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THE PLAYERS' DEDICATION.
defence of our dedication. But since your L. L, have been pleased to thinke these trifles something, heretofore ; and have profequuted both them, and their author living, with so much favour; hope that (they out-living him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne writings) you will use the same indulgence toward them, you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference, whether
any booke choose his patrones, or find them: this hath done both. For lo much were your L. L. likings of the several parts, when they were acted, as bem fore they were published, the volume asked to be yours.
We have but collected thein, and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphanes, guardians; without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a friend, and fellow alive, as was our SHAKSPEARE, by humble offer of his playes, to your moft noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed no man to come neere your L. L. but with a kind of religious addresse, it hath bin the height of our care, who are the presenters, to make the present worthy of your H. H. by the perfection. But, there we must also crave our abilities to be considered,
We cannot goe beyond our owne powers. Countrie hands reach forth milke, creame, fruits, or what they have: and many nations (we have heard) that had not gummes and incenfe, obtained their requests with a leavened cake.? It
7 Country hands reach forth milk, &c. and many nations--that had not gummes and incense, obtained their request with a leavened cake.] This seems to have been one of the common-places of dedication in Shakspeare's age. We find it in Morley's Dedication of a Book of Songs to Sir Robert Cecil, 1595 :
was no fault to approach their gods by what meanes they could: and the most, though meanest; of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your H. H. these remaines of your servant SHAKSPEARE; that what delight is in them may be ever your L. L, the reputation his, and the faults ours, if
be committed, by a paire so carefull to flew their
gratitude both to the living and the dead, as is Your Lordshippes most bounden,
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS FROM the most able, to him that can but spell : there you are numbered, we had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all
, bookes depends upon your capacities: and not of “ I have prefumed" (says he) “ to make offer of these fim. ple compositions of mine, initating (right honourable) in this the custom of the old world, who wanting incense to offer up to their gods, made shift insteade thereof to honour them with milk.” The same thought (if I recollect right) is again employed by the players in their dedication of Fletcher's plays, folio, 1647. MALONE.
your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! it is now publique, and you will stand for your priviledges, wee know: to read, and censure.
Doe fo, but buy it first. That doth best commend a booke, the stationer faies. Then, how odde foever your braines be, or your wisdomes, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your fixe-pen'orth, your shillings worth, your five shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you doe, buy. Censure will not drive a trade, or make the jacke goe.
And though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the flage at Black-friars, or the Cockpit, to arraigne plays dailie, know, these playes have had their triall already, and stood out all appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have been wished, that the author himselfe had lived to
have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; . but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he
by death departed from that right, we pray you doe not envie his friends the office of their care and paine, to have colle&ed and published them ; and so to have published them, as where (before ) you were abused with divers stolne and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that exposed them, even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them: who, as lie was a hapoy imitator of nature, was a most
as where ---] i. e. wħcreas.' MALONE,
gentle expresser of it. His inind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.
But it is not our province, who only gather his workes, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will find enough, both to draw and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be loft. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe: and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his friends, who, if you need, can be your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade yourselves, and others. And fuch readers we wish him.
I PR R'E FA
It is not my dęsign to enter into a criticism upon
this author; though to do it effectually, and not superficially, would be the best occasion that any just writer could take, to forin the judgment and taste of our nation. For of all English poets Shakspeare must be confessed to be the faireft and fullest subject for criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as most conspicuous instances,
both of beauties and faults of all sorts. But this far exceeds the bounds of a preface, the business of which is only to give an account of the fate of his works, and the disadvantages 'under which they have been transmitted to us. We shall hereby extenuate many faults which are his, and clear him from the imputation of many which are not: a design, which, though it can be no guide to future criticks to do him justice in one way, will at least be sufficient to prevent their doing him an injusticę in the other.
I cannot however but mention some of his principal and characteristick excellencies, for which (notwithstanding his defeats) he is juftly and universally elevated above all other drainatick writers, Not that this is the proper place of praising him, but because I would not omit any occasion of doing it.
If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself drew not his art fo immediately from the fountains of nature, it proceeded through Egyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him, The poetry of Shakspeare was inspiration indeed: he is not so much an imitator, as an instrument, of nature; and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she 1peaks through him.
His characters are so much nature herself, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shews that they received ther from one another, and were but nịultipliers