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him, not only to the wearifome task of collation, but also to engage in a peculiar courfe of reading, neither pleasing nor profitable for any other purpose.
But I will venture to affert, that his merit is more confpicuous in the comments than the text; in the regulation of which he seems to have acted rather from caprice, than any fettled principle; admitting alterations, in fome paffages, on very infufficient authority, indeed, whilft in others he has retained the antient readings, though evidently corrupt, in preference to amendments as evidently juft: and it frequently happens, that after pointing out to us the true reading, he adheres to that which he himself has proved to be falfe. Had he regulated the text in every place according to his own judgment, Malone's obfervation would have been nearer to the truth; but as it now fta ds, the laft edition has no fignal advantage, that I can perceive, over that of Johnfon, in point of correctnefs.
But the object that Steevens had moft at heart, was the illuftration of Shakspeare, in which it must be owned he has clearly furpaffed all the former editors. If, without his abilities, application, or reading, I have happened to fucceed in explaining fome paffages which he mifapprehended, or in fuggefting amendments that efcaped his fagacity, it is owing merely to the minute attention with which I have ftudied every line of these plays, whilft the other commen tators, I will not except even Steevens himfelf, have too generally confined their obfervation and ingenuity to thofe litigated paffages, which have been handed down to them by former editors, as requiring either amendment or explanation, and have fuffered many others to pafs unheeded, that, in truth, were equally erroneous or obfcure. It may poffibly be thought that I have gone too far in the other extreme, in pointing out trifling miftakes in the printing, which every reader perceives to be fuch, and amends as he reads; but where correctness is the object, no inaccuracy, however immaterial, fhould escape unnoticed.
There is perhaps no fpecies of publication whatever, more likely to produce diverfity of opinion than verbal criticifms; for, as there is no certain criterion of truth, no eftablished principle by which we can decide whether they
be justly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his cenfure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these obfervations will be generally approved of; fome of them, I confefs, are not thoroughly fatisfactory even to myself, and are hazarded, rather than relied on :-But there are others which I offer with fome degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favourable reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of paffages which have hitherto been mifprinted or misunderstood.
In forming these comments, I have confined myself solely to the particular edition which is the object of them, without comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnfon: not doubting but the editors had faithfully ftated the various readings of the first editions, I refolved to avoid the labour of collating; but had I been inclined to undertake that task, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I refide.
I have felected from the Supplement, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, because it is fuppofed by fome of the commentators to have been the work of Shakfpeare, and is at least as faulty as any of the reft. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorrect to require any comment,
Ir feems to be a kind of refpect due to the memory of excellent men, efpecially of thofe whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of themfelves, 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 curioiity may feem to be, it is cer tainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfied with an account 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 understanding 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 regifter 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
2 It appears that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford-uponVOL. 1.
children in all, that though he was his eldeft 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-school,3 where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumftances, and the want of his affistance 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 taste, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not fuperior, to fome of the beft of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, 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 least 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 correctnefs, might have reftrained fome of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful
Avon; and that he enjoyed fome hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved fervices to King Henry VII. THEOBALD.
The chief magiftrate of the Body Corporate of Stratford, now diftin guished by the title of Mayor, was in the early charters called the High Bailiff. This office Mr. John Shak fpeare filled in 1569.
It appears from a note to W. Dothick's Grant of Arms to him in 1596, now in the College of Arms, Vincent, Vol. 157, p. 24, that he was a justice of the peace, and poffeffed of lands and tenements to the amount of gocl.
Our poet's mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who, in the MS. above refered to, is called a gentleman of worship." The family of Arden is a very ancient one; Robert Arden of Bromwich, efq. being in the lift of the gentry of this county, returned by the commiffioners in the twelfth year of King Henry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was Sheriff of the county in 1568.-The woodland part of this county was anciently called Aden; afterwards foftened to Arden. Hence the name. MALONE. 3 The free-school, I prefume, founded at Stratford. THEOBALD.
extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I believe we are better pleafed with thofe thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination fupplied him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the mott beautiful paffages out of the Greek and Latin poets. and that in the moit agreeable manner that it was pofiible for a mafter of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving fchool, he feems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propofed to him; and in order to fettle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway," faid to have been a fubftantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of fettlement he continued for fome time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it feemed at firft to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occafion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses
4 I believe, that on leaving fchool Shakspeare was placed in the office of fome country attorney, or the fenefchal of fome manor court. See the Ejay on the order of his plays, Article, Hamlet. MALONE.
5 It is certain he did fo; for by the monument in Stratford church erected to the memory of his daughter, Sufanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that he died on the 2d of July, 1649, aged 66: fo that he was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old. THEOBALD.
Sufanna, who was our poet's eldest child, was baptized, May 26, 1583. Shakspeare therefore, baving been born in April 1564, was nineteen the month preceding her birth. Mr. Theobald was miftaken in fuppofing
that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. is no memorial there in honour of either our poet's wife or daughter, excep flat tomb-ftones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is afcertained. His daughter Sufanna died, not on the fecond, but the eleventh of July 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dugdale. MALONE.
She was eight years older than her husband, and died in 1623, at the age of 67 years. THEOBALD.
The following is the infcription on her tomb-ftone in the church of Stratford :
"Here lyeth interred the body of ANNE, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 years. MALONE.