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Tuis is a re-publication, with many alterations of arrangement, and some modifications of opinion grounded upon new information, of a volume published in 1843. | That book has been long out of print; and it is a gratification to me to re-produce
it in a cheap form. | In the original advertisement I said, “Every Life of Shakspere must, to a certain extent, be conjectural; and all the Lives that have been written are conjectural. This ‘Biography' is only so far more conjectural than any other, as regards the form which it assumes, by which it has been endeavoured to associate Shakspere with the circumstances around him, in a manner which may fix them in the mind of the reader by exciting his interest.” I quoted the opinion of Steevens—“All that is known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakspere is, that he was born at Stratford-upon-Avon—married, and had children there—went to London, where he commenced actor and wrote poems and plays—returned to Stratford, made bis will, died, and was buried.” I pointed out that this was exaggeration, but I somewhat hastily termed it “slight exaggeration.” I fully agree with Mr. Hunter, with regard to the want of information on the life of Shakspere, that he is, in this respect, in the state in which most of his contemporary poets are—Spenser for instance—but with this difference, that we do know more concerning Shakspere than we know of most of his contemporaries of the same class. Admitting this sound reasoning, I still believe that the attempt which I ventured to make, for the first time in English Literature, to write a Biography which, in the absence of Diaries and Letters, should surround the known facts with the local and temporary circumstances, and with the social relations amidst which one of so defined a position must have moved, was not a freak of fancy—a “Burlesque" as one critic has been pleased to call it, but , an approximation to the truth, which could not have been reached by a mere documentary narrative. I venture to think that I have made the course of Shakspere clear and consistent, without any extravagant theories, and with some successful resistance to long received prejudices. If there were faults of taste in the original attempt, I have endeavoured to correct them, in this edition, to the best of my judgment.
CHARLES KNIGHT. 1 MARCH 1, 1850.