« 上一页继续 »
STATIONERS' REGISTERSQ 15
services, rather than to exhibit a true Pcate of the qucslion. The reason why we have discovered a greater proportion of errors in the former than in the latter, is because we have fought after them with a greater degree os diligence; for let it be remembered, that it was no more the- praclice of other writers than of Shakspeare, to correct the press for themselves. Ben Jonson only (wl1o, being versed in ther learned languages, had been taught the value of accuracy,) appears to have superintended the publicationl of his own dramatick pieces; but were those of Lyly, Chapman, Marlow, or the Heywoods, to be revised with equal indufiry, an editor would meet with as frequent opportunity for the exertion of his critical abilities, as in these quartos which have been so repeatedly censured by those who never took the pains to collate them, orjufiify the many valuable readings they contain; for when the character of them which we have handed down, was originally given, among typographical blunders, Scc. were enumerated all terms and expressions which were not strictly grammatical, or not easily understood. As yet we had employedsin our attempts at explanation only such materials as casual reading had supplied; but how much more is requisite for the complete explanation of an early writer, the lafi: edition of the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer may prove a sufficient witness; a work which in respect of accuracy and learning is without a rival, at leafl: in any Commentary on -an English cpoet. The reader will forgive me is I descrc my subject for a. moment, while Iexpress an ardent wish that the same editor 'may find leisure and inclination to
18 ENTRIES ON THE
obtained from the repetition of hungry aitors invited for that purpose to a tavern; or something like a .play might have been colleeted by attentive auditors, who made it theirzbusiness to attend succeeding representations with a like des1gn.' By these means, without any intent of hasty publication, one company of players was studious to prevent the trespasses of another) Nor did their policy conclude here; for 1 have not unfrequently met with registers of both tragedies and comedies, of which the titles were at someother time to be declared. Thus, july 26, 1576, john Hunter enters " A new and pleasant comedie or plaie, after the manner of Common Condycions ,-" and one Fielder, in Sept. 1581, prefers his right to four others, " Whereof he will bring the titles." " The famous Tragedy of the Rich jewe of Malta," by Christopher Marlow, is ascertained to be the property of Nich. Ling -and Tho. Millington, in May, 15g4, though it was not printed by Nich. Vavasour till 1633. as Tho. Heywood, who wrote the preface to it, informs us. In this manner the contending theatres were prepared to assert a priority of title to any copies of dramatick performances; and thus were they assisted by our ancient stationers, who flrengthened every claim of literary property. by entries secured in a manner which was then supposed to be obligatory and legal.
' See the notes of Mr. Collins and Mr. Malone at the end of the Third Part of King Henry VI. -
I may add, that the difficulty of procuring licences was another reason why some theatrical publications were retarded and others entirely suppressed. As we cannot now discover the motives which influenced the conduct of former Lord Chamberlains and Bishops, who fiopped the sale of several works, which nevertheless have escaped into the world, and appear to be of the mosll innocent
xnature, we may be tempted to regard their severity as rather difiiated by jcalousy and caprice, than by judgement and impartiality. See a note to my Ad-ucrtzscmcnt, p. 358.
The pnblick is now in possellion of as accurate an account of the dates, 8cc. of Shakspeare's works as perhaps will ever be compiled. This was by far the most irksomc part of my undertaking, though facilitated as much as possible by the kindness of Mr. Longman, ofPater-nofler Row, who readily furnished me with the three earliest volumes of the records of the Stationers' Cornpany, together with accommodations which rendered the perusal of them convenient to me though. troublesome to himself. STEEVENS.