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and that design supplied the rest. The late Mr. Steevens had already, in a manner too careless for his own reputation, and abundantly too favourable to his friend, presented to public view such of the author's remarks as were solely put together for the private use and consideration of that able critic. The former wish of their compiler has, with the present opportunity, been accomplished; that is, some of them withdrawn, and others, it is hoped, rendered less exceptionable.

The readers of Shakspeare may be properly divided into three classes. The first, as they travel through the text, appeal to each explanation of a word or passage as it occurs. The second, read a large portion of the text, or perhaps the whole, uninterruptedly, and then consult the notes ; and the third reject the illustrations altogether. Of these the second appear to be the most rational. The last, with all their affectation, are probably the least learned, but will undoubtedly remain so; and it may be justly remarked on this occasion, in the language of the writer who has best illustrated the principles of taste, that “the pride of science is always meek and humble compared with the pride of ignorance.” He, who at this day can entirely comprehend the writings of Shakspeare without the aid of a comment, and frequently of laborious illustration, may be said to possess a degree of inspiration almost commensurate with that of the great bard himself. Mr. Steevens has indeed summed up every necessary argument in his assertion that “if Shakspeare is worth reading, he is worth explaining; and the researches used for so valuable and elegant a purpose, merit the thanks of genius and candour, not the satire of prejudice and ignorance.”

The indefatigable exertions of Messrs. Steevens, Malone, Tyrwhitt, and Mason, will ever be duly appreciated by the true and zealous admirers of Shakspeare's pages. If the name of a celebrated critic and moralist be not included on this occasion, it is because he was certainly unskilled in the knowledge of obsolete customs and expressions. His explanatory notes there. fore are, generally speaking, the most controvertible of any; but no future editor will discharge his duty to the public who shall omit a single sentence of this writer's masterly preface, or of his sound and tasteful characters of the plays of Shakspeare. Of all the commentators Dr. Warburton was surely the worst. His sentiments indeed have been seldom exhibited in modern editions but for the

purpose

of confuting them.

The wide dispersion of those materials which are essential to the illustration of inquiries like the present, will necessarily frustraté every ch deavour at perfection ; a circumstance that alone should teach every one discussing these difficult and obscure subjects, to speak of them with becoming diffidence. The present writer cannot ilatter himself that lie has uniformly paid a strict attention to this rule; the ardour of conjecture may have sometimes led him, in common with others, to forget the precepts he had himself laid down.

It may be thought by some, and even with great justice, that several of the corrections are trifling and unimportant; but even these may perhaps be endured wherever it shall be manifest that their object, and it is hoped their effect, has been to remove error and establish truth; a matter undoubtedly of some consequence in the school of criticism. One design of these volumes has been to augment the knowledge of our popular customs and antiquities, in which respect alone the writings of Shakspeare have suggested better hints, and furnished ampler materials than those of any one besides. Other digressions too have been introduced, as it was conceived that they might operate in diminishing that tedium which usually results from an attention to matters purely critical; and that whilst there was almost a certainty of supplying some amusement, there might even be a chance of conveying instruction. Sometimes there has been a necessity for stepping in between two contending critics; and for showing, as in the case of many other disputes, that both parties are in the wrong.

Some excuse may seem necessary for obtruding on the reader so many passages from what Mr.

Steevens has somewhere called " books too mean

to be formally quoted.” And yet the wisest among us may be often benefited by the meanest productions of human intellect, if, like medicinal poisons, they be administered with skill. It had escaped the recollection of the learned and accomplished commentator that he had himself condescended to examine a multitude of volumes of the above class, and even to use them with ad. vantage to his readers in the course of his notes.

With respect to what is often absurdly denominated black letter learning, the taste which prevails in the present times for this sort of read. ing wherever true scholarship and a laudable curiosity are found united, will afford the best reply to the hyper-criticisms and impotent sarcasms of those who, having from indolence or ignorance neglected to cultivate so rich a field of knowledge, exert the whole of their endeavours to depreciate its value. Are the earlier labours of our countrymen, and especially the copious stores of information that enriched the long and flourishing reign of Elizabeth, to be rejected be.

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