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"With Mr. Bindley, senior Commissioner of the Stamp-office, whose skill and taste in collecting rare and valuable articles in literature were so congenial to his own, Mr. Reed had many interchanges of reciprocal obligation. But his more immediate associates were, James Sayer, esq. of Great Ormond-street; Mr. Romney and Mr. Hayley, the eminent painter and poet; William Long, esq. the celebrated surgeon; Edmund Malone,* esq. the great rival commentator on Shakspeare; J. P. Kemble, esq. not only an excellent critick and collector of dramatic curiosities, but himself, (perhaps with the exception of his sister only,) the best living exemplar of Shakspeare's text; the Rev. H. J. Todd, the illustrator of Milton and Spenser, to whom he left a legacy for his trouble in superintending the sale of his library; Francis Newbery, esq. of Heathfield, co. Sussex; Richard Sharp, esq. M. P. for Castle Rising; and George Nicol, esq. the judicious purveyor of literary curiosities for the King. Some of these gentlemen were members of a select dining-club, of which he had from its origin been the president.
* Mr. Malone died May 25, 1812. He was brother to Lord Sunderlin; and had he survived his Lordship would have succeeded to the title, the remainder being in him. Like Mr. Steevens, he devoted his life and his fortune to the task of making the great Bard better known by his countrymen.
"He died Jan. 5, 1807, at his chambers in Staple-inn, of which honourable society he had long been one of the antients; and his remains were interred at Amwell, agreeably to his own request."
Library of the Royal Institution,
Dec. 9, 1812.
PREFIXED TO EDITION 1803.
THE merits of our great dramatick Bard, the pride and glory of his country, have been so amply displayed by persons of various and first-rate talents, that it would appear like presumption in any one, and especially in him whose name is subscribed to this Advertisement, to imagine himself capable of adding any thing on so exhausted a subject. After the labours of men of such high estimation as Rowe, Pope, Warburton, Johnson, Farmer, and Steevens, with others of inferior name, the rank of Shakspeare in the poetical world is not a point at this time subject to controversy. His pre-eminence is admitted; his superiority confessed. Long ago it might be said of him, as it has been, in the energetick lines of Johnson, of one almost his equal,
"At length, our mighty bard's victorious lays
"And baffled spite, with hopeless anguish dumb,
a renown, established on so solid a foundation, as to bid defiance to the caprices of fashion, and to the canker of time.
Leaving, therefore, the Author in quiet possession of that fame which neither detraction can lessen nor panegyrick increase, the Editor will proceed to the consideration of the work now presented to the Publick.
It contains the last improvements and corrections of Mr. Steevens,* by whom it was prepared for the
* Of one to whom the readers of Shakspeare are so much obliged, a slight memorial will not here be considered as misplaced.
GEORGE STEEVENS was born at Poplar, in the county of Middlesex, in the year 1736. His father, a man of great respectability, was engaged in a business connected with the East India Company, by which he acquired an handsome fortune. Fortunately for his son, and for the publick, the clergyman of the place was Dr. Gloucester Ridley, a man of great literary accomplishments, who is styled by Dr. Lowth poeta natus. With this gentleman an intimacy took place that united the two families closely together, and probably gave the younger branches of each that taste for literature which both afterwards ardently cultivated. The first part of Mr. Steevens's education he received under Mr. Wooddeson, at Kingston-upon-Thames, where he had for his school-fellows George Keate the poet, and Edward Gibbon the historian. From this seminary he removed in 1753 to King's College, Cambridge, and entered there under the tuition of the Reverend Dr. Barford. After staying a few years at the University, he left it without taking a degree, and accepted a commission in the Essex militia, in which service he continued a few years longer. In 1763 he lost his father, from whom he inherited an ample property, which if he did not lessen he certainly did not increase. From this period he seems to have determined on the course of his future life, and devoted himself