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from him: I say, most, because there are some which I am convinced will not stand this test: the old, the grave, and the severe, will disapprove, perhaps, the more soft, (and as they may call them), trifling love-tales, so elegantly breathed forth, and so emphatically extolled by the young, the gay, and the passionate ; while these will esteem as dull and languid, the sober saws of morality, and the home-felt observations of experience. However, as it was my business to collect for readers of all tastes, and all complexions, let me desire none to disapprove what hits not with their own humour, but to turn over the page, and they will surely find something acceptable and engaging. But I have yet another apology to make, for some passages introduced merely on account of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention, as indicating the vast stretch, and sometimes particular turn of the poet's imagination.
The Selection, such as it is, I recommend to the candour and benevolence of the world; wishing every one that peruses it, may feel the satisfaction I have frequently felt in composing it, and receive such instructions and advantages from it, as it is well calculated to impart. For my own part, better and more important things henceforth demand my attention, and I here, with no small pleasure, take leave of Shakspeare and the critics. As this work was begun and finished, before I entered upon the sacred function in which I am now happily employed, let me trust, this juvenile performance will prove no objection, since graver, and some very eminent members of the church, have thought it no improper employ, to comment, explain, and publish the works of their own country poets.
JOHN BRITTON, Esq. F.S.A.*
- Soul of the age, The applause, delight, the wonder of the stage, My Shakspeare, arise!
B. Jonson. “ Heaven-born Genius acts from something superior to rules, and antecedent to rules; and bas a right of appeal to Nature herself."
It has been frequently and justly remarked that no department in the dignified and almost boundless circle of literature excites so much general interest as biography. Every man, who possesses an elevation of mind, evinces an eager and laudable curiosity to ascertain the private habits and characters of those persons who have astonished the world by their exploits, or enlightened it by their génius and wisdom. The genealogy of their families, the events of their childhood, the nature of their education, their personal appearance, their manners, their habits, their friendships, their amusements, and even their foibles, constitute abundant subjects for literary investigation, Nor ought such inquiries to be rashly stigmatized as puerile, or neglected as unimportant. To judge of an
* This original Essay was written in 1814, for WHITTINGHAM'S Cabinet Edition of SHAKSPEARE'S PLAYS, in 7 vols. with 230 Wood Cuts, and was REVISED and MUCH ENLARGED for a new Edition in March, 1818. It contains a list of 89 different works, which have been successively published on the writings of Shakspeare.