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Art. V. Shakspeare's Himself Again! or the Language of
the Poet asserted; being a full and dispassionate Examen of the Readings and Interpretations of the several Editors. Comprised in a Series of Notes, Sixteen Hundred in Number, illustrative of the most difficult Pussages in his Plays—to the various editions of which the present Volumes form a complete and necessary Supplement. By Andrew Becket. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 730.
1816. TF the dead could be supposed to take any interest in the integrity
of their literary reputation, with what complacency might we not imagine our great poet to contemplate the labours of the present writer! Two centuries have passed away since his death—the mind almost sinks under the reflection that he has been all that while exhibited to us so 'transmographied' by the joint ignorance and malice of printers, critics, &c. as to be wholly unlike himself. But-post nubila, Phæbus ! Mr. Andrew Becket has at length risen upon the world, and Shakspeare is about to shine forth in genuine and unclouded glory!
What we have at present is a mere scantling of the great work in procinctu— T1OAXOS Eť lepns oriyn 216us-sixteen hundred ‘ restorations, and no more! But if these shall be favourably received, a complete edition of the poet will speedily follow. Mr. Becket has taken him to develop; and it is truly surprizing to behold how beautiful he comes forth as the editor proceeds in unrolling those unseemly and unnatural rags in which he has hitherto been so disgracefully wrapped :
Tandem aperit vultum, et tectoria prima reponit,-
Incipit agnosci ! Mr. Becket has favoured us, in the Preface, with a comparative estimate of the merits of his predecessors. He does not, as may easily be conjectured, rate any of them very highly; but he places Warburton at the top of the scale, and Steevens at the bottom: this, indeed, was to be expected. "Warburton,' he says, is the best, and Steevens the worst of Shakspeare's commentators;
(p. xvii.) and he ascribes it solely to his forbearance that the latter is not absolutely crushed: it not being in his nature, as he magnanimously insinuates, 'to break a butterfly upon a wheel!' Dr. Johnson is shoved aside with very little ceremony; Mr. Malone fares somewhat better ; and the rest are dismissed with the gentle valediction of Pandarus to the Trojans—'asses, fools, dolts ! chaff and bran! porridge after meat! With respect to our author himself, it is but simple justice to declare, that he comes to the great work of restoring Shakspeare' - not only with more negatire advantages than the unfortunate tribe of critics so cavalierly dismissed, but than all who have aspired to illumine the page of a defunct writer since the days of Aristarchus. As far as we are enabled to judge, Mr. Becket never examined an old play in bis life: -he does not seem to have the slightest knowledge of any writer, or any subject, or any language that ever occupied the attention of his contemporaries; and he possesses a miud as innocent of all requisite information as if he had dropped, with the last thunderstone, from the moon.'
• Addison has well observed, that “ in works of criticism it is absolutely necessary to have a clear and logical head?” (p. v.) In this position, Mr. Becket cheerfully agrees with him; and, indeed, it is sufficiently manifest, that without the internal conviction of enjoying that indispensable advantage, he would not have favoured the public with those matchless" restorations;' a few specimens of which we now proceed to lay before them. Where all are alike admirable, there is no call for selection ; we shall therefore open the volumes at random, and trust to fortune.
“ Hamlet. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?" "This reading,' Mr. Becket says, “he cannot admit;' and he says well : since it appears that Shakspeare wrote
“ For who would bear the scores of weapon’d time?” using scores in the sense of stripes.' Formerly,' i. e. when Mr. Becket was in his sallad days, he augured, he says, that the true reading was
the scores of whip-hand time. • Time having always the whip-hand, the advantage;' but he now reverts to the other emendation; though,' as he modestly hints, the epithet whip-hand' (which he still regards with parental fondness) will perhaps be thought to have much of the manner of Shakspeare.'-vol. i. p. 43.
“ Horatio. – -> While they, distilld Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb, and speak not to him !" We had been accustomed to find no great difficulty here: the words seemed, to us, at least, to express the usual effect of inordinate terror—but we gladly acknowledge our mistake. "The passage is not to be understood.' How should it, when both the
pointing and the language are corrupt ? Read, as Shakspeare gave
While they bestilld
“ Lear. And my poor fool is hang’d!” With these homely words, which burst from the poor old king on reverting to the fate of his loved Cordelia, whom he then holds in his arms, we have been always deeply affected, and therefore, set them down as one of the thousand proofs of the poet's intimate knowledge of the human heart. But Mr. Becket has made us ashamed of our sinsplicity and our tears. Shakspeare had no such • lenten' language in his thoughts; he wrote, as Mr. Becket tells us,
And my pure soot is hang’d! "Poor,' he adds, "might be easily mistaken for pure; while the s in sout (sweet) was scarcely discernible from the f, or the t from the li'
We are happy to find that so much can be offered in favour of the old printers. And yet—were it not that the genuine text is always to be preferred—we could almost wish that the critic had left their blunder as it stood. " Wolsey.
that his bones May have a tomb of orphans' tears wept on them." “ A tomb of tears" is ridiculous. I read--a coomb of tears--a coomb is a liquid measure containing forty gallons. Thus the expression, which was before absurd, becomes forcible and just.'-vol. ii. p. 134. It does indeed !
“ Sir Andrew. I sent thee six-pence for thy leman (mistress): had'st it?” Read as Shakspeare wrote: “I sent thee six-pence for thy lemma” – lemma is properly an argument, or proposition assumed, and is used by Sir Andrew Aguecheek for a story::-—p. 335.
“ Viole. She pined in thought,
“ Iago. I have rubb’d this young quat almost to the sense, '
And he grows angry":that is, or rather was, according to our homely apprehension, I have rubb'd this pimple (Roderigo) almost to bleeding:--but, no Mr. Becket has furnished us not only with the genuine words, but the meaning of Shakspeare
I have fubb'd this young quat-Quat, or cat, appears to be a con: traction of cater-cousin--and this reading will be greatly strengthened when it is remembered that Roderigo was really the intimate of Iago.'-p. 204.
In a subsequent passage, 'I am as melancholy as a gibb’d cat we are told that cat is not the domestic animal of that name, but a
contraction of catin, a woman of the town. But, indeed, Mr, Becket possesses a most wonderful faculty for detecting these latent contractions and filling them up. Thus,
“ Parolles. Sir, he will steal an egg out of a cloister.” Read, (as Shakspeare wrote,) 'Sir, he will steal an Ag (i. e. an Agnes) out of a cloister. Agnes is the name of a woman, and may easily stand for chastity':-p. 325. No doubt.
• Carter. Prithee, Tom, put a few flocks in Cut's saddle; the poor beast is wrung in the withers out of all cess." Out of all cess, we used to think meant, in vulgar phraseology, out of all measure, very much, &c.--but see how foolishly!
• Cess is a mere contraction of cessibility, which signifies the quality of receding, and may very well stand for yielding, as spoken of a tumour.' p. 5
“ Hamlet. A cry of players.” This we once thought merely a sportive expression for a company of players, but Mr. Becket has undeceived us— Cry (he teils us) is contracted from cryptic, and cryptic is precisely of the same import as mystery.'-p.53. How delightful it is when learning and judgment walk thus hand in hand! But enough
the sweetest honey Is loathsome in its own deliciousness' and we would not willingly cloy our readers. Sufficient has been produced to encourage them-not perhaps to contend for the possession of the present volumes, though Mr. Becket conscientiously affirms, in his title-page, that they form a complete and necessary supplement to every former edition'-but, with us, to look anxiously forward to the great work in preparation,
Meanwhile we have gathered some little consolation from what is already in our hands. Very often, on comparing the dramas of the present day (not even excepting Mr. Tobin's) with those of Elizabeth's age, we have been tempted to think that we were born too late, and to exclaim with the poet
Infelix ego, non illo qui tempore natus,
Nascendi, miserumque genus! &c. but we now see that unless Mr. Andrew Becket had also been produced at that early period, we should have derived no extraordinary degree of satisfaction from witnessing the first appearance of Shakspeare's plays, since it is quite clear that we could not have understood them.
One difficulty yet remains. We scarcely think that the managers will have the confidence, in future, to play Shakspeare as they have been accustomed to do; and yet, to present him, as now so happily restored,' would, for some time at least, render him
caviare to the general. We know that Livius Andronicus, when grown hoarse with repeated declamation, was allowed a second-rate actor, who stood at his back and spoke while he gesticulated, or gesticulated while he spoke. A hint may be borrowed from this fact. We therefore propose that Mr. Andrew Becket be forthwith taken into the pay of the two theatres, and divided between them. He may then be instructed to follow the dramatis persone of our great poet's plays on the stage, and after each of them has made his speech in the present corrupt reading, to pronounce aloud the words as 'restored' by himself. This may have an awkward effect at first; but a season or two will reconcile the town to it; Shakspeare may then be presented in his genuine language, or, as out author better expresses it, be HIMSELF AGAIN.
Art. VI. 1. An Essay on the Nature and Advantages of Parish
Banks for the Savings of the Industrious, 8c. with Remarks on the propriety of uniting these Institutions with Friendly Societies; together with an Appendix, containing the Rules of the Dumfries Parish Bank, &c. &c. By the Rev. Henry Duncan, Minister of Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire. First Edition. 1815. Second Edition, Edinburgh: Oliphant Waugh and Innes.
1816. pp. 88. 2. A short Account of the Edinburgh Savings Bank. Edin
burgh: 1815. pp. 20. 3. Report of the Committee of the Highland Society, on the
Nature of Savings Banks. Edinburgh: Constable and Co,
A Summary Account of the London Savings Bank. By
Jones ; and J. Hatchard. pp. 60. 5. Third Report of the Edinburgh Society for the Suppression of
Beggars, for the Relief of occasional Distress, and for the Encouragement of Industry among the Poor, &c. to 1st November, 1815., 6. First Year's Report of the Bath Provident Institution, estab
lished January, 1815. Bath : 1816. 7. Observations on Banks for Savings. By the Right Hon,
George Rose. London: Cadell and Davies. 1816. pp. 57, 8. A Bill for the Protection and Encouragement of Provident
Institutions, or Banks for Savings, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 15th May, 1816. THE beneficent spirit of the present age is in nothing more re
I markably displayed, than in the combined energy with which many individuals of the highest ranks of society are labouring to pro