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DIRECTION TO THE BINDER.
The Account of the Lives and Writings of Beaumont and Fletcher and Addenda and Corrigenda (consisting of six sheets and a half, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,) are to be placed immediately after the title-page of Vol. I.
OF BEAUMONT and FLETCHER only three critical editions have been hitherto attempted. The first was that of 1750, commenced by Theobald and completed by Seward and Sympson, in which the most unwarrantable liberties were taken with the text. The second, published in 1778, was at least an improvement on that of 1750, inasmuch as the Editors (of whom the elder Colman was the chief) rejected the greater portion of the arbitrary alterations introduced by their predecessors. The third was that of 1812, edited by Weber, who, having availed himself of Monck Mason's Notes (printed in 1798), produced on the whole the best edition of the dramatists which had yet appeared.
Much, however, remained to be done for Beaumont and Fletcher-principally by collation of the early copies. In this respect the above-mentioned Editors were so unpardonably careless, that though (as their annotations prove) they used nearly all the early copies extant, they yet entirely overlooked a great number of readings, by which both the sense and the metre might have been restored. Nor were they less deserving of censure on another account: in too many passages which they happened not to understand they deliberately substituted their own improvements for the authors' genuine language.
The text of the edition which I now submit to the public, is formed from a minute collation of all the early copies :