « in an admirable preface, hath drawn a general, but

very lively sketch of SHAKESPEAR's poetic character; and, in the corrected text, marked out those peculiar strokes of genius which were most proper to

support and illustrate that character."--But though Mr. Pope had a juft title to the public thanks ; yet Mr. Theobald attacked him with great acrimony of expresfion, evidently flowing from personal prejudice. He interlards his notes with many severe reflections against Mr. Pope, represents his collation of old copies as a mere pretence, and ranks his edition among those of no authority. In short, he goes so far as to alledge, that “ Mr. Pope has seldom corrected SHAKESPEAR'S

text but to its injury; that he has frequently inflic“ ted a wound where he intended a cure; that he has « attacked his author like an unhandy slaughterman, “ and not lopped off the errors, but the poet.” But Mr. Warburton, the great friend of Mr. Pope, returned him measure for measure, as we will see anon.

This Mr. Theobald was the next editor after Mr. Pope. “ He (says Mr. Warburton) was naturally turned to in-"dustry and labour. What he read, he could transi scribe; but as what he thought, if ever he did think, so he could but ill express ; so he read on; and by that

means got a character of learning, without risking, “ to every observer, the imputation of wanting a better talent.

By a punctilious collation of the old “ books, he corrected what was manifestly wrong in " the latter editions, by what was manifestly right in " the earlier. And this is his real merit, and the whole cs of it. For where the phrase was very obsolete or có licentious in the common books, or only slightly cor

rupted in the other, he wanted sufficient knowledge “ of the progress and various stages of the English “ tongue, as well as acquaintance with the peculiari

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e ty of SHAKESPEAR's language, to understand what " was right; nor had he either common judgment to fee, or critical fagacity to amend, what was mani“ festly faulty. Hence he generally exerts his conjec“ tural talent in the wrong place : he tampers with “ what is found in the common books; and, in the old

ones, omits all notice of variations the sense of which 6 he did not understand.”

As to the Oxford editor, Sir Thomas Hanmer, the next editor :“ How he (says Mr.Warburton) came to think “ himself qualified for this office (criticism), from " which his whole course of life had been so remote, is “ ftill more difficult to conceive. For whatever parts

he might have either of genius or erudition, he was o absolutely ignorant of the art of criticism, as well as " of the poetry of that time, and the language of his « author. And so far from a thought of examining “ the first editions, that he even neglected to compare “ Mr. Pope's, from which he printed his own, with "Mr. Theobald's; whereby he lost the advantage of " many fine lines which the other had recovered from " the old quarto's. Where he trusts to his own sagacity, “ in what affects the sense, his conjectures are general“ ly abfurd and extravagant, and violating every rule “ of criticism. His principal object was, to reform \ his author's numbers : and this, which he hach done,

on every occasion, by the insertion or omifsion of a “ fet of harmless unconcerning expletives, makes up " the grois body of his innocent corrections. And so, as in {pite of that extreme negligence in numbers, “ which distinguishes the first dramatic writers, he hath “ tricked up the old bard, from head to foot, in all the *finical exactness of a modern measurer of fyllables."

Mr. Warburton was the next, and the last editor. * He tells us, that the world had never been troubled with his edition, but for the conduct of the two laft editors (Theobald and Hanmer), and the persuasions of

* Since this time (anno 1753) Dr. Sam. Johnston has given an edition of Shakespear, but his alterations are fo few and trifling, that there is no occafion to take further notice of him, a 2


dear Mr. Pope, who desired him to give a new edition of SHAKESPEAR, as he thought it might contribute to put a stop to the folly which prevailed of altering the text of celebrated authors without talents or judgment; and that his main care has been, to restore the genuine text; but in those places only where it labours with inextricable nonsenfe.“ In which (adds he) how “ much soever I may have given scope to critical con“ jecture, where the old copies failed me, I have indulg"ed nothing to fancy or imagination, but have religi« ously observed the severe canons of literal criticism."

Since the publication of the last of the aforementioned editions, a work has come abroad, in two volumes, intitled, The beauties of Shakespear, regularly Selected from each play. By William Dodd, B. A. As this gentleman has taken fome notice of SHAKESPEAR'S editors, we shall conclude our account of them, with

few of his remarks,

“ Mr. Theobald (says Mr, Dodd) has approved him, « felf the best editor of SHAKESPEAR that has appear" ed, by a close attention to, and deligent survey of " the old editions, and by a careful amendment of those “ flight faults, which evidently proceeded from the “ press, and corrupted the text.“ And, after observing that Mr. Theobald had left many passages untouched and unregarded, which 'were truly difficult, and called for the editor's assistance, he adds, “ It is plain, “ then, much work remained for subsequent commen" tators; and shall we add? still remains: for though « fucceeded by two eminent rivals (Hanmer and War, « burton], we must with no small concern behold this

imperfect editor ftill maintaining his ground; and “ with no little forrow observe the best judges of “ SHAKESPEAR preferring Theobald's to any modern “ edition.” He gives the reasons of this preference as follows.


• Sir Thomas Hamner (says he) proceeds in the most “ unjustifiable method, foisting into his text a thou. fand idle alterations, without ever advertising his

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" readers, which are and which are not SHAKESPEAR'S ! genuine words : so that a multitude of idle phrases " and ridiculous expressions, infinitely beneath the “ fublimity of this prince of poets, are thrown to his “ accounts; and his imperfe&tions, fo far from being

diminilhed, numbered ten fold upon his head.”

“ Mr. Warburton (continues Mr. Dodd) hath been « somewhat more generous to us: for though he has « for the most part preferred his own criticisms to the “ author's words, yet he hath always too given us the “ author's words, and his own reasons for those criti. “ cisms. Yet his conduct can never be justified for in“serting every fancy of his own in the text, when I “ dare venture to say, his better and cooler judgment “ must condemn the greatest part of them. What the “ ingenious Mr. Edwards says of him, seems exactly “ jult and true." That there are good notes in his « edition of SHAKESPEAR, I never did deny: but as “ he has had the plundering of two dead men [Theo" bald and Hanmer], it will be difficult to know which

are his own. Some of them I suppose may be: and hard indeed would be his luck, if among fo

many “ bold throws he should have never a winning calt. “ But I do infift, that there are great numbers of such “ shameful blunders as disparage the rest, if they do

not discredit his title to theni, and make them look “ rather like lucky hits, than the result of judgment.”

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Mr. Dodd adds the following remarks, to which every reader will chearfully give his allent. “ For my “ own part, (says he), I cannot but read with regret “ the constant jarring and triumphant infults, one o-'

ver another, found amidit the commentators on SHAKESPEAR.

This is one of the reasons that has impeded our arrival at a thorough knowledge in “ his works: for some of the editors have not so much " laboured to elucidate their author, as to expose the - follies of their brethren. How much better would “ it have been for SHAKESPEAR, for us, and for liter. “ ature in general; how much-more honour wonld it

"s have

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