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F the Application of too great a Part of my Time to the unprofitable Love and Study of
Poetry, has been an Impucation, perhaps, justly enough charg'd upon me; I am bound, by the first Principles of Duty and Gratitude, to own, that it is by Your Grace's immediare Goodness that I have .
at length an Opportunity of turning my Thoughts a better and more useful Way. The Honour of Your Grace's Protection and Favour, has something in it which distinguishes it self from that of other Great Men; the Benefit of it is extensive, and to have a share in Your Grace's good Opinion, is to be entitled, at least, to some Esteem and Regard from Your Grace's illustrious Friends, that is, from those who fill up the firft and best Rank of Mankind. Whatever I am or can be, (if I am ever to be any thing) is all Your Grace's. It is an Acknowledgment that I make, with as much SatisfaCtion as Pride; and I don't know whether the Obligation I lye under, or the Benefit I receive from it, be capable of giving me the greater Pleasure. Some Dependances are indeed a Pain, tho' they bring considerable Advantages along with them ; but where there is a gracious Temper, an easie Condescension, and a Readiness to do Good equal to the Magnificence of the Giver, the Value of that Gife must certainly be very much enhanc'd. 'Tis my particular Happiness
, that Your Grace is the best Beo nefa&tor I could have; for as I am capable
of making no Return, Your Grace never
thinks of receiving oner. I have indeed one d thing still to beg, That as Your Grace re
ceiv'd me into Your favourable Opinion, without
Pretension that could be made on my side, I may have the Honour to
continue there, by my first Title, Your Grace's d meer Goodness.
Tho? it be high time to disclaim those Studies, with which I have amus'd my self and other People; yet I could not take leave of an Art I have long lov’d, without commending the best of our Poets to the Protection of the best Patron. I have some
times, had the Honour to hear Your Grace 1
express the particular Pleasure you have taken in that Greatness of Thought, those natural Images, those Passions finely touch'd, and that beautiful Expression which is every where to be met with in Shakespear. And
that he may still have the Honour to enter1
tain Your Grace, I have taken fome Care to redeem him from the Injuries of former Impressions. I must not pretend to have restor'd this Work to the Exactness of the Author's Original Manuscripts : Those are loft, or, at least, are gone beyond any Inquiry !
could make ; so that there was nothing left, but to compare the several Editions, and give the true Reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many Places Intelligible, that were not so before. In some of the Editions, especially che laft there were many Lines, (and in Hamlet one whole Scene) left out together ; these are now all fupply'd. 1 fear Your Grace vill still find some Faules, but I hope they are mostly litteral, and the Errors of the Press. Such as it is, it is the best Present of English Poetry I am capable of making Your Grace. And I believe I shall be thought no unjust Disposer of this, the Author's Eltare in Wit, by humbly Offering it where he would have been proud to have Bequeath'd it.
The Present Age is indeed an unfortunate one for Dramatick Poetry; the has been perfecuted by Fanaticism, forsaken by her Friends, and oppress'd even by Musick, her Sister and confederate Art, that was formerly employ'd in her Defence and Support
. In such perillous Times, I know no Protection for Shakespear, more Safe nor more Honourable than Your Grace's: 'Tis the best