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THE story of this tragedy had found its way into many ballads and other metrical pieces ; yet Shakspeare seems to have been more indebted to The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella, 1605, (which I have already published at the end of a collection of the quarto copies) than to all the other performances together. It appears from the books at Stationers' Hall
, that some play on this subject was entered by Edward White, May 14, 1594. “A booke entituled, The moste famous Chronicle Hystorie of Leire King of England, and his Three Daughters." A piece with the same title is entered again, May 8, 1005; and again Nov. 26, 1607. See the extracts from these Entries at the end of the Prefaces, &c. vol. iii. From The Mirror of Magistrates, 1587, Shakspeare has, however, taken the hint for the behaviour of the Steward, and the reply of Cordelia to her father concerning her future marriage. The episode of Gloster and his sons must have been borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, as I have not found the least trace of it in any other work. I have referred to these pieces, wherever our author seems more immediately to have followed them, in the course of my notes on the play. For the first King Lear, see likewise Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published for S. Leacroft, Charing-Cross.
The reader will also find the story of K. Lear, in the second book and 10th canto of Spenser's Fairy Queen, and in the 15th chapter of the third book of Warner's Albion's England, 1602.
The whole of this play, however, could not have been written till after 1603. Harsnet's pamphlet to which it contains so many references, (as will appear in the notes,) was not published till that year. STEEVENS.
Camden, in his Remains, (p. 306, ed. 1674,) tells a similar story to this of Leir or Lear, of Ina king of the West Saxons ; which, if the thing ever happened, probably was the real origin of the fable. See under the head of Wise Speeches. Percy.
The story told by Camden in his Remaines, 4to. 1605, is this :
“Ina, king of West Saxons, had three daughters, of whom upon a time he demanded whether they did love him, and so would do during their lives, above all others: the two elder sware deeply they would; the youngest, but the wisest, told her father flatly, without flattery, that albeit she did love, honour, and reverence him, and so would whilst she lived, as much as nature