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whom died before, and the other but nine years after him, were preferred by the town to his, chiefly, as we gather from Dryden, on account of the "gaiety” of the dialogue of those "twin stars of wit," and because no poet could equal them in describing the "wild debaucheries of gentlemen." Dryden's comedies, not to mince the term, are infamous. In those days Shakespeare's muse, as we know, was not a favourite; he was not licentious enough. Now the manners are so changed, that Beaumont and Fletcher, Dryden, and a crowd of others, would have their comedies hooted from the stage by the most profligate among us. With all their interest and dramatic effect, with whatever care, omissions, and changes have been made, they are still found too much grounded on obscenities and repulsive subjects, to become approved acting plays; while Shakespeare continues to step forth in his glory, with no omissions but trivial ones, such as were pure in his day, or such as many have suspected never came from his pen. Had he lived to edit his own works, doubtless the greater and the worse part of his objectionable passages would have been unknown, particularly in his comic scenes. Buffoon actors, like Tarlton, his fellow in the theatre, prided themselves in adding to the text, and were greatly applauded according to their extemporaneous witticisms. These crept into the text, and became a cause of complaint on the part of Shakespeare, as we read in Hamlet's advice to the players.
I know not what omissions Mr. Bowdler has thought fit to make; but there are certain omissions which ought to be made in every edition. When I have met
with language,-unlike the nakedness of a child, for to such nakedness I do not affect the smallest repugnance, —but with language partaking rather of the nakedness of a satyr, or offensive from its creating disgust, I generally perceived, at the time I first read with the aid of annotations, that such passages were not printed either in one of the old quartos, or in the first folio. Now when passages of that peculiar bad character are wanting in either one of the old copies, I hold it authority sufficient for an editor not to introduce them; nay, it is incumbent on him not to pollute the text by one authority alone. I will go farther, and say that a discriminating editor might satisfactorily fix on what is and what is not Shakespeare's, when he has no authority in one of the old copies, solely by attending to the distinction between the nakedness of a child and that of a satyr, and between that which is inoffensive in nature and that which creates disgust.' After all, such passages are far from being numerous,
* Let me not be misunderstood. I would not have his text deprived of the plain unvarnished name for vice; such a name befits it; if minced, it is a sort of pander. Our own honesty, as well as that of our language, is in jeopardy, by attending to the qualms of affectation, or the affected blush of hypocrisy. Adultery and such matters now stalk abroad under refined titles; which was not permitted by our ancestors, unless from the mouths of the guilty, privileged to use palliative or cant phrases. If it is an evidence of our civilization to veil the ugliness of vice in our discourse, why is not murder expressed by a milder word ?—why not rendered less revolting to our ears? And what might be the consequence ? If certain actions are criminal, is not the taking away their distinctive badge dangerous to society? Our verbal truckling with vice would have shocked the morality of the honester olden time.
may be spared without the slightest injury to the text;-another proof of their having been interpolated. Shakespeare himself has let us know, in his poems to Master William Herbert, how disreputable, in his estimation, is licentious conversation; and he forcibly contends that a libertine's authority over his company, or his grace in uttering it, renders it the more dangerous:
"Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds."
For his character on this subject, let the reproof to his young friend in the Fourth Poem be read; and then we shall feel assured we possess unworthy additions to his works.
An accusation of a bad nature has lately been made against him by Dr. Lardner, which ought to be crushed in the bud, since it pretends to be founded on tradition; a fragile authority certainly, but still apt to mislead many. It bears an air of candour, being linked with the highest praise in the same sentence;-"On his honesty or his justice, no censure has been passed even by tradition; but tradition does say that he was not averse to the bottle." If this means that he was addicted to wine drinking, Dr. Lardner has met with a tradition that has totally escaped me. We know of his good companionship, and some particulars of it, but where is the traditionary authority for his not having been "averse to the bottle," or for a hint to that effect? Neither Dr. Lardner, nor any one else, I hope, is entitled to such authority. No one accustomed to be inflamed by wine, from Anacreon down to Ben Jonson and his Bacchanalian
successors, appears otherwise in his writings than sensual, blinking, or extravagant; three qualities not discernible in Shakspeare, unless aptly when he introduces drunkards. He will never be advisedly quoted as an example by topers. They cannot meet with encouragement in Hamlet's atrocious uncle, the sack-sponge selfish Falstaff, the revolting Sir Toby Belch, the murderer and insensible Barnardine, or the brutish Caliban; Cassio's occasional drop too much, meets with woful consequences, and is followed by an edifying remorse; and Lady Macbeth, with her cordial to invigorate her towards murder, is by no means a pattern for her sex to follow. Never was keener or more temperate satire, for anger on such an occasion is suspicious, against intemperance, than in the several characters above-mentioned, each influenced or wedded to evil by it, though in different degrees, as it acts on different characters. No apology is offered for the vice, except by an Iago, from interested and infamous motives, which crowns the satire of the whole. In his poems, (an extraordinary omission for an English poet) Shakespeare never once alludes to wine. But judging solely from the unruffled tendency of his philosophy throughout his writings, his brain never could have been inflamed; and it remains for Dr. Lardner to inform us from what source he has derived so impure a traditionary stream.
But Dr. Lardner has done infinitely worse. When I have pointed it out, I shall take leave of him for ever. It is almost impossible, almost absurd to imagine malignancy towards the memory of Shakespeare, yet to what else can we ascribe it? I do not now
speak of a matter of opinion, but of a falsification of our poet's text, in order to blacken his character. In the second volume of Dr. Lardner's Lives of the most eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Great Britain, in his life of Shakespeare, page 101st, line 9th from the top, word 6th, ME is placed instead of Her. This falsification cannot well be his printer's error; because, though not in direct terms, he makes the utmost use of it in an avowed attack on the mo
rality of Shakespeare. Did he possibly copy the falsification from any edition?-if so, his prudence will prompt him instantly to point out precisely what edition had misled him. It is true, this volume may not have been written by Dr. Lardner; but no other name is attached to it, no other in a late advertisement by the booksellers. If he was not the author, he should give the name of the calumniator, so that he may be known and avoided. At present Dr. Lardner's is the only name implicated.*
* It would have given me pleasure to alter this paragraph, or to explain in a note that Dr. Lardner was blameless. For this purpose I forwarded a copy of it to him; at the same time expressing my regret at having been compelled to write it, and offering to do anything in my power. The following, dated 12th of April, is the only answer I have received. His name remains responsible. "SIR,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th inst., and in answer beg to inform you that I am not the author of any part of the volume containing the Life of Shakespeare; and that I am responsible merely for selecting fit persons to write the different articles. I have, however, sent a copy of your letter to the author of the article, and I will forward to you his answer when I shall receive it.-I am, Sir, your obedient Servant, DION. LARDNER."