20 APRIL 1889, Page 14


[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] SIR,—In your number of March 16th, there is a short notice of Vol. IV. of "The Henry Irving Shakespeare," in the course of which your critic finds fault with two foot-notes in one of the Dogberry scenes in Much Ado About Nothing (Act iv., Scene 2). The first is the explanation of "exhibition," "used. blunderingly for 'permission." If your critic had referred' to the notes at the end of the play, he would have found the reason for giving this explanation of the word. In the- Variorum Edition of Shakespeare, 1821, Steevens explains- " exhibition," "to examine," as a mistake for "examina- tion," "to exhibit," an explanation which did not satisfy me, for the reasons stated in my note 312. It seemed to. me more probable that Verges, the speaker, knew the meaning of " exhibition " common in Shakespeare's time— viz., "an allowance (of money),"—and that he used the word here simply in the mistaken sense of " allowance " or "per- mission." This appeared to me a more likely explanation than that given by Steevens ; but, of course, I may be wrong. The second foot-note in the same scene to which your critic- objects is "burglary," "a blunder for perjury." A few lines above, Dogberry had used the right word, "perjury," so. that the blunder here seems rather an unnecessary one, and might easily be mistaken for a misprint. It happens that " burglary " occurs only in this one passage in Shakespeare, and, therefore, is amongst the Hapax Legomena. It is most important that, in the case of such words used only once, if they are used in other than the ordinary sense of the word, the fact should be recorded. Your critic goes on to say that such notes would be "an affront even in a school edition." If I have been guilty of this affront, at any rate in one case I sin in good company, for I suppose that your critic would not say that the " Variorum " Shakespeare was intended for schoolboys.

The object of these foot-notes was fully explained in the preface to Vol. I., and if your critic would kindly read that preface, he would not waste his time in finding fault with what is really the most trivial and least important feature of the edition, but might give me the advantage of his erudition and of his intimate acquaintance with Shakespeare on more im- portant points, for which I should be much obliged.—I am, Sir, &c., Folkestone, March 27th. FRANK A. MARSHALL. [We still think that the reader might have been better left to enjoy the fun by himself.—ED. Spectator.]