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fuch, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, howeyer immaterial, should escape unnoticed.----
There is perhaps no species of publication whatever, more likely to produce diversity of opinion than verbal criticisms; for as there is no certain criterion of truth, no established principle by which we can decide whether they be jusly founded or not, every reader is left to liis own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these observations will be generally approved of; some of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satisfactory even to myself, and arc hazarded , rather than relied on:-But there are others which I offer with some degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of passages which lave hitherto been misprinted or misunderstood.
In forming these comments, I have confined myself folely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnfon: not doubting but the editors had faithfully flated the various readings of the first editions, I resolved to avoid the labour of collating; but had I been inclined to undertake that talk, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I reside.
. I have selected from the Supplement, Pericles , Prince of Tyre, because it is supposed by some of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at leait as faulty as any of the
rest. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorrect to require any comment. M. MASON.
Before the Third Edition, 1785.
THE works of Shakspeare , during the last twenty years, have been the objects of publick attention more than at any former period. In that time the various editions of his performances have been examined, his obfcurities illuminated , his defects pointed out, and his beauties displayed, so fully, fo accurately, and in so satisfactory a manner, that it might reafonably be presumed little would Iemain to be done by either new editors or new commentators : yet, though the diligence and sagacity of those gentlemen who contributed towards the last edition of this author may fecm to have almost exhausted the subject, the same train of enquiry has brought to light new discoveries, and accident will probably continue to produce
further illustrations, which may render some alteTations necessary in every succeeding republication.
Since the last edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for elucidating Shakspeare, which appeared in most of the gentlemen whose names are affixed to the notes, has suffered little abatement. The same persevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the same laborious search into the literature, the manners, and the customs of the times, which was formerly so successfully employed, has remained undiminished. By these aids some new information has been obtained, and some new materials collected. From the assistance of such writers, even Shakspeare will receive no discredit,
When the very great and various talents of the last editor, particularly for this work, are confidered, it will occasion much regret to find, that having superintended two editions of his favourite author through the press, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the present edition to one who laments with the rest of the world the fecefsion of his predecessor; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority, as of the 'injury the publication will sustain by the change.
As fome alterations have been made in the present edition, it may be thought necessary to point them out. These are of two kinds, additions and omissions. The additions are such as have been supplied by the last editor, and the principal of the living commentators. To mention there affiftances, is sufficient to excite expectation, but to speak any thing in their praise will we fuperfluous. to those who are acquainted with their former
labours. Some remarks are also added from new commentators, and some notices extracted from books which have been published in the course of a few years paft.
Of the omissions, the most important are some notes which have been demonstrated to be ill founded, and some which were supposed to add to the size of the volumes, without increasing their value. It may probably liave happened that a few are rejected which ought to have been retained ; and in that case the present editor, who has been the occasion of their removal, will feel fome concern from the injustice of his proceeding. He is however inclined to believe, that what he has omitted will be pardoned by the reader; and that the liberty which he has taken will not be thought to have been licentiously indulged. At all events, that the censure may fall where it ought, he desires it to be understood that no person is answerable for any of these innovations but himself.
It has been observed by the last editor, that the multitude of instances which have been produced to exemplify particular words, and explain obsolete customs, may, when the point is once known to be established, be diminished by any future editor, and in conformity to this opinion, several quotations, which were heretofore properly introduced, are now-curtailed. Were 'an apology required on this occasion, the present editor might shelter himself under the authority of Prior, who long ago
". That when one's proofs are aptly chosen,
Four are as valid as four dozen. The present editor thinks it unnecessary to say
any thing of his own share in the work, except that he undertook it in consequence of an application which was too flattering and too honourable to him to decline. He mentions this only to have it known that he did not intrude limfeif into the ftuation. He is not insensible, that the task would have been better executed by many other gentler men, and particularly by some whose names appear to the notes. He has added but little to the bulk of the volumes from his own observations, having, upon every occasion, rather chosen to avoid a note, than to court the opportunity of inserting one. The liberty he has taken of omitting some remarks, he is confident, has been exercised without prejudice and without partiality; and therefore, trusting to the candour and indulgence of the publick, will forbear to detain them any longer from the entertainment they may receive from tlie greatest poet of this or any other nation. Reed.
Nov. 10. 1783.
P R E F A C E.
N the following work, the labour of eight years, I have endeavoured, with unceasing solicitude , to give a faithful and correct edition of the plays and poems of Shakspeare. Whatever imperfection or errors therefore may be found in it, and what work of so great' length and difficulty was ever free from error or imperfection?) will, I trust, be