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“ The word " kernes" seems here used with greater licence than usual, as mercenaries. See vol. v. p. 161.” COLLIER.
This remark appears to have been suggested to Mr. Collier by the words which immediately follow “kernes," — words which, according to his interpretation of “kernes," would be superfluous.
[Vol. vii. Collier; vol. viii. Knight.]
SCENE 1.-C. p. 200; K. p. 30.
“ A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye.” Here Mr. Knight (like Caldecott) very injudiciously prefers the reading of the first quarto, “moth,"—which is merely the old spelling of mote !—yet, with the greatest inconsistency, he prints in King John, act iv. sc. 2; - Hub.
None, but to lose your eyes.
where all the old editions have “ moth."
SCENE 2.-C. p. 206.
In obstinate condolement,” &c.
· Harp. My best lady,
Persever in it," Gifford observes, “So this word was anciently written and pronounced : thus the King in Hamlet ;
• but to perséver In obstinate condolement,' &c.
Massinger's Works, i. 7, ed. 1813. Hear, too, Mr. Collier himself, who on the line in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, act iii. sc. 2, (vol. i. 141),
** Ay, and perversely she persevers so," remarks, “ This was the old mode of accenting the word, as many instances might be produced to establish.”
SCENE 2.-C. p. 207.
“and yet, within a month,-
A little month,” &c. Why a full-point after “on't”? The sense runs on from 6 within a month” to “ A little month."
SCENE 2.-C. p. 209; K. p. 39.
- Ham. Saw! who ?”
These words, after being wrongly pointed in the quartos, “ Saw, who?" and more erroneously in the folios, " Saw ? Who?" have at length been embellished by the modern editors with both an exclamation and an interrogation-point. The right punctuation is doubtless “Saw who?" (i. e. whom); nor do I recollect any performer of Hamlet who understood the words but as a single question : no pause of astonishment was made between “Saw" and "who" by the two Kembles, Kean, and Young, - none is made by Macready and the younger Kean.
SCENE 2.-C. p. 212; K. p. 41.
have hitherto conceal'd this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still.” Mr. Knight gives the misprint of the folio, “ treble,” as had already been done by Caldecott, from whose edition he has borrowed the explanation, “ Hamlet imposes a threefold obligation of silence;" but has very prudently forborne to quote the parallel passages which are there adduced,—for, except that they happen to contain the words "treble,” “thirds,” and
thrice,” they bear not the most distant resemblance to the monstrous expression, " Let it be treble in your silence.”
SCENE 3.-C. p. 215 ; K. p. 44.
And they in France, of the best rank and station,
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.” “ The meaning perhaps is, · Are of a most select and generous rank and station, chiefly in that.' Malone, however, thought that 'chief' might here be used as in heraldry.” COLLIER.
“ So stands the line in the folio, and in the quartos, including that of 1603. •Of a' has been rejected by all the editors, except Malone, who deems chief, chiefe, or cheff, to be a substantive, having a meaning derived from heraldry. It is scarcely necessary to go to heraldry for an explanation of the word: we have it in composition, as in mischief, and the now obsolete bonchief. Chef, literally the head, here signifies eminence, superiority. Those of the best rank and station are of a most select and generous superiority in the indication of their dignity by their apparel.” Knight.
If were not equally certain that “Malone's knowledge of our ancient language was very limited, even at the end of his career” (Gifford's note on Ford's Works, i. 90); that Mr. Collier has read our early dramatic literature rather as a searcher after facts than as a philologist; and that Mr. Knight has come but recently to the study of old English writers,there would be cause for utter astonishment that they should have attempted to defend the original reading here, and not have perceived at once that “of a” was as much an injury to the sense as they must have acknowledged that it was to the metre.
Though Mr. Collier rightly understands “chief in that” as chiefly in that” (and the words can be used here in no other sense), his note, nevertheless, is quite as objectionable as any which has been written on this passage: when he explained “ of a most select and generous” to mean of a most select and generous rank and station,”— botching up a sense by supplying “ rank and station” from the preceding line, - did he seriously believe that such an ellipsis was allowable in the language of a civilised nation ?
During the many hours which I have spent (perhaps wasted) in collating early dramas, I have known four or five editions of a play, though differing from each other materially elsewhere, yet coincide in some one most erroneous reading (which was corrected by a fortunately extant ms.): the text
of that particular place having been once vitiated, the corruption had been retained in all the subsequent impressions. Such is evidently the case here (where there is unluckily no ms. Hamlet to refer to); and the probability seems to be, that the strangely impertinent words “ of a” found their way into the line, while the eye of the transcriber or compositor, glancing away from it for a moment, was arrested by " of the” immediately above. Let me dismiss this locus impeditus with an earnest hope that the next editor of Shakespeare will give,
“ Are most select and generous, chief in that,”mentioning in a note, but without the slightest comment, the original reading.
At the conclusion of the present speech, Mr. Knight observes ;
“ It has been objected to these maxims of Polonius that their good sense ill accords with his general character, his tediousness, his babbling vanity. It is remarkable that in the quarto of 1603, the precepts' are printed with inverted commas, as if they were taken from some known source; or, at any rate, as if Polonius had delivered them by an effort of memory alone.”
Not at all “remarkable.” In the quartos of the present play (excepting that of 1603) a speech of the Queen, act iv. sc. 5, is “printed with inverted commas:" I now cite it from 4to, 1605;
my sicke soule, as sinnes true nature is,
So full of artlesse iealousie is guilt,
• It spills it selfe, in fearing to be spylt. (the 4to of 1637 gives it with double commas.)
In various other early plays, THE GNOMIC PORTIONS are so distinguished : for instance, in Marston's Malcontent, 1604, where, among several longer passages printed with inverted commas, the following occur;
Mend. Thou rise ?
Mal. I, at the resurrection.
Sig. B 4 (c ed. of the same date, with additions).