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juftice to a folio volume of dramatick dialogues in metre, which required a fo much greater degree of accuracy?
But the worth of our contested volume also seems to be queftioned, because the authority on which even fuch changes in it as are allowed to be judicious, is unknown. But if weight were granted to this argument, what fupport could be found for ancient Greek and Roman MSS. of various defcriptions? The names of their tranfcribers are alike undiscovered; and yet their authority, when the readings they prefent are valuable, will feldom fail to be admitted.
Nay, further :-it is on all hands allowed, that what we ftyle a younger and inferior MS. will occafionally correct the mistakes and supply the deficiencies of one of better note, and higher antiquity.Why, therefore, fhould not a book printed in 1632 be allowed the merit of equal fervices to a predeceffor in 1623?
Such alfo, let us add, were the fentiments of a gentleman whose name we cannot repeat without a figh, which those who were acquainted with his value, will not fufpect of infincerity: we mean our late excellent friend, Mr. Tyrwhitt. In his library was this fecond folio of our author's plays. He always ftood forward as a determined advocate for its authority, on which, we believe, more than one of his emendations were formed. At least, we are certain that he never attempted any, before he had confulted it.
He was once, indeed, offered a large fragment of the first folio; but in a few days he returned it, with an affurance that he did not perceive any decided fuperiority it could boaft over its immediate fucceffor,
as the metre, imperfect in the elder, was often restored to regularity in the junior impreffion.
Mr. Malone, however, in his Letter to Dr. Farmer, has ftyled thefe neceffary corrections fuch "as could not escape a perfon of the moft ordinary capacity, who had been one month converfant with a printing-house;" a description mortifying enough to the prefent editors, who, after an acquaintance of many years with typographical myfteries, would be loath to weigh their own amendments against those which this fecond folio, with all its blunders, has difplayed.
The fame gentleman alfo (fee his Preface, p. 410) fpeaks with fome confidence of having proved his affertions relative to the worthlefsnefs of this book. But how are these affertions proved? By expofing its errors (fome of which nevertheless are of a very queftionable fhape) and by obferving a careful filence about its deferts. The latter furely fhould have been stated as well as the former. Otherwise, this proof will refemble the "ill-roafted egg" in As you like it, which was done only "on one fide." —If, in the mean time, fome critical arithmetician can be found, who will impartially and intelligently afcertain by way of Dr and Cr the faults and merits of this book, and thereby prove the former to have been many, and the latter fcarce any at all, we will moft openly acknowledge our misapprehenfion, and subscribe (a circumstance of which we need not
8 Thus (as one inftance out of feveral that might be produced) when Mr. Malone, in The Merry Wives of Windfor, very ju diciously restores the uncommon word-ging, and supports it by inftances from The New Inn and The Alchemift, he forbears to mention that fuch alfo is the reading of the fecond, though not of the first folio. See Vol. V. p. 166, n. 5.
be afhamed) to the fuperior fagacity and judgment of Mr. Malone.
To conclude, though we are far from afferting that this republication, generally confidered, is preferable to its original, we muft ftill regard it as a valuable fupplement to that work; and no ftronger plea in its favour can be advanced, than the frequent ufe made of it by Mr. Malone. The numerous corrections from it admitted by that gentleman into his text, and pointed out in his notes,
9 Amounting to (as we are informed by a very accurate compofitor who undertook to count them) 186.
Inftances wherein Mr. Malone has admitted the Corrections
will, in our judgment, contribute to its eulogium; at leaft cannot fail to refcue it from his prefatory imputations of being of no value whatever," and afterwards of" not being worth three fhillings." See Mr. Malone's Preface, and Lift of Editions of Shakspeare.
Our readers, it is hoped, will fo far honour us as to obferve, that the foregoing opinions were not fuggefted and defended through an ambitious fpirit of contradiction. Mr. Malone's Preface, indeed, will abfolve us from that cenfure; for he allows them to be of a date previous to his own edition.
I This doctrine, however, appears to have made few profelytes: at least, fome late catalogues of our good friends the bookfellers, have expreffed their diffent from it in terms of uncommon force. I must add, that on the 34th day of the auction of the late Dr. Farmer's library, this profcribed volume was fold for THREE GUINEAS; and that in the fale of Mr. Allen's library, April the 15th, 1799, at Leigh and Sotheby's, York Street, Covent Garden, the four folio editions of our author's plays were disposed of at the following prices :
He, therefore, on this fubject, is the affailant, and not the conductors of the prefent republication.
But though, in the courfe of fucceeding ftrictures, feveral other of Mr. Malone's pofitions may be likewife controverted, fome with seriousness, and fome with levity, (for our difcuffions are not of quite fo folemn a turn as those which involve the interefts of our country,) we feel an undiffembled pleasure in avowing, that his remarks are at once fo numerous and correct, that when criticifm "has done its worst," their merit but in a small degree can be affected. We are confident, however, that he himself will hereafter join with us in confidering no small proportion of our contested readings as a mere game at literary push-pin; and that if Shakspeare looks down upon our petty fquabbles over his mangled fcenes, it must be with feelings fimilar to thofe of Lucan's hero:
ridetque fui ludibria trunci.
In the Preface of Mr. Malone, indeed, a direct cenfure has been levelled at incorrectnefs in the text of the edition 1778. The juftice of the imputation is unequivocally allowed; but, at the fame time, might not this acknowledgement be feconded by fomewhat like a retort? For is it certain that the collations, &c. of 1790 are wholly fecure from fimilar charges? Are they accompanied by no unauthorized readings, no omiffion of words, and tranfpofitions? Through all the plays, and efpecially thofe of which there is only a fingle copy, they have been with fome diligence retraced, and the frailties of their collator, fuch as they are, have been ascertained. They fhall not, however, be oftentatiously pointed out, and for this only reafon: -That as they decrease but little, if at all, the