American Shakespeare scholarship, and American editions of the works, which had up to the time of Verplanck amounted to nothing more than arrangements of pre-existing British editions, gained a certain independence and originality with his 1847 "Illustrated Shakespeare." In addition to Verplanck's scholarship, the many illustrations of his edition, executed, or supervised, by H. W. Hewet on designs published by British artists, make it valuable. It is true that Verplanck's editorial contributions are modest, and that the woodcut illustrations represent shameless appropriations from the earlier British editions of Charles Knight and Barry Cornwall (this from a man who championed authors' copyrights in US law), nevertheless, Verplanck's is the first edition to closely parallel in content and form one of the better British editions.
Verplanck was an important political figure in early-mid-nineteenth century America.
At antipodes to this "appreciation" are the comments of Jane Sherzer, not twenty years later:
Both of these evaluations make us squirm a bit. Morgan's being too heavy-handed and anti-British, Sherzer's being too severe and slighting, though Sherzer does give Verplanck his place among American editors:
Verplanck's edition was surely the best that had appeared to date in America.
GULIAN C. VERPLANCK.
Mr. Verplanck has acquired reputation—at least his literary reputation—less from what he has done than from what he has given indication of ability to do. His best if not his principal works, have been addresses, orations and contributions to the reviews. His scholarship is more than respectable, and his taste and acumen are not to be disputed.
His legal acquirements, it is admitted, are very considerable. When in Congress he was noted as the most industrious man in that assembly, and acted as a walking register or volume of reference, ever at the service of that class of legislators who are too lofty-minded to burden their memories with mere business particulars or matters of fact. Of late years the energy of his character appears to have abated, and many of his friends go so far as to accuse him of indolence.
His family is quite influential—one of the few old Dutch ones retaining their social position.
Mr. Verplanck is short in stature, not more than five feet five inches in height, and compactly or stoutly built. The head is square, massive, and covered with thick, bushy and grizzly hair; the cheeks are ruddy; lips red and full, indicating a relish for good cheer; nose short and straight; eyebrows much arched; eyes dark blue, with what seems, to a casual glance, a sleepy expression—but they gather light and fire as we examine them.
He must be sixty, but a vigorous constitution gives promise of a ripe and healthful old age. He is active; walks firmly, with a short, quick step. His manner is affable, or (more accurately) sociable. He converses well, although with no great fluency, and has his hobbies of talk; is especially fond of old English literature. Altogether, his person, intellect, tastes and general peculiarities, bear a very striking resemblance to those of the late Nicholas Biddle.
Gulian Crommelin Verplank.
HERE is no more picturesque character in American chronicles than Gulian Crommelin Verplank (or Verplanck), who died in the city of New York twenty years ago, March I8, 1870.
Mr. Verplank was born August 6, 1786, in the venerable mansion of the Dutch period, which still stands on its broad foundation at Fishkill-on-Hudson, and which is one of the historical mansions of America, since within its walls, May 13, 1783, George Washington and his associates drafted the plan of the Order of the Cincinnati, of which he was the first President. During the Revolution, and at the birth of Mr. Verplank, this mansion (the date of its building is unknown, but it was probably then more than a century old), was the ancestral property of his father, Gulian Crommelin Verplank, Senior, who was a patriot foremost in his country's counsels, and for many years Member of Congress from the State of New York.
The future first American editor of Shakespeare was graduated at Columbia College (lately King's College, under her old charter from King George II.), and was admitted to the bar of the city of New York, of which he speedily became a foremost leader. But politics and literature, too, had their attractions, which were not to be resisted, and we find Mr. Verplank representing Dutchess County in the New York State Legislature from 1820 to 1821. In the last-named year he was appointed Professor of Moral Science and the Evidences in the General Theological Seminary, and held that chair until 1825, when he was elected Representative of the State in Congress, to which honor he was successively re-elected until the year 1833. In 1829, Mr. Verplank began to urge upon Congress the passage of a statute for the protection of authors, and it is to his signal, persevering, and unremitting services that American authors are indebted for the Act of February 3, 1831 (4 U. S. Stats, at L., ch. 16), which more than doubled the existing term of protection, and is the basis of the present liberal law (Act of July 8, 1870). This act for the first time simplified the cumbrous proceedings that injured authors had been obliged to invoke, and must ever remain to Mr. Verplank's enduring honor, and entitle his memory to the gratitude of American letters. On leaving Congress Mr. Verplank was always a foremost citizen, being respectively, and until his death, a Commissioner of Emigration, Governor of the City Hospital, Vice-Chancellor of the State University, and President of the Century Club of the city of New York.
A curious and now entirely forgotten episode of Mr. Verplank's life, which is interwoven at once with the history of Columbia College, of the city, and finally of the State of New York, may well be resurrected here : In 1786, King's College (originally, established by the colony of New York with money raised by a public lottery established by the Assembly, and to which Trinity Church gave the triangular piece of land bounded by Church, Murray, and Barclay Streets, in the then upper part of New York City), took a confirmation of its royal charter from the State of New York under the name of Columbia College, and the famous De Witt Clinton was its first graduate under the new name (1786). Mr. Clinton was, therefore, intensely proud of his Alma Mater and of his prestige as her first graduate, and allowed nobody to vie with him in honoring her. In July, 1811, he was Mayor of New York City. It happened during the month that certain students of the senior class of Columbia College, in the course of the festivities in honor of their coming graduation, became, perhaps, unusually demonstrative in the matter of unhinging the gates, extinguishing the lamps, hammering the door-knockers, and changing the swinging signs of the early retiring citizens, and for their pains found themselves apprehend by the watch, and secured for the remainder of the night in the city Bridewell, and, in the morning, haled before the Mayor's Court, where Mayor Clinton sat in person on the bench. Now Mayor Clinton loved Columbia College and honored her name beyond everything. A student of Columbia was his brother, and he found himself conflicting between a longing to honorably discharge the young men and a stern conviction of his magesterial duties and the upholder of the peace of New York, whose chief ruler he was. To add to his dilemma, Mr. Verplank appeared as counsel for the young men, and Mr. Verplank was quite as fond and proud of Columbia College as was Mayor Clinton, a graduate only a single year his senior. Verplank was, as we have seen, just entering politics, and he had been led to the party opposite to that of which Clinton was the leader. Here was Verplank's opportunity and he improved it. He made an impassioned speech, in which he took care to picture Mayor Clinton as posing as the enemy of his own Alma Mater Columbia, and persecuting its students, incidentally touching upon the then present condition of New York State and national politics and Mr. Clinton's unworthy sonship not only of Columbia College, but of the State of New York and of the United States of America. He acquitted the boys, but earned the life-long enmity of Clinton. The incident grew in the public talk and ended in making Verplank the leader of his party, as Clinton was of his own, and thence began a warfare which was waged in every field. Clinton, as well as Verplank, had literary aspirations, and among other weapons they fought by the then fashionable lampoon. Verplank printed "The Bucktail Bards " (1818), "The Epistles of Brevet-Major Pindar-Puff " (1819), and others, to which Clinton was not backward in replying, ridiculing Verplank as "Abimelech Cooley, Ladies' Shoemaker," in response to his own nickname of " Pindar-Puff," which Verplank (having discovered that Clinton, when a student at Columbia had written verses) bestowed upon him. The very names of these lampoons have perished now, but everybody read and enjoyed them throughout the State, and they were freely quoted in the political arenas of the day.
But Mr. Verplank was to make other and solider contributions to literature. He is credited meanwhile with an "Address Before the American Assembly of Fine Arts" (1824), "Essays on the Nature and Uses of the Various Evidences of Revealed Religion" (1824), "Essays on the Doctrine of Contracts" (1825), "Discourses and Addresses on Subjects of American History, Art, and Literature" (1833), and "The American Scholar" (an address delivered at Union College in 1836.)
But the work by which Mr. Verplank will be longest known, and which entitles him to a high place in Shakespeariana's Roll of Honor, is that in 1847 he published an independent American edition of Shakespeare in three royal octavo volumes, thus becoming actually the first American editor of Shakespeare, certainly the first who independently bestowed original labor upon the Text of the Plays. The full title reads "Shakespeare's Plays, with his Life: Illustrated with many hundred Wood-cuts, executed by H. W. Hewet, after Designs by Kenny, Meadows, Harvey, and others. Edited with Critical Introductions, Notes etc., Original and Selected. Edited by Gulian C. Verplank, LL.D. New York : Harper & Brothers."
Mr. Verplank's method unconsciously was that which every American editor was to more or less follow. The field of European criticism invited, then as now, the Variorum editor to sift and select at will. But the will has always been, to the American, toned down by his own taste and impatience of mere imbecility, or what seems, to an American, imbecility. Shakespeare himself did not "lie among the daisies and discourse in novel phrases" of "his complicated state of mind," and why should his commentators? As Mr. Whipple—who never did a better piece of work in his life than his review (in the old North American, which, like all good things too quickly passed away) of this very edition—remarks : "Antiquarians and commentators are apt unconsciously to rate their discoveries and illustrations as of more value than the things to which they refer, and Shakespeare especially, has been sacrificed by a class of lynx eyed dogmatists—always quarrelling among themselves, and each claiming, for the morsels of human knowledge he has contributed, a ludicrous importance." And Mr. Whipple, had he written these words in 1889 instead of in 1848, might have qualified his sentence by using the word "alleged" before "discoveries" and "morsels"—with a nearer truthfulness. It would be a heavy task in anybody today, to better as a whole Mr. Verplank's edition of Shakespeare, made—as it was—almost half a century ago, with a judgment always rigid between the lines of personal common-sense and the highest catholicity, with scholarly, eloquent, and loving pen...
 This edition of Shakespeare's Plays, besides containing numerous pictorial embellishments and illustrations, and a large selection of the best notes of former commentators, in full or abridged, presents a careful revision of the Poet's text by the American editor, with many original notes, and a new critical and historical introduction to each play.
 The inquiry will naturally suggest itself to most readers at all conversant with Shakespearian criticism, "What can be the use of any more editorial labour upon Shakespeare, and especially by an American editor?" "After the immense labours of a long succession of critics, most of them learned, industrious, and acute,—some of them among the greatest literary names of the last or the present century,—what can be contributed now and here, either to the purity of the Poet's text, or the illustration of his thoughts?" In short, it may be asked, "Why would not the wants of the American public be better supplied by a reprint of some one or other of the later and more perfect English editions, than by any attempt at a new one?" These, or similar inquiries, would have occurred to no one sooner than to the present editor himself, had he found his own task undertaken by another. The reply can be best given by stating the manner in which he was led to engage in a labour which he would never have undertaken, voluntarily, from the first, though it has since proved to him one of those "labours we delight in."
 The publication of this edition was originally undertaken by Mr. Hewet, by whom, or under whose direction, all its wood-engravings, and other embellishments of art, have been executed. His primary object was to embody, in an American edition, a large and choice selection of those pictorial decorations and illustrations,—many of them exquisite in taste and spirit, and others equally valuable in the way of historical or antiquarian illustration,—which have given such interest, popularity, and real value, to the later European editions of Shakespeare, and especially to those edited by Mr. Knight, and that more lately published by Mr. Tyas. The publisher was naturally desirous that these embellishments of art should accompany an edition which, in typographical accuracy and general literary character, would not be unworthy of its external decorations. With this view, he applied to the present editor to undertake the editorial care and responsibility of the literary department of this edition. Within the last few years, and since the publication of the editions of Shakespeare containing, or founded on, the text and comments of Johnson, Stevens, and Malone, the labours of Mr. Knight, and his coadjutors, in his Pictorial and Library editions, as well as of Gifford, Dyce, Halliwell, and other English critics, had thrown new light on many passages and scenes of the great dramatist; and it happened that, just before this application of Mr. Hewet, a new edition of Shakespeare's Works, by John Payne Collier, was received in this country. That edition contained, together with much recently discovered antiquarian matter bearing on the disputed or dark points of Shakespearian controversy, a thorough revision of the Poet's text, the errors and variances of which have been so long the subject of contention among the commentators, and of perplexity to their readers. Mr. Collier's revision was founded upon a laborious and minutely accurate collation of all the old editions, and particularly of all the plays separately published in quarto during the author's lifetime, or within a few years after his death, some of which, from their extreme rarity, had never been collated by any former editor. It, therefore, appeared highly desirable, and at the same time not at all difficult, to combine many of the merits of the several best and latest English editions in an American edition.—compressing all the results of modern Shakespearian criticism into such a compass as would render them accessible and convenient to numerous readers, whose want of leisure, of inclination, or of means, might prevent them from consulting the voluminous labours of the European commentators. As the study of Shakespeare and his critics had for years been a favourite occupation with me, as that taste had gradually led me to collect much of the necessary editorial materials, and as the proposed edition was to be published irregularly, in numbers, and might be easily transferred at any time to another hand, should anything occur to interrupt my attention to it, I had no hesitation in undertaking the task.
 My first intention was simply to adopt the revised text of Mr. Collier, with most of his critical and explanatory notes, various readings, etc., adding such a selection from the other commentators and critics, and especially from the curious and interesting comments and collections of Mr. Knight, as would, without much labour of transcription or abridgment, and with some few original additions, enable me to present to the reader all that was necessary or useful for the elucidation of the Poet's meaning, and the decision of the more interesting questions of verbal criticism as to his text, together with a satisfactory though brief view of critical opinions upon his several plays, including much of the higher and more philosophical criticism of the present century. But in the very first play which was prepared for the press—it happened to be Hamlet, and intended for a specimen number—I found that I could not satisfy myself without varying widely from my original plan. Mr. Collier's researches I found had brought together many new materials, of unquestionable value, for the correction and elucidation of the great Poet's text ; but it frequently happened that I could not acquiesce in that editor's conclusions, and much preferred the decision of some one of his editorial predecessors on doubtful readings, or debated points of interpretation. But as he often presented new evidence on these questions, and especially on the contested readings, I was led to examine, weigh, and decide for myself, on many of these curious and interesting, though often minute difficulties. Thus, without any ambition of novelty, I was gradually led to adopt a revised text, not exactly corresponding with that of any preceding edition. Each play, again, presented a new and, to me, most interesting subject of inquiry, as to the probable date of its authorship, the changes it had received from its author's hand, in different editions, and the indications thus afforded of the great Poet's mental and moral history, his variations of temper and disposition, and of tone of thought, and his progressive formation for himself of his own style and versification, and almost of his own language. Thus here, also, I was led much beyond my original expectation, and induced, after weighing the ample and curious evidence collected within the last few years, to express my own conclusions in brief introductory notices.
 Again, as to the notes;—though much of the necessary commentary could be extracted without any other labour than that of selection, either directly from the larger Variorum editions, in the language of the original authors, (as has been my plan in respect to the most important notes of distinguished critics,) or as condensed in the foot-notes of Knight, of Collier, or the judicious abridged commentary of Mr. Singer, yet there was much additional matter, critical, antiquarian, or philological, scattered about in later publications, too valuable to be overlooked in any new annotated edition of Shakespeare ; besides, I was, much oftener than I had anticipated, tempted by the examples of so many learned and ingenious writers, or by the thoughts they suggested, to express my own opinion on the points under discussion, in my own language. Thus I was led on to a work of much more labour and duration than was originally intended. The results of that labour are presented in these volumes, and may be thus recapitulated :—
 I. The first and greatest, though humblest labour of the Shakespearian editor, arises from the various readings of the Poet's text, and the alterations, conjectures, and controversies of critics, in relation to them. These difficulties, as all students of Shakespeare are well aware, spring from the following causes: 1. Partly from the differences between the several editions of many of the plays, originally printed separately, in quarto pamphlets, during the author's life, or not long after his death, and the text of the complete collection of his " Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies," published by his associates and first editors, Heminge and Condell, in 1623. 2. Partly from obvious errors of the press, or of the copyist of the manuscript used by the first printers, where it often happens that, while some error is manifest, the precise correction of it must be conjectural. 3. From the efforts of editors and annotators to amend, according to their own comprehension, or the taste of their age, what the Poet had written perhaps in another taste and spirit, perhaps hastily and carelessly. The critics of the last century have all vied with each other in attempts to substitute more intelligible language for phrases or words which they did not understand, some of which were obscure from allusion to incidents now forgotten, or modes of life now obsolete, and some because they were (as Milton calls them) " Delphic lines," " dark with excess of light," from the bold and unaccustomed use of language in new senses, or the invention of new terms, compressing or suggesting a crowd of ideas in a single word, or a transient or broken phrase.
 The text of this edition has been very carefully, and it is hoped very accurately printed, taking for the copy the late edition of J. P. Collier,—first minutely read by myself, with such alterations of words, of punctuation, and of rhythmical regulation, as commended themselves to my judgment, as being preferable to the readings given by Mr. Collier. None of these variations, of any consequence, were made without full examination of the whole evidence, and frequent reference to the first folio edition, (1623,) and to Stevens's excellent and accurate reprint of the text of the original quarto editions of the several plays first printed separately. In the choice among the varying readings, I have endeavoured to depart as little as might be from the older text, and generally to preserve that of the first folio ; so that, except in cases of unquestionable misprints, 1 have preferred retaining in the text even difficult readings, where any reasonable interpretation of the author's meaning could be given. Of course, very many of the alterations of language, of punctuation, and of arrangement of versification, introduced by Stevens and Malone, and followed in most of the popular editions, have been rejected, as indeed they have frequently been by Mr. Collier, and generally by Mr. Knight. Agreement with Mr. Knight, in the principle of adherence to the authority of the first folio, except where the reasons for departing from it seemed irresistible, has led, of course, to a closer resemblance of the readings of this edition, in the disputed passages, to those of his Pictorial and Library editions, than to those of any other edition ; but as my adherence to that authority has been far less scrupulous than his, I have often profited by the new light thrown on these points by the minute researches of Mr. Collier, as well as, still more recently, by the acute and learned criticisms of Mr. Dyce. In some few instances I have differed both from Mr. Collier and Mr. Knight ; but in the main the text will be found to correspond much more nearly with that of either of those editors, than with the more commonly received text of Stevens and Malone, and the numerous editions formed upon their authority. But the choice between not a few of those variances is exceedingly doubtful, and many of the older various readings are, in my judgment, unquestionably alterations by the author himself, in revisions and enlargements of several of his plays. Many of these various readings, and it is hoped all of any interest or curiosity, are detailed in the notes, with a summary, as brief and as little controversial as might be, of the authority or reasons adduced in support of each of them. To the use of Mr. Collier's text by the printer, after it had been thus varied and corrected, this edition is indebted for another great advantage over very many of the most popular, and some of the most splendid English editions ; as the text has been thus kept free from many accidental modern typographical errors of mere carelessness,—some of them being omissions of words, others alterations which, having accidentally crept into some one or other of the best editions of the last century, were transferred by the printers to succeeding ones, escaping the observation even of laborious editors, whose attention was directed mainly to points of doubtful discussion. These, having been carefully corrected and pointed out by Mr. Collier, are avoided here.
 II. The notes of exposition and interpretation, in this edition, have been prepared with the view and the hope of giving, in the briefest form, with the rejection of much useless controversy and digression, the substance of all the annotations valuable either for the elucidation of obscurely expressed thoughts, of obsolete words and phrases, or of antiquated allusions. Much of the labour of selection and abridgment has been saved (as already intimated) by the previous labours, in the same way, of Messrs. Knight and Collier, and by the excellent condensation of the Variorum commentary, by Mr. Singer. All of these have been freely used, as one or another seemed preferable ; but as the selection was never made without reference to the fuller original commentaries, as well as to other later authorities, critical or philological, the notes thus selected have been very frequently altered, enlarged with new matter, or abridged in language, as the case seemed to demand. Such of the notes of the former commentators as seemed of peculiar value or excellence have also been extracted, at large, in their own words. Wherever any of the selected notes contained original views, or were remarkable for peculiarity of thought, like Warburton's, or power of expression, like those of Johnson, due credit has been given (with the possible exception of some accidental oversights) to the original annotator. In other cases, such as in many of the notes extracted from the editions of Knight, Singer, or Collier, where the later editor has merely summed up the learning of his predecessors, or referred to and extracted from some other well-known authority, it is presumed that the present general acknowledgment is all that is strictly due to the claims of annotating authorship. The editor has also attempted to incorporate with the mere verbal and antiquarian commentary, the substance of much of that higher Shakespearian criticism, in which this century has been so prolific. This is done sometimes by extracts from the authors themselves, as from Coleridge, Ulrici, Schlegel, Mrs. Jameson, Hallam, etc., and frequently in an abridged statement of the various and often clashing critical opinions or theories, at the end of each body of notes. To all this the editor has added, in many places, such original critical observations or suggestions as occurred to him. Some of these, it is hoped, may contain views or suggestions new to the reader, and either tend to the elucidation of the great Poet's thoughts or design, or contribute somewhat to general critical inquiry. These are sometimes incorporated with the remarks of preceding critics, and sometimes given in separate notes ; but I have not felt enough of the pride of authorship in any of them to designate them by my name, or any other peculiar mark.
 III. As an appropriate accompaniment to an edition enriched with numerous pictorial decorations and antiquarian illustrations of art, many of the more curious notices of costume, arms, architecture, etc., contributed to the English Pictorial edition by Mr. Planché, have been selected or abridged, and prefixed to each play, with the addition of such original remarks, or information from other sources, as seemed likely to throw light either on the scenes of the dramatist, or the history of medieval art, taste, manners, or opinion. Those illustrations, whether literary or graphic, have a great and peculiar value in relation to the dramas of English History, and to those plays where the scene and date approach most nearly to the author's own time and country ; as they there always (and sometimes, with less historic accuracy, elsewhere) enable us to call up before our own " mind's eye " the personages and adjuncts of the scenes, in shapes and colours resembling those in which they rose before the Poet's own mental vision. It is true that many others of those illustrations of antiquarian accuracy contain matter, or present pictures, of which Shakespeare never dreamed ; yet these, too, may have their use and value, in an age like ours, when art finds so many of its subjects in Shakespeare's scenes, and when, from the diffusion of popular knowledge, many a violation of costume, in dress, or architecture, such as the author could not have himself perceived, on the stage or on the canvass, would now shock a school-boy. The notices of the sources of the plot, and the historical or romantic materials of the several plays, also prefixed to them, are generally drawn (as always acknowledged) from Mr. Knight's Introductions, but with constant use of Mr. Collier's valuable republication on the same subject, entitled " Shakespeare's Library, or a Collection of the Romances, Poems, or Histories used by Shakespeare, as the Foundation cf his Dramas," (two volumes, octavo : London, 1843.) These notices have been frequently enlarged by prefatory observations, or other matter, suggested by the editor's general reading and recollections.
 IV. An Introduction has been prepared to each play, containing some brief critical notices of their several characteristics of style, versification, design, and of tone and colour of thought, together with a detailed bibliographical account of each, as to the probable date of its composition, the state of the text, and the variations between the several old editions. The merely bibliographical material herein contained is drawn, of course, from preceding editors, and much of it may be found in the "introductions" to the several plays, by J. P. Collier, in his edition. But the whole has been re-cast for this purpose,—partly because I often dissented from the conclusions of the editors (Mr. Collier, for instance) to whom I was most indebted for my facts, but chiefly because I wished to present the separate evidence, as to each play, in the same point of view and with the same object, as parts of a single inquiry, and that not one of purely antiquarian curiosity, but as tracing out Shakespeare's intellectual history and character, by gathering from various and sometimes slight and circumstantial or collateral points of testimony, the order and succession of his works, assigning, so far as possible, each one to its probable epoch, noting the variations or differences of style and of versification between them, and in some cases (as in Romeo And Juliet, Henry V., and Hamlet) the alterations and improvements of the same play by the author himself, in the progress of his taste and experience ; thus following out, through each successive change, the luxuriant growth of his poetic faculty and his comic power, and, finally, the still nobler expansion of the moral wisdom, the majestic contemplation, the terrible energy, the matchless fusion of the impassioned with the philosophical, that distinguished the matured mind of the author of Hamlet, of Lear, and of Macbeth. As this part of the work is that which has most interested the editor, and on which he has bestowed most study and thought, it is of course that part of his own contribution to Shakespearian Literature which he regards as of chief value. Better judges than himself may perhaps decide that his inquiries have added no satisfactory results beyond those formerly attained. Be this as it may, these investigations and statements have at least the merit of directing the attention of the American student to an inquiry which must be curious and interesting, as to the progress of any great and original mind, but full of instruction as it relates to the greatest and most original mind in our literature,—while the editor's conclusions, whether correct or otherwise, have been formed, if without much deference to critical authority, still as certainly without any ambition of novelty or originality, or attachment to any preconceived theory.
Gulian Crommelin Verplanck (1786-1870) was the next American editor of Shakespeare. He was born in New York City, graduated from Columbia as the youngest of. her alumni, was lawyer, professor, author, and, with William Cullen Bryant and Robert C. Sands, joint editor of the Talisman, from 1827, for three years. The title page of his edition reads: "Shakespeare's Plays: with his life. Illustrated with many hundred woodcuts, executed by H. W. Hewet, after designs by Kenny Meadows, Harvey, and others. Edited by Gulian C. Verplanck, L. L. D., with critical introductions, notes, etc., original and selected. In three volumes. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1847." The first number of the parts in which this edition was published, appeared in 1844, H. W. Hewet publisher and engraver of the wood-cuts. It is an imitation of Knight's Pictorial edition, the most of its illustrations being used, with others of an inferior quality. Some of the covers to the original numbers read 'The illustrations designed, selected and arranged by Rob. W. Weir.' The title was afterward changed to "Harper's illuminated and illustrated Shakespeare" (Barton Catalog, 76). The text is founded upon Collier, but with numerous changes made in agreement with the sound principle, advocated by Knight and Peabody, of adherence to the first folio. In a few instances only, has Verplack deviated from this rule to follow Dyce's or others' suggestions, or his own judgment. In an original way, however, Verplanck seems to have done next to nothing. The only new reading offered is in Troilus and Cressida, vol. 3, Act V, Sc. 3: "For we would give much, to so count violent thefts." And Richard Grant White, edition 1, vol. 2, p. 86, calls attention to the fact that Verplanck first restored the old word, "Cherubin," in Act I, Sc. 2, of the Tempest. Still, how many changes were made may be inferred from Verplanck's own statement in the Introductory Remarks to Hatmlet, vol. 3, p. 9: "He [Verplanck] has departed from Mr. Collier's text in more than twenty places, chiefly by restoring the old folio readings, where Mr. Collier has preferred those of the quartos."
The numerous notes, unsigned, are not placed at the foot of the page, as in former editions, but inconveniently collected at the end of each play. and, worse still, unnumbered. They were selected principally from the Variorum of 1821 and from Singer, 1826. Collier and Knight were also freely drawn upon and Verplanck has taken bodily nearly every thing, even to the illustrations, found in Knight's Pictorial edition. Verplanck, however, has not been so slavish in his methods as Peabody, but has shown some independence, if not originality, and a clear and virile mind that breathes at times thro' the dreary wastes of European criticism like a fresh western wind. The several notes due to Verplanck deal generally with Americanisms and betray the lawyer. See notes on Julius Caesar, Act V, Sc. 1, vol. 3, p. 49: "Warn was the old word, both technical and colloquial, for summon, of which the English editors give various examples from old writers, as of an obsolete word. It is, however, in the United States, one of those words brought over by the generation next after Shakespeare's, which has preserved its ancient sense, especially in New England, there town meetings, jurymen, etc., ... are still said to be 'legally warned.'" Also Notes on Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Sc. 2, vol. 3, p. 61: ' They traveled in pairs, says Baretti, that one might be a check on the other; a shrewd piece of policy, which has been adopted by our American Shakers."
Imitating Knight, Verplanck has prefixed to each play voluminous Introductory Remarks, re-cast from those of preceding editors, containing besides "many of the more curious notices of costume, arms, architecture, etc., contributed to the English Pictorial edition by Mr. Planch, some brief critical notices of their several characteristics of style, versification, design, and of tone and colour of thought" (vol. I, p. ix) and a dissertation on the chronology of each, wherein the editor sets forth his views on the nature of Shakespeare's genius. He does not believe that it sprang, Minerva-like, into being fully developed, but that it grew and unfolded with time and cultivation. This opinion, in direct opposition to that held by Rowe and his followers, was not original with Verplanck, but first suggested by Johnson. In the Introductory Remarks to the Two Gentlemen of Verona (vol. 2, p. 5), Verplanck says: "Johnson (probably on the authority of his friend, Sir J. Reynolds) has well replied to the objection raised by Upton to Shakespeare's right of authorship to this piece [Two Gentlemen of Verona], founded on the difference of style and manner from his other plays, by comparing this difference to the variation of manner between Raphael's first pictures and those of his ripened talent." Altho Pope, Dryden, and Malone, in common with Coleridge and the German school held to the same doctrine of growth, still Verplanck seems to believe in his own originality. He certainly did dwell upon the theory to a much greater extent than any of his predecessors. "As this part of the work," he says, "is that which has most interested the editor, and on which he has bestowed most study and thought, it is, of course, that part of his own contribution to Shakespearian Literature which he regards as of chief value" (vol. 1, p. x).
Hence it is not surprising to find Verplanck, in the endeavor to uphold his hobby, explaining away inequalities of style and other difficulties in a play by calling it a youthful production, revised in later years, and claiming that frequently the quartos contain the youthful efforts, the folios those bearing the refining touch of the master's hand. Thus Henry V grew from quartos to folio with thoro revision and large additions (Henry V, Int. Rem., vol. 1, p. 6). Midsummer Night's Dream (Int. Rem., vol. 2, p. 6), Romeo and Juliet (Int. Rem., vol. 3, p. 5), etc., were early productions, later revised and improved. A small volume could be filled with Verplanck's comments in support of this theory, but one more extract must suffice: "Its [Richard IlI's] diction and its versification are in a transition state between those of his earlier works and those of Henry IV and the Merchant of Venice. From these indications, I should not hesitate to pronounce that it was written soon after the two parts of the 'Contention' and before Henry IV, King John, or even the first form of Romeo and Juliet. Thus we may here trace the varied, but nevertheless progressive development of the Poet's mind; the three parts of Henry VI successively rising each above the other, and preparing us for the higher dramatic excellence of Richard III, far superior to any of them, yet superior, chiefly, in the same class and kind; while Richard III again, in Clarence's dream and other scattered passages, shows the dawn of that poetic splendour, and the early gushings of that flood of thought, which was thenceforward to enrich all the Poet's dramatic conceptions" (Rich. III, Int. Rem., vol. 1, p. 6).
Following the folio, Verplanck preserves the general division of comedies, histories and tragedies; but, deviating from that authority, seeks to group the plays "according to the several progressive stages of their author's style, taste, and general cast of thought. In this way, the growth of the author's mind, the ripening of his taste, his formation of diction and of versification for himself, may all be made more prominent, so as to be perceptible even to the careless reader" (vol. 1, p. xiii).
As an editor Verplanck far surpasses Peabody. His edition, altho cumbersome in arrangement, (notes unnumbered and unsigned, collected at the end of the plays, plays separately paged, etc.), is based upon sound principles. The author classes himself with the subjective critics and avows that he is a transmitter of the " higher Shakespearian criticism in which this century has been so prolific" (vol. 1, p. ix), a disciple of Coleridge, Schlegel, Mrs. Jameson, Hallam, etc. His greatest merit in his own eyes is to have developed at length the doctrine of the gradual development of the wonderful mind of Shakespeare.
Verplanck's work was favorably regarded by his contemporaries. In 1851 Hudson calls him " a critic of rare taste and judgment" (Hudson, vol. 1, p. 4). Whipple in the same year says: " His introductions to the plays are really additions to the higher Shakspearian criticism, not so much for any peculiar felicity in the analysis of character, as in the view, partly bibliographical, partly philosophical, which he takes of the gradual development of Shakspeare's mind and the different stages of its growth. It is the first connected attempt to trace out Shakspeare's intellectual history and character. ... In this portion of his labors, Mr. Verplanck has shown a solidity and independence of judgment, and a power of clearly appreciating almost every opinion from which he dissents, which give to his own views the fairness and weight of judicial decisions. His defects as a critic are principally those which come from the absence in part of sensitive sympathies, and of the power of sharp, minute, exhaustive analysis. He is of the school of Hallam, a school in which judgment and generalization rule with such despotic control, that the heart and imagination hardly have fair play and strongly marked individualities too often subside into correct generalities" (Essays and Reviews by Edwin P. Whipple, 1851, vol. II, pp. 215 and 216). Richard Grant White in his Shakespeare's Scholar, 1854, p. 30, thus justly sums up Verplanck's merits: Mr. Verplanck's labors were more eclectic than speculative. Forming his text rather upon the labors of Mr. Collier, Mr. Knight, and Mr. Dyce, than upon original investigation and collation, and exercising a taste naturally fine, and disciplined by studies in a wide field of letters, he produced an edition of Shakspeare, which with regard to texts and comments, is, perhaps, preferable to any other which exists."