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IN adding another to the many editions of Shakspeare already published, it may be justly expected that the promoters should shew on what peculiar grounds they rest their claims to preference. The mere multiplying of impressions, unaccompanied by some distinctive excellence, would be to confer no benefit on the Public, and be productive of little advantage to themselves. Aware of the justice of this position, the Proprietors of the present Edition are desirous of briefly staliny what they conceive to be fair reasons why they should hope to at least divide the palm with their competitors.
As a chief object, they have laboured for CORRECTNESS. The Reader is assured, that the following pages have not been passed through the press in a hasty or slovenly manner. The utmost diligence has been used to prevent the occurrence of errors; and the best edition of Johnson, Steevens, and Reed, has been diligently consulted, even to the scrupulous revision of every point.
A principal feature, by which the present Edition is distinguished from all others yet published in a single volume, is the valuable illustrative matter with which it is enriched. All that could tend to elucidate the text, or illumine the obscurity which envelopes the great Bard and the Dramutic History of his time, has been collected from every authentic source, and the essence of many scarce and high-priced volumes, only to be found in the libraries of the opulent, presented for the first time to the General Reader. The Variorum Noles are placed at the end of the volume, to prevent the interruption and confusion arising from their accompanying the text, and those only preserved which tend to elucidate real dificulties. The Glossary we may affirm to be more copious than in any other edition.
There are fifty-one Embellishments, engraved by the best artists. Those which accompany the Prolegomena cannot fail to prove interesting, and the Ilustrations to the Plays and Poenis are from the designs of the most eminent maslers. Some stress may also be laid on the fine Head of Shakspeare, and the very novel feature of the Eight Portraits of eminent by-gone Performers who have been distinguished for personating his characters. But the main point, on which the rea value of their labours must inevitably depend, is, the extreme cheapness of their volume, whic! presents the entire Works of our immortal Poet, adorned by the talents of the critic, the antiquary and the engraver, at the very low price usually charged for a common and incorrect edition of hi PLAYS ALONE, without either Poems, Alustrative Matter, or Embellishments; and the Pro prietors cannot but feel they have attained an object of no mean importance, in thus placing within the reach of the humblest Reader, the cheapest and most complete Edition of the Works of Shak speare that has ever yet been published.
As several of our best Commentators have agreed in rejecting the plays of Titus Andro nicus and Pericles, some apology may be expected for retaining them. Steevens's excuse for th same proceeding may be fairly quoted :-Some ancient prejudices in their favour may still exist to which may be added, that they have usually accompanied all editions of repute.
Gye and Balne, Printers, Gracechurch Street.
Biographical Memoir of Shakspeare. After all the laborious research which has been this account turns out to be very incorrect ; for on expended on the subject of Shakspeare's biogra- reference to the authorities cited, we find that the phy, few particulars are known on those points Shakspeares, though their property was respectwhich would be most gratifying to the curiosity able, never rose above the rank of tradesmen or of his rational admirers. We may trace his an- husbandmen. Nothing is known of the immediate cestors to the doomsday bouk, and his posterity ancestors of John Shakspeare, the poet's father, till they dwindle into tongueless obscurity; but who was originally a glover, afterwards a butcher, of his own habits and domestic character we know and in the last place, a wool-stapler, in the town of comparatively nothing. During his early days, his Stratford. Being very industrious, bis wealth gave path in life was so humble, that all oar inquiries bim importance among his neighbours, and having necessarily terminate in disappointment; and of served various offices in the horough with credit, the more busy period of bis existence, when he he altimately obtained its supreme inunicipal howrote for the stage, and was the pablic favourite, nours, being elected high-bailiff, at Michaelmas, bis remarkable humility of mind and manners in- 1568. His townsfolk no doubt considered this the daced bim to avoid the eye of notoriety; and, un- summit of earthly felicity; but however reverend fortunately, there was no Boswell or Medwin to the corporation of Stratford in its own estimation, wake memoranda of bis conversations, or transmit we cannot but smile at these erudite sages, out of to oar times a fac-simile of the great dramatist in nineteen of wbom, as we find from their signatures, the familiar moments of relaxation and friendly in attached to a public document, 1501, only seven were tereourse. Such biatuses in the life of Shakspeare able to write their names. While chief magistrate of cannot now be supplied; more than two bandred the borough, and on his marriage with Mary Arden, years bare elapsed since his mortal remains were he obtained a grant of arms from the Herald's left to moulder beneath a tomb, over which Time College, and was allowed to impale his own achievehas shaken ibe dust of his wings too often to allow ment with that of the ancient family of the Ardens. of our recovering details, local and fugitive, how In the deed respecting John Sbakspeare, bis proerer interesting. Rowe was the first, whose re- perty is declared to be worth five hundred pounds, Searches elicited anything like a satisfactory me a sum by no means inconsiderable in those days; moir of our great bard. Poets and critics have and, on the whole, we have sufficient evidence of laboriously re-trodden his steps; the genius of Pope bis worldly prosperity. From some anexplained and the acumen of Johnson have been employed on causes, however, his affairs began to alter for the same subject, but the sun of their adoration the worse about 1574, and after employing such had gone down before their intellectual telescopes expedients to relieve his growing necessities as in pere levelled to discover its perfections. Malone the end served only to aggravate them, he at length has done the most, and appears indeed to have fell into such extreme poverty, that he was obliged exhausted the sabject; but, from inadvertency or to give security for a debt of five pounds; and a carelessness, he has overlooked many particulars distress issuing for the seizure of his goods, it was which deserve preservation. Having turned over returned: “Jones Shakspere nilil habet unde distr. a variety of books, and consulted every accessible potest levari.”. (John Shakspere bas no effects on anthority, we shall attempt to condense, under one which a distraint can be levied.) Daring the last head, soch recollections of Sbakspeare, as are at ten years of his life we have no particular account present scattered over many volumes, as well as the of his circumstances ; but, as in 1597 be describes more obvious and familiar portions of his history. himself as “of very small wealth and very few It appears a family, designated indifferently friends,' we may justly suppose that be reSkasper, Shakespeare, Shakspere, and Shakspeare, mained in great indigence. He seems, indeed, to were well known in Warwickshire during the six have fallen into decay with his native town, the leenth century. Rowe says: “It seems by the trade of which was almost ruined ; as we may learn register and other public writings of Stratford, from the supplication of the burgesses, in 1590. that the poet's family were of good figure and The town had then " fallen into much decay, for fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen." | want of such trade as beretofore they had by
clothing, and making of yarn, employing and main-, of a butcher; and Aubreç, an author in whom we taining a number of poor people by the same, should not put implicit confidence, relates that which now live in great penury and misery, by young Shakspeare killed a calf“ in high style," and reason they are pot set at work as before they graced the slaughter with an oration. The same have been.'
writer informs us, that growing disgusted with this John Shakspeare died in 1601. His family con- employment, he commenced schoolmaster, but this, sisted of eight children, Jane, Margaret, William, from his juvenility at the time mentioned, is highly Gilbert, Lorie, Anne, Richard, and Edmund. improbable. Lorie and Margaret died when but a few months Shakspeare's eighteenth year was scarcely past, old. Of Gilbert nothing is known but the register when, relinquishing his school, or his office, (for of bis baptism. Jane married one Hart, a hatter Malone makes him an attorney's clerk,) he venof Stratford, and died in 1616, leaving three sons. tured to contract that important engagement, on She is mentioned with much kindness in her which the happiness or misery of life generally illustrious brother's will; and the descendants of turns. lle selected for his wile Anne Hathaway, ber children were to be found in Stratford within the daughter of a reputable yeomau in the vicinity these few years. In 1794, a house of Shakspeare's, of Stratford. At her marriage, she was eight years in Henley-street, belonged to Thomas Hari, a older than her husband, and Shakspeare's domestic butcher, and the sixth in descent from Jone. Anne felicity does not appear to have been advanced by Shakspeare died an infant; Richard, according to the connection. In the year following, 1583, bis the parish register, was buried in 1612. Edmand daughter Susanna was born ; and in eighteen Shakspeare, actuated probably by his brother's months afterwards, his wife bore bim twins, a boy reputation at the theatre, became an actor: he per- and a girl, baptized by the names of Hamnet and formed at the Globe, lived in St. Saviour's, South- Judith. This was the whole of the poet's family; wark, and was interred in the churchyard of that from which we are perhaps justified in concluding, parish, on the 31st of December, 1607.
as there are other circumstances to strengthen William Shakspeare was born April 23d, 1561, the opinion, that bis connubial lot was not envi at Stratford-upon-Avon. The house, in which the able; indeed, his wife's years were so ill-assorted poet first saw the light, was bought in 1597, from a
to his own, ibat little congeniality of sentiment family of the name of Underhill. It had been
was to be expected. Hamnet, Shakspeare's only called the great house, not because it is really son, died at the early age of twelve years, ad large, but on account of its having been at that
event long and deeply regretted: the daughters time the best in the town. In its present dilapi- Susanna and Judith, were married, and had chil dated state, the ablest artists have exerted their dren. Shakspeare's last lineal descendant wa skill, to preserve the outline of so remarkable a
Lady Barnard, buried, in 1670, at Abingdon il building for the gratification of posterity, and the Berkshire. Some branches of the family still exist most minute particulars concerning it have been and are resident at Tewkesbury and Stratford collected with the utmost avidity.
they are in great indigence, and it reflects disgrac The chamber, in which our unrivalled dramatist is said to have drawn his first breath, is pencilled made, received hardly any attention. Surely, whe
on the age, that a proposal for their benefit, recently over with the names of innumerable visitors in
our pobility patronise the refuse of society, in th every grade of life. Royalty has been proud to shape of pedestrians and pugilists, their generosit pay this simple tribute to exalted intellect; and might be exercised in succoaring those who clain genius has paused in its triumphis, to inseribe these kindred with him, who was the glory of his countr ballowed walls with the brief sentences which re and of human nature. cord its love and veneration for the wonderful
The marriage of our bard proved his want man, who once recognised this lowly tenement as worldly prudence; nor was the next importan his home. The following lines are ascribed to La event of his life of a discreeter nature, yet it le cien Buonaparte, who, during his stay in England, to his London journey, and consequently was th made an excursion into Warwickshire, expressly first step towards his future distinction. “Shak to gratify his curiosity respecting our all praised speare (we quote from Dr. Drake,) was now Shakspeare:
appearances settled in the country; he wa "The eye of Genius glistens to admire How memory hails the sound of Shakspeare's lyre. carrying on bis own and his father's business; b One tear Plusbed to form a crystal shrine
was married, and had a family around him; a situs
tion in wbich the comforts of domestic privac
augured little of that splendid destiny, that anives Immortal Shakspeare! o'er thy ballow'd page,
sal fame, and unparalleled celebrity, wbich awai Age becomes taught, and youth is e'en made sage."
ed his future career.” Mere trides frequentl This house, so venerable on account of its sor-change the whole course of existence, and so mer inmate, is now divided, one part being a happened in the present instance. Shakspeare butcher's shop, and the other a public-house.
companions were loose and dissolute, idle, and in Of Shakspeare's infancy we know nothing, ex moderately fond of pleasure, and some of the cept that lie narrowly escaped falling a victim to were in the frequent practice of deer-stealing. Ti the plague, which at that time almost depopulated embryo dramatist was often induced to join the bis native town. We next find him at the free in their predatory exploits, particularly in the grammar-school of Stratford, where we may sup intrusions on the property of sir Thomas Lucy, pose he acquired the “small Latin and less Greek,
Charlecote, in the neighbourhood of Stratford for which Ben Jonson gives him credit. But even Detection followed; and Shakspeare, imaginin this imperfect species of education was soon inter himself treated with undue severity, affixed in r rupted, the poverty of his father presenting an insurmountable obstacle to his further progress. cote Park. The whole of this offensive productie
venge a scurrilous ballad to the gate of Charl There can be little doubt, however, that his quick has been recently discovered; we copy it as a c and apprehensive mind would profit materially riosity, though it certainly does no credit to t even by this limited supply of instruction. In after
head or heart of the author. life, he seems to have been acquainted with Italian and French, but these languages he probably Complete Copy of the Verses on Sir Thomas Luc acquired through his own unassisted industry. A parliament member, a justice of peace, He now for a considerable period remained at
At home a poor scarecrow, in London an asse:
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscall it, home, and attended to his father's occupation, that Synge lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
He thinks hymuself greate, yet an asse in hys state, judges, who were too frequently very incompetent
to form a correct decision. From some satirical
passages in the writings of his contemporaries, we
may fairly suppose that he was not a favourite per-
foriner with the public. His instructions to the
players in Hamlet, however, bespeak such mastery
in their art, and are in themselves so excellent, that
we are strongly inclined to believe, that his unpo-
pularity must be attributed more to the bad taste
of bis auditors, than from the deficiency of his own
powers. Acting, considered as a science, was then
in its infancy; he that "strutted and bellowed
inost, would be esteemed the best actor. Shak-
speare's adherence to nature would be misunder-
stood, and his gentleness would be censured as
The only characters, which we know with cer-
tainty to have been personated by Shakspeare, are
the Ġbost in Hamlet, and Adam in As You Like It:
his name appears in the list of players attached to
Ben Jonson's Sejanus, and Every Man in bis HuSir Thomas, enraged at this aggravation of injury mour; but it is sufficiently evident, that he never by insult, increased in barshness to the juvenile sustained any very important part; and, but for his olender, who soon felt compelled to quit the home genius as a poet, which neither indigence nor obof his infancy, and the residence of his fainily, The scurity could repress, that name, which we now retime of his departure is doubtful; it was probably peat with reverence and love, would have been lost aboat 1985. This whole story, however, has lately in the darkness of oblivion. That Sbakspeare was fallen into disrepate, and his removal to London
not more successful on tbe stage, might arise from has been ascribed to natural inclination, or domes- the injustice and false taste of his audience; but
tie ipselicity; perhaps estrangement from his wife. this is hardly to be lamented, since, had he 21 This supposition is in a degree confirmed, by the been eminent as an actor, he would probably have
Degligent way in which she is noticed in his will ; neglected composition. “ It may indeed be con
and the circumstance of his not living with her sidered (says Dr. Drake) as a most fortunate cirise te after list. It is singular too, that an entry ap- cumstance for the lovers of dramatic poetry, that pears in the Stratford register, which records the
our author, in point of execution, did not attain to burial of a child named “ Thomas Green, alias the loftiest summit of his profession. He would in Shakspeare.” The conclusion which may be drawn
that case, it is very probable, have either sat down from this circumstance is evident. For the sake content with the high reputation accruing to him of the poet's memory, we trust that the deer-steal
froin this source, or would have found little time
noblest efforts of human genius.”
inore affecting, than to find the illastrious Ben Jon-
anything rather than protitable : bis mighty mind
pre No portion of Shakspeare's history is more pb
scure than the period at wbicb be first ventured to aclor's fame depended entirely on the caprice of rely on the resources of his owo mind, and produce
an original drama on the stage which he bad so actor's duty made his presence necessary at his often trod unnoticed. Every attempt to select from patron's mansion, the buttery was ibe only place to the long list of his wonderful productions the one which he expected admittance. On the contrary, which had paved the way for his future eminence, the friendship of the dramatist was frequently bis maiden effort in the arena of his coming glories, sought by the opulent: even noblemen made lim has ended in uncertainty and disappointment. The their companion, and chose him at once as the object Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the Comedy of of bounty and esteem. In this manner, Sbakspeare Errors, have been pitched upon, but almost any of became the bosom associate of the all-accomplished his other plays might have been chosen with an lord Southampton. That nobleman's father-in-law, equal approximation to trath. Our bard, however, sir Thomas Heminge, was treasurer of the queen's was well known as a dramatic writer in 1592, and chamber, in which capacity it was bis daty to rethere is reason to suppose that all bis compositions ward the actors employed at coart: thus plays and for the stage were written between 1590 and 1613, players were almost forced upon the notice of lord a period of about twenty-three years. And when Southampton, and the hold iheatrical amusements it is considered that we possess thirty of his plays, bad on his mind, is evident, even at a late period which are indisputably genuine, besides several, of his life, from his shanning the court for a diurna the authenticity of which is doublinl, the marvel- attendance at the Globe; bis entertainment of Cecil lous power and range of his intellect will be suffi- with " plaies;” and his ordering Richard II. to be ciently evident. According to the chronological performed on the night previous to the rebellion o order in which the critios have placed his dramas, the earl of Essex. Shakspeare's intimacy with his genius appears in full vigour from its first flight Southampton commenced when the latter was to the moment when its eagle pinious became quies about twenty years of age, and from the dedica cent for ever. A Midsummer Night's Dream is tions prefixed to Venus aud Adonis in 1593, and the the second inscription on the luminous column of Rape of Lucrece in 1594, it is apparent that their his renown. Oth The Tempest, and Twelfth friendship was cemented by great liberality in the Night, are engraven in characters of light on its patron, and lively gratitude in the poet. base. Other minds have had their infancy, their Rowe, on the authority of Davenant, relates, tha maturity, and their decline. In other intellects, in order to enable Shakspeare to complete a par even the most resplendent, we observe the unfold - chase, Southampton at one time presented him with ings of genius, as of the gradual unfolding of the a thousand pounds, a gift truly princely. The morning's light, its maturity as of the full blaze of tradition derives credit from the wealth which th noon, and its decline and decay as the twilight of dramatist is known to have possessed in a fer evening and the darkness of night. Milton wrote years subsequently to bis arrival in London; for i Sampson Agonistes before Paradise Lost, and Pa- is contrary to probability, that his opulence coul radise Regained after it; but the rise, progress, and have arisen from his emoluments, either as acto termination of Shakspeare's brilliant career were or avthor. All his original productions were sol equally glorious. In combining author and actor absolutely to the tbeatre, and the gain accruin in bis own person, the dramatist might in some from them could not bave been large, as be neithe degree alleviate his pecuniary difficulties, but it published his plays, nor received advantage fror could scarcely have redeemed him from the indi- their dedication to the wealthy. Some of bis dra gence under which his brother writers were suf mas were printed in bis life-time; but this was don fering ; yet his superlative merits as a poet soon surreptitiously, and was at once a fraud on autho advanced him in the regard of the great and the proprietor, and reader. noble. The players in his time were constantly Or Shakspeare's comparative opulence there ca denominated and treated as servants; and when the be no doubt; in 1597, be purchased
The most respectable mansion in bis native Strat- and found at Clopton, near Stratford upon Avd ford, and weni to considerable expense in alterations in 1786. and repairs. The above view of it is taken In the succeeding year, we find Richard Quynd from a drawing in the margin of an ancient survey a townsman, applying to him as a person made by order of sir George Carew, (afterwards substance, for the loan of thirty pounds; a baron Carew, of Clopton, and earl of Totness,) I shortly after, we find him expressing his reading