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A. EDITIONS OF THE TEXT.
The Knight of the Burning Pestle was originally printed in quarto in 1613. A second quarto appeared in 1635, and still a third in the same year. The play, though not included in the First Folio of 1647, is in the Second Folio of 1679, and in all subsequent editions of the collected works of Beaumont and Fletcher. It is to be found, also, in three books of selected plays from English dramatists, and, finally, in a distinct volume in The Temple Dramatists series.
1613. The quarto of 1613 is the only edition of the play which was issued during the lifetime of Beaumont and Fletcher. Though published after the theatregoing public had condemned the stage-presentation, and hence designed for the general reader, its inaccuracies and inconsistencies in punctuation, and, less frequently, in spelling, show that it was not transcribed from the authors' MS., but from the prompters' books or the playhouse copies.
The imprint is a good example of the elementary stage of typography at the time. Frequent and annoying blunders occur. Chief among them are the omission of commas, semicolons, periods, and interrogation points, and the gratuitous substitution of any one of these marks of punctuation for another. Often the sense remains unimpaired in spite of these mistakes ; quite as often, however, it is obscured or vitiated by them. Owing, no doubt, to the unsettled condition of orthography at the time, inconsistencies
in spelling, also, are to be found in the quarto. Thus we find Rafe and Raph for modern Ralph; cunny, conny, and cony; shawmes and shawnes; of (off) and of"; am ('em) and 'em; ben, bene, and beene ; faith and feth ; lam and lamb; tane and ta’en for taken. There are numbers of purely typographical errors.
In spite of these discrepancies and blunders, the quarto of 1613 presents the most satisfactory basis of departure for a critical treatment of the play. Many corrections are made in the quartos of 1635 and the folio of 1679 ; but often, too, an original reading is preferable to its alteration, and neither the quartos nor the folio can be set forth as authoritative. All things considered, it has been deemed best to adopt for this edition the text of the First Quarto, and to subjoin whatever variant readings are helpful in removing difficulties or suggestive of alternative readings.
1635. Two quarto editions were published in 1635. Though they are identical in leaf-collation, neither is a reprint of the other. Copies of these editions are bound together in a single volume preserved in the Boston Public Library. I treat them, according to their arrangement, as Q, and Qz.
Q2 effects a valuable improvement in removing all of the misprints in the First Quarto as noted above. There is an advance toward modernization in spelling. There are one or two helpful emendations of the text, i. e. of 'em for 'em (1. 223), and get you to for get to (2. 256). There are many improvements upon the First Quarto in punctuation. On the other hand, there are a number of unwarranted alterations, i. e. by my faith for by faith (1. 264); I shall for shall I (2. 451); bound to thank you for bound to you (3. 319); blowing for bellowing (4.468); Too for To (5. 14); part for depart (5.374).
Qs represents few marked differences from Qg. There are a few further improvements in punctuation. The mistakes of Q2 noted above are, however, retained, and to them are added these additional false readings: the omission of right (1. 345); estate for state (1. 391); deare for my deere deere (3.1); are for be (3. 121). Two other new readings, though retained in all subsequent editions, seem to me wrong, for reasons which are advanced in my notes; they are as for an (2. 179), and Pottage for Porrage (4. 216).
In general, the quartos of 1635 may be said to be an improvement on the text of the earliest edition, offering, as they do, clearer and more consistent readings by virtue of their more careful punctuation; but the considerable number of indefensible alterations in them weighs against their authoritative value, and makes necessary a reversion to the original quarto as the basis of investigation.
1679. The folio of 1679, so far as regards The Knight of the Burning Pestle, is a disappointing book. On the general title-page it is announced that the plays are 'published by the authors original copies,' but we learn in the bookseller's preface addressed to the readers that this statement applies only to the thirty-four plays previously issued in the First Folio, 1647, and, moreover, its validity is denied by competent investigators. The Knight of the Burning Pestle is not included among these thirty-four plays. It is one of the seventeen additional plays regarding which the booksellers of 1679 make the following statement: 'Besides, in this Edition you have the addition of no fewer than Seventeen Plays more than were in the former, which we have taken the pains and care to collect, and print out of 4to in this Volume, which for distinction sake are markt
with a Star in the Catalogue of them facing the first Page of the Book.'
It is apparent that the folio of 1679 forms its text of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, not upon the authors' MS., but upon the quarto editions already described. An examination of its readings, moreover, will show that the quartos of 1635, rather than the quarto of 1613, are depended upon. There has been occasion to cite, in the list of variants subjoined to my text, relatively few alterations of Q, and Q; readings made by the folio. There is an occasional improvement of the punctuation. There is also a further modernization of the spelling, notably in the following instances: the conjunction then regularly becomes than ; Rafe and Raph regularly become Ralph ; moneth regularly becomes month ; maister regularly becomes master; diuel regularly becomes devil ; a'th, a thy, a my, a your, &c., become o'th, o thy, o my, o your, &c. On the other hand, all the false readings of Q, and Q3 noted above are carried over to the folio, and, to offset this flaw, the improvements afforded the text are not of sufficient number or of sufficient substantive value to give the folio any marked superiority over its predecessors.
1711. This edition is of small worth. It rationalizes the punctuation, indeed, in some passages modernizes such markedly obsolete spelling as sute for shoot (1. 164), and introduces a good emendation, viz. These for There (4. 292). On the other hand, it makes arbitrary alterations, i. e. Grocers for Grocery (Ind. 97), and ignorant for Ingrant (3. 576), while, in general, it closely follows the folio, continuing the latter's errors, and adopting, but adding little to, its improvements.
1750. This is the first edition of Beaumont and