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The Dramatic Works of John Dryden, Volume 1 With a Life of the Author   By: (1771-1832)

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[Illustration: M' John Dryden. ]





The best edited book in the English language is, according to Southey, Wilkin's edition of Sir Thomas Browne. If Sir Walter Scott's "Dryden" cannot challenge this highest position, it certainly deserves the credit of being one of the best edited books on a great scale in English, save in one particular, the revision of the text. In reading it long ago, with no other object than to make acquaintance with Dryden; again, more recently and more minutely, for the purpose of a course of lectures which I was asked to deliver at the Royal Institution; and again, more recently and more minutely still, for the purposes of a monograph on the same subject in Mr. Morley's series of English Men of Letters , I have had tolerably ample opportunities of recognising its merits. It was therefore with pleasure that I found, on being consulted by the publisher of these volumes as to a re issue of it, that Mr. Paterson was as averse as I was myself to any attempt to efface or to mutilate Scott's work. Neither the number, the order, nor the contents of Scott's eighteen volumes will be altered in any way. The task which I propose to myself is a sufficiently modest one, that of re editing Scott's "Dryden," as putting differences of ability out of question he might have re edited it himself had he been alive to day; that is to say, to set right errors into which he fell either by inadvertence or deficiency of information, to correct the text in accordance with modern requirements, and to add the results of the students of Dryden during the last three quarters of a century in matter of text as well as of comment.

The first part of the plan requires no further remarks, and the last not much. No literary work of Dryden's of any great importance has been discovered since Scott's edition appeared. A few letters will have to be added, though I am sorry to say that I cannot promise my readers the satisfaction which Dryden students chiefly desire, the satisfaction of reading, or at least knowing the contents of, the Knole correspondence. In reply to a request of mine, Lord Sackville has positively, though very courteously, refused to lift the embargo which his predecessors have placed on this, nor have my inquiries succeeded as yet in discovering any hitherto unpublished letters, though the present collection will for the first time present those which have been published in a complete form. I think that it may not be uninteresting for readers to have an opportunity of comparing with the undoubted work two plays, "The Mistaken Husband," and "The Modish Lovers," which good authorities have suspected to be possibly Dryden's. These will accordingly be given in the last volume of the plays. A bibliography of Dryden, and writers on Dryden, and a certain number of pieces justificatives of various kinds, will also be added, as well as notes, and where the subject seems to demand them, appendices on points of importance. These additional notes and appendices will be bracketed and signed ED., Dryden's own notes, which are rare, will be indicated by a D., and Scott's will stand without indication.

The principles upon which I have proceeded in re editing the text require somewhat fuller explanation. Dryden never superintended any complete edition of his works, but on the other hand there is evidence in his letters that he bestowed considerable pains on them when they first passed through the press. The first editions have therefore in every case been followed, though they have been corrected in case of need by the later ones. But the adoption of this standard leaves unsettled the problem of orthography, punctuation, etc. I have adopted a solution of this which will not, I fear, be wholly agreeable to some of my friends... Continue reading book >>

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