Abbildungen der Seite

any future discoveries will be able to add much to its purity. The obscurities, however, which yet remain, and the doubts which have not yet been resolved, are stated in the notes, to prevent the reader from being ashamed of not understanding what the most profound critics have been hitherto unable to explain.

In selecting the notes, the names of the annotators have seldom been retained, unless where they relate to contested points. Notes of CRITICISM, however, have generally their authors' names, and it is hoped that the preservation of all Dr. Johnson's remarks of this kind will not be thought superfluous, since they are almost universally quoted as authorities, and are indeed inestimable both for matter and manner. These, and his celebrated PREFACE, seem indispensable to every edition of Shakspeare, in which illustration is at all admitted. It is at his recommendation that Mr. Pope's preface is also prefixed, "valuable alike for composition and justness of remark, and containing a general criticism on his author, so extensive that little can be added, and so exact that little can be disputed;" a character which many will probably think ought to be transferred to Johnson's more elaborate, and complete investigation of the genius of Shak


But while it is hoped that nothing has been omitted which can assist in removing the obscu

rities of the poet's style, his indecencies have been left without notice or comment, the present editor being of opinion that the principal annotators have disgraced their characters, and insulted public decency, by loading their pages with such discussions as would not be tolerated in any other work.

The HISTORY OF THE STAGE is merely an abridgment of Mr. Malone's labours on that subject, to which he made no addition in his subsequent inquiries. Having originally brought it down to the age of Garrick, he had executed all that he intended-a history of the gradual progress of the stage from the first barbarous attempts at dramatic exhibition, until it arrived at the state in which Garrick found it, and in which it still remains. Show and splendour have perhaps, in our time, too frequently predominated, but the public has lost none of its enthusiasm for Shakspeare, when his works have been illustrated by the talents of the eminent performers who have appeared within the last forty years.

Instead of a verbal index, a complete GLOSSARY of Shakspearean language has been compiled, at no small labour, for the present edition, and it is hoped will serve for the purposes of ready consultation, and the adjustment of colloquial disputes.

The LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE, prefixed to our edition of 1803, was an attempt, and the first of

the kind, to collect the disjecta membra of his biography, scattered over the volumes of Johnson, Steevens, and Malone. A few particulars are now added from the latter, who had begun a more elaborate narrative, but did not live to continue it farther than the arrival of Shakspeare in London. This sketch may be useful as exhibiting to the reader at one view all that is known of the personal history of our great bard; and it can pretend to no other merit.


January, 1823.




WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23rd day of April, 1564. Of the rank of his family it is not easy to form an opinion. Mr. Rowe says, that according to the register and certain public writings relating to Stratford, his ancestors were "of good figure and fashion" in that town, and are mentioned as "gentlemen;" but the result of the late as well as early inquiries made by Mr. Malone is, that the epithet gentleman was first applied to the poet, and even to him at a late period of his life. Mr. Malone's inclination to elevate Shakspeare's family cannot be doubted, yet he is obliged to confess that after thirty years' labour, he could find no evidence to support it.

His father, John Shakspeare, according to Mr. Malone's conjecture, was born in or before the year 1530. John Shakspeare was not originally of Stratford, but, perhaps, says Mr. Malone, of Snitterfield, which is but three miles from Stratford. He came to Stratford not very long after the year 1550. Former accounts have reported him to have been a considerable dealer in wool, but Mr. Malone has discovered that he was a

« ZurückWeiter »