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AT no period of time has the ftudy of SHAKSPEARE
been fo univerfal as at prefent; nor is there any circumftance more honourable to the good tafte of the Public to be pointed out. New editions make their appearance, and new editions are projected, with a rapidity which can only be equalled by the eagerness with which they are received. Amidst the various publications of this immortal Author, the prefent Selection. from his works has had the honour to receive the most ample teftimony in its favour, by the fale of five numerous impreffions. Being again called for, the publishers have reprinted it in a larger type, with Corrections and Amendments, which they flatter themselves will do credit to their own liberality and attention. Concerning the work itself they deem it unneceffary to add any thing to the eulogium which the rapid fale bears the best teftimony of; being convinced, in the words of their Author, that
"Age cannot wither it, nor cuftom stale
ever, calculated to answer ends more important than the gratification of idlenefs the purposes of amusement are, and ought to be, only its fecondary confiderations. It has for its ultimate object the intereft and welfare of society; and, if properly directed, may be made inftrumental in enlarging the mind, extending the views; and, by fupplying materials for reflection, imperceptibly leads mankind to the knowledge and practice of virtue.
It is well obferved by an excellent Writer*, that "we are apt to confider Shakspeare only as a Poet; but "he is certainly one of the greatest Moral Philofophers "that ever lived." And of the fame fentiments is the never-enough-to-be-commended Author who may himfelf be called the Moral Philofopher of the prefent times: "It is faid of Euripides, that every verfe was a "precept: and it may be faid of Shakspeare, that from "his works may be collected a system of Civil and "Oeconomical Prudence +." Again, " From his writ"ings a fyftem of Social Duty may be collected ‡. These sentiments frequently suggested themselves to the Collector of the prefent Volume, long before he faw them confirmed by fuch refpectable authorities. The idea thus prefented to his mind, first gave rise to a wish, that the truth of it might be exemplified in a selection of those observations on the conduct of human life, fcattered through various parts of the writings of our divine Author, digested and arranged in that order that
* Mrs. Montague's Effay on the Genius and Writings of Shakspeare, 8vo. p. 59, 2d edition.
+ Preface to Johnson's Shakspeare, p. 5.
Ibid. p. 15.
might be useful as well to the learned as the uninformed, to the scholar as to the novice. He thought fuch a compilation would be very generally useful; and was convinced that, in the whole circle of English literature, no author afforded fo many and fuch various obfervations on life and manners-fo much and fuch useful knowledge of the human heart.
As the title of this volume agrees with the work of a late unfortunate Author, it may be neceffary to observe, that the present performance was begun with different views from its predeceffor, and is conducted in a dif. ferent manner. The end of the former appears to have been intended chiefly as a vehicle to difplay the compiler's reading and critical talents. The prefent has no higher aims than a felection useful for reference to the learned, for inftruction to the ignorant, and for information to all. The knowledge which may be derived from it, is too extenfive to be pointed out in this place; but it may be afferted, with modefty and truth, that whoever is concerned in the bufinefs of education, will find it very serviceable in impreffing on the memory of Youth fome of the sublimest and most important leffons of Morality and Religion. As fuch, it is offered to the attention of inftructors of both fexes; as fuch, the Compiler does not hesitate to say, no perfon, into whofe hands it may come, will meet with any disappointment.
THUS far the prefent Compiler ventured to deliver his opinion on the first publication of this work; and A 3
he feels fome fatisfaction in discovering that he has not been fingular in his ideas. The fale of a very large impreffion of the former edition has prompted him to revife and improve the collection, to render it ftill more ufeful, and still more worthy the favour which has been fhewn it. Befides, therefore, an addition of beautiful paffages, there is now added a Selection of detached Scenes from different Plays, which cannot but afford pleasure to the admirers of this divine Poet. To enlarge further on the prefent work the Editor deems unneceffary, as the public approbation has already given fo complete and fo fatisfactory a fanction to his labours. He therefore once again prefents it to the world, in full confidence that the more it is examined, the more apparent its usefulness will be found; convinced that the ftudy of the beft Poet in the world will produce the most beneficial influence on the great interests of Society.