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fuch, and amends as he reads; but where correctnefs is the object, no inaccuracy, howeyer immaterial, fhould efcape unnoticed.

-There is perhaps no fpecies of publication whatever, more likely to produce diverfity of opinion than verbal criticifms; for as there is no certain criterion of truth, no eftablifhed principle by which we can decide whether they be juflly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his cenfure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all thefe obfervations will be generally approved of; fome of them, I confefs, are not thoroughly fatisfactory even to myfelf, and are hazarded, rather than relied on:-But there are others which I offer with fome degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of paffages which have hitherto been mifprinted or misunderstood.

In forming thefe comments, I have confined myself folely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnfon: not doubting but the editors had faithfully flated the various readings of the firft editions, I refolved to avoid the labour of collating; but had I been inclined to undertake that talk, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I refide.

I have felected from the Supplement, Pericles Prince of Tyre, because it is fuppofed by fome of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at leaft as faulty as any of the

reft. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorrect to require any comment. M. MASON.

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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 difplayed, fo fully, fo accurately, and in fo fatisfactory a manner, that it might reafonably be prefumed little would remain to be done by either new editors or new commentators yet, though the diligence and fagacity of thofe gentlemen who contributed towards the laft edition of this author may feem to have almoft exhaufted the fubject, the fame train of enquiry has brought to light new difcoveries, and accident will probably continue to produce

further illuftrations, which may render fome alte rations neceffary in every fucceeding republication.

Since the laft edition of this work in 1778, the zeal for elucidating Shakspeare, which appeared in moft of the gentlemen whofe names are affixed to the notes, has fuffered little abatement. The fame perfevering spirit of enquiry has continued to exert itself, and the fame laborious fearch into the literature, the manners, and the cuftoms of the times, which was formerly fo fuccefsfully employed, has remained undiminiflied. By thefe aids fome new information has been obtained, and fome new materials collected. From the affiftance of fuch writers, even Shakspeare will receive no 'difcredit,

When the very great and various talents of the laft editor, particularly for this work, are confidered, it will occafion much regret to find, that having fuperintended two editions of his favourite author through the prefs, he has at length declined the laborious office, and committed the care of the prefent edition to one who laments with the reft of the world the feceffion of his predeceffor; being confcious, as well of his own inferiority, as of the injury the publication will fuftain by the change.

As fome alterations have been made in the prefent edition, it may be thought neceffary to point them out. These are of two kinds, additions and omiffions. The additions are fuch as have been fupplied by the laft editor, and the principal of the living commentators. To mention thefe affiftances, is fufficient to excite expectation, but to speak any thing in their praise will we fuperfluous to those who are acquainted with their former

labours. Some remarks are alfo added from new commentators, and fome notices extracted from books which have been published in the courfe of a few years past.

Of the omiffions, the most important are fome notes which have been demonftrated to be ill founded, and fome which were fuppofed to add to the fize of the volumes without increafing their value. It may probably have happened that a few are rejected which ought to have been retained; and in that case the prefent editor, who has been the occafion of their removal, will feel fome concern from the injuftice 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 licentioufly indulged. At all events, that the cenfure may fall where it ought, he defires it to be understood that no perfon is anfwerable for any of these innovations but himself.

It has been obferved by the last editor, that the multitude of inftances which have been produced to exemplify particular words, and explain obfolete cuftoms, may, when the point is once known to be eftablished, be diminished by any future editor, and in conformity to this opinion, feveral quotations, which were heretofore properly introduced, are now curtailed. Were an apology required on this occafion, the prefent editor might shelter himfelf under the authority of Prior, who long ago has faid,

That when one's proofs are aptly chofen, "Four are as valid as four dozen."'

The prefent editor thinks it unnecessary to say

any thing of his own fhare in the work, except that he undertook it in confequence 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 fituation. He is not infenfible, that the talk would have been better executed by many other gentlemen, and particularly by fome whofe names appear to the notes. He has added but little to the bulk of the volumes from his own obfervations, having, upon every occafion, rather chofen to avoid a note, than to court the opportunity of inferting one. The liberty he has taken of omitting fome remarks, he is confident, has been exercifed without prejudice and without partiality; and therefore, trufling 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.

Nov. 10. 1783.




IN the following work, the labour of eight years,

I have endeavoured, with unceafing 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 fo great length and difficulty was ever. free from error or imperfection?) will, I truft, be

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