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out fome of his inextinguishable fire; yet poffibly he might not have risen up into that giant, that much more than common man, at which we now gaze with amazement and delight. Perhaps he was as learned as his dramatick province required; for whatever other learning he wanted, he was mafter of two books unknown to many of the profoundly read, though books which the laft conflagration alone can deftroy; the book of nature, and. that of man."5

To this and the other encomiums on our great poet which will be found in the following pages, I fhall not attempt to make any addition. He has justly obferved, that

"To guard a title that was rich before,
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
"To throw a perfume on the violet,

"To smooth the ice, or add another hue
"Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light

"To feek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
"Is wafteful and ridiculous excefs."

Let me, however, be permitted to remark, that befide all his other tranfcendent merits, he was the great refiner and polifher of our language. His compound epithets, his bold metaphors, the energy of his expreffions, the harmony of his numbers, all these render the language of Shakspeare one of his principal beauties. Unfortunately none of his letters, or other profe compofitions, not in a dramatick form, have reached pofterity; but if any of them ever fhall be difcovered, they will, I am confident, exhibit the fame perfpicuity,

s Conjectures on Original Compofition, by Dr. Edward Young.

the fame cadence, the fame elegance and vigour, which we find in his plays. "Words and phrafes," fays Dryden," muft of neceffity receive a change in fucceeding ages; but it is almost a miracle, that much of his language remains fo pure; and that he who began dramatick poetry amongst us, untaught by any, and, as Ben Jonfon tells us, without learning, fhould by the force of his own genius perform fo much, that in a manner he has left no praise for any who come after him.'

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In these prefatory obfervations my principal object was, to ascertain the true ftate and respective value of the ancient copies, and to mark out the course which has been pursued in the edition now offered to the publick. It only remains, that I fhould return my very fincere acknowledgements to thofe gentlemen, to whofe good offices I have been indebted in the progrefs of my work. My thanks are particularly due to Francis Ingram, of Ribbisford in Worcestershire, Efq. for the very valuable Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, and feveral other curious papers, which formerly belonged to that gentleman; to Penn Asheton Curzon, Efq. for the use of the very rare copy of King Richard III. printed in 1597; to the Mafter, and the Rev. Mr. Smith, librarian, of Dulwich College, for the Manuscripts relative to one of our ancient theatres, which they obligingly tranfmitted to me; to John Kipling, Efq. keeper of the rolls in Chancery, who in the moft liberal manner directed every fearch to be made in the Chapel of the Rolls that I fhould require, with a view to illuftrate the hiftory of our poet's life; and to Mr. Richard Clarke, regiftror of the diocese of Worcester, who with equal liberality, at my requeft, made many fearches in his office for

the wills of various perfons. I am alfo in a particular manner indebted to the kindness and attention of the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratfordupon-Avon, who moft obligingly made every inquiry in that town and the neighbourhood, which I fuggefted as likely to throw any light on the Life of Shakspeare.

I deliver my book to the world not without anxiety; confcious, however, that I have strenuously endeavoured to render it not unworthy the attention of the publick. If the researches which have been made for the illuftration of our poet's works, and for the differtations which accompany the prefent edition, shall afford as much entertainment to others, as I have derived from them, I fhall confider the time expended on it as well employed. Of the dangerous ground on which I tread, I am fully fenfible. "Multa funt in his ftudiis (to


ufe the words of a venerable fellow-labourer in the mines of Antiquity) cineri fuppofita dolofe. Errata poffint effe multa à memoria. Quis enim in memoriæ thefaurò omnia fimul fic complectatur, ut pro arbitratu fuo poffit expromere? Erratą poffint effe plura ab imperitia. Quis enim tam peritus, ut in cæco hoc antiquitatis mari, cum tempore colluctatus, fcopulis non allidatur? Hæc tamen à te, humaniffime lector, tua humanitas, mea induftria, patriæ charitas, et SHAKSPEARI dignitas, mihi exorent, ut quid mei fit judicii, fine aliorum præjudicio libere proferam; ut eâdem via qua alii in his ftudiis folent, infiftam; et ut erratis, fi ego agnofcam, tu ignofcas." Thofe who are the warmneft admirers of our great poet, and most

⚫ Camden.

converfant with his writings, beft know the difficulty of fuch a work, and will be most ready to pardon its defects; remembering, that in all arduous undertakings, it is easier to conceive than to accomplish; that "the will is infinite, and the execu'tion confined; that the defire is boundless, and the act a flave to limit." MALONE.

Queen Anne Street, Eaft,
October, 25, 1790.


J. PLYMSELL, Printer, Leather Lane, Holborn, London.

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