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In the final form which the following notes assume, their gradual method of growth, and my constant residence in the country out of the reach of libraries, have left some traces which may seem to need explanation.

I have for many years been accustomed to read Shakespeare's Plays in Reed's edition of twenty-one volumes, and for my own behoof to inscribe with a pencil on its margin such interpretations and amendments as suggested themselves, where I could not fully approve any of the classical comments collected in that publication. All my sources of information were accordingly for a long time limited to the notes printed in those volumes. After some years however I added Dyce's second edition to my stock as a book of reference. The reprint by Steevens of twenty quarto copies; the photographic reprint of the first folio by Staunton ; Halliwell's photographic impression of all quarto editions issued during Shakespeare's life ; and the fourth folio itself, followed one the other into

less often consulted after I had obtained them. It was not however till the year 1876, when repeated, and destructive, yet not final, spoliations of another manuscript work had tempted me to divert my thoughts by copying out my annotations; and after they had been again transcribed for the press by an amanuensis, that I was in a position to refer habitually to the valuable and almost complete collection of various readings given to the public in the footnotes of Clark and Wright's Cambridge edition. Amongst these were to be found many amendments of the same passages, of which I have already proposed alterations, in far the larger number of instances differing from, in a very few cases identical with, my own suggestions. Whether coinciding, however, or varying, I have recorded them in a separate postscript to each such annotation, in order that the reader might aid his estimate of my proposals by comparing them with those of others-as well with those of which I was unaware, as with those with which I was not satisfied, at the moment when I first made my own. Only in the case of notes added after my acquisition of the Cambridge edition have I embodied into their substance a notice of all such suggestions by others as the Cambridge edition supplied.

The 'new readings' offered in this volume consist mainly of such as seemed absolutely and undoubtedly entitled to take the place of those which old copies, or traditional usage, have made part of Shakespeare's text. Nor would I apologise for such as, although not accompanied with so strong a conviction, have com

mended themselves to my judgment by a very high degree of probability. Whether anywhere I have too little considered the reader's time in mentioning others, where either the text gave less clear tokens of corruption or a lower degree of likelihood characterised the best substitute which would occur, it is difficult for me to decide. If it be so, this has not arisen from recklessness : some have been expunged because I doubted the propriety of making them public, and have afterwards been reinstated because I regretted having expunged them. I trust, speaking generally and not absolutely, that the language in which my emendations are offered by me to attention has been so graduated to the value of each suggestion as to rate it rather below than above its reasonable pretension to acceptance. It will not be forgotten that the same field had been previously wrought upon by the best endowed intellects of the eighteenth century, including amongst these its greatest poet; its most powerful divine ; its most celebrated man of letters ; numerous and famous critics of great erudition and sagacity, ap.plying both with much perseverance ; beside not a few accomplished men of leisure who laboured with a love perhaps not more sincere, but more obviously indisputable than any of these. To it also occasional contributors eminent in every walk of life, and conspicuously the most classical jurist and the most renowned painter of the same century, gave time and thought. Hardly, too, has the nineteenth century been less prolific in its number of works and workmen involved

can have been left to us for explanation, beyond the more abstruse difficulties in the train of thought, intricacies of supreme perplexity in the style of expression, and allusions to objects deeply hidden or very remote ; how much for emendation, beyond errors of the text the most latent or the least remediable, it hardly needs consideration to estimate.


June 4, 1878.


All passages, on which comment is made, are quoted both

as to words, and as to punctuation, from Reed's Edition in

fifteen volumes. London, 1793.

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