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THE EDITOR's intentions, when this work was first suggested by the PROPRIETORS of Mr. STEEVENs's elaborate Edition, have been amply explained in the Prospectus which has accompanied every play; but with what success they have been carried into execution, it is impossible to conjecture. It is the first attempt that has been made to concentrate the information given in the copious notes of the various commentators within a moderate space, and with an attention rather to their conclusions than to their premises.
Mr. STÉEVENS, in his Advertisement to the edition of 1793, after apologizing for the prolixity and number of his notes, seems to anticipate the time when “ a judicious and frugal selection
be made from the labours of all” his coadjutors; but whether the present be either judicious or frugal, must be left to a decision over which the EDITOR can have no controul. He can only say that in the whole progress of his labours, he endeavoured to place himself in the situation of one who desires to understand his author at the smallest
expence of time and thought, and who does not wish to have his attention diverted from a beauty, to be distracted by a contest. In thus assuming the character of a general reader, who is neither a scholar nor a critick, he found no difficulty; but it would have been arrogant, had it been possible, to measure the understandings of others by his own, and therefore from the opinions that he has given too much, or too little, he can have no appeal.
In selecting the notes, the names of the authors have seldom been retained, unless where they relate to contested points. Notes of criticism, however, have generally their author's 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. These and his celebrated Preface seem indispensable to every edition of SHAKSPEARE in which illustration is at all admitted. It is at his recommendation, likewise, that the Editor has prefixed Mr. Pope's Preface, “ 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.”
The History OF THE STAGE is merely an abridgement of Mr. Malone's labours on that subject. Those who wish for farther information must wait the result of his present studies, and may
wait with confidence. In the mean time, Mr. GEORGE CHALMERS' Apology and Supplement will valuably assist curious inquirers, and probably direct them to new means of research.
This Edition is accompanied by a Lire of SHAKSPEARE, or rather an attempt, and the first of the kind, to collect the disjecta membra of his
biography scattered over the volumes of Johnson and Steevens. It may be useful as shewing 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.
LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Strat
ford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day of April, 1564. Of the rank of his family it is not easy to form an opinion. Mr. Rowe says that by the register and certain publick writings relating to Stratford, it appears that his ancestors were “ of good figure and fashion,” in that town, and are mentioned as “gentlemen," an epithet which was more determinate then than at present, when it has become an unlimited phrase of courtesy. His father, John SHAKSPEARE, was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been an officer and bailiff (probably high bailiff or mayor) of the body corporate of Stratford. He held also the office of justice of the peace, and at one time, it is said, possessed lands and tenements to the amount of £500, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved services to King