I have fubb’d this young quat—Quat, or cat, appears to be a contraction of cater-cousin—and this reading will be greatly strengthened when it is remembered that Roderigo was really the intimate of Iago.—p. 204.
In a subsequent passage, “I am as melancholy as a gibb’d cat”—we are told that cat is not the domestic animal of that name, but a contraction of catin, a woman of the town. But, indeed, Mr. Becket possesses a most wonderful faculty for detecting these latent contractions and filling them up. Thus,
“Parolles. Sir, he will steal an egg out of a cloister.” Read (as Shakespeare wrote), “Sir, he will steal an Ag (i.e., an Agnes) out of a cloister.” Agnes is the name of a woman, and may easily stand for chastity.—p. 325.
“Carter. Prithee, Tom,
put a few flocks in Cut’s saddle; the poor
beast is wrung in the withers out of all cess.”
Out of all cess, we used to think meant, in vulgar phraseology, out of all measure, very much, &c.—but see how foolishly!
Cess is a mere contraction of cessibility,
which signifies the
quality of receding, and may very well stand for yielding, as
spoken of a tumour.—p. 5.
“Hamlet. A cry of players.”
This we once thought merely a sportive expression for a company of players, but Mr. Becket has undeceived us—“Cry (he tells us) is contracted from cryptic, and cryptic is precisely of the same import as mystery.”—p. 53. How delightful it is when learning and judgment walk thus hand in hand! But enough—
Is loathsome in its own deliciousness”—
and we would not willingly cloy our readers. Sufficient has been produced to encourage them—not perhaps to contend for the possession of the present volumes, though Mr. Becket conscientiously affirms, in his title-page, that “they form a complete and necessary supplement to every former edition”—but, with us, to look anxiously forward to the great work in preparation.
Meanwhile we have gathered some little consolation from what is already in our hands. Very often, on comparing the dramas of the present day (not even excepting Mr. Tobin’s) with those of Elizabeth’s age, we have been tempted to think that we were born too late, and to exclaim with the poet—
“Infelix ego, non illo qui tempore
Quo facilis natura fuit; sors O mea laeva
Nascendi, miserumque genus!” &c.
but we now see that unless Mr. Andrew Becket had also been produced at that early period, we should have derived no extraordinary degree of satisfaction from witnessing the first appearance of Shakespeare’s plays, since it is quite clear that we could not have understood them.