1902 Encyclopedia > Alexander Dyce

Alexander Dyce
English dramatic editor and literary historian

ALEXANDER DYCE, (1798-1869), a distinguished dramatic editor and literary historian, was born at Edin-burgh on the 30th June 1798, and, after receiving his early education at the High School of his native city, became a student at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated as B.A. Having adopted the clerical profession, he officiated as curate at Lantegloss, in Cornwall, and subse-quently at Nayland, in Suffolk ; and, in 1827, he settled in London. His first books were Select Translations from Quintus Smyrnceus, an edition of Collins, and Specimens of British Poetesses. He issued annotated editions of George
Peele, Robert Greene, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and Beaumont and Fletcher, with lives of the authors and much illustrative matter. He completed an edition of Shirley left unfinished by Gifford, and contributed biogra-phies of Shakespeare, Pope, Akenside, and Beattie to Pickering's Aldine Poets. He has also edited several of Bentley's works, and Specimens of British Sonnets; and his carefully revised edition of John Skelton, which appeared in 1843, did much to revive interest in that trenchant satirist. In 1857 his edition of Shakespeare was published by Moxon ; and the second edition, a great improvement on the old one, was issued by Chapman and Hall in 1866. Dyce's interest in Shakespeare manifested itself further in such works as Remarks on Collier's and Knight's Editions of Shakespeare, A Few Notes on Shakespeare, and Strictures on Collier's new Edition of Shakespeare. He was intimately connected with several literary societies, and undertook the publication of Kempe's Nine Bays' Wonder for the Camden Society ; and the old plays of Timon and Sir Thomas More were published by him for the Shakespeare Society. He was associated with Halliwell, Collier, and Wright as one of the founders of the Percy Society, which aims at publish-ing old English poetry. Dyce also issued Recollections oj the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, which has been several times reprinted both in Britain and in the United States. The editions of the dramatists already mentioned were re-issued with many improvements. Dyce died on the 15th May 1869. His reputation rests on his contributions to English literary biography, and on the untiring industry, abundant learning, and admirable critical acumen displayed in his editions of the old English poets. His wide read-ing in Elizabethan literature enabled him to explain much that was formerly obscure in Shakespeare; while his sound judgment was a sure check to anything like extravagance in emendation. His labours resulted in the best text of Shakespeare we possess. While preserving all that is valuable in former editions, Dyce has added much fresh matter. The Glossary, which consists of a large volume of 500 pages, is the most exhaustive that has appeared. Not only rare words are explained, but common words when employed with an unusual meaning, phrases, proverbs, old customs, and difficult allusions. The book is, therefore, an important contribution to philology and to the history of the English language, as well as to the elucidation of the text. The mere number of words in Dyce's Glossary shows a great advance in comprehensiveness. It is calcu-lated that the Globe Glossary has about 2000 words, and Staunton's 2500, while Dyce's has upwards of 5000. The meanings of the words, as used by the poet, are accurately given, and are illustrated by literary quotation and linguistic comment. Altogether Dyce's Shakespeare is likely long to remain the standard edition of our English dramatist.

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