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[ 267 ] not printed by Nich. Vavasour till 1633, as Tho. Heywood, who wrote the preface to it, informs us. In this mannet the contending theatres (seventeen in number *) were prepared to assert a priority of title to any copies of dramatic performances; and thus were they aflisted by our ancient ftationers, who strengthened every claim of literary property, by entries secured in a manner which was then suppored to be obligatory and legal. ... .
I may add, that the disliculty of procuring licences was another reason why some theatrical publications were retarded and others entirely suppresed. As we cannot now difcover the motives which influenced the conduct of former Lord Chamberlains and Bishops, who stopped the sale of several works, which nevertheless have escaped into the world, and appear to be of the most innocent nature, we
* Mr. Dodsley, in a note to the preface to his collection of Old Plays, has the following enumeration of the different theatres which had been built between the years 1570 and 1629, when that in White Friars was finished: - " St. Paul's Singing-school. The Globe on the Bank-lide, Southwark, The Swan and the Hope there. The Fortune between Whitecross Street and Gold. ing Lane, which Maitland tells us was the firit playhouse erected in London. The Red Bull in St. John's Street. The Cross Keys in Gracechurch Street. The Tuns. The Theater. The Curtain. The Nursery in Barbican. One in Black Friers. One in White Friers. One in Salisbury Court. The Cockpit, and the Phænix in Drury Lane."
To this account I may subjoin, that the Fortune (as appears from the following advertisement in the Mercurius Politicus, Tuef.: day Feb. 14, to Tucsday 21, 1651,) must have been a place of confiderable extent; and it is by no means iimprobable that all the actors refided within its precincts. “ 'The Fortune playhouse fituate between Whitecross Street and Golding Lane, in the parisa of St. Giles Cripplegate, with the ground thereunto belonging, is to be lett to be built upon; where 23 tenements may be erected, with gardens; and a street may be cut through for the better accommodation of the buildings.” The Curiain was in Shoreditch, a part of which district itill retains the name of The Curtain. The original sign hung out at this theatre was the painting of a striped Curtain. We learn likewise from Prynne's Hiftriomafiix, that in the time of Queen Elizabeth there were two other plachouses, the one called the Bell Savage (fituated, very pro. bably, on Ludgate Hill,) the other in Bishop gate Street: and Taylor the Water-poet in “ The true Cause of the Water-men's Suit concerning Players, 1613," mentions another theatre called the Role..
may be tempted to regard their severity as rather dictated by jealousy and caprice, than by judgment and impartiality. See a note to my Advertisement which follows Dr. Johnson's Preface.
The public is now in possession of as accurate an account of the dates, &c. of Shakespeare's works as perhaps will ever be compiled. This was by far the most irksome part of *my undertaking, though facilitated as much as possible by the kindness of Mr. Longman of Pater-noster Row, who seadily furnished me with the three earliest volumes of the records of the Stationers' Company, together with accommodations which rendered the perusal of them convenient to me though troublesome to himself.
Mr. Malone has attempted in the following pages to afcertain the chronological order in which the plays of Shakespeare were written. By the aid of the registers at Stationers' Hall, and such internal evidence as the pieces themselves supply, he has so happily accomplished his undertaking, that he only leaves me the power to thank him for an arrangement which I profess my inability either to dispute or to improve.
Primufque per avia campi
TTVERY circumstance that relates to those persons
l whose writings we admire, interests our curiosity. The time and place of their birth, their education and gradual attainments, the dates of their productions and the reception they severally met with, their habits of life, their private friendships, and even their external form, are all points, which, how little soever they may have been adverted to by their contemporaries, strongly engage the attention of pofterity. Not fatisfied with receiving the aggregated wisdom of ages as a free gift, we visit the mansions where our instructors are said to have resided, we contemplate with pleasure the trees under whose shade they once reposed, and wish to see and to converse with those sages, whose labours have added strength to virtue, and efficacy to truth. · Shakspeare above all writers, since the days of Homer, has excited this curiosity in the highest degree; as perhaps no poet of any nation was ever more idolized by his countrymen. An ardent desire to understand and explain his works, has, to the honour of the present age, so much encreased within these last thirty years, that more has been
donc done towards their elucidation, during that period“, than perhaps in a century before. All the ancient copies of his plays, hitherto discovered, have been collated with the most fcrupulous accuracy. The meanest books have been carefully examined, only because they were of the age in which he lived, and might happily throw a light on some forgotten custom, or obsolete phraseology: and, this object being still kept in view, the toil of wading through all such reading as was never riad, has been chearfully endured, because no labour was thought too great, that might enable us to add one new laurel to the father of our drama. Almost every circumstance that tradition or history has preferred relative to him or his works, has been investigated, and laid before the publick; and the avidity with which all communications of this kind have been received, fufficiently proves that the time expended in the pursuit has not been wholly misem ployed.
However, after the most diligent enquiries, very few particulars have been recovered, respecting his private life, or literary history: and while it has been the endeavour of all his editors ard commentators, to illustrate his obfcurities, and to regulate and correct his text, no attempt has been made to trace the progress and order of his plays. Yet surely it is no incurious speculation, to mark the gradations
by NOTES. Within the period here mentioned, the commentaries of Warburton, Edwards, Heath, Johnson, Tyrwhitt, Farmer, and Steevens, have been published. . b It is not pretended that a regular scale of gradual improvement is here presented to the publick; or that, if eren Shakspeare himfelf had left us a chronological list of his dramas, it would exhibit luch a scale. All that is ineant, is, that, as his knowledge increased, and as he became more conversant with the fage and with life, his performances in general were written more happily and with greater art; or (to use the words of Dr. Johnson) “ that however favoured hy nature, he could only impart what he had learn. ed, and as he must increase his ideas, like other mortals, ly gradual acquifition, he, like them, grew wifer as he gretu older, could dijplay life better as he knew it more, and inftrnci with more eficacy, 075 be suas himself more amply inftructed.” Of this opinion also was Mr. Pope. " It must be observed, (says he) that when his performances had merited the protection of his prince, and cohen the encourayement of the court had succeeded to that of the toren, the works of his riper years are manifestly saifed above those of his formerand I make · by which he rose from merliocrity to the summit of excel jence; from artless and uninteresting dialogues, to those unparalleled compositions, which have rendered him the delight and wonder of succesive ages.
The materials for ascertaining the order in which his plays were written, are indeed so few, that, it is to be feared, nothing very decisive can be produced on this subject.
NOT E S.
no doubt that this observation would be found true in every insance, were but editions extant from which sve m ht learn the exact time when every piece was comporil, ana whither qurit for the totun or the court."- From the following lines it appears, that Dryden also thought that our author's most imperfect plays were his earliest dramatick compositions :
66 Your Ben and Fletcher in their first young flight,
Prologue to the tragedy of Circe. The plays which Shakspeare produced before the year 1600, are known, and are about eighteen in number. The rest of his draTas, we may conclude, were composed between that year and the time of his retiring to the country. It is incumbent on those, who differ in opinion from the great authorities abovementioned, who think with Rowe, that " we are not to look for his bezinning in his least perfect works," it is incumbent, I say, on those persons, to enumerate in the former clafs, that is, among the plays produced before 1600, compositions of equal inerit with Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, the Tempeft and I welfth Night, which we have reason to believe were all written in the latter period; and among his late performances, that is, among the plays which are supposed to have appeared after the year 1600, to point out fire pieces, as hasty, indigested, and uninteresting, as the firsi and third parts of K. Henry VI. Love's Labour Loft, the Comedy of Errors, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona, which, we know, were among his car. tier works...