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rest. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither , in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorred to require any comment. M. MASON.
The works of Shakspeare , during the last twenty years, have been the objects of publick attention more than at any former period. In that time the various editions of his performances have been examined, his obfcurities illuminated , his defects pointed out, and his beauties displayed, fo fully, so accurately, and in so satisfactory a manner, that it might reasonably be presumed little would Iemain to be done by either new editors or new commentators : yet , though the diligence and sagacity of those gentlemen who contributed towards the last edition of this author may seem to have almost exhausted the subject, the same train of enquiry has brought to light new discoveries , and accident will probably continue to produce further illustrations, which may render some alte Tations necessary in every succeeding republication.
Since the last edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for elucidating Shakspeare, which appeared in most of the gentlemen whose names are affixed to the notes, has suffered little abatement. The same persevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the same laborious search into the literature, the manners, and the customs of the times, which was formerly so successfully employed, has remained undiminished. By these aids fome new information has been obtained, and some new materials collected. From the assistance of such wřiters , even Shakspeare will receive no 'discredit,
When the very great and various talents of the last editor, particularly for this work, are confidered, it will occasion much regret to find, that having superintended two editions of his favourite author through the press, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the present edition to one who laments with the rest of the world the secession of his predecessor; being conscious, as well of his own inferiority, as of the 'injury the publication will sustain by the change.
As fome alterations have been made in the present edition, it may be thought necessary to point them out. These are of two kinds, additions and omissions. The additions are such as have been supplied by the last editor, and the principal of the living commentators.
To mention there assistances, is fufficient to excite expectation, but to speak any thing in their praise will we superfluous to those who are acquainted with their former
* labours. Some remarks are also added from new
commentators, and some notices extracted from books which have been published in the course of a few years paft.
Of the omissions, the most important are some notes which have been demonstrated to be ill founded, and some which were supposed to add to the size of the volumes, without increasing their value. It may probably have happened that a few are rejected 'which ought to have been retained ; and in that case the present editor, who has been the occasion of their removal, will feel fomç concern from the injustice of his proceeding. He is however inclined to believe, that what he has omitted will be pardoned by the reader; and that the liberty which he has taken will not be thought to have been licentiously indulged. At all events, that the censure may fall where it ought, he desires it to be understood that no person is answerable for any of these innovations but himself.
It has been observed by the last editor, that the multitude of instances which have been produced to exemplify particular words, and explain obsolete cuftoms, may, when the point is once known to be established, be diminished by any future editor, and in conformity to this opinion , several quotations, which were heretofore properly introduced, are now-curtailed. Were 'an apology required on this occasion, the present editor might shelter himself under the authority of Prior, who long ago has said,
" That when one's proofs are aptly chosen,
in Four are as valid as four dozen. The present editor thinks it unnecessary to say
any thing of his own share in the work, except that he undertook it in consequence of an application which was too flattering and too honourable to him to decline. He mentions this only to have it known that he did not intrude himself into the Situation. He is not insensible, that the task would have been better executed by many other gentlemen, and particularly by some whose names appear to the notes. He has added but little to the bulk of the volumes from his own observations, having, upon every occasion, rather chosen to avoid a note, than to court the opportunity of inserting one. The liberty he has taken of omitting some remarks, he is confident, has been exercised without prejudice and without partiality; and therefore , trusting to the candour and indulgence of the publick, will forbear to detain them any longer from the entertainment they may receive from the greatest poet of this or any other nation. REED.
Nov. 10. 1733.
P R E F A C E.
In the following work, the labour of eight years, I have endeavoured, with unceasing folicitude to give a faithful and correct edition of the plays and poems of Shakspeare. Whatever imperfection or errors therefore may be found in it, (and what work of so great length and difficulty was ever free from error or imperfection?) will, I trust, be
imputed to any other cause than want of zeal for the due execution of the talk which I ventured to undertake.
The difficulties to be encountered by an editor of the works of Shakspeare, have been so frequently ftated, and are so generally acknowledged, that it may seem unnecessary to conciliate the publick favour by this plea : but as these in my opinion have in some particulars been over-rated, and in others not fufficiently insisted on, and as the true state of the ancient copies of this poet's writings has never been laid before the publick, I shall consider the subject as if it had not been already discussed by preceding editors.
In the year 1756 Dr. Johnson published the following excellent scheme of a new edition of Shakspeare's dramatick pieces, which he completed in 1765:
6. When the works of Shakspeare are, after so many editions, again offered to the publick, it will doubtless be enquired , why Shakspeare flands in more need of critical assistance than any other of the English writers, and what are the deficiencies of the late attempts, which another editor may hope to supply.
6. The business of him that republishes an ancient book is, to correct what is corrupt, and to explain what is obscure. To have a text corrupt in many places, and in many doubtful, is, among the authors that have written since the use of types, almost peculiar to Shakspeare. Most writers, by publishing their own works, prevent all various readings, and preclude all conjectural criticism. Books indeed are sometimes published after the