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ACCURATELY PRINTED FROM
THE TEXT OF MR. STEEVENS'S LAST EDITION.
IN NINE VOLUMES.
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA ; MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; TWELFTH-NIGHT: OR, WHAT YOU WILL; MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
PRINTED BY H. BALDWIN AND SON,
FOR C. DILLY,
J. JOHNSON, G. G. AND J. ROBINSON, R. BALDWIN, H. L. GARDNER, J. SEWELL, W. J. AND J. RICHARDSON, J. NICHOLS, F. AND C. RIVINGTON, T. PAYNE, R. FAULDER, W. LOWNDES, G. WILKIE, J. AND J. TAYLOR, J. SCATCHERD, T. EGERTON, E. NEWBERY, W. BENT, J. WALKER, W. CLARKE AND SON, J. BARKER, J. EDWARDS, D. OGILVY AND SON, J. CUTHELL, R. LEA, J. NUNN, J. LACKINGTON AND CO. T. KAY, J. DEIGHTON, J. WHITE, W. MILLER, VERNOR AND HOOn, CADELL AND DAVIES, T. N. LONGMAN, C. LAW, MURRAY AND HIGHLEY, AND LEE AND HURST.
ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE, &c.
WRITTEN BY MR. ROWE.
Ir feems to be a kind of refpect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of themselves, as well as their works, to pofterity. For this reafon, how fond do we fee fome people of difcovering any little perfonal ftory of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their fhape, make, and features, have been the fubject of critical inquiries. How trifling foever this curiofity may feem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfied with an acccount of any remarkable perfon, till we have heard him defcribed even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may fometimes conduce to the better underftanding his book; and though the works of Mr.' Shakspeare may feem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the fon of Mr. John Shakspeare, and was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the register
and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a confiderable dealer in wool, had fo large a family, ten children in all, that thongh he was his eldest fon, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for fome time at a free-fchool, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was mafter of: but the narrowness of his circumftances, and the want of his affiftance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controverfy, that in his works we fcarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his tafte, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not fuperior, to fome of the best of theirs,) would certainly have led him to read and ftudy them with fo much pleafure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings; fo that his not copying at leaft fomething from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a difadvantage to him or no, may admit of a difpute: for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrained fome of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination fupplied him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful paffages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that