The edition of Hudibras now submitted to the public is intended to be more complete, though in a smaller compass, than any of its numerous predecessors. The text is that of Nash, usually accepted as the best; but in many instances—as in the very first line—the author's original readings have been preferred. In all cases the variations are shown in the foot notes, so that the reader may take his choice.
The main feature, however, of the present edition is its notes; these have been selected with considerable diligence and attention from every known source, and it is believed that no part of the text is left unexplained which was ever explained before. Grey has been the great storehouse of information, and next in degree Nash, but both have required careful sifting. Other editions, numerous as they are,—including Aikin's, the Aldine, and Gilfillan's,—have yielded nothing. Mr Bell's, which is by far the best, is edited on the same principle as the present, and had that gentleman retained the numbering of the lines, and given an Index, there would have been little left for any successor to improve.
A few of the notes in the present selection are, to a certain extent, original, arising from some historical and bibliographical knowledge of the times, or derived from a manuscript key, annexed to a copy of the first edition, and attributed to Butler himself.
The Biographical Sketch of our poet is a mere rifacimento of old materials, for nothing new is now to be discovered about him. Diligent researches have been made in the parish where he lived and died—Covent Garden—without eliciting any new fact, excepting that the monument erected to his memory has been destroyed.
This volume has been more than two years at press having dribbled through the editor's hands, not during his leisure hours or intervals of business, for he never had any, but by forced snatches from his legitimate pursuits. An old affection for Hudibras, acquired nearly half a century ago, at a time when its piquant couplets were still familiarly quoted, had long impressed him with the desire to publish a really popular edition;
Et l'on revient toujours
A ses premières amours;
the public therefore now have the result.
It has happened, from the want of consecutive attention, that two or three notes are all but duplicate such as that on Wicked Bibles at pages 326 and 371 Mum and Mummery, 385 and 406 ; and, He that fights and runs away, at pages 403 and 106. But the publisher hopes that his readers will not quarrel with him for giving too much rather than too little.
Henry G. Bohn.
- York Street, Covent Garden,
- April 28th, 1859.