Franz J. L. Thimm.

Shakspeariana from 1564 to 1864. An account of the Shakspearian literature of England, Germany, France and other European countries during three centuries, with bibliographical introductions online

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Online LibraryFranz J. L. ThimmShakspeariana from 1564 to 1864. An account of the Shakspearian literature of England, Germany, France and other European countries during three centuries, with bibliographical introductions → online text (page 1 of 16)
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IN 1864









The members of the Shakespeare Memorial Library which
has been established at Birmingham, have in a singular manner
fulfilled the wishes which I expressed in my first Edition. "It is
their intention to collect every book, tract on, and Edition of Shaks-
peare, in all languages and they have already progressed so far
that their determination will soon become an established fact.

That such a Library will eventually be t h e greatest Monument
to Shakespeare is undeniable, and it reflects the utmost credit
on those who have planned and carried out this design.

I have continued in the present Supplement the literature of
the last eight years, together with other emendations and cor-
rections since brought under my notice. The Supplement has
been printed with the view of incorporating it with the first
edition, so that the English part should be bound up after page
48; the German part after page 81; and the French part should
be cancelled altogether, and the new sheets inserted instead. It
is my intention to continue the literature from time to time.



Bibliographers are aware that it is almost impossible to
collect every known book on Shakspeare, I therefore appeal to
the kindness of those who may use my book and find any thing
missing, to inform me of any full titles, omissions or errors,
which information will be received with thanks, and duly in-
corporated with future editions.

F. T.






The history of Shakspearian criticism is one which goes hand in
hand with that of . the general literary and critical art of England :
nay, Shakspeare's works would seem to have been particularly designed
to test the march of English intellect. It will therefore be necessary
to glance at the successive publications of his works, in order to show
the eifect they produced on English writers.

The separate plays of the great dramatist were issued during his
life-time ; in what consecutive order it is now impossible to say ; though
certain it is that Shakspeare himself could never have seen them, even
separately, through the press. They appeared in a corrupt state from
the beginning; for, being printed and published as acting plays, they
were altered, corrected and "improved" by both actors and man-

The first collected edition ( " Editio princeps " ) appeared . in folio
in 1623, the editors being Heminge and Condell, both of whom were
actors at the "Globe", and Shakspeare's executors and friends. This
edition was printed seven years after Shakspeare's death.

Its editors., in their

"Address to the Reader", speak as follows:
"It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that
the author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own
writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death
departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends, the
office of their care and pain, to have collected and published them ; and
so to have published them, as where (before) you were abused with
diverse stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed, by the
frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them: even
those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their
limbs; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived
them, etc.

"John Heminge".
"Henry Condell".

"If is 'by courtesy ' alone ", says a writer of a very interesting article
in Bentley's Quarterly No. 3, " that this folio can be termed an edition.
"Edited, in any proper sense of the word, it is not. The errors of
"the printer, and the corruptions of the players are put down to
" Shakspeare's account, nor is there probably any Latin or Greek nianu-
" script more vitiated by sleepy and ignorant copyists, than this editio
"princeps has been by its publishers. In spite of their vaunt about
"using exclusively Shakspeare's manuscripts, it is palpable that they
"availed themselves, when they coulu, of the quartos published in the
" poet's lifetime, the text for which was, to all appearance, obtained sur-
"reptitiously, either from copyists before the curtain, or from the
"prompter, or theatrical library behind it. And this negligence is the more
" inexcusable and provoking , because , according to general tradition,
"Shakspeare's autographs were models of calligraphy, and Heminge
"and Coudell must have seen, and might therefore have printed from

" Bad as the editing was, the printing of this volume was no bet-
"ter. Verse is printed as prose, prose as verse. Prismu's head is
"perpetually broken; words are omitted or transposed; the punctuation
"is such that, had Dogberry and Verges turned compositors for the
" nonce, they could hardly have made it worse. Nor was advantage taken
"of a second edition to amend these gross, open, and palpable errors.
" Some glaring blunders are corrected in the second folio ; but new
"blunders compensate for those which are removed. Of most ancient
"authors there are three or four copies at least, fortunately not agree-
ing in their several corruptions, and capable, therefore, of being em-
ployed as correctives to one another. But the original text of Shak-
"speare has no similar privilege: his fairly -writ ten manuscripts have
" vanished : no specimen of his handwriting, except his signature, exists :
" and for one Mediceau codex, we posses only this precious budget of
"blunders which his friends and fellow-actors consecrated to their de-
" ceased copartner's memory.

"The earlier editions we still use the word by courtesy of
"Shakspeare unfortunately appeared in an age of remarkably careless
"printing. When an author, indeed, severely corrected his own proofs, a
"book, then, as now, would come forth from the press in fair condi-
tion. 'Shakspeare's Poems', for example, are nearly immaculate; for
"these, the favourites, if not the first fruits of his mind, he grudged no
"parental care". (Shakspearian Literature, Bentley's Quarterly No. III.)

The second folio edition appeared nine years after the first; viz.
in 1632; the third edition thirty- two years later, in 1664, (some of
its copies bearing the date of 1663); the fourth and last folio edition,
twenty-one years after, in 1685; and this completes the list of the
folio editions of the 17 th century. The number of copies of which each
of these editions consisted, when printed, is unfortunately quite un-

Books were then costly, bookbuyers and collectors few. The great
mass of the public were illiterate; and a copy of Shakspeare was
probably a thing beyond their reach. Moreover, the puritanical spirit
of the time, which condemned all theatrical performances, had, naturally,
the effect of diminishing the interest which the public took and had

taken, from the very first, in the representation of Shakspeare's plays.
Plays were denounced as immoral ; theatres anathematized as very dens
of wickedness; - nay, even pillaged and burnt. The Stage was in
short execrated by the religious fanaticism of the time, as nothing
less than the creation of hell. The Plague, and the terrible fire which
followed it, had decimated the inhabitants of London, and destroyed
both their trade and their property ; and in the fire vanished no doubt
many of the precious little 4 to editions of Shakspeare's plays. Then
came the Great Rebellion, and the Restoration ; and, under the influence
of the licentious taste of Charles II.'s time, no wonder the old dra-
matists were well nigh forgotten.

From 1635 until 1709 no new edition of Shakspeare was
published ; but with Rowe's edition begins an incessant and increasing
stream of new editions of Shakspeare, which has now swelled into a
perfect flood. Rowe's edition in 7 Volumes 8vo appeared in 1709 10.

"After an interval of nearly 25 years", says a Reviewer*, "Rowe
"reminded the world of its intellectual hero. His edition of the Plays
"was a step in the right direction. There was hope of Rowe. He
"was a man of fortune, living to write, instead of writing to live. He
"was a good scholar, and had a poetical taste. He possessed one ad-
" vantage as an editor of Shakspeare, independently of all literary
"gifts. At the period when he turned his attention to the subject,
"traditions of Stratford and the 'Globe' were quickly disappearing;
"memories of Shakspeare were dying out. What light yet lingered
" and it was very small Rowe did his best to fix and detain.
"As we said, in one respect he was peculiarly favoured. Rowe's first
"tragedy was produced in 1702, when Betterton played the hero, and
"we may assign his acquaintance with that actor to 1700. Betterton
"knew Diivenant. Who does not remember the story which Aubrey
"tells, that when Davenant was pleased over a glass of wine, with an
"'intimate' like 'Hudibras Butler', he would say that it seemed to
"him that he 'writ with the very spirit of Shakspeare', and was not
"unwilling to have people think that there was good cause for the
"resemblance? Shakspeare died when Davenant was a boy of 1 1 years;
"but we owe to him much of the little information about the poet
" which we possess. The biographer of Rowe informs us that he neither
"received much praise, nor seems to have expected it, for his Shak-
"spearian labours; but that he at least contributed to the popularity
"of his author."

After the publication of the 4 th folio edition, Shakspearian criti-
cism began to shew itself in England; and the first form it took was
that of reviews of tragedies in general, combined with reflections on
Shakspeare in particular, such as were published by Rymer, in 1693.
His criticisms however were more the attacks of a querulous cynic than
the comments of a sound thinker. Charles Knight remarks,** "We
"cannot agree with the author of an able article in the Retrospective
"Review, that 'these attacks on Shakspeare are very curious, as evincing
"how gradual has been the increase of his fame'; that their whole

* Times, December I860.
** Studies of Shakspeare.

"tone shows that the author was not advancing what he thought the
"world would regard as paradoxical or strange'; that 'he speaks as
"one with authority to decide'. So far from receiving Rymer's frenzied
"denunciations as an expression of public opinion, we regard them as
" the idiosyncrasies of a very singular individual, who is furious in the
"exact proportion in which the public opinion differs from his own.
" He attacks ' Othello' and ' Julius Caesar', especially, because Betterton
"had for years been drawing crowds to his performance in those tra-
" gedies. He is one of those who glory in opposing the general opinion." 1

Critics like Rymer, Gildon, Dennis etc.*" began to establish an
artistic code, based on the classical mod-els of ancient Greece; and
every Shakspearian drama was measured by its rules. It was the
same error which crept into the German mind a century later, - when
Aristotle's dogmas became the infallible standard of criticism for the
modern drama, and which gave rise to such eccentric and confused
views regarding the greatness of Shakspeare. The idea that each cen-
tury produces new capacities; that the national mind is stamped
upon the literature of each century; that each poet must be judged
by the amount of his own original powers, - - never entered the heads
of these critics. Yet, however singular may have been the turn which
criticism took, the nation as a mass appears never to have been
wanting for a moment, in admiration of its great poet; and therefore
to say that Shakspeare was ever forgotten, ever neglected, is an error,
which is at once refuted by the continual demand for more and better
editions of his works. The fault finding commentators on Shakspeare
began to show how little they were qualified to judge the poet, by
their attempts to improve him. These "improvements" are the best
evidence of their disqualification as critics." "Poetic justice", continues
Charles Knight, "was one of the rules for which they clamoured.
"Duncan and Banquo ought not to perish in 'Macbeth', nor Desdemona
"in 'Othello', nor Cordelia and her father in 'Lear', nor Brutus in
"'Julius Caesar', nor young Hamlet in 'Hamlet'. So Dennis argues:
" 'The good and the bad perishing promiscuously in the best of
" Shakspeare's tragedies, there can be either none or very weak instruc-
tion in them'. The alteration of 'The. Tempest' by Davenant
"and Dry den, was an attempt to meet the taste of the town by music
"and spectacle. Shadwell went further, and turned it into a regular
"opera; and an opera it remained even in Garrick's time, who tried his
"hand upon the same experiment. Dennis was a reformer both in
"comedy and tragedy. He metamorphosed 'The Merry Wives of
"Windsor' into 'The Comical Gallant'; and prefixed an essay to it,
"on the degeneracy of the taste for poetry. Davenant changed
'"Measure for Measure' into 'The Law against lovers'." The Es-
sayists began to show better taste; for both the Taller and the Spec-
tator speak of .Shakspeare as belonging to the first class of great
geniuses, together with Homer; and Addison had a sounder apprecia-
tion of the beauties of the poet than even his predecessors.

Since the appearance of Howe's edition, Shakspearian criticism in

Knight's Shakspeare Studies.

England has been directed chiefly to the text. That higher aestlietical
criticism which was to bring the greatness of Shakspeare more
prominently into relief, by comparing him with the other giants of poetic
thought, has been left to the Germans; as we shall presently see.
These text criticisms, although numerous and of a higher standard than
before, were as yet neither very conspicuous nor productive of much
fruit. Proposals for new editions of Shakspeare, explanatory and cri-
tical notes on particular passages, answers to such criticisms, and
rejoinders thereto, examinations of and remarks upon the text, volumes of
selections, under the title " Beauties of Shakspeare", these were the
literary productions contributed by England towards the illustration of
the dramatist's works.

Pope's edition, in 6 Vols 4 to , appeared in 1725, handsomely
printed, and with an admirable preface. It was chiefly interesting for
the poet's criticism on Shakspeare and exhibits the progress of opinion
and judgement respecting the great dramatist. The text itself was
altered by Pope, as his fancy dictated; and it is therefore valueless.

Theobald's edition appeared in 7 Vols in 8 VO in 1733; it was
collated after the first editions, and had so high a stamp of correct
text, that, according to Steeven's assertion, thirteen thousand Copies were
sold of the first edition. Warton gives him his due praise, when he
calls him the first publisher of Shakspeare who hit upon the rational
method of correcting his author by reading such books as he had

Hanmer's edition appeared in 1744, in six splendid quarto volumes,
printed at the Oxford University press ; but it was as valueless as
that of Pope.

Pope's and Warburtoris edition appeared in '174 7; Hugh Blairs
in 1753; Johnson's in 1765; who "did but little, and that little was
not done well"; 'and Steeven's in 1766.

Dr. Farmer's eccentric "Essay on the learning of Shakspeare"
appeared in 17&7, and went through four editions. Dr. Johnson
complimented Farmer in these words : " You have done that which
never was done before; that is, you have completely finished a
controversy beyond all further doubt". Thus Dr. Farmer passed for
a very learned and conspicuous man, and William Shakspeare for a
very illiterate and obscure one.*

At about this period Shakspearian acting had risen to great
eminence, through the genius of David Garrick, whose personification
of Shakspearian characters was both novel and powerful. He appeared
for the first time, in the Goodmansfield Theatre, of which Gifford was
Lessee, in July 1741, and acted "Richard the 3 rd " with such success
that the great National Theatres stood empty, whilst the little theatre
was literally besieged. In 1747 he took Drury Lane, and was there
assisted by his fellow actors, Barry,, Pritchard, and Gibber. It was
a result of Garrick's admiration for the great dramatist that the cele-
brated "Jubilee" was held, in commemoration of the Bard, at Stratford
on Avon, on the 6 th of September 1769.

Bentley's Quarterly Review. Part III.

John Kemble continued to keep up the public interest in Shakspearian
acting; as did also his sister, Mrs. Siddous, the greatest tragic actress
whom England has produced.

Shakspeare has perhaps never been treated with more care, nor
have greater pains been expended upon his representation, than at this

A Glossary of the Plays of Shakspeare is extant, in which are
explained technical terms, words which have become obsolete or
uncommon, and common words used in an uncommon sense, by Richard
Warner. This work has -never been published, but the original manu-
script, consisting of 7 1 Volumes in quarto and octavo, is preserved in
the British Museum.* The original must have been written some time
between 1750 and 1770. It was a gigantic undertaking; and would
most likely have ruined any publisher who might have been bold
enough to meddle with it. Separate essays on the characters of
Hamlet, Sir John Falstaff, Richard the 3 rd , and Lear, with critiques upon
the faults of Shakspeare, occupied the literary world next. The extent,
indeed, to which the censure of Shakspeare was carried at this period
is both remarkable and characteristic; and shews the absence of any
high literary or critical principles; for, though every one admired
Shakspeare's genius, he was nevertheless constantly criticized on the score
of his supposed exaggeration m the developenient of character, his
bombast, and his vulgarity.

In 1765 Johnson's edition of the great dramatist appeared, in 8
Vols 8 X0 . This was** "the foundation of the "variorum editions", the
"principle of which has been to select from all, or nearly all existing
"commentaries, various and conflicting opinions upon the same passage.
"The respective value of the critics who had preceded him was fully
"discussed by Johnson in his preface. This branch of the subject was
"only of temporary interest. But the larger portion of Johnson's
"preface not only to a certain extent represented the tone of opinion
" in Johnson's age, but was written with so much pomp of diction, with
"such apparent candour, and with such abundant manifestation of good
" sense, that perhaps more than any other production, it has influenced
"the public opinion of Shakspeare up to this day."

But the public admiration of Shakspeare was increasing in
England; and men began to devote half a life-time to the collection of
Shakspearian tracts and MSS. Capell, it is said, indeed, spent a whole
life in the study of Shakspeare; and transcribed his works ten times
with his own hand.

Capell's "Shakspeariana", which is of great interest to scholars,
gives us a good idea of these collections; and still more so does the
following notice of his life. Capell*** "was deputy-inspector of plays;
and, as early as 1745, shocked at the licentiousness of Haumer's
plan, he first projected an edition of Shakspeare, of the strictest
accuracy to be collated and published in due time "ex fide codicum".
He immediately proceeded to collect and compare the oldest and scarcest

* MSS. Addit. 10,472 to 10,542.
** Knight's "Studies of Shakspeare".
*** 11 arts home, the Book Rarities in Cambridge.

copies: noting the original excellencies and defects of the rarest
quartos, and distinguishing the improvements or variations of the first,
second, and third folios. Three years after he put forth his own
edition, in 10 volumes, small octavo, with an introduction which was
printed (1768) at the expense of the principal booksellers of London,
who gave him 300 pounds for his labours. There is not, even among the
various publications of the present literary era, a more singular com-
position than this introduction. Its style and manner is actually more
obsolete and antique than that of the age of which it treats. Taken in
combination with the title page, it gives us , however, a perfect index to the
contents of the work; and it began to rouse the attention of scholars,
and to interest them in Shakspearian studies. In the title page is
embodied the following announcement: "Whereunto will be added,
in some other volumes, notes, critical and explanatory, and a body of
various readings entire." The introduction declared that these "notes
and various readings" would be accompanied by another work, disclosing
the sources from whence Shakspeare "drew the greater part of
his knowledge in mythological and classical matters, his fable, his
history and even the seeming peculiarity of his language", " to which,"
says Capell, "we have given for title, 'The School of Shakspeare'."
Twenty-three years had elapsed, in collection, collation, compilation,
and transcription, between the conception and production of his pro-
jected edition; and even then it came, like its author, "naked into the
world"; for it had neither notes nor commentary, save the critical
matter dispersed through the introduction, and a brief account of the
origin of the fables of the several plays ; with a table of the different

" But while he was diving into the classics of Caxton and working
his way under ground, like the river Mole, in order to emerge at last
with all his glories; while he was looking forward, like the patient
miner who has struck upon a vein unworked by others, to his coming
triumphs ; - - certain other active spirits went to work upon his plan,
and, digging out the promised treasures, laid them prematurely before
the public, destroying, by this anticipation of them, the whole effect of
our critic's discoveries. Stevens, Malone, Farmer, Percy, Reed, and a
host of other literary ferrets, burrowed into every hole and corner of
the warren of modern antiquity, and overran all the country which
had been mapped out by Edward Capell. Such a contingency stag-
gered the steady and hitherto unshaken perseverance of our critic, at
the very eve of the completion of his labours; and, as his editor
informs us, (for, alas! at the end of nearly forty years, the publica-
tion, was posthumous, and the critic himself no more!) - he had
almost determined to lay the work wholly aside. He persevered
however; and after his death, in 1783, three large quarto volumes were
published, under the title of "Notes and various Readings of Shak-
speare": together with the "School of Shakspeare". He died on the
24 th of January, 1781.*

Charles Knight** divides Shakspearian editors into two schools.

* Bibliographical Dictionary.

* Studies of Shakspeare.

"The earlier (to which belong Ro we, Pope, Theobald, Haniner and Johnson),
did not seek any very exact acquaintance with our early literature,
and would have despised the exhibition, if not the reality, of antiqua-
rian and bibliographical knowledge. A new school, however, subsequently
arose, whose acquaintance with what has been called black-letter litera-
ture was extensive enough to produce a decided revolution in Shak-
spearian criticism. Capell, Steevens, Malone, Reed and Douce, are its
representatives. The first school contained the most brilliant men ; the
second, the most painstaking commentators. The dullest of the first school,
who was branded as a mere dunce by his rival editor, "poor,
piddling Tibbald", - - was unquestionably its best specimen. Rorve was
indolent, Pope, flashy; Warljurton, paradoxical; Johnson, pedantic."

In 1773 appeared the edition of Johnson and Steevens, in 10
vols 8. This text of Steevens', in which the peculiar versification of
Shakspeare, with its freedom, its vigour, its variety of pause, its
sweetness, its majesty, is sacrificed to what he called "polished

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Online LibraryFranz J. L. ThimmShakspeariana from 1564 to 1864. An account of the Shakspearian literature of England, Germany, France and other European countries during three centuries, with bibliographical introductions → online text (page 1 of 16)