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SPIRIT OF ALBION!

WE, thy histrionic Sons and Daughters, who

“ Have strutted our hour upon the stage,

And now are heard no more,”

Being in the vale of years, implore the aid of thy inspiring name, to infuse a disposition in the Dramatis Personæ of the Great Theatre of the World, to view us with benevolent consideration, ere the Great Curtain drop on our last scene.

When, by thy all-directing voice, we

“ Were well bestowed As the brief chronicles of the time;"

And, by thee were we tutored,

" To hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature; to shew Virtue her own feature; Scorn her own image ; and the very age and body of the time its form and pressure.”

Also, under thy all-inspiring auspices, we have practised the cure of melancholy; for well thou sayest,

“ Melancholy is the nurse of frenzy ;

Therefore it is thought good to hear a play,
And frame the mind to mirth and merriment;
Which bars a thousand harms, and lengthens life.”

Now we, thy votaries, finding that

“ This wide and Universal Theatre Presents more woful pageants, than the scenes Wherein we played,”

RETIRE;

But, ever cheered by the magic of thy name, we live on

“ All the fair effects of future hopes.”

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PRE FACE

All minds attached to the memory of our immortal Shakespeare, feel a longing desire,—an ardent anxiety, to know something of his childhood, his adolescence, and, indeed, of every minute circumstance relating to him, preluding his arrival in London, — where he appears to have come the child of Nature, the ward of Providence. There does not exist any record or traditional account of his having manifested any distinguished precocity during his youth; and now more than two hundred years have rolled away without any important records having been found to throw a light upon his early history. It would be most gratifying to have been furnished with some historical traits illustrating the dawn of his mighty genius, and the progression of his intellectual development: that gratification is denied us, contemplation, and amazement, fill the void.

Born in 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon, we find him arrived in London in the year 1586, at the age of twenty-two, seeking a maintenance through the medium of his talents : and Kis genius, or his destiny, appears to have led his first steps towards the theatres of the metropolis. This early bias seems subsequently to have attached him permanently to the Drama :-he became a writer for the stage,--and evidently a successful one—for in 1589 he was a joint proprietor with Burbage in theatrical property. He published his first poem (Venus and Adonis) in 1593; but the first publication of his plays does not appear to have taken place until 1597 (when he was thirty-three years of age). It is not correctly ascertained how many of his plays were written, and acted, up to this period. ne nineteen years afterwards,- fifteen of which were apparently passed in the capital, still writing for the theatres, and superintending his dramatic property. He retired to his native town, Stratford. about the year 1612,

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