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conjectures as to who this person was. In publishing this edition of Shakspeare, the plan laid down by Mr. Malone was, to exhibit all his dramas in what he considered to be, from the best judgment he could form, their chronological order, that the reader might be thus enabled to trace the progress of the author's powers, from his first and imperfect essays, to those more finished performances which he afterwards produced. I have adopted that arrangement as far as his miscellaneous plays are concerned; but found it universally objected to by all whom I had an opportunity to consult, if it were made to comprehend the plays which were founded on English history. I have therefore, thus far, ventured to deviate from my late friend's intention, and have placed the historical plays in a separate class. Enough will still remain to fulfil the object which Mr. Malone had in view,

The Tempest will no longer precede The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Comedy of Errors, by which those who were not attentive to dates, might have been led to form very erroneous conclusions as to the inequality of Shakspeare's genius.

We shall now find his powers gradually developed as his knowledge became more extensive, and his judgment matured. In his first essays he will appear seemingly unconscious of his strength, assimilating himself, in some degree, to the models before him. Soon after we see him with “ casted slough and fresh legerity,” entering upon a hitherto untrodden path, creating, as it were, anew the drama of his country, and exhibiting a brilliancy of fancy, an energy, and a pathos, which till now had been unknown upon our stage. Advancing in his progress to excellence, we shall probably be led to fix upon the middle period of his life, as the time when his genius was at its meridian. The productions that followed, although every way worthy of their great author, yet still fell short of that fervid inspiration to which we owe those wonderful performances, which, according to Mr. Malone's hypothesis, VOL. I.


are ascribed to a period from about the thirty-fourth to the forty-first year of his life. The mind may, indeed, repose with delight upon the mild splendour of the Tempest ; but in claiming for Shakspeare the title of the sovereign of the drama, as the first of our criticks has styled him, we must look to Hamlet, Othello, and Lear, and, above all, to the flood of glory which bursts upon us from Macbeth. Here it will be gratifying to pause for a moment, and to contemplate the gradual increase of our great poet's reputation during the course of the second century which has elapsed since his death. Even at the time when Johnson wrote his admirable preface, not only was the knowledge of his excellence almost wholly confined to his own countrymen, but even among them there were not a few who were disposed to adopt, in some degree, the petty objections which had been thrown out by the spleen of Voltaire; and the alterations which Garrick, in the spirit of French criticism, presumed to make in Hamlet, of which a fuller account is given in the second volume, will tend to show how imperfectly he was understood by one of his warmest admirers. If we go back to an earlier period, we shall find the general reader still less acquainted with his merits, till at last we revert to that age of critical darkness, when he was reviled by Rymer, and patronized by Tate. If an Englishman of the present day were to indulge in such ribaldry as the first of these two persons poured forth upon Othello, he would nearly run a risk of meeting with the punishment of Zoilus. Nor is it among our own countrymen alone that his superiority is now acknowledged. Even in France, which has always been remarkable for a bigotted attachment to its own literature, a tardy and unwilling tribute has been paid to the genius of Shakspeare; but it is in Germany, above all, that the highest enthusiasm has been excited on the subject of his works. The most distinguished writers of that country have contended with each other in offering homage to

his name, among whom we are bound particularly to notice M. Schlegel. I am far from saying that I adopt all that critick's opinions ; nor can I think that such a man would estimate very highly either the sincerity or value of indiscriminate praise. It must be matter of astonishment, that one who so well appreciates the genuine works of Shakspeare, could be led, for a moment, to suppose that such trash as Locrine and Lord Cromwell proceeded from his

pen. They are evidently not only unworthy of the great name to which they have been ascribed, but are scarcely even the productions of the second-rate poets of that day. Other objections may be made to M. Schlegel. He is sometimes perhaps too refined; and too enthusiastick for our colder and more didactick style of criticism ; there is, occasionally, too much metaphysical curiosity in his analysis ; he is inclined to make Shakspeare, who wrote for the people, too much of a poetical mystick; in short, he has endeavoured to give him more of a German cast of thinking than really belonged to him; but after all the deductions which candour can make, there will still remain sufficient ground for the general admiration which has been bestowed upon a work at once so eloquent and so profound.

But to return to humbler topicks: I must say a few words as to the arrangement adopted in the following volumes. In the first I have printed the prefaces which have been prefixed to the modern editions of the poet, among which Mr. Rowe's Life, as being partly prefatory and partly biographical, may be classed. Notwithstanding its defects in the second point of view, I should not have thought myself justified in omitting it altogether; but it will no longer be found accompanied with notes, which were written for the purpose of demolishing almost every statement which it contained. These are now incorporated in Mr. Malone's more extensive and correct work on the same subject. The remainder of the volume is occupied by various critical dissertations on our author's works, among which the reader will find an Essay on the Phraseology and Metre of Shakspeare; and the Commendatory Poems. These were originally destined for the second volume, which, however, became of so unexpected a bulk, that I was compelled to alter my arrangement, that I might not add to its already disproportioned size. As I was anxious that the work altogether should not in its compass exceed the later editions of Mr. Steevens, notwithstanding the accession of much additional matter, I have been induced to print this part of it in a rather smaller type. The second volume contains Mr. Malone's Life of Shakspeare, accompanied by explanatory documents; a list of the early editions of his works, more fully described than heretofore; and other matters relating to the poet's history. The Essay on the Chronology of Shakspeare's Plays was originally distinct ; and I cannot, with confidence, say that Mr. Malone would not have so continued it: but it appeared to me, that the life of a writer must be strangely defective which contained no account of his works; and I have, therefore, ventured to give it a place as one of the sections of Mr. Malone's Biography. The reader, I have no doubt, will derive no small satisfaction from the many curious particulars which my late friend's research enabled him to collect upon this subject; yet I cannot but lament that much has unquestionably been lost, which, had he lived. to superintend this edition himself, he would have furnished. It was his intention to have devoted one section to the manners and customs of Shakspeare's time; but I found the materials which he had prepared for this enquiry in so loose and disjointed a state, that I could not have ventured upon the labour of arranging them without protracting the publication of this work to a distant period. I may remark that his memoranda did not appear to relate to matters which had any direct reference to what bears upon the drama ; but are rather illustrative of the general political state of the country. I need scarcely add, that, although I was unable, for the reason I have stated, to make use of his collections on this subject, at

least for the present, I have scrupulously abstained from destroying a single scrap of his literary remains. The third volume contains the History of the Stage, with his own corrections, and the addition of some very curious new matter. Some valuable documents which had escaped my attention at the time when this part of the work was printed off, are preserved among the Addenda, in the twenty-first volume. Those who are interested in dramatick history, and are fond of tracing our early literature in its rudest form, will unite with me in expressing their satisfaction that my friend, Mr. Markland, has permitted me to lay before the publick, upon this occasion, his valuable Essay on the Chester Mysteries. I have also retained the extracts which Mr. Reed had given from Mr. Chalmers. The succeeding sixteen volumes are appropriated to the plays. The text has been printed according to the principle laid down by Mr. Malone, of adhering as strictly as possible to the ancient copies; and wherever they are deviated from, the reader is apprised of the alteration, and of the reasons upon which it is founded. The numerous sophistications introduced by Mr. Steevens have been removed; but it has not been thought necessary to enter into a contest about each individual passage; as the system upon which he proceeded is sufficiently discussed in the Essay on Phraseology and Metre. I have, therefore, for the most part, considered it sufficient to head those notes in which the original text has been disturbed, with the reading which he wished to substitute, that the reader may have a full opportunity of fixing his own value upon those supposed improvements. In some of Mr. Steevens's comments, and, in a very few instances, in those of Mr. Malone, the reader will find an insertion which it is proper to explain. The suggestions of Mr. Jennens of Gopsal, and of Mr. Capell, having sometimes been adopted without acknowledgment; wherever I discovered that such was the case, I have consulted brevity, while I was at the same time willing to do those criticks justice, by merely putting these words between

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