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T, HAN ME R's
P R E F A C E.
HAT the Publick is here to expect is a true
and correct Edition of Shakespear's works
cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded. One of the great Admirers of this incomparable Author hath made it the amusement of his leisure hours for many years past to look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obscurities and absurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his Judgment to restore the genuine sense and purity of it. In this he proposed nothing to himself but his private satisfaction in making his own copy as perfect as he could: but as the emen. dations multiplied upon his hands, other Gentlemen equally fond of the Author desired to see them, and fome were so kind as to give their A Mistance by communicating their observations and conjectures upon difficult passages which had occurred to them. Thus by degrees the work growing more considerable than was at first expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick ; and he, who hath with difficuliy yielded to their persuasions, is far from desiring to reflect upon the late Editors for the omissions and defects which they left to be supplied by others who should follow them in the same province. On the contrary, he thinks the world much oblig'd to them for the progress they made in weeding our so
great a number of blunders and mistakes as they have done, and probably he who hath carried on the work might never have thought of such an undertaking if he had not found a considerable part so done to his hands.
From what causes it proceeded that the works of this Author in the first publication of them were more injured and abused than perhaps any that ever pass’d the Press, hath been sufficienily explain’d in the Preface to Mr. Pope's Edition which is here subjoined, and there needs no more to be faid upon that subject. This only the Reader is desired to bear in mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous and of a grosser kind than can well be conceived but by those who have looked nearly into them; so in the correcting them this rule hath been most ftri&tly observed, not to give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if it were fit for any
one to presume to judge what ShakeSpear ought to have written, instead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what he did write : and so great a caution hath been used in this respect, that no alcerations have been made but what the sense necessarily required, what the measure of the verse efter helped to point out, and what the similitude of words in the false reading and in the true, generally speaking, appeared very well to justify.
Most of those passages are here thrown to the bota com of the page and rejected as spurious, which were stigmatized as luch in Mr. Pope's Edition ; and it were to be wished that more had then undergone the same sentence. The promoter of the present Edition haih ventured to discard but few more upon his own judg. ment, the most considerable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Hinry V. put into the mouths of the French Princess and an old Gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that perhaps is the best thing that can be said of it. There can be no doubt
but a great deal more of that low stuff which disgraces the works of this great Author, was foisted in by the Players after his death, to pleale the vulgar audiences by which they subsisted : and though some of the poor witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yec as he hath puc them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, so it is to be remember'd that he wrote for the Stage, rude and unpolish'd as it then was ; and the vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for them, since he hath left upon record a signal proof how much he despised them. In his Play of The Merchant of VENICE & clown is introduced quibbling in a miserable manner, upon
which one who bears the character of a man of fense makes the following reflection ; Huw every fool can play upon a word! l ibink the best grace of wit will Brily tuin into filence, and discourse grow commend. able in none but parrots. He could hardly have found stronger words to express his in iignation at those falfe pretences to wit then in vogue ; and therefore though such trash is frequently interspersed in his writinys, it would be unjust to cast it as an imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer,
There being many words in Shakespear which are grown out of use and obsolete, and many borrowed from other languages which are not enough naturaliz'd of known among us, a Glossary is added at the end of the work, for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been so many stumbling blocks to the generality of Readers; and where there is any obscurity in the text not arising from the words but from a reference to some antiquated customs now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a note is put at the bortom of the page to clear up the difficulty.
With these several helps if that rich vein of fenfe which runs through the works of this Author can be retrieved in every part and brought to appear in its true light, and if it may be hoped without presumption
that this is here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him justice, who does great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a singular Genius : one who hath atrained an high de. gree of perfection in those two great branches of Postry, Tragedy and Comely, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be said without partiality to have equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the best writers of any age or country who have thought it glory enough to diltinguish themselves in either.
Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their most celebrated poets with the faireft impreffions beautified with the ornaments of fculpture, well may our Shakespear be thought to de. ferve no less consideration : and as a fresh acknowlegement hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his Staque at a publick expence; so it is desired that this new Edition of his works, which hath cost fome attention and care, may be looked upon as another small mo. nument defigned and dedicated to his honour.
T hath been no unusual thing for Writers, when dissatisfied with the Patronage or Judgment of
their own Times, to appeal to Posterity for a fair Hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the first•Instance, and to decline Acquaintance with the Public till Envy and Prejudice had quite subsided. But, of all the Trustees to Futurity, commend me to the Author of the following Poems, who not only left it to Time to do him Justice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For, what between two great Attention to his Profit as a Player, and too little to his reputation as a Poet, his Works, left to the Care of Door.keepers and Prompters, hardly escaped the common Fate of those Writings, how good loever, which are abandon’d to their own Fortune, and unprotected by Party or Cabal. At length, indecil, they Itruggled inco Light; but so disguiled and travelled, that no classic Author, after having run ten fecular Stages thro' the blind Cloisters of Monks and Canons, ever came out in half so mained and mangled a Condition. Buc for a full Account of his Disorders, I refer the Rea. der to the excellent Discourse which follows, and turn myself to consider the Remedies that have been applied to them.