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Mr. Steevens to the proprietors of the preceding edition, in his life-time; with fuch additions as, 'it is prefumed, he would have received, had he lived to determine on them himself. The whole was entrusted to the care of the prefent Editor, who has, with the aid of an able and vigilant affiftant, and a careful printer, endeavoured to fulfil the truft reposed in him, as well as continued ill health and depreffed fpirits would permit.
By a memorandum in the hand-writing of Mr. Steevens it appeared to be his intention to adopt and introduce into the prolegomena of the prefent edition fome parts of two late works of Mr. George Chalmers. An application was therefore made to that gentleman for his confent, which was immediately granted; and to render the favour more acceptable, permiffion was given to diveft the extracts of the offenfive afperities of controversy.
The portrait of Shakspeare prefixed to the present edition, is a copy of the picture formerly belonging to Mr. Felton, now to Alderman Boydell, and at present at the Shakspeare Gallery, in Pall Mall. After what has been written on the fubject it will be only neceffary to add, that Mr. Steevens perfevered in his opinion that this, of all the portraits, had the fairest chance of being a genuine likeness of the author. Of the canvas Chandois picture he
remained convinced that it poffeffèd no claims to authenticity.
Some apology is due to thofe gentlemen who, during the course of the publication, have obligingly offered the prefent Editor their affiftance, which he fhould thankfully have received, had he confidered. himself at liberty to accept their favours. He was fearful of loading the page, which Mr. Steevens in fome inftances thought too much crouded already, and therefore confined himfelf to the copy left to his care by his deceafed friend.
But it is time to conclude.-He will therefore detain the reader no longer than just to offer a few words in extenuation of any errors or omiffions that may be difcovered in his part of the work; a work which, notwithstanding the utmoft exertion of diligence, has never been produced without fome imperfection. Circumftanced as he has been, he is fenfible how inadequate his powers were to the task imposed on him, and hopes for the indulgence of the reader. He feels that "the inaudible and noiseless foot of time" has infenfibly brought on that period of life and those attendant infirmities which weaken the attachment to early pursuits, and diminish their importance :
"Superfluous lags the veteran on the flage."
To the admonition he is content to pay obedience
and fatisfied that the hour is arrived when "welltimed retreat" is the measure which prudence dictates, and reason will approve, he here bids adieu to SHAKSPEARE, and his Commentators; acknowledging the candour with which very imperfect efforts have been received, and wishing for his fucceffors the fame gratification he has experienced in his humble endeavours to illuftrate the greatest poet the world ever knew.
Staple Inn, May 2, 1803.
WHEN I faid I would die a bachelor, (cries
Benedick,) I did not think I fhould live till I were married." The prefent Editor of ShahSpeare may urge a kindred apology in defence of an opinion hazarded in his Prefatory Advertisement; for when he declared his disbelief in the existence of a genuine likeness of our great Dramatick Writer, he most certainly did not fuppofe any Portrait of that defcription could have occurred, and much lefs that he himself fhould have been inftrumental in producing it. He is happy, however, to find he was mistaken in both his fuppofitions; and confequently has done his utmoft to promote the appearance of an accurate and finished Engraving, from a Picture which had been unfaithfully as well as poorly imitated by Droefhout and Marshall.
1 See Mr. Richardfon's Propofals, p. 4.
"Martin Droefhout. One of the indifferent engravers of the laft century. He refided in England, and was employed by the bookfellers. His portraits, which are the best part of his works, have nothing but their scarcity to recommend them. He engraved the head of Shakspeare, John Fox, the martyrologist, John Howfon, Bishop of Durham," &c.
Strutt's Dictionary of Engravers, Vol. I. p. 264. "William Marshall. He was one of those laborious artists whofe engravings were chiefly confined to the ornamenting of books. And indeed his patience and affiduity is all we can admire when we turn over his prints, which are prodigiously namerous. He worked with the graver only, but in a dry tasteless ftyle; and from the fimilarity which appears in the defign of all his portraits, it is fuppofed that he worked from his own drawings