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This folio of 1623, then, forms the only authority we possess for above one half of Shakespeare's plays, and a very important one for the remainder which had been published before its appearance. Unhappily it is a very ill printed book; so badly edited, and so negligently “read,” that it abounds not only with the most transparent typographical inaccuracies, but with readings disputable and nonsensical beyond belief. Such, indeed, are its errors and deficiencies that Mr. Knight, who professes more deference to the authority of its text than any other editor, and has gone the length of saying that "perhaps, all things considered, there never was a book so correctly printed,"4 was constrained to abandon it in thousands of instances. The truth is, that no edition of Shakespeare founded literally on the folio would be endured by the general reader in the present day. Opinions may differ as to the extent to which the quartos are required in correcting and supplementing the players' copy; that they are invaluable for these purposes it would be the height of prejudice to deny. Some portion of the corruptions in the folio may be due to obscure or imperfect manuscript, papers originally received from the author's hands with scarce a blot, were probably much worn and soiled by years of use in the theatre, but the clusters of misprints, the ruthless disregard of metrical propriety, the absolute absurdities of punctuation, which deform this volume, too plainly indicate that it received little or no literary supervision, beyond that of the master printer who prepared it for the press.
The second folio, published in 1632, is no improvement on its predecessor in point of accuracy. It corrects a few of the most palpable typographical mistakes of the former folio; but the editor, as Malone has shown, was entirely ignorant of Shakespeare's phraseology and versification, and has left few pages undisfigured by some capricious innovations.
The third folio, bearing the date 1664, is very scarce, a large number of copies having been destroyed in the Great Fire of London, in 1666. Like the second folio, it is, as regards the acknowledged plays, merely a reprint, perpetuating the errors of the first, and adding new ones of its own. This edition, however, possesses a special interest, as it contains seven additional plays, “never before printed in folio:” viz. Pericles Prince of Tyre; The London Prodigal ; The History of Lord Cromwell; Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham; The Puritan Widow; A Yorkshire Tragedy; and The Tragedy of Locrine. No one of these plays, with the exception of Pericles, is ever now included in the editions of Shakespeare's works, nor has any other of them a claim to such distinction.
The fourth folio of 1685 is nothing more than a reproduction of the third copy, and, like its immediate precursor, not only presents blunders of its own, but repeats the most obvious errors found in the second folio. Such were the earliest collected editions of this poet's dramas, and such the only volumes in which these dramas were accessible for nearly a hundred years after his decease. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a new impulse to the study of his works was given by the editions of Rowe, in 1709 and 1714, and the reviving appreciation of his genius was strikingly shown by the long succession of distinguished editors that century produced :-Pope, 1725 and 1728 ; Theobald, 1733 and 1740; Hanmer, 1744; Warburton, 1747; Johnson, 1765 ; Capell, 1768 ; Johnson and Steevens, 1773, and 1779; Reed, 1785 ; Malone, 1790; and Rann, 1786–1794.
* The Rev. Joseph Hunter gives a different and much truer character of thefolio :-"Perhaps in the whole annals of English typography there is no record of any book of
any extent, and any reputation, having been dismissed from the press with less care and attention than the first folio." --Preface to Ner Illustrations of Shakespeare.
In addition to the early printed authorities for the formation of a text, there are two manuscript claimants, whose merits and pretensions demand some notice. The first of these, a version of the First and Second Parts of Henry IV. which by certain omissions and modifications is compressed into a single play, formerly belonged to Sir Edward Dering, of Surrenden, Kent, and is probably the oldest manuscript copy of any play by Shakespeare known. It is annotated in the hand-writing of Sir Edward Dering, and Mr. Halliwell inclines to think it was written after 1619, when, according to the family papers, Sir Edward purchased “twenty-seven play-books for nine shillings.” This manuscript is certainly curious, and it has two or three conjectural emendations which are ingenious, but it is entitled to no consideration on the score of authority, being evidently formed upon the text of the quarto, 1613.
The other, and far more pretentious claimant to a voice in the regulation of Shakespeare's text, is the now notorious Collier folio, a copy of the 1632 edition, formerly belonging to Mr. John Payne Collier, and which was sold or presented by that gentleman to the late Duke of Devonshire. Mr. Collier's account of the way this volume came into his hands, and of the circumstances under which he first became aware of its MS. treasures, is as follows:
“In the spring of 1849 I happened to be in the shop of the late Mr. Rodd, of Great Newport Street, at the time when a package of books arrived from the country ; my impression is that it came from Bedfordshire, but I am not at all certain upon a point which I looked upon as a matter of no importance. He opened the parcel in my presence, as he had often done before in the course of my thirty or forty years' acquaintance with him, and looking at the backs and title-pages of several volumes, I saw that they were chiefly works of little interest to me. Two folios, however, attracted my attention, one of them gilt on the sides, and the other in rough calf: the first was an excellent copy of Florio's New World of Words, 1611, with the name of Henry Osborn (whom I mistook at the moment for his celebrated namesake, Francis) upon the first leaf; and the other a copy of the second folio of Shakespeare's Plays, much cropped, the covers old and greasy, and, as I saw at a glance on opening them, imperfect at the beginning and end. Concluding hastily that the latter would complete another poor copy of the second folio, which I had bought of the same bookseller, and which I had had for some years in my possession, and wanting the former for my use, I bought them both,—the Florio for twelve, and the Shakespeare for thirty shillings.
“ As it turned out, I at first repented my bargain as regarded the Shakespeare, because, when I took it home, it appeared that two leaves which I wanted were unfit for my purpose, not merely by being too short, but damaged and defaced : thus disappointed, I threw it by, and did not see it again, until I made a selection of books I would take with me on quitting London. In the mean time, finding that I could not readily remedy the deficiencies in my other copy of the folio, 1632, I had parted with it; and when I removed into the country with my family, in the spring of 1850, in order that I might not be without some copy of the second folio for the purpose of reference, I took with me that which is the foundation of the present work.
“It was while putting my books together for removal, that I first observed some marks in the margin of this folio ; but it was subsequently placed upon an upper shelf, and I did not take it down until I had occasion to consult it. It then struck me that Thomas Perkins, whose name, with the addition of his Booke,' was upon the cover, might be the old actor who had performed in Marlowe's 'Jew of Malta,' on its revival shortly before 1633. At this time I fancied that the binding was of about that date, and that the volume might have been his; but in the first place, I found that his name was Richard Perkins, and in the next, I became satisfied that the rough calf was not the original binding. Still, Thomas Perkins might have been a descendant of Richard; and this circumstance and others induced me to examine the volume more particularly. I then discovered, to my surprise, that there was hardly a page which did not present, in a handwriting of the time, some emendations in the pointing or in the text, while on most of them they were frequent, and on many numerous.” Preface to Notes and Emendations, &c.
After due announcement of the extraordinary discovery, with samples of the emendations, in the chief literary newspapers, Mr. Collier, in 1852, published his volume entitled Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare's Plays, from early Manuscript Corrections in a copy of the Folio, 1632, &c. &c. The annotations excited great interest, and, among those not conversant with the language of our early literature and the labours of the poet's commentators, unbounded admiration. Shakespearian scholars, however, were by no means satisfied with the history of the “corrections,” or disposed to concede the authority assumed for them. The late Mr. Singer, in particular, distinguished himself by a vigorous opposition to Notes and Emendations, and in an able though somewhat too trenchant work, The Text of Shakespeare Vindicated from the Interpolations and Corruptions advocated by John Payne Collier, Esq. &c. &c. very clearly proved that many of the best of the emendations were not new, and that most of the new were uncalled for or absurd. In this estimate of the readings he was followed and supported by Mr. Knight, Mr. Halliwell, and Mr. Dyce.
In spite of this antagonism, a second edition of Notes and Emendations was soon published. Nearly at the same time, too, Mr. Collier brought out a Monovolume of Shakespeare's Plays, in which all the "emendations,” good, bad, and indifferent, were adopted without note or comment to distinguish them from the customary text. This was followed by a volume entitled by Mr. Collier, Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, by the late S. T. Coleridge ; containing what professed to be a list of every manuscript note and emendation in Mr. Collier's folio. And finally appeared an edition of Shakespeare's Works edited by that gentleman, in which he adopted the greater part of the anonymous substitutions, and strenuously advocated the remainder. In the meantime, however, such sweeping changes in the text, and upon authority so questionable, became the subject of discussion and energetic protest in various quarters. Having myself, I may be permitted to say, from the first publication of Notes and Emendations, felt assured, by the internal evidence, that they were for the most part plagiarized from the chief Shakesperian editors and critics, and the rest of quite modern fabrication—I earnestly longed to have the writing tested. That which was a desire before, when the present book was undertaken became a necessity, and during the year 1858 I more than once communicated to Sir Frederic Madden, as the most eminent paleographer of the age, my motives for wishing that the volume should undergo inspection by persons skilled in ancient writing. Sir Frederic's official engagements at that time prevented his giving the subject the attention it perhaps merited. With the courtesy and consideration which have marked his conduct throughout this painful business, he did, however, I subsequently found, in consequence of my solicitations, apply to Mr. Collier to obtain him access to the volume. His letter, it appears, was not answered. In the spring of last year I again called upon him, and reiterated my reasons for desiring the volume should be examined, and if possible by him. This time I was more successful. Sir Frederic immediately wrote to the Duke of Devonshire, requesting permission to see the much talked of folio, and it was liberally forwarded to the British Museum for inspection by himself and friends. While there, the writing was carefully examined by Sir Frederic Madden, Mr. Panizzi, Mr. Bond, Mr. T. Duffus Hardy, Professor Brewer, the Rev. Joseph Hunter, Mr. Hamilton, and other paleographers, and these gentlemen were unanimously of opinion that the MS. annotations on the margins and in the body of the book, though in an apparently antique character, were really of quite modern origin. The technical evidences upon
5 In reply to the discreditable insinuations of Mr. Collier and his partisans, that Sir Frederic Madden was influenced by personal animosity to Mr. Collier, in the measures he has taken, and the opinion he has expressed respecting the disputed folio-Sir Frederic has published the following narrative of the circumstances which led to the book being placed in his hands :
“During the summer and autumn of 1858 Dr. Mansfield Ingleby and Mr. Staunton had called more than once on me, to ask my opinion of the genuineness of the notes of the
Old Corrector, as printed by Mr. Collier, and also at the same time to express their opinion, from internal evidence, that the notes were of recent origin. So far from my having at that time 'aided the case against Mr. Collier, as falsely asserted by him (p. 70 of his Reply), I call upon the two gentlemen above named to bear witness whether I did not express my great surprise at their statement, and manifest the utmost unwillingness to believe that so large a body of notes could have been fabricated, or, if fabricated, could escape detection. These interviews, however, led me to address a request to Mr. Collier, on Sept. 6, 1858, that he would procure me a sight of the Folio, which of itself ought to prove that I could at that time have entertained no doubt of his integrity in the matter. To this request I never received any
answer, nor indeed, to the best of my belief, did Mr. Collier write to me at all subsequently; and, although I thought it strange, yet I certainly never took offence at it. I resolved, however, in my own mind, to prefer my request to the
Duke of Devonshire himself; but official and other business constantly interfered to prevent my carrying out my intention until May 1859, when Professor Bodenstedt was introduced to me by Mr. Watts of the Museum, and having expressed his great desire to see the Collier Folio, I promised them to gratify, if possible, their and my own wishes on the subject, as well as to give several of my Shakesperian friends an opportunity of examining the volume. Accordingly, on the 13th of May, I wrote to the Duke, requesting the loan of the volume for a short time, and by his grace's liberality it was sent to me on the 26th of the same month, late in the day. In the evening of the same day I wrote letters to Professor Bodenstedt, the Rev. A. Dyce. Mr. W. J. Thoms (a friend of Mr. Collier), and I believe Mr. Staunton, inviting them to see the volume.
“Having thus succeeded in obtaining the volume, my next step was to examine it critically on palæographic grounds, and this I did on the following morning very carefully, together with Mr. Bond, the Assistant-Keeper of my Department, and we were both struck with the very suspicious character of the writing-certainly the work of one hand, but presenting varieties of forms assignable to different periods—the evident painting over of many of the letters, and the artificial look of the ink. The day had not passed before I had quite made up my mind that the Old Corrector' never lived in the seventeenth century, but that the notes were fabricated at a recent period."
which this decision was founded were immediately made public in a letter from Mr. Hamilton to the Times newspaper. The most striking of these were “an infinite number of faint pencil-marks and corrections on the margins, in obedience to which the supposed old corrector had made his emendations,” which pencil-marks, without even a pretence to antiquity in character or spelling, but written in a bold hand of the present century, can sometimes be distinctly seen underneath the quasi-antique notes themselves. To the very grave and inevitable inferences supplied by this remarkable discovery, Mr. Collier replied in a letter to the same Journal, that he “never made a single pencil-mark on the pages of the book, excepting crosses, ticks, or lines, to direct [his) attention to particular emendations." That he had shown and sworn that the volume in its present annotated state, was formerly in the possession of a gentleman named Parry. That soon after the discovery of the folio, he had produced it before the Council of the Shakespeare Society, and at two or three assemblies of the Society of Antiquaries. That he had given, not sold the volume, as had been stated in some newspapers, to the late Duke of Devonshire, and unless before a proper legal tribunal he would not submit to say another word in print upon the subject.
A letter followed in the Times from Mr. Maskelyne, Keeper of the Mineral Department, in the British Museum, which stated that on examination of the writing by means of a microscope, the existence of the pencil-marks mentioned by Mr. Hamilton is indisputable; that in some cases these pencillings underlie the ink, and that the ink, though apparently at times it has become mixed with ordinary ink, in its prevailing character is nothing more than a paint formed perhaps of sepia, or of sepia mixed with a little Indian ink. The publicity given to the investigation induced Mr. Parry, the gentleman cited by Mr. Collier as the former owner of the folio, to call at the British Museum to recognise his old possession. On seeing the volume, he at once denied not only that it was the book formerly his, but that it had ever been shown to him by Mr. Collier. Some further controversy ensued which need not be detailed, and the question of the genuineness of the writing was warmly discussed both in the leading English and American papers. Shortly after the appearance of Mr. Hamilton's letter to the Times, a clever little work upon the subject by Dr. Ingleby, called The Shakespeare Fabrications, or the Manuscript Notes of the Perkins Folio shown to be of recent Origin, &c. was published. In this opusculum Mr. Collier's conduct in relation to the discovered volume was so severely handled, and the charge of complicity in the fabrications so plainly brought home to him, that his friends deemed it proper to announce that the volume was undergoing a careful examination by “four eminent antiquaries.” As the result of this perquisition has not been made known, we may infer that these four gentlemen found nothing to invalidate the verdict passed upon the writing by the authorities who had preceded them in the task. A few months later Mr. Hamilton published his long promised
6 Curiously enough, Mr. Parry, in searching through his library subsequently, has discovered a fly-leaf belonging to his lost folio, and on comparing it with the Collier volutne, it is found to be a quarter of an inch too short, and a quarter of an inch too broad to match the latter.
This substantiates the declaration of Mr. Parry when he first saw the Collier folio at the British Museum, that his book was wider than the one stated to have been his, and proves beyond future cavil that the Collier and the Parry folio were not the same.