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with fome, to be Exequutor to his own writings) you will use the fame indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Book choose Patrones, or finde them: This hath done both. For, fo much were your L. L. likings of the severall parts, when they were acted, as before they were publifhed, the Volumne afk'd to be yours. We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition either of felf-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of fo worthy a Friend, and Fellow alive, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his Playes, to your moft Noble Patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed, no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addreffe; it hath been the height of our care, who are the Prefenters, to make the Prefent worthy of your H. H. by the Perfection. But, there we muft alfo crave our abilities to be confidered, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Countrey hands, reach forth Milke, Creame, Fruits, or what they have: and many Nations (we have heard) that had not Gummes and Incenfe, obtained their requefts with a leavened Cake; It 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. thefe remaines of your fervant SHAKESPEARE; 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 Lordships most bounden





To the great variety of Readers.

ROM the most able, to him that can but spell: There you are number'd, we had rather you were weigh'd. Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends upon your capacities: and not of your heads alone, but of your Purfes. Well, it is now publike, and you will ftand for your priviledges. we know: to reade, and cenfure. Doe fo, but buy it firft. That doth beft commend a Booke, the Stationer fayes. Then, how odde foever your braines be, or your wifdemes, make your licence the fame, and fpare not. Judge your fixe-penny'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 Stage at BlackFryers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dayly, know, thefe Playes have had their triall already, and ftood out all Appeales; and doe now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any purchas'd letters of commendation.

It had been a thing, we confeffe, worthy to have been wifhed, that the Author himfelfe had liv'd to have fet forth, and overseene his owne writings; But fince it

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hath been ordain'd otherwife, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his Friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have colected and publish'd them; and fo to have publifht them, as where (before) you were abus'd with divers ftolne, and furreptitious Copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and ftealths of injurious Impoftors, that expos'd them even thofe, are now offer'd to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the reft, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happy imitator of Nature, was a moft gentle expreffer of it. His minde and hand went together: And what he thought he uttered with that eafineffe, that we have fcarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our Province, who onely gather his workes, and give them you, to praife him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be loft. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and again And if then you doe hot like him, furely you are in fome manifeft danger, not to understand 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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T is not my defign to enter into a Criticifm upon this Author; tho' to do it effectually and not fuperficially, would be the beft occafion that, any juft Writer could take, to form the judgment and tafte of our nation. For of all, English Poets ShakeSpear must be confeffed to be the fairest and fulleft fubject for Criticism, and to afford, the most numerous, as well as most 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 difadvantages under which they have been tranfmitted to us. We fhall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation, of many which are not: A defign, which, tho' 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 injuftice in the other.

I cannot however but mention fome of his principal and characteristic Excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defects) he is justly 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.

It ever any Author deferved the name of an Ori-, ginal, it was Shakespeare. Homer himself drew not his


art fo immediately from the fountains of Nature, it proceed thro' Egyptian ftrainers and channels, and came to him not without fome tincture of the learning, or some caft of the models, of those before him. The Poetry of Shakespear was infpiration indeed: he is not fo much an Imitator, as an Inftrument, of Nature; and 'tis not fo juft to fay that he fpeaks from her, as that the speaks thro' him.

His Characters are fo much Nature herself, that 'tis a fort of injury to call them by fo diftant a name as Copies of her. Thofe of other Poets have a conftant resemblance, which fhews that they receiv'd them from one another, and were but multipliers of the fame image: each picture like a mock-rainbow is but the reflexion of a reflexion. But every fingle character in Shakespear is as much an Individual, as those in Life itself, it is as impoffible to find any two alike; and fuch as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear moft to be twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of Character, we must add the wonderful prefervation of it; which is fuch throughout his Plays, that had all the Speeches been printed without the very names of the Perfons, I believe one might have apply'd them with certainty to every speaker.

The Power over our Paffions was never poffefs'd in a more eminent degree, or difplay'd in fo different inftances. Yet all along, there is feen no labour, no pains to raise them; no preparation to guide our guess to the effect, or be perceiv'd to lead toward it: But the heart fwells, and the tears burst out, juft at the proper places: We are furpriz'd the moment we weep; and yet upon reflexion find the paffion fo juft, that we fhou'd be furpriz'd if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.

How aftonishing is it again, that the Paffions directly oppofite to thefe, Laughter and Spleen, are no lefs at his command! that he is not more a master of


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