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Having now run through all thofe points, which I intended fhould make any part of this differtation, and having in my former edition made publick acknowledgments of the affiftances lent me, I fhall conclude with a brief account of the methods taken in this.
It was thought proper, in order to reduce the bulk and price of the impreffion, that the notes, wherever they would admit of it, might be abridged for which reason I have curtailed a great quantity of fuch, in which explanations were too prolix, or authorities in fupport of an emendation too numerous and many I have entirely expunged," which were judged rather verbose and declamatory (and fo notes merely of oftentation) than neceffary or inftructive.
The few literal errors which had efcaped notice for want of revifals, in the former edition, are here reformed; and the pointing of innumerable paffages is regulated, with all the accuracy I am capable of.
I fhall decline making any farther declaration of the pains I have taken upon my author, because it was my duty, as his editor, to publifh him with my best care and judgment; and because I am fenfible, all fuch declarations are conftrued to be laying a fort of debt on the publick. As the former edition has been received with much indulgence, I ought to make my acknowledgments to the town for their favourable opinion of it; and I fhall always be proud to think that encouragement the best payment I can hope to receive from my poor ftudies.
SIR THOMAS HANMER'S
WHAT the publick is here to expect is a true
and correct edition of Shakspeare's works, cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded. One of the great admirers of this incomparable author hath made it the amufement of his leisure hours for many years paft to look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obfcurities and abfurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his judgment to restore the genuine fenfe and purity of it. In this he proposed nothing to himself, but his private fatisfaction in making his own copy as perfect as he could but, as the emendations multiplied upon his hands, other gentlemen, equally fond of the author, defired to see them, and some were so kind as to give their affiftance, by communicating their obfervations and conjectures upon difficult paffages. which had occurred to them. Thus by degrees the work growing more confiderable than was at first expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick; and he, who hath with difficulty yielded to their perfuafions, is far from defiring to reflect upon the late editors for the omiffions and defects which they left to be fupplied by others who fhould
follow them in the fame province. On the contrary, he thinks the world much obliged to them for the progrefs they made in weeding out to great a number of blunders and miftakes as they have done; and probably he who hath carried on the work might never have thought of such an undertaking, if he had not found a confiderable part fo done to his hands.
From what caufes it proceeded that the works of this author, in the firft publication of them, were more injured and abufed than perhaps any that ever paffed the prefs, hath been fufficiently explained in the preface to Mr. Pope's edition, which is here fubjoined, and there needs no more to be faid upon that fubject. This only the reader is defired to bear in mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous, and of a groffer kind than can be well conceived but by thofe who have looked nearly into them; fo in the correcting them this rule hath been most strictly observed, not to give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if it were fit for any one to presume to judge what Shakspeare ought to have written, inftead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what he did write: and fo great caution hath been used in this refpect, that no alterations have been made, but what the fenfe neceffarily required, what the measure of the verfe often helped to point out, and what the fimilitude of words in the falfe reading and in the true, generally fpeaking, appeared very well to juftify.
Moft of thofe paffages are here thrown to the bottom of the page, and rejected as spurious, which were ftigmatized as fuch in Mr. Pope's edition; and it were to be wifhed that more had then undergone the fame fentence. The promoter of the
prefent edition hath ventured to difcard but few more upon his own judgment, the most confiderable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Henry the Fifth, put into the mouths of the French princefs and an old gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French, and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that perhaps is the best thing that can be faid of it. There can be no doubt but a great deal more of that low ftuff, which difgraces the works of this great author, was foifted in by the players after his death, to please the vulgar audiences by which they fubfifted and though fome of the poor witticisms and conceits must be fuppofed to have fallen from his pen, yet as he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, fo it is to be remembered that he wrote for the stage, rude and unpolifhed as it then was; and the vicious tafte of the age muft ftand condemned for them, fince he hath left upon record a fignal proof how much he defpifed them. In his play of The Merchant of Venice, a clown is introduced quibbling in a miferable manner; upon which one, who bears the character of a man of fenfe, makes the following reflection: How every fool can play upon a word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into filence, and difcourfe grow commendable in none but parrots. He could hardly have found stronger words to exprefs his indignation at thofe falfe pretences to wit then in vogue; and therefore though fuch trash is frequently interfperfed in his writings, it would be unjuft to caft it as an imputation upon his tafte and judgment and character as a writer.
There being many words in Shakspeare which are grown out of ufe and obfolete, and many borrowed from other languages which are not enough
naturalized or known among us, a gloffary is added at the end of the work, for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been fo many ftumbling-blocks to the generality of readers; and where there is any obfcurity in the text, not arifing from the words, but from a reference to fome antiquated cuftoms now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a note is put at the bottom of the page, to clear up the difficulty.
With these several helps, if that rich vein of fense which runs through the works of this author can be retrieved in every part, and brought to appear in its true light, and if it may be hoped, without prefumption, that this is here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him juftice, who does great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a fingular genius; one who hath attained a high degree of perfection in those two great branches of poetry, tragedy and comedy, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be faid without partiality to have equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the beft writers of any age or country, who have thought it glory enough to diftinguish themselves in either.
Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their moft celebrated poets with the faireft impreffions beautified with the ornaments of sculpture, well may our Shakspeare be thought to deferve no lefs confideration: and as a fresh acknowledgment hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his ftatue at a publick expence; fo it is defired that this new edition of his VOL. I. Q