Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/357

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Collier
Collier
351

punctuation, cancellings, stage directions, and textual emendations in profusion. To the specimens which he gave in his first letter he added others in a second (7 Feb.), and one more, the famous 'bisson multitude,' in a third (27 March). The emendations, varying widely in merit and novelty, were now stamped with the authority of a corrector working soon after the book was printed, and possibly having access to better authorities than the early editors. The actual additions to the text included nine entire lines in as many places. Further details were at once called for. They were supplied at the end of 1852 in 'Notes and Emendations to the Plays of Shakespeare,' which claimed to include all the 'essential' manuscript readings. A second edition appeared in 1853, with a preface giving a circumstantial account of the identification of the annotated folio by a Mr. Parry, as having belonged to himself many years before. Collier also published in 1853 a single volume Shakespeare, without notes. In this edition he transferred the deference he showed in 1842-1844 to the first folio, 1623, to the anonymous corrections of the second, 1632, which were imported wholesale into the text without an attempt to distinguish them. The intrinsic merits of the manuscript readings had been questioned from the first. Real students of Shakespeare, such as Dyce, Knight, Staunton, and Halliwell, were not disposed to accept them blindly, and the proved futility of many of them negatived the idea of their specially authoritative character. Anything like criticism was, however, met by Collier with imputations of the meanest motives, and the result in Dyce's case in particular was the final breach of a long friendship. Doubts as to the authenticity of the corrections, grounded upon internal evidence alone, were first openly expressed by C. W. Singer, 'The Text of Shakespeare vindicated,' 1853 ; and more pointedly still by the anonymous author (E. A. Brae) of 'Literary Cookery,' 1855. The latter pamphlet, however, was particularly directed against the authenticity of the alleged discovery by Collier (Notes and Queries, 1 July 1854) of his own long-lost shorthand notes of Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare and Milton in 1811. In answer to this attack Collier moved the court of queen's bench, 17 Jan. 1856, for a criminal information against the publisher for libel, having on 8 Jan. sworn to the truth of all his statements concerning both the Coleridge lectures and the Perkins folio. The motion was heard by Lord Campbell, who refused the rule on the ground that the case was not one in which the court ought to interfere. He had, however, worked, like Collier, for the 'Morning Chronicle,' and knew him well. He now gave him from the bench a high character as 'a most honourable man,' declaring his own belief that he had vindicated himself completely in his affidavit. In 1858 Campbell further addressed to him, as 'an old and valued friend,' his pamphlet on the legal acquirements of Shakespeare. Although the remedy of an ordinary action for libel was still left to him, Collier remained content with the result of his ex-parte application, and later in 1856 he published the 'Seven Lectures,' with interesting particulars in the preface of his early intercourse with Coleridge and Wordsworth. Brae attacked the ' Lectures ' again in 1860 ('Collier, Coleridge, and Shakespeare') with considerable effect. The case against them was, in fact, one of grave suspicion ; but, as they were confessedly worked up merely from notes, it was hardly capable of proof. In the volume which contained them Collier also gave a 'List of every Manuscript Note and Emendation in the Perkins Folio.' The extent to which this list belied its reiterated claim to completeness was one of the most curious discoveries which were soon to be made. In spite of all criticism, Collier's own faith in his folio remained unshaken. In a new edition of his annotated Shakespeare, 6 vols. 1858, he adopted most of its manuscript readings, and avowed his conviction that the great majority ' were made not from better manuscripts, still less from unknown printed copies but from the recitations of actors.' While this work was in the press he lost his wife, who : died, aged 70, on 10 Dec. 1857. His patron, the Duke of Devonshire, died soon after, 17 Jan. 1858.

Down to 1859 the corrected folio had never been submitted to the judgment of experts. It had been exhibited on a few occasions, but Collier had apparently never let it go out of his own custody. In June 1853 he presented it to the Duke of Devonshire ; and on the duke's death it came to his successor, who in May 1859, at the request of Sir F. Madden, keeper of manuscripts, deposited it at the British Museum for examination. The result was published by Mr. N. E. Hamilton, of the manuscript department, in the ' Times ' of 2 and 16 July. Not only were the manuscript notes of themselves pronounced to be recent fabrications, merely simulating a seventeenth-century hand, but they were frequently found to correspond with other marginal notes in pencil undeniably modern. The latter had been rubbed out, but were (and are) still faintly legible, and the test of the micro-