« PreviousContinue »
Friends of learning and admirers of genius will not be very forward to complain that editions of great and favourite authors are too variously multiplied. Experience has taught them, in the course of their own researches, that by the repeated efforts of succeeding editors, difficulty is removed and simplicity restored.
Among the whole race of writers, ancient and modern, no one has, perhaps, needed more the assistance of commentators, or been more plentifully supplied with it, than the illustrious bard whose works are here presented to the public. Shakspeare's wonderful exuberance of fancy, and the vast rapidity with which his mind assimilated images, could not always be restrained by the necessary duty of correct and determinate expression:-it is not then difficult to conceive what must be the miserable state of such a poet's language, when it had passed a few times through the hands of incorrect players and blundering transcribers. Whoever casts his eyes over the stubborn nonsense' of the early editions will not fail to acknowledge his obligations to the critics.
The best designed undertaking, however, may be rendered faulty in the execution of it. Notes have been heaped upon this author, till even his mighty frame is oppressed with the load. In some instances, pages are thrown away, by the numerous commentators, in explaining what was not at first difficult; and, in others, taunts and sarcasms determine the reader to an opinion that they sought Shakspeare's fame less than their own.
The present Editor did not set out with the design of making notes, though in a few places he could not avoid it. His purpose was to retrench; and to attach to his author such remarks only, from the various annotators, as are really illustrative of his dark passages.
Of the typographical execution of this work little commendation will be necessary to the reader of taste. Besides the very heavy expence of fine paper and superior printing, more than two thousand guineas have been expended by the Proprietor in embellishments; for it was his desire, and he flatters himself that he has not failed in it, to give to the world an highly ornamented set of the Plays of Shakspeare. How far the Editor has succeeded in his department is a different consideration : all that he can say is, he has done his best; and with this reflection on his mind he is not afraid to submit his labours to the public.