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literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his sister, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the nightest occasion, or most pressing exigence, the rigour of critical choice, and grammatical severity. That esteem which preserves his letters, will at last produce his disgrace; when that which he wrote only to his friend or his daughter shall be laid open to the publick.
There is perhaps sufficient evidence, that the plays in quesion, unequal as they may be to the rest, were written by Shakespeare ; but the reason generally given for publishing the less correct pieces of an author, that it affords a more impartial view of a man's talents or way of thinking, than when we only see him in form, and prepared for our reception, is not enough to condemn an editor who thinks and practises otherwise. For what is all this to shew, but that every man is more dull at one time than another; a fact which the world would have easily admitted, without asking any proofs in its support that might be destructive to an author's reputation.
To conclude ; if the work, which this publication was meant to facilitate, has been already performed, the satisfaction of knowing it to be so may be obtained from hence; if otherwise, let those who raised expectations of correctness, and through negligence defeated them, be justly exposed by future editors, who will now be in poffesfion of by far the greatest part of what they might have enquired after for years to no purpose; for in respect of such a number of the old quartos as are here exhibited, the first folio is a common book. This advantage will at least arise, that future editors, having equally recourse to the fame copies, can challenge distinction and preference only by genius, capacity, industry, and learning.
As I have only collected materials for future artists, I consider what I have been doing as no more than an apparatus for their use. If the publick is inclined
to receive it as such, I am amply rewarded for my trouble ; if otherwise, I shall submit with chearfulness to the censure which should equitably fall on an injudicious attempt; having this consolation, however, that my design amounted to no more than a desire to encourage others to think of preserving the oldest editions of the English writers, which are growing scarcer every day; and to afford the world all the allistance or pleasure it can receive from the most authentick copies extant of its NOBLEST POET.
ACCOUNT of the Life, &c.
Mr. WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR E.
Written by Mr. ROWE.
T seems to be a kind of respect 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 posterity. For this reason, how fond do we fee fome people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features have been the subject of critical enquiries. How trifling foever this curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him described 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. Shakespeare may seem 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 son of Mr. John Shakespeare, 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 considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a freeschool, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce 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 superior, to some of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings ; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : 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 some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance which we admire in Shakespeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin
poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was possible for a master of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him; and in order to lettle 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, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for some 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 seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest genius's that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him with them more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was profecuțed by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is faid to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwick1hire, for some tiine, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, soon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as