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In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of
TO GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS, ESQ.
MY DEAR CURTIS:
You will remember that the publisher of Shakespeare's Sonnets addresses them to a mysterious Mr. W. H., as their "ONLIE BEGETTER: so I address this Preface to you, because it is to a suggestion of yours that it owes its existence. Let me remind you that in talking with you upon the subject of this book and its character, I told you why I had been so superfluous as to write it, and how it was written; upon which you kindly, but I thought with some reason, remarked, that the motives and the circumstances which produced it would add materially to whatever intrinsic value it might possess, and that a statement of these would be the best evidence of the warrant of its author to speak upon its theme. Your opinion, upon reflection, seemed well founded; and therefore, although if a book need an excuse it is past the help of one,
I will undertake to tell why this was written.
the story of the volume should prove uninteresting, that will be the fault of the relator; if the contrary, then you can say, with Baron Pompolino,
"And as I'm the parent vine,
All the glory shall be mine."
The book is called, what its author claims to have been for many years and yet to be, Shakespeare's Scholar,—a title which the proudest may be proud to bear, and which the humblest may yet with humility assume. It attempts not to decide what Shakespeare might have written or what he could have written, or to seek the interpretation of his thoughts from those who proclaim themselves his prophets, but to learn from him what he did write, and to study to understand that in the submissive yet still inquiring spirit with which a neophyte listens to the teachings of a revered and no less beloved master. It is in this spirit that I have studied Shakespeare since the time whereof my memory runneth not to the contrary; and it is because so few of his editors, commentators, and verbal critics, seem to have thus studied him, and because during all my study I have kept free from the contamination and perversion of their instruction, and have learned only of him, that for the sake of the thousands who love, feel, and understand him as I do, or who would do so, were it not for those who have made themselves middlemen between him and them, doling out his golden thoughts and stopping