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was no fault to approach their gods by what meanes they could: and the. moft, though meaneft, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to temples. In that name therefore, we moft humbly confecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your fervant SHAKSPEARE; that what delight is in them may be ever your L. L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a paire fo carefull to fhew their gratitude both to the living and the dead, as is

Your Lordfhippes moft bounden,



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ROM the most able, to him that can but fpell: there you are numbered, we had rather you were weighed. Efpecially, when the fate of all bookes depends upon your capacities: and not of

I have prefumed" (fays he)" to make offer of thefe fimple compofitions of mine, imitating (right honourable) in this the cuftom of the old world, who wanting incenfe to offer. up to their gods, made shift infteade thereof to honour them with milk." The fame thought (if I recollect right) is again employed by the players in their dedication of Fletcher's plays, folio, 1647. MALONE.

your heads alone, but of your purfes. Well! it is now publique, and you will ftand for your priviledges, wee know: to read, and cenfure. Doe fo, but buy it first. That doth beft commend a booke, the ftationer faies. Then, how odde foever your braines be, or your wifdomes, make your licence the fame, and fpare not. Judge your fixe-pen'orth, your fhillings worth, your five fhillings worth at a time, or higher, fo you rife to the juft rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Cenfure will not drive a trade, or make the jacke goe. And though you be a magiftrate of wit, and fit on the flage at Black-friars, or the Cockpit, to arraigne plays dailie, know, these playes have had their triall already, and ftood out all appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.

It had bene a thing, we confeffe, worthie to have been wished, that the author himfelfe had lived to have fet forth, and overseen his owne writings; but fince it hath been ordained otherwife, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you doe not envie his friends the office of their care and paine, to have collected and publifhed them; and fo to have published them, as where (before) you were abused with divers ftolne and furreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and ftealthes of injurious impoftors, that expofed them, even thofe are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the reft, abfolute in their numbers as he conceived them: who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was a most

as where ] i. e. whereas. MALONE.

gentle expreffer of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that eafineffe, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather his workes, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will find enough, both to draw and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be loft. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe and if then you do not like him, furely you are in fome manifeft danger, not to underftand him. And fo we leave you to other of his friends, who, if you need, can be your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade yourselves, and others. And fuch readers we wish him.

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It is not my defign to enter into a criticism upon

this author; though to do it effectually, and not fuperficially, would be the best occafion that any juft writer could take, to form the judgment and tafte of our nation. For of all English poets Shakspeare must be confeffed to be the faireft and fulleft fubject for criticifm, and to afford the most numerous, as well as moft confpicuous inftances,

both of beauties and faults of all forts.

But this far exceeds the bounds of a preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his works, and the disadvantages under which they have been tranfmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not: a defign, which, though it can be no guide to future criticks to do him juftice in one way, will at least be fufficient to prevent their doing him an injustice in the other.

I cannot however but mention some of his prin- · cipal and characteristick excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is juftly and univerfally elevated above all other dramatick writers. Not that this is the proper place of praifing him, but because I would not omit any occafion of doing it.

If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself drew not his art fo immediately from the fountains of nature, it proceeded through Egyptian ftrainers and channels, and came to him not without fome tincture of the learning, or fome caft of the models, of thofe before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was infpiration indeed: he is not fo much an imitator, as an inftrument, of nature; and it is not fo juft to say that he speaks from her, as that she fpeaks through him.

His characters are fo much nature herfelf, that it is a fort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a conftant resemblance, which fhews that they received them from one another, and were but multipliers

of the fame image: each picture, like a mockrainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. But every fingle character in Shakspeare is as much an individual, as thofe in life itfelf; it is as impoffible to find any two alike; and fuch as from their relation or affinity in any refpect appear moft to be twins, will, upon comparison be found remarkably diftinct. To this life and variety of character, we muft add the wonderful preservation of it; which is fuch throughout his plays, that had all the fpeeches been printed without the very names of the perfons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker.

The power over our paffions was never poffeffed in a more eminent degree, or displayed in fo different inftances. Yet all along, there is feen no labour, no pains to raise them; no preparation to guide our guefs to the effect, or be perceived to lead toward it: but the heart fwells, and the tears burft out, juft at the proper places: we are furprised the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection find the paffion fo juft, that we should be furprised if we had not wept, and wept at that very


How aftonishing it is again, that the paffions directly oppofite to thefe, laughter and fpleen, are no lefs at his command! that he is not more a mafter of the great than of the ridiculous in human nature; of our nobleft tenderne ffes, than of our vaineft foibles; of our ftrongeft emotions, than of our idleft fenfations!

Nor does he only excel in the paffions: in the coolness of reflection and reafoning he is full as

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