Pembroke College Oxford, 7-9th August 2015
The publication of Samuel Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare on 10 October 1765 was an important event in his own life and in the history of the editing of Shakespeare. This conference, held at Johnson’s own college, will invite perspectives from Shakespearians and Johnsonians, and explore the interplay of sameness and difference, restoration and innovation, in Johnson’s work. It will reassess Johnson’s achievement as a critic and textual editor by revisiting established contexts and developing new ones. Johnson’s Shakespeare edition was an intervention in a discipline notable for the heat of its disputes. It was preceded not only by Rowe’s Shakespeare (1709, the first modern edition) but by Pope’s (1725), Theobald’s (1733), Hanmer’s (1743/4), and Warburton’s (1747). A central aspect of Johnson’s achievement was his capacity for viewing the work of different editors as potentially collaborative; his edition has sometimes been called the first variorum edition of Shakespeare. Boswell, who had reservations about Johnson’s success, praised the Preface for judiciously ‘bestowing . . . deserved and indisputable praise’ on Shakespeare while ‘candidly admitting the faults’, and the commentary for exhibiting ‘such a mode of annotation, as may be beneficial to all subsequent editors’.
We would like to acknowledge the support of the John Fell Fund Oxford University Press and Pembroke College, Oxford in enabling this conference to take place.