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PREFACE.

THE EDITOR's intentions, when this work was first suggested by the PROPRIETORS of Mr. STEEVENS's elaborate Edition, have been amply explained in the Prospectus which has accompanied every play; but with what success they have been carried into execution, it is impossible to conjecture. It is the first attempt that has been made to concentrate the information given in the copious notes of the various commentators within a moderate space, and with an attention rather to their conclusions than to their premises.

Mr. STEEVENS, in his Advertisement to the edition of 1793, after apologizing for the prolixity and number of his notes, seems to anticipate the time when "a judicious and frugal selection

VOL. I.

66 may be made from the labours of all" his coadjutors; but whether the present be either judicious or frugal, must be left to a decision over which the EDITOR can have no controul. He can only say that in the whole progress of his labours, he endeavoured to place himself in the situation of one who desires to understand his author at the smallest expence of time and thought, and who does not wish to have his attention diverted from a beauty, to be distracted by a contest. In thus assuming the character of a general reader, who is neither a scholar nor a critick, he found no difficulty; but it would have been arrogant, had it been possible, to measure the understandings of others by his own, and therefore from the opinions. that he has given too much, or too little, he can have no appeal.

In selecting the notes, the names of the authors have seldom been retained, unless where they relate to contested points. Notes of criticism, however, have generally their authors'. names, and it is hoped that the preservation

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of all Dr. JOHNSON's remarks of this kind will not be thought superfluous, since they are almost universally quoted as authorities. These and his celebrated. Preface seem indispensable to every edition of SHAKSPEARE in which illustration is at all admitted. It is at his recommendation, likewise, that the EDITOR has prefixed Mr. POPE's Preface, "valuable alike for composition and "justness of remark, and containing a general "criticism on his author, so extensive that little " can be added, and so exact that little can be "disputed."

The HISTORY OF THE STAGE is merely an abridgement of Mr. MALONE's labours on that subject. Those who wish for farther information must wait the result of his present studies, and may wait with confidence. In the mean time, Mr. GEORGE CHALMERS' Apology and Supplement will valuably assist curious inquirers, and probably direct them to new means of research.

This Edition is accompanied by A LIFE of SHAKSPEARE, or rather an attempt, and the first of the kind, to collect the disjecta membra of his

Henry VII. This, however, has been asserted upon very doubtful authority. Mr. Malone thinks "it is highly probable that he distinguished him"self in Bosworth Field on the side of King "Henry, and that he was rewarded for his mili66 tary services by the bounty of that parsimo"nious prince, though not with a grant of lands. "No such grant appears in the chapel of the "rolls from the beginning to the end of Henry's "reign." But whatever may have been his former wealth, it appears to have been greatly reduced in the latter part of his life, as we find, from the books of the Corporation, that in 1579 he was excused the trifling weekly tax of fourpence levied on all the aldermen; and that in 1586 another alderman was appointed in his room, in consequence of his declining to attend on the business of that office. It is even said by Aubrey, * a man sufficiently accurate in facts, although credulous in superstitious narratives and traditions, that he followed for some time the occupation of a butcher, which Mr. Malone thinks not inconsistent with probability. It must have been, however, at this time, no inconsiderable addition to his difficulties that he had a family of ten children. His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert

* MSS. Aubrey, Mus. Ashmol. Oxon, examined by Mr. Malone.

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