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F the Application of too great a Part of my Time to the unprofitable Love and Study of Poetry, has been an Imputation, perhaps, juftly enough charg'd upon me; I am bound, by the firft Principles of Duty and Gratitude, to own, that it is by Your Grace's immediate Goodness that I have
at length an Opportunity of turning my
of making no Return, Your Grace never thinks of receiving one. I have indeed one thing ftill to beg, That as Your Grace receiv'd me into Your favourable Opinion, without any Pretenfion that could be made on my fide, I may have the Honour to continue there, by my firft Title, Your Grace's meer Goodness.
Tho' it be high time to disclaim those Studies, with which I have amus'd my self and other People; yet I could not take leave of an Art I have long lov'd, without commending the best of our Poets to the Protection of the best Patron. I have fometimes had the Honour to hear Your Grace express the particular Pleasure you have taken in that Greatness of Thought, those natural Images, those Paffions finely touch'd, and that beautiful Expreffion which is every where to be met with in Shakespear. And that he may ftill have the Honour to entertain Your Grace, I have taken fome Care to redeem him from the Injuries of former Impreffions. I muft not pretend to have reftor'd this Work to the Exactnefs of the Author's Original Manuscripts: Those are loft, or, at leaft, are gone beyond any Inquiry I could
could make; so that there was nothing left, but to compare the feveral Editions, and give the true Reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many Places Intelligible, that were not fo before. In fome of the Editions, especially the last, there were many Lines (and in Hamlet one whole Scene) left out together; these are now all supply'd. I fear Your Grace will ftill find fome Faults, but I hope they are moftly litteral, and the Errors of the Prefs. Such as it is, it is the best Present of Englifh Poetry I am capable of making Your Grace. And I believe I fhall be thought no unjuft Disposer of this, the Author's Estate in Wit, by humbly Offering it where he would have been proud to have bequeath'd it.
The Present Age is indeed an unfortunate one for Dramatick Poetry; the has been perfecuted by Fanaticism, forfaken by her Friends, and opprefs'd even by Mufick, her Sifter and confederate Art, that was formerly employ'd in her Defence and Support. In fuch perillous Times, I know no Protection for Shakespear, more Safe nor more Honourable than Your Grace's: 'Tis the best Security