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ful characters with which he has peopled the earth-would start up in remote places, as the flowers of past centuries ágain make their appearance when the forests of more recent times have been swept away. This is a consummation which cannot happen. Shakspere, through the invention of printing, is, in the limited use of the word, eternal.
Having laboured for many years in producing a body of Commentary on Shakspere, that was, out of the necessity of its plan, compelled not to miss any point or slur over any difficulty, I am not the less fitted, I presume to think, for the preparation of an edition which is not intended to satisfy the verbal critic. I desire “The Stratford Shakspere" to be “ The People's Shakspere.”
By “The People,” using the term with reference to literature, I understand, chiefly, that vast aggregate of persons who have become readers of books during the last quarter of a century. For this great class, who are sometimes called “The Million,” books must be provided that will not only economise Money but economise Time. The greater number of this host of readers have little leisure to explore the by-places of criticism. They need help —for the proper understanding of a writer who, although the most universal of his time, or of any time, is often obscure, has allusions which are not obvious, and employs phrases and words that are in some degree obsolete. They need help—to unravel the difficulties of a Plot, to penetrate the subtlety of a Character, to see the principle upon which the artist has worked. They need help—to seize the all-comprehensive spirit of the greatest moral teacher of the world of the deepest sympathiser with his fellow-men in every attribute of humanity and every condition of life. But they do not need any elaborate exhibition of the processes by which a Text has been formed, an obscurity ezplained, or a critical principle established. They ask for results.
What, then, is the Shakspere which such an intelligent and inquiring reader now desires; and which, if I thought he could get it elsewhere, I would not endeavour to supply by a new labour, of a different character from what I have already accomplished ? I think he desiresI. THE Text, founded upon the best Authorities, well printed in a large type. My intention is to print the text of each Play without Note or
Reference; so that, without interruption, the reader may yield himself up to the spirit of the Poet, and afterwards
consider his difficulties. II. A COMMENTARY AND GLOSSARY, to accompany each Play, for after-reading or for instant reference. My intention is to arrange this portion of my work somewhat as follows:
1. VARIOUS READINGS, really important.
2. A GLOSSARY OR DICTIONARY of
Words and Phrases.
3. AN ANALYTICAL VIEW OF THE PLOT AND CHARACTERS.
The principle which has determined me to print the Text without note or reference, and subsequently to offer a Commentary upon each play, has been asserted by Dr. Johnson in his celebrated Preface :
“Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakspere, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald or of Pope. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption ;
let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness, and read the commentators."
It is scarcely necessary to offer any explanation of the distinctive title here assumed. Washington Irving has truly said of Stratford-upon-Avon, “The mind refuses to dwell on anything that is not connected with Shakspere. This idea pervades the place.”
The Plays and Poems of Shakspere are especially suggestive of Stratford-its pastoral scenery, its simple manners. I believe that here the boy-poet received his first inspirations that through his life, even to its end, his best works were produced in the quiet of his native fields.