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THE Essays contained in this volume I am editing are almost entirely founded on the MSS. and notes of a deceased relative. They are the work of an author of culture, of high classical attainments, a traveller and a man of the world. They do not profess to be more than their name implies: a criticism of Shakespeare and his works, and not of the drama of the Elizabethan era; nor do they endeavour to compete with the writings of the learned and able men who in these days have devoted themselves to the study of our greatest poet. Before the Public Service took me away to the wildest of foreign lands, I was myself an ardent student of Shakespeare, and therefore I was indeed deeply interested when I read these Essays, which in general accorded so completely with my views, though in minor points I occasionally hesitated to accept them. They came into my hands in a very disordered state, and I fear that although I have taken great pains in arranging them they are still not as presentable as I had hoped.
Perhaps the general reader may think as I do that he would rather be aided by the opinions and criticisms of one really capable man, than be puzzled by the opinions of half a dozen critics however able. Taken as a whole these Essays may, I believe, be looked upon as a true and faithful analysis of the plays of our greatest dramatist : they are not eulogies, but they endeavour to present to the reader the faults as well as the beauties of these noble plays.
A few of the Essays are not quite complete, as, for instance, the one entitled 'Plot and Story, but I have not liked to omit it. There are also occasionally slight repetitions, but as they appeared necessary to the full understanding of the argument I have not suppressed them.