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by all who remembered them. Burke hours, as described by Dr. Dibdin says, “A characteristic bon-mot is a (Bibliomania, p. 589), presents a usekind of oral caricature, copies of ful, and at the same time, monitory which are multiplied by every tongue lesson, which once read is remembered that utters it; and it is much less for ever. injurious or mortifying to be the “TẠe latter moments of Steevens object of a satirical work which is were moments of mental anguish. He seldom read more than once, and is grew not only irritable but outrageous; often thought of no more, than to be and, in full possession of his faculhitched into a sarcastic couplet, or ties, raved like a maniac, which could condensed into a stinging epithet, have been expected only from a creawhich will be equally treasured up by ture bred up without notions of mogood-humour or ill-nature, for the rality or religion. Neither resignation different purposes of malice or merri- nor joyful hope soothed his bed of ment." Professed personal jokers death. His language was too freare always popular in society with- quently the language of imprecation, out being loved. They are laughed and his wishes and apprehensions at though feared, and gain listeners such as no rational Christian can while they repel friends. “Never think upon without agony of heart. sacrifice your friend to your joke," Although I am not disposed to admit says old Bygrove to Dashwould, in the whole of the testimony of the Murphy's comedy. “I never do, sir," good woman who watched by his replies Dashwould, “unless the bedside, and paid him, when dead, the friend happens to be the worst of the last melancholy attentions of her two.” Steevens loved what is called office ; although my prejudices, as fun-a disposition closely allied to they may be called, will not allow mischief.
me to believe that the windows shook, Many charges imputing a malicious and that strange noises and deep nature have been made against groans were heard at midnight in his Steevens ; some are proved, and room; yet no creature of common others controverted. In the preface sense-and this woman possessed the to the works of Thomas Warton, he quality in an eminent degree-could is accused, while in habits of intimate mistake oaths for prayers, or boisterfriendship and daily intercourse with ous treatment for calm and gentle that eminent scholar, of writing ca- usage. If it be said, why 'draw his lumniating, paragraphs in the news- frailties from their dread abode ?' papers against him. But these para- The answer is obvious, and, I should graphs were not written by Steevens. hope, irrefragable. A duty, and a Mr. Seward, compiler of the “Anec- sacred one, too, is due to the living. dotes," who died in 1799, asserted Past examples operate upon future that Bicknell, the writer of a poem ones; and posterity ought to know, called “The Dying Negro,” acknow- in the instance of this eminent scholar ledged to him that he was the author and literary antiquary, that neither of them.
the sharpest art, nor the most George Steevens died at his resi- delicate intellectual refinement can dence in Hampstead, in 1800, being alone afford a man 'peace at the then in the sixty-fourth year of his last.' The vessel of huinan existence age. The latter portion of his life he must be secured by other anchors than passed almost entirely in unsociable these when the storm of death apretirement, and seldom mixed with proaches.” men but in booksellers shops, or at the Reed's enlarged Steevens kept the Shakespeare gallery, or at the morn- field against all comers until the aping conversazioni of Sir Joseph Banks. pearance of an enlarged Malone, in In touching on his unamiable quali- the same number of volumes, in 1821, ties, justice compels the remark, that under the supervision of James they were not tempered or controlled Boswell, the son of “ Bozzy.” This by any sense of religious faith. This Variorum edition, as it is called, highly gifted and accomplished places the pretensions of Malone on a scholar lived and died in a state of high pedestal. It is, as Mr. Richard scepticism or unbelief on the most Grant White says, in a recent note, important subject to which man's in- "A rich storehouse of Shakespearean tellect can be directed. His closing literature; though, like most storehouses, with its treasures it preserves copy of the second folio of 1632 had heaps of dross and rubbish." Shakes- fallen into the hands of Mr. J. Payne pearean emendation was now con- Collier, containing twenty thousand sidered by many to have reached the emendations or corrections in an point which called for a general ex- ancient hand and character, appaclamation of “Hold !--enough.” The rently almost coeval with the date tide paused for a time, but presently of the book. Mr. Collier having rushed on again with augmented vio- satisfied himself that this mass of lence. A newer and faster genera- improvement proceeded from one who tion asked for an accelerated rate of had possessed means of being better discovery. Young's allowance of informed than the editors of the first eighty years, and even Byron's of folio and all the subsequent comeight, for a changing world, had be- mentators heaped together, formed come too slow for modern literary ex- and avowed his conviction that we citement. Shakespeares poured upon were bound to admit the newly diseach other annually, and almost covered substitutions as the restored monthly, edited by Manley Wood, language of Shakespeare. In accordBallantine, Britton, Chalmers, Singer, ance with this implicit belief he pubValpy, Bowdler, Harness, Campbell, lished a volume giving an account of Knight, Collier, Dyce, and Staunton. how this precious “Perkins Folio," — Amongst the most popular, and on as he calls it, from the inscription, almost every shelf might be seen • Thomas Perkins, his book," on the
Knights Pictorial Shakespeare, cover-came into his possession ; how and “Collier's Library Editions,” each he threw it aside for some time within eight octavo volumes.
out notice ; and how at last he disUp to the year 1840, all that had covered its neglected treasures. Then been done for the illustration of follow thirteen hundred and three England's drama, and her great dra- selected alterations of the received matic poet, had been accomplished by text, preceded by a facsimile of a porindividuals; and no literary associa- tion of one page. Mr. Collier contion had been formed for the purpose cludes his accompanying preface of collecting materials by which this thus :-“I shall probably be told, in great national subject might be the usual terms, by some whose prethoroughly understood and appre- judices or interests may be affected by ciated. With this view the “Shak- the ensuing volume, that the old espeare Society” was instituted. corrector knew little about the spirit Every thing, whether derived from or language of Shakespeare ; and that manuscript or printed sources, which in the remarks I have ventured on threw light on our early dramatic his emendations, I prove myself to be literature and stage, came within the in a similar predicament. The last contemplated range. Private cabinets accusation is probably true. I have and public libraries were solicited to read and studied our great dramatist lend their aid. This association lasted for nearly half a century, and if I for ten years, from 1841 to 1851, and could read and study him for half a then died, apparently of exhaustion, century more, I should yet be far having published forty-seven volumes. from arriving at an accurate knowThe contributors were zealous, sup- ledge of his works, or an adequate plied the matter without fee or re- appreciation of his worth. He is an ward, for love alone ; and the matter author whom no man can read enough, was interesting and varied ; but the nor study enough ; and as my ambiexpectations exceeded the realization. tion has always been to understand There was a little of the close borough him properly, and to estimate him system in the mode of selection, and sufficiently, I shallaccept, in whatever something of the fumum ex fulgore terms reproof may be conveyed, any in the result. When the last number just correction thankfully.” appeared it was felt by many to be Mr. Collier evidently felt that he a relief; and we have never heard was courting a controversy, and saw that efforts were made for a revival. a foreshadowing of much dissent; but To our positive knowledge of Shakes- he could scarcely anticipate that his peare, little or nothing was added. book would be denounced as an im
In 1852 the reading world was posture, and that it would be more dartled at the announcement that a than insinuated that he was himself particeps criminis. A startling no- tions are modern forgeries, although velty generally takes at the outset. written in imitation of hands of the So it was in this instance. Many seventeenth century. went with Mr. Collier, his folio, and The controversy grew hotter. The the old corrector. Actors of emi- Athenaeum, the Times, the Edinburgh, nence gave in their adhesion, adopted the Quarterly, Messrs. Collier, Dufthe new writings with marked em- fus Hardy, Ingleby, Hamilton, &c., phasis in their delivery, and printed encountered in the lists, and sharp them in their stage versions. But cross-firing ensued, with pungent inthe critics soon reared their crests, sinuations direct and indirect. But and the war of controversy began. the heaviest point-blank battery was Mr. Singer, Mr. Dyce, Mr. Staunton, opened by an anonymous assailant and Mr. C. Knight, led the van of in a pamphlet published in 1855, enthe opposition, and formidable was titled “Literary Cookery, by a Dethe brunt of their attack. They de- tective;" the object of which was to nied the value of the corrections, as fix on Mr. Collier the fabrication of well as their antiquity. Disregarding the “Seven Lectures on Shakespeare the adverse opinions thus expressed, and Milton,” attributed to Coleridge, Mr. Collier issued a second edition yet with an ulterior object. Some of his volume of notes and emenda- legal proceedings emanated therefroin tions; and shortly after the contested against the publisher, but they ended folio passed into the proprietorship in nothing. The pamphlet, however, of the late Duke of Devonshire, in was suppressed or suspended, and it the hands of whose successor it now has become difficult to obtain a copy. remains. Efforts and suggestions had Public opinion seems to have debeen made, before this transfer, for cided, by a vast majority, that this an examination of the book under “Perkins Folio” is not to be admitted proper restrictions, that the genuine- as a genuine restoration of Shakesness of the handwriting of the notes peare; that the “old corrector” is a might be tested ; but these were not comparatively recent forger; that responded to. Mr. Howard Staun- more than three-fourths of the proton says, in the preface to his edition posed new readings are valueless, abof Shakespeare, 1860, “Having myself, surd, or inadmissible; that of the from the first publication of the small remainder which are judicious, Notes and Emendations, felt assured probable, or plausible, more than half by the internal evidence, that they have appeared before. Mr. Collier were for the most part plagiarized himself draws attention to the latter from the chief Shakespearean editors fact, which, always referring to the and critics, and the rest of quite mo- assumed antiquity of the notes, imdern fabrication, I earnestly longed presses him strongly as verifying many to have the writing tested. That profound conjectures and researches which was a desire before, became, of Pope, Theobald, Warburton, Hanwhen the present work was under- mer, Tyrwhitt, Steevens, Monk Mataken, a necessity; and during the son, and Malone. He omits the honest year 1858, I more than once com- old typo, Zachariah Jackson, five of municated to Sir Frederick Madden, whose most remarkable corrections as the most eminent palæontographer are also in this rejected folio. of the age, my motives for wishing But who was the impostor? When that the volume should undergo in- did he perpetrate the imposition? spection by persons skilled in an- And what was his object ? These are cient handwriting.” The volume was questions which are yet sub judice. subsequently obtained through the The time and trouble employed must courtesy of the present Duke of have been out of all proportion to any Devonshire, and submitted to mi- feasible chance of profit from a marcroscopic and chemical examination. ketable article. We cannot suffer Sir F. Madden, Professor Bodenstedt, ourselves to suppose for a moment Mr. Staunton, Mr. N. E. S. A. Ha- that Mr. Collier has in the remotest milton, Mr. 'Maskelyre, and other degree lent himself to this mysgentlemen perfectly familiar with the terious transaction. He may have writing of the period in question, been a dupe. He may still, for aught were unanimously of opinion that we know to the contrary, overrate the manuscript notes and emenda- the value of his folio, and stickle for its genuineness. We believe that his partly conceded to Malone--namely, account of the manner in which the that the transcripts of Shakespeare's book came into his possession, is a plays, as prepared for publication, true account. We do not believe that were taken down by the ear, in a he tampered with or cooked it in hurry, by short-hand writers and any manner. We doubt the physical mechanical copyists, from imperfect perseverance and possibility of one or careless recitations; and thus arose person making twenty thousand innumerable obscurities which have marginal notes and corrections in been perpetuated for more than two one book, in a simulated hand, in centuries. To this, it has been oblittle more than three years, and jected, that if we admit not only the while employed in many other active hypothesis of typographic mistakes, occupations. Above all, we think a but that of incorrect dictation or long life of respectability, and half a transcription from speech, there will century of fair literary reputation, be no end to speculative emendations. should have interposed as a sufficient This part of the controversy is still shield against such a heavy charge. an open question. Then there are gradations in delin- Where, then, amidst the Augean quency. Nemo repente fuit turpissi- mass of jarring criticism and disputed mus. Falling men do not slide all at readings, is a student of Shakespeare once into the depths of wrong. They to look for the nearest and safest dabble in small larcenies before they approach to his true text? We rob a church, kill a child, or forge a answer, without hesitation, to the will. When the late Mr. Singer first folio of 1623, with all its misopened the attack, he would have prints, omissions, and obscurities. It won more to his way of thinking had was given to us seven years after his he been less vituperative. A very dis- death, by his fellow-players, and they passionate and acute Shakespearean pledge themselves to have taken it said to us on the appearance of “The from the true original copies.” These Text of Shakespeare vindicated from copies were certainly the property of the Interpolations and Corruptions the theatre which had purchased and advocated by J. P. Collier, Esq.”: held them, and were either in the "I laid Singer's book down at the handwriting of the author, or warend of the preface, for I saw that it ranted by him as genuine. They was going to be one continued flourish formed the basis of the prompt books, of the tomahawk."
which in their class are as authentic The attacks have been too personal as the log of a ship, or the ledger of and the line of defence not the most a counting-house. Heminge and Conjudicious. But when was controversy, dell had free access to them, and could whether theological, philological, or not possibly think there were other professional of any kind, other than references which might be preferable. bitter ? Physicians have pulled wigs Cavillers who dispute this conclusion over the bed of a dying patient. would contest the validity of a docuTwo of our greatest philosophers, ment extracted from Doctor's ComSamuel Johnson and Adam Smith, mons. They belong to the school of interchanged common Billingsgate Sir Hudibras -when they met after a literary scutlie. And when did any one ever manage
“Who could distinguish and divide,
A hair 'twixt south and south-west side. his own case as well as counsel could
On either which they would dispute, have done it for him ? Thelwall
Confute, change hands, and still confute." would have fastened the rope round his neck, if, as he threatened, he had Young readers of Shakespeare who taken his defence out of Erskine's do not wish to be delayed or confused hands into his own. Eugene Arann's by the farthing candles of an army of personal pleading helped his con- expounders, which often cast more viction by inducing the judge to gloom than light over the road they think that it was too ingenious for pretend to irradiate, should read Dr. truth.
Johnson's preface once and again, and Every argument on every subject is they will not only become familiar based on a postulatum. Mr. Collier with one of the most masterly pieces requires a specific one, which has of composition in our language, but been previously demanded by and they will know more of the great bard, and will gleam a more distinct image phantly carried in favour of the great of his character and genius, of the modern. Very recently, a similar scope of his mind, and the depth of question came up again at a party his knowledge, than they will sub- where the late Douglas Jerrold was sequently extract from a whole library present, who undertook to produce, of misty conjecture and tiresome spe- within so many minutes, a passage culation. They will think too, when apposite to anything that might be they compare all, that much of the proposed. “Find us something about latter might have been spared. In the treadmill,” said one who thought the meantime let us direct their he had hit upon a poser. “The subattention to a passage containing ject is hardly fair,” observed another, sound advice as to the best course to seeing that it is an invention of yesadopt in the profitable and agreeable terday." The objection was overstudy :
ruled, out came watches, but before “Notes are often necessary, but time was called, “I have it,” cries they are necessary evils. Let him the wit, “ in a line from Lear":"> that is yet unacquainted with the
“Down, thou climbing sorrow.” powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasures If votes were to carry the day, we which the drama can give, read every believe they would run heavily in play from the first to the last, with favour of a holocaust of the pyramid utter negligence of all his commenta- of Shakespearean emendations which tors. When his attention is strongly darkens his meaning by the multiengaged, let it disdain alike to turn plying of vain words. His real aside to the name of Theobald or admirers care very little for his comPope ; let him read through bright- mentators, and the solemn disserness and obscurity, through integrity tations in which they commonly and corruption; let him preserve his indulge on trifling questions of punccomprehension of the dialogue, and tuation ; for their irrelevant quotahis interest in the fable ; and when tions from black-letter lore, their the delights of novelty have ceased, pedantic references to obsolete let him attempt exactness and read customs, and their wild inductions. the commentators.”
It is true, if we wish or think it inShakespeare knew everything—no cumbent on us to understand every one disputes this, let the channels word of an author who has been dead through which he acquired his know- two hundred and forty-six years, we ledge be what they may. One of the must accept the services of the antimost pleasing of the traditions which quary and verbal critic, encumbered have reached us, and which we willing- as they may be, by pleonasm and ly believe to be true, records a conver- insipidity. But these helps change sation between Ben Jonson, Sir John to serious impediments and standSuckling, Sir William Davenant, En- ing nuisances when their inordinate dymion Porter, and "the ever me- · bulk hides and half-extinguishes the morable” John Hales of Eton, as he original inspiration. is called in his book of “Golden But, how is Shakespeare, the highRemains.” At this meeting, Sir John priest of pure, unsophisticated nature, Suckling, who was a professed admirer likely to fare in his lawful home on of Shakespeare, undertook his defence the metropolitan stage, in these days against Jonson's charge of his want of high pressure sensation ? This of classical learning. Mr. Hales, who era of sensation dramas, sensation had sat still for some time, told them novels, sensation theology, and sensathat if Mr. Shakespeare had not read ' tion everything? Badly, we fear. the ancients, he had likewise not Clouds are gathering, and thunder stolen anything from them; and that has been heard on the left. Mr. and if he, Ben Jonson, would produce any Mrs. Kean have terminated their one topic finely treated by any of engagement at the Princess's, which them, he would undertake to show is no longer a Shakespearean temple. something upon the same subject at Mr. Phelps has retired from the least as well written by Shakespeare. management of Sadler's Wells, and The challenge was afterwards repeated Mr. Fechter is about to open the more definitely in a literary society Lyceum. These are tokens of an during the last century, and trium- eclipse, but, as we hope, only a tem