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PREFACE TO THIS REVISED EDITION.
It was in May, 1839, that the First Volume of the Pictorial Edition of Shakspere was published. The original Prospectus of the work furnished, to some extent, an adequate view of its chief features, and of the principles upon which it was to be conducted. Of its literary objects it was said"Shakspere demands a rational edition of his wonderful performances, that should address itself to the popular understanding in a spirit of enthusiastic love, and not of captious and presumptuous cavilling;-with a sincere zeal for the illustration of the text, rather than a desire to parade the stores of useless learning-and offering a sober and liberal examination of conflicting opinions amongst the host of critics, in the hope of unravelling the perplexed, clearing up the obscure, and enforcing the beautiful, instead of prolonging those fierce and ridiculous controversies, which, always offensive, are doubly disagreeable in connexion with the works of the most tolerant and expansive mind that ever lifted us out of the region of petty hostilities and prejudices."
It must be kept in mind that, when this was written, the field of Shaksperian criticism was only occupied by the old commentators. Since that time, Mr. COLLIER, Mr. DYCE, Mr. HALLIWELL, Mr. STAUNTON, Mr. WHITE (in
America), and Mr. CLARK and Mr. WRIGHT (the Cambridge Editors) have made large additions to our means of appreciating and understanding "the greatest in all literature." My own labours upon other editions, such as "The Library," "The National," and "The Stratford," had been devoted to the examination of new readings and recent views of the value of original copies. When, therefore, the publishers desired to confide to me the complete revision of "the Pictorial Shakspere," I did not come unprepared to the task; and I applied myself more willingly to a new labour when my friend Mr. A. RAMSAY undertook a fresh collation of the various texts, as the materials out of which I had to determine my own course.
Accompanying the first part of this revised edition, I have given a very brief account of the original copies, upon which every text of our author must be founded. To that notice the reader is referred. The more detailed account which I therein contemplated, has been rendered unnecessary by the Introductory Notices of "The State of the Text" which accompany each Play. The most important duty of an editor of Shakespere, as it is the most difficult, is to choose between the different versions of particular passages, some directly conflicting, others essential improvements, others purely capricious. I have been charged with a too exclusive reliance upon the folio of 1623, to the neglect of the authority of the quartos, which the elder commentators generally followed, valuing them in many cases in proportion to their rarity. Since the beginning of 1863, I have conscientiously laboured in the desire to correct whatever was imperfect or mistaken in the edition of 1839-1843; diligently comparing the labours of others with my own, -acknowledging my obligations, in all cases where I adopt their opinions,— pointing out the most important "Recent New Readings" either to be subscribed to or controverted, but never surrendering the principle upon
which I have uniformly worked, that for three-fifths of Shakespere's plays the Folio of 1623 is the only authority; that for the other two-fifths the Quartos may be advantageously compared with that Folio; but that to sail forth into the wide ocean of Conjectural Readings is to embark upon a perilous voyage, with no guide to steer between Scylla and Charybdis but the discretion of the helmsman.
October 1st, 1866.