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Life does not often receive good unmixed with evil. The benefits of the art of printing are depraved by the facility with which fcandal may be diffused, and fecrets revealed; and by the temptation by which traffick folicits avarice to betray the weaknesses of paflion, or the confidence of friendIhip.
i cannot forbear to think these posthumous publications injurious to society. A man conscious of literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his fifter, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the flightest occasion, or most pressing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and grammatical feverity. That esteem which preserves his letters, will at last produce his disgrace; when that which he wrote only to his friend or his daughter shall be laid open to the publick.
There is perhaps sufficient evidence, that most of the plays in question, unequal as they may be to the rest, were written by Shakefpeare; but the reason generally given for publishing the less correct pieces of an author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's talents or way of thinking, than when we only see him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and practises otherwise. For what is all this to shew, but that every man is more dull at one time than another; a fact which the world would easily have admitted, without alking any proofs in its support that might be destructive to an author's reputation.
To conclude ; if the work, which this publication was meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the fatisfaction of knowing it to be so may be obtained from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expectations of correctness, and through negligence defeated them, be justly exposed by future editors, who will now be in possession of by far the greatest part of what they might have enquired af.. ter for years to no purpose; for in refpe&t of such a number of the old quartos as are here exhibited, the first folio is a common book. This advantage will at least arise, that future editors, having equally recourse to the same copies, can challenge distinction and preference only by genius, capacity, industry, and learning.
As I have only collected materials for future artists, I consider what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for their use. If the publick is inclined to receive
it as such, I am amply rewarded for my trouble; if otherwise, I shall submit with chearfulness to the censure which should equitably fall on an injudicious attempt; having this consolation, however, that my design amounted to no more than a wish to encourage others to think of preserving the oldest editions of the English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; and to afford the world all the assistance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST POET.
Account of the Life, &c.
Mr. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Written by Mr. ROW E.
o be a kind ofly of those wf fome accowor this
IT seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of
excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of themselves, as well as their works, to posterity. For this Tealon, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity! their faa milies, the common accidents of their lives, and even their thape, make, and features have been the subject of critical enquiries. How trifling foever this curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him described even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an aua thor may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book; and though the works of Mr. Shakespeare may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the son of Mr. John Shakespeare, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1964. His family, as appears by the register and publick, writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten chil. dren in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give
196 Some ACCOUNT of the LIFE, &c.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him; and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for some time, till an extraragance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He had by a mis-, fortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent
practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be loit, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident,, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, foon diftinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst those of the other players, before some old plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts he used to play ; and though I have enquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. I should have been much more pleased, to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote *; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakespeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their leaft perfect writings; art had so little, and nature so large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and strength of imagination in them, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the firft sight. But though the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are passages
* The highest date of any 'I can yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old; and Richard the Second, and Third, in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age.