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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, ESQ.
When I desired permission to dedicate these Remarks to you, I was not sufficiently aware how dangerous an honour I was seeking :-the Work is merely critical, with little room for genius, were I possessed of any, to display itself; and I am evoking the discernment of one who, placed by the grateful and according suffrage of this nation in the
supreme chair of Wit, Taste, and Eloquence, is peculiarly endowed with a talent for detecting and exposing fallacy of every kind. This thought, indeed, would instantly have checked my presumption, if I did not, at the same time, reflect, that pre-eminent abilities are, naturally, associated with exemplary candour; and that he whom I address is not more distinguished for brilliancy of intellect, than for ardour of benevolence. I am, Sir, with great respect, Your obliged and faithful Humble servant,
E. H. SEYMOUR.
OF these Remarks the greater part weré written during the progress of a collation between the early copies, and that produced by Mr. Steevens, in 1793. The revisal of the manuscript, necessary, in order to adapt the references to the recent edition, by Mr. Reed, and with a view to the probable variations therein, occasioned, in many places, material alterations. The reviser often found himself anticipated, and, of course, obliged to withdraw what had now become superfluous. The new matter introduced in the last commentary, together with reiterated meditations on the text, induced, sometimes, fresh opinions, and, sometimes, chastened those before advanced. But what is principally to be noticed here is, that, so often as the remarker reperused the pages on which he had presumed to comment, the mutilations and corruptions which disfigure them, appeared the more flagrant; and increased his confidence in the proffered amendments : accordingly, it will be found that he has, sometimes, perhaps too rashly, overstepped the timid bounds which, in the Introduction, he had prescribed to himself, on the ground of conjectural restoration and rejection : this will appear most conspicuously, or, perhaps, most culpably, in Othello, King Lear, and Timon of Athens : the attempt was experimental, and the Author, like other adventurers, too sanguine in their pursuits, must abide the consequence of his temerity. The references apply, immediately, to the last copy of Johnson and Steevens's Shakspeare, edited by Mr. Reed; but they will, it is presumed, sufficiently accord with any other regular edition ; as, to every remark, a note of the respective Act and Scene is annexed.
AFTER the labours of so many acute and judicious men as, during almost a century past, have successively applied their talents to rectify and explain the works of Shakspeare, it might reasonably be supposed, that little room was left for further observation : that an authentic, or, at least, an approved text was firmly established ; that all inaccuracies were repaired or noted; that the viciousness of interpolation, and the ignorance or idleness of transcribers and reciters were no longer to be confounded with the effusions of the poet, and that
every passage which had languished in the trammels of obscurity, was at length either redeemed to illustration, or abandoned finally to impervious darkness ; but a review of the plays, as they have been presented to the public by the last editor, will shew that such expectations remain, even yet, unfulfilled. It is true, indeed,