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now offer to Mr. Theobald an objection agt. Shakspeare's acquaintance with the ancients. As it appears to me of great weight, and as it is necessary he shou'd be prepared to obviate all ihat occur on that head. But some other opportunity will present itselfe. You may now, Sr, justly complain of myill manners in deferring till now, what shou'd have been first of all acknowledged due to you, which is my thanks for all your favours when in town, particularly for introducing me to the knowledge of those worthy and ingenious Gentlemen that made up our last night's conversation. I amn, Sir, with all asteem your most obliged friend and humble servant
W. Warburton. Newarke Jan. 2. 1726.
[The superscription is thus:] For
Mr. M. Concanen at
The foregoing Letter was found about the year 1750, by Dr. Gawin Knight, first librarian to the British Museum, in fitting up a house which he had taken in Crane Court, Fleet Street. The house had, for a long time before, been let in lodgings, and in all probability, Concanen had lodged there. The original letter has been many years in my possession, and is here most exactly copied, with its several little peculiarities in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. April 30, 1766. M. A.
The above is copied from an indorsement of Dr. Mark Akenside as is the preceding letter from a copy given by him to Mr. Steevens. I have carefully retained all the peculiarities above mentioned.
Malone. Dr. Joseph Warton, in a note on Pope's Dunciad, Book II, observes, that at the time when Concanen published a pamphlet enti. tled, Å Supplement to the Profund, (1728) he was intimately acquainted with Dr. Warburton. Steevens.
THE story of this tragedy had found its way into many ballads and other metrical pieces; yet Shakspeare seems to have been more indebted to The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Three Daughters, Gonorill. Ragan, and Cordella, 1605, (which I have already published at the end of a ollection of the quarto copies) than to all the other performances together. It appears from the books at Stationers' Hall, that some play on this subject was entered by Edward White, May 14, 1594. “ A booke entituled, The moste famous Chronicle H storie of Leire King of England, and his three Daughters.” A piece with the same title is entered again, May 8, 1605; and again Nov. 26, 1607. From The Mirror of Magistrates, 1587, Shakspeare has, however, taken the hint for the behaviour of the Steward, and the reply of Cordelia to her father concerning her future marriage. The episode of Gloster and his sons must have been borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, as I have not found the least trace of it in any other work. I have referred to these pieces, wherever our author seems more immediately to have followed them in the course of my notes on the play. For the first King Lear, see likewise Six old Plays of! which Shakspeare founded, &c. published for S. Leacroft, CharingCross.
The reader will also find the story of K. Lear in the second book and 10th canto of Spenser's Fairy Queen, and in the 15th chapter of the third book of Warner's Albion's England, 1602.
The whole of this play, however, could not have been written till after 1603. Harsnet's pamphlet to which it contains so many references, (as will appear in the notes) was not published till that year.
Steevens. Camden, in his Remains, (p. 306, ed. 1674,) tells a similar story to this of Leir or Lear, of Ina king of the West Saxons; which, if the thing ever happened, probably was the real origin of the fable. See under the head of Wise Speeches. Percy.
The story told by Camden in his Remaines, 4to. 1605, is this:
“ Ina, king of West Saxons, had three daughters, of whom upon a time he demanded whether they did love him, and so would do during their lives, above all others : the two elder sware deeply they would ; the youngest, but the wisest, told her father flatly, without fattery, that albeit she did love, honour, and reverence him, and so would whilst she lived, as much as nature and daughterly dutie at the uttermost could expect, yet she did think that one day it would come to passe that she should affect another more fervently, meaning her husband, when she were married; who being made one flesh with her, as God by commandment had told, and nature had taught her, she was to cleave fast to, forsaking father and mother, kiffe and kinne. [Ano. nymous.] One referreth this to the daughters of king Leir.”
It is, I think, more probable that Shakspeare had this passage in his thoughts, when he wrote Cordelia’s reply concerning her future marriage, than The Mirrour for Magistrates, as Camden's book was published recently before he appears to have composed this play, and that portion of it which is entitled Wise Speeches, where the foregoing passage is found, furnished him with a hint in Coriolanus.
The story of King Leir and his three daughters was originally told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, from whom Holinshed transcribed it; and in his Chronicle Shakspeare had certainly read it, as it occurs not far from that of Cymbeline; though the old play on the same subject probably first suggested to him the idea of making it the ground-work of a tragedy.
Geoffrey of Monmouth says, that Leir, who was the eldest son of Bladud, “ nobly governed his country for sixty years." According to that historian, he died about 800 years before the birth of Christ.
The name of Leir's youngest daughter, which in Geoffrey's history, in Holinshed, The Mirrour for Magistrates, and the old anonymous play, is Cordeilla, Cordila, or Corella, Shakspeare found softened into Cordelia by Spenser in his Second Book, Canto X. The names of Edgar and Edmund were probably suggested by Holinshed. See his Chronicle, Vol. I, p. 122: “ Edgar the son of Edmund, brother of Athelstane,” &c
This tragedy, I believe, was written in 1605.
As the episode of Gloster and his sons is undoubtedly formed on the story of the blind king of Paphlagonia in Sidney's Arcadia, I shall subjoin it, at the end of the play. Malone.