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now given them is reflected upon duly: other originals have, indeed, been pretended; and much extraordinary criticifm has, at different times, and by different people, been fpun out of those conceits; but, except fome few articles in which the writer profeffes openly his ignorance of the fources they are drawn from, and fome others in which he delivers himself doubtfully, what is faid in the preceding leaves concerning these fables may with all certainty be rely'd upon.
How much is it to be wifh'd, that fomething equally certain, and indeed worthy to be intitl'da Life of Shakspeare, could accompany this relation, and complete the tale of thofe pieces which the publick is apt to expect before new editions? But that nothing of this fort is at prefent in being, may be faid without breach of candour, as we think, or fufpicion of over much nicenefs: an imperfect and loofe account of his father, and family; his own marriage, and the iffue of it; fome traditional ftories,--many of them trifling in themselves, fupported by fmall authority, and feemingly illgrounded; together with his life's final period as gather'd from his monument, is the full and whole amount of hiftorical matter that is in any of these writings; in which the critick and effayift swallow up the biographer, who yet ought to take the lead in them. The truth is, the occurrences of this most interesting life (we mean, the private ones) are irrecoverably loft to us; the friendly office of regiftring them was overlook'd by thofe who alone had it in their power, and our enquiries about them now muft prove vain and thrown away. But there is another fort of them that is not quite fo hopelefs; which befides affording us the profpect of fome good iffue to our endeavours, do alfo invite
us to them by the promife of a much better reward for them: the knowledge of his private life had done little more than gratify our curiofity, but his publick one as a writer would have confequences more important; a difcovery there would throw a new light upon many of his pieces; and, where rashness only is fhew'd in the opinions that are now current about them, a judgment might then be form'd, which perhaps would do credit to the giver of it. When he commenc'd a writer for the stage, and in which play; what the order of the rest of them, and (if that be discoverable) what the occafion; and, laftly, for which of the numerous theatres that were then fubfifting they were feverally written at first,-are the particulars that fhould chiefly engage the attention of a writer of Shakspeare's Life, and be the principal fubjects of his enquiry to affift him in which, the firft impreffions of thefe plays will do something, and their title-pages at large, which, upon that account, we mean to give in another work that will accompany The School of Shakspeare; and fomething the School itself will afford, that may contribute to the fame fervice: but the corner-ftone of all, must be the works of the poet himself, from which much may be extracted by a heedful perufer of them; and, for the fake of fuch a perufer, and by way of putting him into the train when the plays are before him, we fhall inftance in one of them; -the time in which Henry V. was written, is de termin'd almost precisely by a paffage in the chorus to the fifth act, and the concluding chorus of it contains matter relative to Henry VI.: other plays might be mention'd, as Henry VIII. and Macbeth; but this one may be fufficient to answer our intention in producing it, which was to spirit fome
one up to this task in some future time, by fhewing the poffibility of it; which he may be further convinc'd of, if he reflects what great things have been done, by criticks amongst ourselves, upon fubjects of this fort, and of a more remov'd antiquity than he is concern'd in. A Life thus conftructed, interfpers'd with fuch anecdotes of common notoriety as the writer's judgment fhall tell him-are worth regard; together with fome memorials of this poet that are happily come down to us; fuch as, an inftrument in the Heralds' Office, confirming arms to his father; a Patent preferv'd in Rymer, granted by James the Firft; his laft Will and Teftament, extant now at Doctors Commons; his Stratford monument, and a monument of his daughter which is faid to be there also;-such a Life would rife quickly into a volume; efpecially, with the addition of one proper and even neceffary epifode-a brief hiftory of our drama, from its origin down to the poet's death: even the stage he appear'd upon, it's form, dreffings, actors fhould be enquir'd into, as every one of those circumftances had fome confiderable effect upon what he compos'd for it: The fubject is certainly a good one, and will fall (we hope) ere it be long into the hands of fome good writer; by whofe abilities this great want may at length be made up to us, and the world of letters enrich'd by the happy acquifition of a mafterly Life of Shakspeare. CAPELL.
5 First printed in 1773. MALOne.
"I must not (says Mr. Rowe in his dedication to the Duke of Somerset) pretend to have reftor'd this work to the exactness of the author's original manuscripts: thofe, are loft, or, at least, are gone beyond any enquiry could make; fo that there was nothing left, but to compare the feveral editions, and give the. true reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many places intelligible, that were not fo before. In fome of the editions, efpecially the laft, there were many lines (and in Hamlet one whole scene) left out together; these are now all supply'd. I fear your grace will find fome faults, but I hope they are mostly literal, and the errors of the press." Would not any one, from this declaration, fuppofe that Mr. Rowe (who does not appear to have confulted a fingle quarto) had at least compared the folios with each other? STEEVENS.
first and last) the errors in every play, at least, were trebled. Several pages in each of thefe ancient editions have been examined, that the affertion might come more fully fupported. It may be added, that as every fresh editor continued to make the text of his predeceffor the ground-work of his own (never collating but where difficulties occurred) fome deviations from the originals had been handed down, the number of which are leffened in the impreffion before us, as it has been conftantly compared with the most authentick copies, whether collation was abfolutely neceffary for the recovery of sense, or not. The perfon who undertook this tafk may have failed by inadvertency, as well as those who preceded him ; but the reader may be affured, that he, who thought it his duty to free an author from fuch modern and unneceffary innovations as had been cenfured in others, has not ventured to introduce any of his own.
It is not pretended that a complete body of various readings is here collected; or that all the diverfities which the copies exhibit, are pointed out; as near two thirds of them are typographical mistakes, or fuch a change of infignificant particles, as would croud the bottom of the page with an oftentation of materials, from which at last nothing ufeful could be felected.
The dialogue might indeed sometimes be lengthened by other infertions than have hitherto been made, but without advantage either to its spirit or beauty as in the following inftance:
"Lear. No, I fay. "Kent. I fay, yea."