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* * * * *

The Augustan Reprint Society

_Preface to The Works of Shakespeare_

With an Introduction by
Hugh G. Dick

Publication Number 20
(Extra Series, No. 2)

Los Angeles
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California

* * * * *


H. RICHARD ARCHER, _Clark Memorial Library_
RICHARD C. BOYS, _University of Michigan_
EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_
H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


W. EARL BRITTON, _University of Michigan_
JOHN LOFTIS, _University of California, Los Angeles_


EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_
BENJAMIN BOYCE, _University of Nebraska_
LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_
CLEANTH BROOKS, _Yale University_
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_
SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_
ERNEST MOSSNER, _University of Texas_
JAMES SUTHERLAND, _Queen Mary College, London_

* * * * *


Lewis Theobald's edition of Shakespeare (1734) is one cornerstone
of modern Shakespearian scholarship and hence of English literary
scholarship in general. It is the first edition of an English writer in
which a man with a professional breadth and concentration of reading in
the writer's period tried to bring all relevant, ascertainable fact to
bear on the establishment of the author's text and the explication of
his obscurities. For Theobald was the first editor of Shakespeare who
displayed a well grounded knowledge of Shakespeare's language and
metrical practice and that of his contemporaries, the sources and
chronology of his plays, and the broad range of Elizabethan-Jacobean
drama as a means of illuminating the work of the master writer. Thus
both in the edition itself and in his Preface, which stands as the first
significant statement of a scholar's editorial duties and methods in
handling an English classic, Theobald takes his place as an important
progenitor of modern English studies.

It is regrettable, though it was perhaps historically inevitable, that
this pioneer of English literary scholarship should have been tagged
"piddling Theobald" by Pope and crowned the first king of _The Dunciad_.
Pope's edition of Shakespeare was completed by 1725, and in the
following year Theobald made the poet his implacable enemy when he
issued his _Shakespeare Restored_, which demolished Pope's pretensions
as an editor by offering some two hundred corrections. But the conflict
was not merely strife between two writers: it was a clash between two
kinds of criticism in which the weight of tradition and polite taste
were all on the side of Pope. What Theobald had done, in modern
terms, was to open the rift between criticism and scholarship or, in
eighteenth-century terms, to proclaim himself a "literal critic" and to
insist upon the need for "literal criticism" in the understanding and
just appreciation of an older writer. The new concept, which Theobald
owed largely to Richard Bentley as primate of the classical scholars,
was of course the narrower one--implicit in it was the idea of
specialization--and Theobald's opponents among the literati were
quick to assail him as a mere "Word-catcher" (cf. R.F. Jones, _Lewis
Theobald_, 1919, p. 114).

His own edition of Shakespeare, therefore, was the work of a man and a
method on trial. At first Theobald had proposed simply to write further
commentary on Shakespeare's plays, but by 1729 he determined to issue a
new edition and in October of that year signed a contract with Tonson.
From the first Theobald found warm support for his project among
booksellers, incipient patrons, and men of learning. His work went
forward steadily; subscribers, including members of the Royal Family,
were readily forthcoming; and by late 1731 Theobald felt that his labors
were virtually complete. But vexing delays occurred in the printing so
that the edition, though dated 1733, did not appear until early in 1734,
New Style. When it did appear, it was plain to all that Theobald's
vindication of himself and his method was complete. Judicious critics
like the anonymous author of _Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_
(1736) were quick to applaud Theobald's achievement, and even Pope
himself was silenced.

Ultimately of course Theobald came under severe attack by succeeding
editors of Shakespeare, notably Warburton and Johnson, yet both men were
guilty of unwarranted abuse of their predecessor, whose edition was nine
times issued in the course of the century and was still in current use
by the time of Coleridge (cf. Wm. Jaggard, _Shakespeare Bibliography_,
1911, pp. 499-504). Warburton and Johnson's abuse, coupled with that of
Pope, obscured Theobald's real achievements for more than a century
until J.C. Collins did much to rehabilitate his reputation by an essay
celebrating him as "The Porson of Shakespearian Criticism" (_Essays and
Studies_, 1895, pp. 263-315). Collins's emotional defense was largely
substantiated by T.R. Lounsbury's meticulous _The Text of Shakespeare_
(1906), R.F. Jones's _Lewis Theobald_ (1919), which brought much new
material to light, and most recently by R.B. McKerrow's dispassionate
appraisal, "The Treatment of Shakespeare's Text by his Earlier Editors,
1709-1768" (_Proceedings of the British Academy_, XIX, 1933, 23-27). As
a result, so complete has been Theobald's vindication that even in a
student's handbook he is hailed as "the great pioneer of serious
Shakespeare scholarship" and as "the first giant" in the field
(_A Companion to Shakespeare Studies_, 1934, ed. H. Granville Barker
and G.B. Harrison, pp. 306-07).

Theobald's Preface occupied his attention for over a year and gave him
much trouble in the writing. Its originality was, and still is, a matter
of sharp dispute. The first we hear of it is in a letter of 12 November
1731 from Theobald to his coadjutor Warburton, who had expressed some
concern about what Theobald planned to prefix to his edition. Theobald
announced a major change in plan when he replied that "The affair of the
_Prolegomena_ I have determined to soften into a _Preface_." He then
proceeded to make a strange request:

But, dear Sir, will you, at your leisure hours, think over for me
upon the contents, topics, orders, &c. of this branch of my labour?
You have a comprehensive memory, and a happiness of digesting the
matter joined to it, which my head is often too much embarrassed to
perform.... But how unreasonable is it to expect this labour, when
it is the only part in which I shall not be able to be just to my
friends: for, to confess assistance in a _Preface_ will, I am
afraid, make me appear too naked (John Nichols, _Illustrations
of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century_, 1817, II,

His next letter, which contains the list of acknowledgements
substantially as printed, thanks Warburton for consenting to give the
requested help, announces that he is himself busy about "the Contents...
wch. I am Endeavouring to modell in my Head, in Order to communicate
them to you, for your Directions & refinement," indicates that he has
"already rough-hewn the Exordium & Conclusion," and asserts that "What I
shall send you from Time to Time, I look upon only as Materials: wch I
hope may grow into a fine Building, under your judicious Management"
(Jones, _op. cit._, pp. 283-84).

Warburton apparently misunderstood or overlooked Theobald's remarks
about materials, for in his next letter Theobald was obliged to return,
somewhat ambiguously, to the same point:

I make no Question of my being wrong in the disjointed Parts
of my Preface, but my Intention was, (after I had given you the
Conclusion, & the Manner in wch. I meant to start) to give you a
List of all the other general Heads design'd to be handled, then to
transmit to you, at proper Leisure, my rough Working off of each
respective Head, that you might have the Trouble only of refining &
embellishing wth: additional Inrichments: of the general Arrangement,
wch. you should think best for the whole; & of making the proper
Transitions from Subject to Subject, wch. I account no inconsiderable
Beauty (_Ibid._, pp. 289-90).

Finally on January 10, 1733, Theobald wrote Warburton: "I promise myself
now shortly to sit down upon ye fine Synopsis, wch. you so modestly call
the Skeleton of Preface" (_Ibid._, p. 310).

It is clear from the foregoing that Theobald wrote most of the Preface
topic by topic, and probably followed the plan for the general structure
as submitted by Warburton. Yet it is equally clear that certain parts of
the Preface, such as the contrast between _Julius Caesar_ and Addison's
_Cato_, which Warburton later claimed as his and which Theobald omitted
from his second edition, were furnished Theobald as "additional
Inrichments" (D.N. Smith, _Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare_,
1903, pp. xlviii-ix). When later a break did occur between the two men,
neither was free from blame. Theobald had asked and got so much help
with the Preface that he should have acknowledged the debt, no matter
how naked it might have made him seem. Warburton, on the other hand, had
had honest warning that acknowledgement would not be made for this part
of his help; and if his synopsis were followed, as seems likely, his
condemnation of the Preface as "Theobald's heap of disjointed stuff" was
disingenuous, to say the least.

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