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eight; of the third-eleven: for though in Henry V. 1 Henry VI. Love's Labour's Lost, and The Taming of the Shrew, there is some division aim'd at; yet it is so lame and erroneous, that it was thought best to consider them as totally undivided, and to rank them accordingly: now when these plays were to be divided, as well those of the first class as those of the third, the plays of the second class were studiously attended to; and a rule was pick'd out from them, by which to regulate this division : which rule might easily have been discover'd before, had but any the least pains have been bestow'd upon it; and certainly it was very well worth it, since neither can the representation be manag'd, nor the order and thread of the fable be properly conceiv'd by the reader, 'till this article is adjusted. The plays that are come down to us divided, must be look'd upon as of the author's own settling; and in them, with regard to acts, we find him following establish'd precepts, or, rather, conforming himself to the practice of some other dramatick writers of his time; for they, it is likely, and nature, were the books he was best acquainted with his scene divisions he certainly did not fetch from writers upon the drama; for, in them, he observes a method in which perhaps he is singular, and he is invariable in the use of it: with him, a change of scene implies generally a change of place, though not always; but always an entire evacuation of it, and a succession of new persons: that liaison of the scenes, which Jonson seems to have attempted, and upon which the French stage prides itself, he does not appear to have had any idea of; of the other unities he was perfectly well appriz'd; and has follow'd them, in one of his plays, with as great strictness and greater happiness than can
perhaps be met with in any other writer: the play meant is The Comedy of Errors; in which the action is one, the place one, and the time such as even Aristotle himself would allow of the revolu tion of half a day : but even in this play, the change of scene arises from change of persons, and by that it is regulated; as are also all the other plays that are not divided in the folio: for whoever will take the trouble to examine those that are divided, (and they are pointed out for him in the list,) will see them conform exactly to the rule above-mention'd; and can then have but little doubt, that it should be apply'd to all the rest. To have distinguish'd these divisions,-made (indeed) without the authority, but following the example of the folio,-had been useless and troublesome; and the editor fully persuades himself, that what he has said will be sufficient, and that he shall be excus'd by the ingenious and candid for overpassing them without further notice: whose pardon he hopes also to have for some other unnotic'd matters that are related to this in hand, such as-marking the place of action, both general and particular; supplying scenical directions; and due regulating of exits, and entrances: for the first, there is no title in the old editions; and in both the latter, they are so deficient and faulty throughout, that it would not be much amiss if we look'd upon them as wanting too; and then all these several articles might be
• The divisions that are in the folio are religiously adher'd to, except in two or three instances which will be spoken of in their place; so that, as is said before, a perusal of those old-divided plays will put every one in a capacity of judging whether the present editor has proceeded rightly or no: the current editions are divided in such a manner, that nothing like a rule can be collected from any of them.
consider'd as additions, that needed no other pointing out than a declaration that they are so: the light they throw upon the plays in general, and particularly upon some parts of them, such as, the battle scenes throughout; Cæsar's passage to the senate-house, and subsequent assassination; Antony's death; the surprizal and death of Cleopatra; that of Titus Andronicus; and a multitude of others, which are all directed new in this edition,-will justify these insertions; and may, possibly, merit the reader's thanks, for the great aids which they afford to his conception.
It remains now to speak of errors of the old copies which are here amended without notice, to wit-the pointing, and wrong division of much of them respecting the numbers. And as to the first, it is so extremely erroneous, throughout all the plays, and in every old copy, that small regard is due to it; and it becomes an editor's duty, (instead of being influenc'd by such a punctuation, or even casting his eyes upon it, to attend closely to the meaning of what is before him, and to new-point it accordingly: was it the business of this editionto make parade of discoveries, this article alone would have afforded ample field for it; for a very great number of passages are now first set to rights by this only, which, before, had either no sense at all, or one unsuiting the context, and unworthy the noble penner of it; but all the emendations of this sort, though inferior in merit to no others whatsoever, are consign'd to silence; some few only excepted, of passages that have been much contested, and whose present adjustment might possibly be call'd in question again; these will be spoken of in some note, and a reason given for embracing them: all the other parts of the works have been examin'd
with equal diligence, and equal attention; and the editor flatters himself, that the punctuation he has follow'd, (into which he has admitted some novelties,) will be found of so much benefit to his author, that those who run may read, and that with profit and understanding. The other great mistake in these old editions, and which is very insufficiently rectify'd in any of the new ones, relates to the poet's numbers; his verse being often wrong divided, or printed wholly as prose, and his prose as often printed like verse: this, though not so universal as their wrong pointing, is yet so extensive an error in the old copies, and so impossible to be pointed out otherwise than by a note, that an editor's silent amendment of it is surely pardonable at least; for who would not be disgusted with that perpetual sameness which must necessarily have been in all the notes of this sort? Neither are they, in truth, emendations that require proving; every good ear does immediately adopt them, and every lover of the poet will be pleas'd with that accession of beauty which results to him from them: it is perhaps to be lamented, that there is yet standing in his works much unpleasing mixture of prosaick and metrical dialogue, and sometimes in places seemingly improper, as-in Othello, Vol. XIX. p. 273; and some others which men of judgment will be able to pick out for themselves: but these blemishes are not now to be wip'd away, at least not by an editor, whose province it far ex
9 If the use of these new pointings, and also of certain marks that he will meet with in this edition, do not occur immediately to the reader, (as we think it will) he may find it explain'd to him at large in the preface to a little octavo volume intitl❜d"Prolusions, or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry;" publish'd in 1760 by this editor, and printed for Mr. Tonson.
ceeds to make a change of this nature; but must remain as marks of the poet's negligence, and of the haste with which his pieces were compos'd: what he manifestly intended prose, (and we can judge of his intentions only from what appears in the editions that are come down to us,) should be printed as prose, what verse as verse; which, it is hop'd, is now done, with an accuracy that leaves no great room for any further considerable improvements in that way.
Thus have we run through, in as brief a manner as possible, all the several heads, of which it was thought proper and even necessary that the publick should be appriz'd; as well those that concern preceding editions, both old and new; as the other which we have just quitted, the method observ'd in the edition that is now before them: which though not so entertaining, it is confess'd, nor affording so much room to display the parts and talents of a writer, as some other topicks that have generally supply'd the place of them; such ascriticisms or panegyricks upon the author, historical anecdotes, essays, and florilegia; yet there will be found some odd people, who may be apt to pronounce of them-that they are suitable to the place they stand in, and convey all the instruction that should be look'd for in a preface. Here, therefore, we might take our leave of the reader, bidding him welcome to the banquet that is set before him; were it not apprehended, and reasonably, that he will expect some account why it is not serv'd up to him at present with it's accustom'd and laudable garniture, of "Notes, Glossaries," &c. Now though it might be reply'd, as a reason for what is done, that a very great part of the world, amongst whom is the editor himself, profess much dislike