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In adding another to the many editions of Shakspeare already published, it may be justly expected that the promoters should shew on what peculiar grounds they rest their claims to preference. The mere inultiplying of impressions, unaccompanied by some distinctive excellence, would be to confer no benefit on the Public, and be productive of little advantage to themselves. Aware of the justice of this position, the Proprietors of the present Edition are desirous of briefly staling what they conceive to be fair reasons why they should hope to at least divide the palm with their competitors.
As a chief object, they have laboured for CORRECTNESS. The Reader is assured, that the following pages have not been passed through the press in a hasty or slovenly manner. The utmost diligence has been used to prevent the occurrence of errors; and the best edition of Johnson, Steevens, and Reed, has been diligently consulted, even to the scrupulous revision of every point.
A principal feature, by which the present Edition is distinguished from all others yet published in a single volume, is the valuable illustrative matter with which it is enriched. All that could tend to elucidate the text, or illumine the obscurity which envelopes the great Bard and the Dramatic History of his time, has been collected from every authentic source, and the essence of many scarce and high-priced volumes, only to be found in the libraries of the opulent, presented for the first time to the General Reader. The Variorum Notes are placed at the end of the volume, to prevent the interruption and confusion arising from their accompanying the text, and those only preserved which tend to elucidate real difficulties. The Glossary we may affirm to be more copious than in any other edition.
There are fifty-one Embellishments, engraved by the best artists. Those which accompany the Prolegomena cannot fail to prove interesting, and the Illustrations to the Plays and Poenis are from the designs of the most eminent masters. Some stress may also be laid on the fire Head of Shakspeare, and the very novel feature of the Eight Portraits of eminent by-gone Performers, who have been distinguished for personating his characters. But the main point, on which the real value of their labours must inevitably depend, is, the extreme cheapness of their volume, which presents the entire Works of our immortal Poet, adorned by the talents of the critic, the antiquary, and the engraver, at the very low price usually charged for a common and incorrect edition of his PLAYS ALONE, without either Poems, Hlustrative Matter, or Embellishments; and the Proprietors cannot but feel they have attained an object of no mean importance, in thus placing within the reach of the humblest Reader, the cheapest and most complete Edition of the Works of Shakspeare that has ever yet been published.
As several of our best Commentators have agreed in rejecting the plays of Titus Andronicus and Pericles, some apology may be expected for retaining them. Steevens's excuse for the same proceeding may be fairly quoted :—Some ancient prejudices in their favour may still exist; to which may be added, that they have usually accompanied all editions of repute.
Biographical Memoir of Shakspeare. Aster all the laborious research which has been this account turns out to be very incorrect ; for on obel sa the subject of Shakspeare's biogra- reference to the authorities cited, we find that the el. les particulars are known on those points Shakspeares, though their property was respectwhich would be most gratifying to the curiosity able, never rose above the rank of tradesmen or
bis rational admirers. We may trace his an- husbandmen. Nothing is known of the immediate store to the doomsday bouk, and his posterity ancestors of John Shakspeare, the poet's father,
they drindle into tongueless obscurity; but who was originally a glover, afterwards a butcher, dis en kabits and domestic character we know and in the last place, a wool-stapler, in the town of paratirely nothing. During his early days, his Stratford. Being very indastrious, bis wealth gave ya in life was so humble, that all our inquiries him importance among his neighbours, and having saarily terminate in disappointment; and of served various offices in the borough with credit, the more busy
period of his existence, when he he ultimately obtained its supreme municipal hounts for the stage, and was the pablic favourite, nours, being elected high-bailiff, at Michaelmas, his remarkable bumility of mind and manners in- 1568. His townsfolk no doubt considered this the lated bim lo avoid the eye of notoriety; and, un- summit of earthly felicity; bat however reverend fortunately, there was no Boswell or Medwin to the corporation of Stratford in its own estimation, ile meanorunda of bis conversations, or transmit we cannot but smile at these erudite sages, out of to our times a fac-simile of the great dramatist
in nineteen of whom, as we find from their signatures, le fmiliar moments of relaxation and friendly in attached to a pablic document, 1561, only seven were let course. Such hiatoses in the life of Shakspeare able to write their names. While chief magistrate of est now be supplied; more than two hundred the borough, and on his marriage with Mary Arden, are bare elapsed since his mortal remains were he obtained a grant of arms from the Herald's Lai to ponides beneath a tomb, over which Time College, and was allowed to impale his own achievebosteken she dust of his wings too often to allow ment with that of the ancient family of the Ardens. dar recovering details, local and fugitive, how In the deed respecting John Sbakspeare, his proer interesting. Rowe was the brst, whose reperty is declared to be worth five bundred pounds, eredes elicited anything like
a satisfactory me a sum by no means inconsiderable in those days air of our great bard. Poets and critics have and, on the whole, we have sufficient evidence of habaricely re-trodden bis steps; the genius of Pope bis worldly prosperity. From some anexplained and be acumen of Johnson have been employed on causes, however, his affairs began to alter for
me sobject, but the son of their adoration the worse about 1574, and after employing such but gree down before their intellectual telescopes expedients to relieve his growing necessities as in
Eye levelled to discover its perfections. Malone the end served only to aggravate them, he at length beos dowse the most, and appears indeed to have fell into such extreme poverty, that he was obliged abasted tbs sabject; bat, from inadvertency or to give secority for a debt of five pounds; and a mums, be has overlooked unany particulars distress issuing for the seizure of his goods, it was het deserve preservation. Having turned over returned : "Joh’es Shakspere nihil habet unde distr. siriety of books, and consulted every accessible potest levari.” (John Shakspere bas no effects on saborito, se sliall attempt to condense, under one which a distraint can be levied.) During the last best sach recollections of Shakspeare, as are at ten years of his life we bave no particular account peat scattered over many volumes, as well as the of bis circumstances ; but, as in 1597 be describes ste serious and familiar portions of his history. himself as "of very small wealth and very few
It appears a family, designated indifferently friends," we may justly suppose that be reRape Shakespeare, Shakspere, and Shakspeare, mained in great indigence. He seems, indeed, to frte rell known in Warwickshire during the six have fallen into decay with his native town, the
a century. Rowe says: "It seems by the trade of wbich was almost ruined ; as we may learn cles and other public writings of Stratford, from the supplication of the bargesses, in 1590. leading there, and are mentioned as gentlemen." | want of such trade as heretofore they had by