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This was advice that could not have pro- | ing of an uncommon word. But he became ceeded from any common mind. The founda- ambitious to show his power of writing, as tion of a right understanding of Shakspere is well as his diligence. If we turn over the love. Steevens read again and again with variorum editions, and light upon a note out love, and therefore without understand which contains something like a burst of ing. Boswell, the editor of Malone's post- genial admiration for the author, we find the humous edition, speaking of a note on ‘Ham- name of Warburton affixed to it. Warburlet,' says, that Steevens has expressed him- ton's intellect was capacious enough for love self “with as much asperity as if he had of Shakspere. But he delighted in decorating had a personal quarrel with the author.” his opinions with the tinsel of his own paraSteevens had a pettifogging mind, without a doxes. Steevens was the man to pull off the particle of lofty feeling, without imagina- tinsel ; but he did it after the fashion in tion, without even a logical apprehension of which the lace was stripped from Brother the small questions to which he applied him- Jack's coat:-“Courteous reader, you are self, But he was wonderfully laborious. given to understand that zeal is never so Knowing nothing of the principles of philo- highly obliged as when you set it a-tearing ; sophical criticism, he spared no pains in and Jack, who doted on that quality in bimhunting up illustrative facts; he dabbled in self, allowed it at this time its full swing. classical learning so as to be able to apply a Thus it happened that, stripping down a quotation with considerable neatness; and parcel of gold lace a little too bastily, he he laboured his style into epigrammatic rent the main body of his coat from top to smartness which passed for wit. The vicious bottom; and, whereas his talent was not of style of the letters of Junius was evidently the happiest in taking up a stitch, he knew his model ; and what that cowardly libeller no better way than to darn it again with had been in the political world Steevens packthread and a skewer.”* The zeal for was ambitious to be in the literary. He very tearing increased wi Steevens. He retired often attacked, under a mask, those with for fifteen years from the editorship of Shakwhom he mixed in intimate companionship; spere, to recreate himself in the usual way till at last his name became a byword for in which such minds find diversion—by meanness and malignity. It was impossible anonymous attacks upon his literary contemthat such a man could have written about poraries. But in 1793 he returned with reShakspere without displaying as much newed vigour to his labour of love, the deasperity as if he had had a personal quarrel facing of Shakspere. Malone, in the interval, with him.” And yet he was to be pitied. had been working hard, though perhaps with Like Hamlet, he had a task laid upon him no great talent, in the endeavour to preserve above his powers. Early in life he attached every vestige of his author. He was suchimself to literature and literary pursuits, cessful, and Steevens was thenceforward his not from any necessity, for his fortune was enemy. He would no longer walk in the ample, but with a real and sincere devotion. path that he had once trod. He rejected all He attached himself to Shakspere. He be- his old conservative opinions. In his edicame an editor of Shakspere. He was asso- tion of 1793, he sets out in his Advertisement ciated with Johnson in the preparation of an with the following well-known manifesto edition, and what he did in his own way against a portion of the works of Shakspere, was far superior to what his colleague had the supposed merit or demerit of which, it is effected without him. He gave a new tone perfectly evident, must have been applied to the critical illustration of Shakspere, by as a standard for other portions of Shakbringing not only the elegant literature of spere's poetical excellence :-“We have not Shakspere's own age to compare with him, reprinted the Sonnets, &c., of Shakspeare, but by hunting over all the sweepings of the because the strongest Act of Parliament that book-stalls of the same age, to find the ap- could be framed would fail to compel readers plication of a familiar allusion, or the mean
* Tale of a Tub.'
into their service; notwithstanding these William Sly and Thomas Poope.” Again :miscellaneous poems have derived every pos- “It is time, instead of a timid and servile sible advantage from the literature and adherence to ancient copies, when (offending judgment of their only intelligent editor, against sense and metre) they furnish no Mr. Malone, whose implements of criticism, real help, that a future editor, well aclike the ivory rake and golden spade in quainted with the phraseology of our author's Prudentius, are on this occasion disgraced age, should be at liberty to restore some apby the objects of their culture. Had Shak- parent meaning to his corrupted lines, and a speare produced no other works than these, decent flow to his obstructed versification. his name would have reached us with as The latter (as already has been observed) little celebrity as time has conferred on that may be frequently effected by the expulsion of Thomas Watson, an older and much more of useless and supernumerary syllables, and elegant sonnetteer.” Brother Jack is here an occasional supply of such as might fornot only tearing the coat, but throwing the tuitously have been omitted, not withstandwaistcoat into the fire. Let us hear how he ing the declaration of Hemings and Condell, means to deal with the coat itself :-“But, whose fraudulent preface asserts that they as we are often reminded by our 'brethren have published our author's plays 'as absoof the craft' that this or that emendation, lute in their numbers as he conceived them.' however apparently necessary, is not the Till somewhat resembling the process above genuine text of Shakspeare, it might be suggested be authorized, the public will ask imagined that we had received this text vain for a commodious and pleasant text from its fountain-head, and were therefore of Shakspeare. Nothing will be lost to the certain of its purity. Whereas few literary world on account of the measure recomoccurrences are better understood than that mended, there being folios and quartos it came down to us discoloured by the enough remaining for the use of antiquarian variation of every soil' through which it or critical travellers, to whom a jolt over a had flowed, and that it stagnated at last in rugged pavement may be more delectable the muddy reservoir of the first folio : in than an easy passage over a smooth one, plainer terms, that the vitiations of a care- though they both conduct to the same obless theatre were seconded by those of as ject.” ignorant a press. The integrity of dramas And this, then, is the text of Shakspere thus prepared for the world is just on a level that England has rejoiced in for half a cenwith the innocence of females nursed in a tury! These are the labours, whether of camp and educated in a bagnio. As often, correction or of critical opinion, that have therefore, as we are told that, by admitting made Shakspere “popular.” The critical corrections warranted by common sense and opinions have ceased, we believe, to have the laws of metre, we have not rigidly ad- any effect except amongst a few pedantic hered to the text of Shakspeare, we shall persons, who fancy that it is cleverer to disentreat our opponents to exchange that praise than to admire. But the text as corphrase for another more germane,' and say, rupted by Steevens is that which is generally instead of it, that we have deviated from put into the hands of the readers of Shakthe text of the publishers of single plays in spere. The number of editions of the text quarto, or their successors, the editors of the alone of Shakspere printed during the prefirst folio; that we have sometimes followed sent century is by no means inconsiderable ; the suggestions of a Warburton, a Johnson, and of these editions, which are constantly a Farmer, or a Tyrwhitt, in preference to multiplying, there are many thousand copies the decisions of a Hemings or a Condell, not- year by year supplying the large and inwithstanding their choice of readings might creasing demand for a knowledge of our have been influenced by associates whose greatest poet. With very few exceptions, high-sounding names cannot fail to enforce indeed, all these editions are copies of some respect, viz., William Ostler, John Shanke, edition whose received text is considered as
a standard-even to the copying of typo- | looked for syllabic regularity in Shakspere, graphical errors. That received text, to use and a moral. When they found not the the words of the title-page of what is called moral, they shook their heads. When they the trade edition, is “From the text of the found what they called “superfluous syllacorrected copies left by the late George bles" in Shakspere's lines, out went the Steevens, Esq., and Edmund Malone, Esq.” syllables, by carrying over a word to the If we were to suppose, from this title, that next line, sometimes of two, sometimes of Steevens and Malone had agreed together to three syllables. If there was a gap left, it leave a text for the benefit of posterity, we was filled up with rubbish. The excess of should be signally deceived. The received the second line was carried over to the third, text is that produced by Steevens, when he till a halting-place was found or made. This fancied himself “at liberty to restore some was mending the metre. Mending the apparent meaning to Shakspeare's corrupted moral was not quite so easy to the editors; lines, and a decent flow to his obstructed they left that task to the players, who, to do versification.” Malone was walking in his them justice, were in no degree slow to set own track, that of extreme caution, and an about the work with the most laudable emuimplicit reliance on the very earliest copies. lation of the labours of the critics. They The text of his edition of 1821, though de- cut out a scene here, and put in another formed with abundant marks of carelessness, there. “Lear' was to end with a jig, and 'Hamis an honest text, if we admit the principle let' with a song. The manager-botchers, upon which it is founded. But the text of however, in time grew timid. They wanted Steevens, in which the peculiar versification new Tates to make new happy endings, but of Shakspere, especially its freedom, its the age of George III. was not luxuriant vigour, its variety of pause, its sweetness, enough to produce such daring geniuses. its majesty, are sacrificed to what he called The managers, therefore, were obliged to be “polished versification,” has been received content with the glorious improvements of for nearly half a century as the standard the seventeenth century in all essentials. text.
But they did what they could. Shakspere's Hayley, the head of the school of English songs were poor simple things; they had poetry
“in the most high and palmy state” no point; not much about love in them; of Steevens, wrote his epitaph, which con- nothing of loyalty; and so Shakspere's cludes with these lines :
comedies were always presented with new “This tomb may perish, but not so his name,
songs by the salaried poet of “the house,"
for “the house" kept a poet, as the maker of Who shed new lustre upon Shakspeare's fage."
razor-strops did in those days. But GARRICK,
the twin-star of ShakspereThis may run by the side of Johnson's praise of a sermonizing note of Warburton :—“It
Shakspeare and Garrick like twin-stars shall
shine, almost sets the critic on a level with the
And earth irradiate with a beam divine"author.” Steevens, shedding new lustre upon Shakspere! Warburton, almost upon a level had many a twinkle of his own. In the with Shakspere ! Thus men talked in those Biographia Dramatica' we have a list of days, when their notion of poetry was simply thirty-nine plays by Garrick :-“He is well that it was not prose. Something in which known to have been the author of the the mechanical form was to be obviously dis- following, some of which are originals, and tinguished from other forms of composition the rest translations or alterations from other -a sermon, an essay-was poetry. They authors, with a design to adapt them to the looked for no inner life in poetry, no organi- present taste of the public.” (A predecessor zation of its own, that should determine its printed upon the title of a tragedy of which form. They looked for eight or ten syllable in a similar way he was “ the author," verse, for blank verse or couplet. They King Lear, a Tragedy: by Nahum Tate.')
Garrick's Shaksperean authorship was con- | Shakspere,' spoken by him at Stratford in fined to “ Romeo and Juliet,' "The Fairies' | 1769, and written by him, as it is said, which ("Midsummer Night's Dream'), 'The Tempest,' shows to us that the author of that oration, * Catherine and Petruchio' (“ Taming of the or parts of that oration, was far in advance Shrew'), “Florizel and Perdita' ('Winter's of the critical opinions of his day. Let us Tale'), 'Cymbeline', 'Hamlet.' This was pretty present a consecutive passage which imwell for a twin-star. Is it uncharitable to mediately follows that already transcribed :infer that the Stratford Jubilee in 1769 was “It was happy for Shakspeare, and for us, something as much for the honour of David that in his time there was no example by Garrick as of William Shakspere ? On this the imitation of which he might hope to be memorable occasion the corporation of Strat- approved. He painted nature as it appeared ford opened their proceedings by thus to his own eye, and not from a transcript of addressing Garrick :-“ Sir, you who have what was seen in nature by another. The done the memory of Shakspere so much genius looks not upon nature, but through honour are esteemed the fittest person to be it ; not at the outline only, but at the appointed the first steward of his jubilee.” differences, nice and innumerable, within it; The ode upon dedicating the town-ball, and at all that the variation of tints, and the erecting a statue to Shakspere, was written endless combinations of light and shade, can by Garrick, as well as spoken by him. It is express. As the power of perception is more, quite as good as birthday odes used to be. more is still perceived in the inexhaustible It would be beyond our limits to describe varieties of life ; but to copy only what the effect which this ode produced; how another has seen is to render superior rapturous was the public dinner ; how perspicacity vain ; and neither the painter brilliant were the transparencies in the hall; nor the poet can hope to excel who is content and how appropriate were the characters of to reflect a reflection, and to seek for nothing the masquerade, at which a thousand persons in nature which others have not found.
in honour of Shakspere, and thus he honours relative-powers that do not imitate, but him :-“We get knowledge from Shakspeare, create. He was as another Nature: he not with painful labour, as we dig gold from represents not only actions that were not the mine, but at leisure, and with delight, performed, but beings that do not exist; yet as we gain health and vigour from the sports to these beings he assigns not only faculties, of the field. A picture frequently pleases but character; he gives them not only pewhich represents an object that in itself is culiar dispositions, but characteristic modes disgustful. Teniers represents a number of of expressing them : they have character, Dutch boors drunk and quarrelling in a not merely from the passions and underwretched hovel, and we admire the piece for standings, but from situation and habit; a kind of relative beauty, as a just imitation Caliban and Ariel, like Shallow and Falstaff, of life and nature : with this beauty we are are not more strongly distinguished in construck in Shakspeare; we know his originals, sequence of different natures than of different and contemplate the truth of his copy with circumstances and employments. delight."
“As there was no poet to seduce Shakspeare This is the narrow view of the art of into imitation, there was no critic to restrain Shakspere which Johnson impressed upon his extravagance ; yet we find the force of his pupil. We read on, and we are be- his own judgment sufficient to rein his wildered. Slightingly have we spoken of imagination, and to reduce to system the new Garrick, because we felt that to do what he world which he made. has done with the masterpieces of Shakspere, “ Does any one now inquire whether Shakand especially with “Hamlet,' was to show speare was learned ? Do they mean whether that he did not understand them. But there he knew how to call the same thing by is something in this ‘Oration in Honour of several names ? for learning, with respect to
languages, teaches no more ; learning, in its practice of art went before the rules; that best sense, is only nature at the rebound; the question of his learning was to be settled it is only the discovery of what is ; and he contrary to the way in which the pedants of who looks upon nature with a penetrating criticism had settled it, by the proof that eye derives learning from the source. Rules his knowledge was all-abundant; that his of poetry have been deduced from examples, and judgment was sufficient to rein his imaginanot examples from rules: as a poet, therefore, tion; that he worked upon system, and Shakspeare did not need books ; and in no was therefore an artist in the highest sense instance in which he needed them as a of the word ; that what has been called the philosopher or historian does he appear confusion of his metaphors was the language ignorant of what they teach.
both of the prophet and the poet ; that his “ His language, like his conceptions, is moral purpose was to be collected incidentstrongly marked with the characteristic of ally, not only through informal speeches, nature; it is bold, figurative, and significant; but in every character and event? The his terms, rather than his sentences, are beginning and the end of Garrick's oration metaphorical ; he calls an endless multitude is commonplace. Here is a flood of light a sea, by a happy allusion to the perpetual shed upon the English opinion of Shakspere. succession of wave to wave; and he im- Was there any man in England, at that time, mediately expresses opposition by taking up whose philosophy was large enough, whose arms, which, being fit in itself, he was not knowledge was comprehensive enough, to solicitous to accommodate to his first image. allow him to think thus? Was there any This is the language in which a figurative man in England who dared so to express and rapid conception will always be ex- himself, in the face of authorities who had pressed: this is the language both of the so recently propounded a totally different prophet and the poet, of native eloquence system? There was but one man that we and divine inspiration.
can dream of, and he was Edmund Burke. “ It has been objected to Shakspeare that we cannot think that Garrick wrote these he wrote without any moral purpose; but I sentences. We can hardly think that he boldly reply that he has effected a thousand. knew the full force of what he was uttering. He has not, indeed, always contrived a series It would be a dreary task to attempt to of events from the whole of which some moral trace all that was published about Shakspere precept may be inferred; but he has con- from the date of Johnson's first edition to veyed some rule of conduct, some principle the close of the eighteenth century. A few of knowledge, not only in almost every speech out of the heap of these forgotten emanaof his dialogue, but in every incident, cha- tions of the critical mind, the multitude of racter, and event.”
which proves the strong direction of the We would attempt to deprive no man of national admiration, may not be unprofitably his fame ; but the passage which we have noticed. Johnson, when he has dismissed just transcribed appears to us so contrary to Shakspere from the shackles of the unities, the habits of thought which Garrick must says, “I am almost frighted at my own have acquired from his theatrical practice, temerity.” He dreaded the advocates of a so opposed to the recorded opinions to which contrary opinion, “ as Æneas withdrew from he was in the habit of looking up almost the defence of Troy when he saw Neptune with slavish reverence, that we cannot receive shaking the wall.” A Neptune arrived from the records of the Stratford Jubilee as Scotland in the shape of 'Cursory Remarks evidence that he wrote it. What—was the on Tragedy.' This work, though it dropped manufacturer of Shakspere's plays into farces, into oblivion, was the performance of W. and operas, and tragedies with moral endings, RICHARDSON, “ Professor of Humanity in the to be the first man in England to discover University of Glasgow.” A small specimen that Shakspere was a creator ; that he lived will suffice :—“with an impartiality which in a world of his own creation; that the becomes every man that dares to think for