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a second, and in some cases a third, edition of these quartos. I do not, however, mean to say that many valuable corrections of passages undoubtedly corrupt in the quartos are not found in the folio copy; or that a single line of these plays should be printed by a careful editor without a minute examination and collation of both copies, but those copies were in general the basis on which the folio editors built, and are entitled to our particular attention and examination as first editions.”

It is a thousand pities that Malone should not only have misunderstood the attack on previous editions in the First Folio to “represent them all as mutilated and imperfect,” but while having the courage to deny that any but two of the Quartos[1] were “mutilated and imperfect” should have abstained from denying that any but these specified exceptions were “stolne and surreptitious.” As a vindication, however, of the text of the First Quartos nothing could be better. As he says, these editions must be reckoned in general as good texts, and the main argument on this topic advanced in Shakespeare Folios and Quartos in 1909 was that since the good texts, with easily explainable exceptions, were regularly entered on the Stationers’ Register, and the bad texts were either not entered at all or entered irregularly, by the logical method of Agreement and Difference we are entitled to assume a causal connection between good texts and regular entries and between bad texts and irregular entries or no entries at all. This causal connection we find in the fact that an honest publisher who printed a play with the Players’ consent would naturally get as good a text as they could give him and have no reason to avoid taking it to Stationers’ Hall, whereas a dishonest publisher would naturally get hold of an obsolete or vamped up text and would fear to take it to be registered lest the Wardens of the Stationers Company should “stay” it till he was able to produce authority for printing it. In the introduction to the facsimile of the unique third quarto of Richard II, recently identified in the library of Mr. W. A. White of New York, this argument has been carried further and it has been shown by an analysis of the readings of the successive editions that while nothing in the text forbids us to believe that the First Quarto (1597) was set up from Shakespeare’s autograph there is at least some slight ground for believing that this was really its origin.

The two negative arguments for this contention are: (a) that the number of readings in the First Quarto rejected as erroneous by the editors of the Cambridge text (our nearest approach to a textus receptus of Shakespeare) being far fewer than the number of new errors introduced by the same printers in reprinting the play the next year for a second edition, the proved carelessness of the printers suffices to account for the errors of the First Quarto and it is thus superfluous, and therefore illegitimate, to assume that before it reached the printer the text had already been corrupted by being copied by scriveners; (b) that no evidence can be found either in the later Quartos or in the First Folio that the original manuscript had been used for the correction of the play as a whole, but that the good readings in

  1. The Hamlet of 1603 had not been discovered when Malone wrote. As regards the bad quarto of Romeo and Juliet printed in 1597, he made the necessary exception in another passage.