Page:A Census of Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto (1916).djvu/27

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as these have their distinct line of descent and owe nothing to the late quartos. Their only, yet quite dignified, justification for existing is the testimony they bear to the extent of Shakespeare’s popularity with the class of bookbuyers who preferred “books of the play” to complete editions. From this point of view it would be pleasing if more of them, or (as would serve as well) indisputable traces of more of them, even though lost, could be discovered. The unsold copies of the 1637 edition of the Merchant of Venice were reissued with a new title-page in 1652; an edition of Henry IV, Part I, was printed as late as 1700; otherwise, not only all the comedies which had never had large sales as separate quartos, but all the histories, which had been so popular right up to 1623, were in the eyes of the owners of the copyright no longer worth producing separately after 1639. What may be called Shakespeare’s permanent, as distinct from his contemporary, popularity begins with the revival of his tragedies in the last quarter of the Seventeenth Century. In the long interval there had been some haphazard editions, an Othello in 1630 and another in 1655 and a Hamlet in 1637. Macbeth was separately printed for the first and only time in the Seventeenth Century in 1673. But between 1676 and 1705 there were seven editions of Hamlet, six of Julius Caesar and four of Othello, and this betokens a notable, if limited, revival. Other plays, as we know, were more or less popular, in more or less irreverent adaptations.

Meanwhile the four large Folio editions were being absorbed, one after the other, by the literary readers of Shakespeare, and here and there we find anticipations of the respectful treatment of the quartos which in our own day has ripened till they occupy an inner shrine in the book-collector’s temple. In 1627 William Drummond presented copies of the 1598 Love’s Labors Lost, 1599 Romeo and Juliet and some other plays to Edinburgh University. In 1649 the Second Earl of Bridgewater entered in the catalogue of his library copies of these same three editions and of the Richard II (second edition) and Richard III of 1598, Henry IV, Part I, of 1599, and Henry IV, Part II, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado about Nothing of 1600, a very pretty little nosegay to have been originally acquired for a crown, but which it is pleasing to find not thought unworthy of cataloguing on that account. Why, a little later on, Pepys did not add to the delight of his library by doing his best to collect a complete set of the quartos is hard to guess. A later benefactor made good the loss to Cambridge, but a picked set of Shakespeare quartos in Pepys’ bindings would have been a very pleasant addition to the good things of the world.

Probably if Pepys had started on the quest of our quartos he would not have acquired more than a haphazard selection of them, for when books are still purchasable for pence there is little temptation to owners to ransack their libraries or lumber rooms to see if they have any to sell. It is only fair to the Eighteenth Century editors to remember that the Quartos have only come somewhat slowly and capriciously to light. When Pope was completing his edition of Shakespeare he very properly added