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been sometimes willing to bring a corollary, rather than want a spirit.' Nor, to confess the truth, did we always think it juftifiable to shrink our predeceffors to pigmies, that we ourselves, by force of comparison, might assume the bulk of giants.

“ The present editors must also acknowledge, that unless in particular instances, where the voice of the publick had decided against the remarks of Dr. JOHNSON, they have hesitated to displace them; and had rather be charged with superstitious reverence for his name, than censured for a presumptuous disregard of his opinions.

As a large proportion of Mr. Monck Mason's Atrictures on a former edition of SHAKSPEARE are here inserted, it has been thought necessary that as much of his Preface as was designed to introduce them, should accompany their second appearance b. Any formal recommendation of them is needless, as their own merit is sure to rank their author among the most diligent and fagacious of our celebrated Puer's annotators.

It may be proper, indeed, to observe that a few of thefe remarks are omitted because they had been anticipated ; and that a few others have excluded themselves by their own immoderate length; for he who publishes a series of comments unattended by the text of his author, is apı to overflow the measure' allotted to marginal criticism. In these cases, either the commentator or the poet must give way, and no reader will patiently endure to see

Alcides beaten by his page.'--Inferior volat umbra deo. Mr. M. Mason will also forgive us if we add, that a small number of his proposed amendments are suppressed through honeft commiferation. • 'Tis much he dares, and he has a wisdom that often guides his valour to act in safety; yet occasionally he forgets the prudence that should attend conjecture, and therefore, in a few instances, would have been produced only to be persecuted.-May it be fubjoined, that the freedom with which the same gentleman has created the notes of others, seems to have authorized an equal degree of licence respecting his own? And yet, though the fword

may have been drawn against him, he shall not com

See p. X.

plain that its point is . unbated and envenomed;' for the conductors of this undertaking do not fcruple thus openly to express their wishes that it may have merit enough to provoke a revision from the acknowledged learning and perspicacity of their Hibernian coadjutor.-Every-re-impression of our great dramatick master's works must be con. fidered in some degree as experimental ; for their corruptions and obscurities are still lo numerous, and the progress of fortunate conjecture fo tardy and uncertain, that our remote descendants may be perplexed by paffages that have perplexed us; and the readings which have hitherto difunited the opinions of the learned, may continue to difunite them as long as ENGLAND and SHAKSPEARE have a name. In short, the peculiarity once ascribed to the poetick isle of Delos, may be exemplified in our author's text, which, on account of readings alternately received and reprobated, must remain in an unsettled state, and float in obedience to every gale of contradictory criticism.--Could a perfect and decisive edition of the following scenes be produced, it were to be expected only (though we fear in vain) from the hand of Dr. FARMER, whose more ferious avocations forbid him to undertake what every readier would delight to possess.

“ This impression of the Plays of SHAKSPEARE must not issue into the world without particular and ample acknowledgements of the benefit it has derived from the labours of Mr. MALONE, whose attention, diligence, and spirit of enquiry, have very far exceeded those of the whole united phalanx of his predecessors.--His additions to our author's Life, his attempt to ascertain the Order in which his plays were written, together with his account of our ancient Stage, &c. are here re-published ; and every reader will concur in wishing that a gentleman who has produced such intelligent combinations from very few materials, had fortunately been poffessed of more.

“ The play of Pericles has been added to this collection, by the advice of Dr. FARMER. To make room for it, Titus Andronicus might have been omitted ; but our proprietors are of opinion that some ancient prejudices in its favour may still exist, and for that reason only it is preserved. c That is, in the Octavo Edition of Mr. STEEVENS.

" The

« The form and substance of the commentary attending this republication having been materially changed and enlarged since it first appeared, in compliance with ungrateful custom, the name of its original editor might have been withdrawn : but Mr. Steevens could not prevail on himself to forego an additional opportunity of recording in a title-page that he had once the honour of being united in a task of literature with Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. This is a distinction which malevolence cannot obscure, nor flattery transfer to any other candidate for publick favour,"

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be proper to observe that the learned Commentator whose name appears in the title-page is under no responsibility for the present edition. The press has been wholly corrected under the superintendance of Mr. BALDWIN; by whose attention the late very correct and elegant edition of Mr. Steevens was so handsomely in. troduced to the publick. For the selection of the Notes, which has been performed with fome industry and much impartiality, no one is answerable but Der. 20, 1796.

J. NICHOLS.

PREFACE TO MR. M. Mason's COMMENTS, &c.

1785.

Not thoroughly satisfied with any of the 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 fubject 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 of Malone, and the fagacity of Tyr. whitt. I will fairly confess that I was somewbat mortified at this discovery, which compelld me to relinquish a fa

vourite pursuit, from whence I had vainly expected to derive fome degree of credit in the literary world. This, however, was a secondary confideration ; and my principal purpose will be answered to my wish, if the Comments, which I now submit to the publick shall, 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 seems now to be finally settled, the great abilities and unwearied researches of the editor having left little obscure or unexplained e."

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, d Edit. 1778.

e 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. STLEVENS.

him, not only to the wearifome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar course of reading, neither pleafing nor profitable for any other purpose.

But I will venture to assert, that his merit is more con. fpicuous 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 par{ages, on very infufficient authority, indeed, whilft in others he has retained the anticnt 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 accord. ing to his own judgment, Malone's observation would have been nearer to the trụth ; but as it now sta ds, 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 must be owned he Þas clearly surpassed all the former editors. If, without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to fucceed 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 commen, tators, 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 or explanation, and have suffered many others to pass unheeded, that, in truth, were equally erroneous or obscure. It may possibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling mistakes in the printing, which

every reader perceives to be such, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, should escape unnoticed.

There is perhaps no fpecies 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

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