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one hand that Shakespeare had none at all; and because Shakespeare had much the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that Johnson wanted both. Because Shakespeare borrowed nothing, it was said that Ben Johnson borrowed every thing. Because Johnson did not write extempore, he was reproached with being a year about every piece; and because Shakespeare wrote with ease and rapidity, they cry’d, he never once made a blot. Nay the spirit of opposition ran fo high, that whatever those of the one fide objected to the other, was taken at the rebound, and turned into praises ; as injudiciously, as their antagonists before had made them objections.
Poets are always afraid of envy ; but sure they have as much reason to be afraid of admiration. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of authors ; those who escape one, often fall by the other. Peffimum genus inimicorum laudantes, says Tac citus : and Virgil defires to wear a charm against those who praise a poet without rule or reason.
Si ultra placitum laudârit, baccare frontem Cingito, ne vati noceat But however this contention might be carried on by the partizans on either side, I cannot help thinking these two great poets were good friends, and lived on good terms, and in offices of society with each other. It is an acknowledged fact, that Ben Johnson was introduced upon the ftage, and his first works encouraged, by Shakespeare. And after his death, that author writes, To the memory of bis beloved Mr. William Shakespeare; which shews as if the friendship had continued through life. I cannot for my own part find any thing invidious or sparing in those verses, but wonder Mr. Dryden was of that opinion. He exalts him not only above
all his cotemporaries, but above Chaucer and Spenser, whom he will not allow to be great enough to be ranked with him; and challenges the names of Sophocles, Euripides, and Ærchylus, nay all Greece and Rome at once, to equal him, and (which is very particular) expresly vindicates him from the imputation of wanting art, not enduring that all his excellencies should be attributed to nature. It is remarkable too, that the praise he gives him in his Discoveries seems to proceed from a personal kindness; he tells us, that he loved the man, as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his temper; and only distinguishes, as he really ought, between the real merit of the author, and the filly and derogatory applauses of the players. Ben Johnson might indeed be sparing in his commendations (though certainly he is not so in this instance) partly from his own nature, and partly from judgment. For men of judgment think they do any man more service in praising him justly, than lavishly; I say, I would fain believe they were friends, though the violence and ill-breeding of their followers and Aatterers were enough to give rise to the contrary report. I would hope that it may be with parties, both in wit and state, as with those monsters described by the poets ; and that their beads at least may have something human, though their bodies and rails are wild beasts and serpents.
As I believe that what I have mentioned gave rise to the opinion of Shakespeare's want of learning, fo what has
ontinued it down to us may have been the many blunders and illiteracies of the first publishers of his works. In these editions their ignorance fines in almost every page; no-, thing is more common than A&us tertia.
Exit omnes. Enter three witcbes folus. Theis French is as bad as their
Latin, both in construction and spelling ; their very Welsh is false. Nothing is more likely than that those palpable blunders of Hector's quoting Aristotle, with others of that grofs kind, sprung from the same root; it not being at all credible that these could be the errors of any man who had the leaft tincture of a school, or the least conversation with such as had. Ben Johnson (whom they will not think partial to him) allows him at least to have had fome Latin ; which is utterly inconfiftent with mistakes like these. Nay the constant blunders in proper names of persons and places, are such as must have proceeded from a man, who had not so much as read any history, in any languge: so could not be Shakespeare's.
I shall now lay before the reader some of those almost innumerable errors, which have arisen from one source, the ignorance of the players, both as his actors, and as his edidors. When the nature and kinds of these are enumerated and considered, I dare to say that not Shakespeare only, but Aristotle or Cicero, had their works undergone the fame fate, might have appeared to want sense as well as learning.
It is not certain that any one of his plays was published by himself. During the time of his employment in the theatre, several of his pieces were printed separately in quarto. What makes me think that most of these were not published by him, is the excessive carelessness of the press : every page is so scandalously false spelled, and almost all the learned or unusual words so intolerably. mangled, that it's plain there either was no corrector to the press at all, or one totally illi. terate. If any were supervised by himself, I should fancy the two parts of Henry the IVth and Midsummer Night's Dream might have been so; because I find no other printed
with any exactness; and (contrary to the rest) there is verylittle variations in all the subsequent editions of them. There are extant two prefaces, to the first quarto edition of Troilus and Cressida in 1609, and to that of Othello; by which it appears, that the first was published without his knowledge or consent, and even before it was acted, so late as seven or eight years before he died : and that the latter was not printed 'till after his death. The whole number of genuine plays which we have been able to find printed in his life-time, amounts but to eleven. And of some of these, we meet with two or more editions by different printers, each of which has whole heaps of trash different from the other; which I should fancy was occafioned by their being taken from different copies, belonging to different play-houses.
The folio edition (in which all the plays we now receive as his, were firft collected) was published by two players, Heminges and Condell, in 1623, seven years after his decease. They declare, that all the other editions were stolen and furreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from the errors of the former. This is true as to the literal errors, and no other ; for in all respects else it is far worse than the quartos.
First, because the additions of trilling and bombast passages are in this edition far more numerous. For whatever had been added, since those quartos, by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text, and all stand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, where he wishes that those who play the clowns would speak no more than is set down for tbem. (A& III. scene 4.) But as a proof that he could not escape it, in the old editions of Romeo and Juliet, there is no hint of a great number of
the mean conceits and ribaldries now to be found there. In others, the low scenes of mobs, plebeians and clowns, are vastly shorter than at present : and I have seen one in particular (which seems to have belonged to the play-house, by having the parts divided with lines, and the actors names in the margin) where several of those very passages were added in a written hand, which are fince to be found in the folio.
In the next place, a number of beautiful passages which are extant in the first single editions, are omitted in this : as it seems without any other reaļon, than their willingness to horten some scenes : these men (as it was laid of Procruftes) either lopping or stretching an author, to make him just fit for their stage.
This edition is faid to be printed from the original copies; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the author's days in the play-house, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the quartos, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the prompter's book, or piecemeal parts written out for the use of the actors : for in fome places their very (1) names are through carelessness set down instead of the ; erfona dramatis : and in others the notes of direction to the property-men for their moveables, and to the players for their entries, are inserted into the text, through the ignorance of the transcribers.
The plays not having been before so much as distinguished by acts and scenes, they are in this edition divided according
(1) Much Ado about Nothing. A& II. Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, and Jack Wils11, in tead of Balthafar. And in act iv. Cowley and Kemp, constantly through a whole scene. Edit, fol. of 16230 and 1632