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"The frame and huge foundation of the earth-"
in the second and the subsequent quartos, the line by the negligence of the compositor was exhibited without the word huge:
"The frame and foundation of the earth—”
and the editor of the folio, finding the metre imperfect, supplied it by reading,
"The frame and the foundation of the earth."
Another line in Act V. sc. ult. is thus exhibited in the quarto, 1598:
"But that the earthy and cold hand of death-"
Earth being printed instead of earthy, in the next and the subsequent quarto copies, the editor of the folio amended the line thus:
"But that the earth and the cold hand of death-."
Again, in the preceding scene, we find in the first copy,
"I was not born a yielder, thou proud Scot-."
instead of which, in the fifth quarto, 1613, we have
"I was not born to yield, thou proud Scot."
This being the copy that was used by the editor of the folio, instead of examining the most ancient impression, he corrected the error according to his
own fancy, and probably while the work was passing through the press, by reading
"I was not born to yield, thou haughty Scot."
In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to her Nurse, "In faith, I am sorry that thou art not well."
and this line in the first folio being corruptly exhibited
"In faith, I am sorry that thou art so well."
the editor of the second folio, to obtain some sense, printed—
"In faith, I am sorry that thou art so ill."
In the quarto copy of the same play, published in 1599, we find
O happy dagger,
"This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die."
In the next quarto, 1609, the last line is thus represented:
"'Tis is thy sheath," &c.
The editor of the folio, seeing that this was manifestly wrong, absurdly corrected the error thus:
"'Tis in thy sheath; there rust, and let me die."
Again, in the same play, quarto, 1599, mishav'd being corruptly printed for misbehav'd,
"But like a mishav'd and sullen wench-"
the editor of the first folio, to obtain something like sense, reads
"But like a mishap'd and sullen wench-."
and instead of this, the editor of the second folio, for the sake of metre, gives us―
"But like a mishap'd and a sullen wench—.”
Again, in the first scene of King Richard III. quarto, 1597, we find this line:
"That tempers him to this extremity."
In the next quarto, and all subsequent, tempts is corruptly printed instead of tempers. The line then wanting a syllable, the editor of the folio printed it thus:
"That tempts him to this harsh extremity."
Not to weary my reader, I shall add but two more instances, from Romeo and Juliet:
"Away to heaven, respective lenity,
"And fire-ey'd fury be my conduct now!"
says Romeo, when provoked by the appearance of his rival. Instead of this, which is the reading of the quarto 1597, the line, in the quarto, 1599, is thus corruptly exhibited:
"And fire end fury be my conduct now!"
In the subsequent quarto copy and was substituted for end; and accordingly in the folio the poet's fine imagery is entirely lost, and Romeo exclaims,
"And fire and fury be my conduct now!"
The other instance in the same play is not less remarkable. In the quarto, 1599, the Friar, addressing Romeo, is made to say,
"Thou puts up thy fortune, and thy love."
The editor of the folio perceiving here a gross corruption, substituted these words:
"Thou puttest up thy fortune, and thy love;"
not perceiving that up was a misprint for upon, and puts for pouts, (which according to the ancient mode was written instead of powt'st,) as he would have found by looking into another copy without a date, and as he might have conjectured from the corresponding line in the original play printed in 1597, had he ever examined it:
"Thou frown'st upon thy fate, that smiles on thee."
So little known indeed was the value of the early impressions of books, (not revised or corrected by their authors,) that King Charles the First, though a great admirer of our poet, was contented with the second folio edition of his plays, unconscious of the numerous misrepresentations and interpolations by which every page of that copy is disfigured; and in a volume of the quarto plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, which formerly belonged to that king, and is now in my collection, I did not find a single first impression. In like manner, Sir William D'Avenant, when he made his alteration of the play of Macbeth, appears to have used the third folio printed in 1664.8
In that copy anoint being corruptly printed instead of aroint, "Anoint thee, witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries."
the error was implicitly adopted by D'Avenant.
The various readings found in the different impressions of the quarto copies are frequently mentioned by the late editors: it is obvious from what has been already stated, that the first edition of each play is alone of any authority," and accordingly to no other have I paid any attention. All the variations in the subsequent quartos were made by accident or caprice. Where, however, there are two editions printed in the same year, or an undated copy, it is necessary to examine each of them, because which of them was first, can not be ascertained; and being each printed from a manuscript, they carry with them a degree of authority to which a re-impression cannot be entitled. Of the tragedy of King Lear there are no less than three copies, varying from each other, printed for the same bookseller, and in the same year.
Of all the plays of which there are no quarto copies extant, the first folio, printed in 1623, is the only authentick edition.
An opinion has been entertained by some that the second impression of that book, published in 1632, has a similar claim to authenticity. "Whoever has any of the folios, (says Dr. Johnson,) has all, excepting those diversities which mere reiteration of editions will produce. I collated them all at the beginning, but afterwards used only the first, from which (he afterwards adds,) the subsequent folios never differ but by accident or negligence." Mr. Steevens, however, does not subscribe to this opinion. "The edition of 1632,
"Except only in the instance of Romeo and Juliet, where the first copy, printed in 1597, appears to be an imperfect sketch, and therefore cannot be entirely relied on. Yet even this furnishes many valuable corrections of the more perfect copy of that tragedy in its present state, printed in 1599.