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Many of the notes and comments in this volume were written three years ago, during the study of the commentators, but before I possessed a copy of the Variorum Shakespeare, and also, of course, before the present revival of attention to Shakesperian literature. During my subsequent progress through the Variorum, and the works of the commentators of the present day, I found, as it was inevitable that I should, that my conjectures and conclusions had sometimes been anticipated, though not as often as I expected. In some of these cases I cancelled the record of my own labors; but in others, in which there was difference as well as coincidence, or in which I had given reasons for my opinion which had not occurred to others, I allowed such notes to stand, giving due credit to my predecessor. The Notes and Comments are strictly, though in part only, a record of my Shakesperian studies; and I determined not to change their form. In all cases in which I have not stated at first that an opinion or a conjectural emendation is the suggestion of another, it is original with myself. I care very little about this sort of credit, being quite content if Shakespeare's text be protected and restored by any hands; but I have scrupulously respected the rights of others; and, in the recent words of a far more learned Shakesperian scholar than I shall ever be, -Mr. Collier, "if, in any instance, I have not stated that a proposed emendation has been previously suggested, it has arisen from my ignorance of the fact or from pure inadvertence.”
And I should here say, that in reading Mrs. Jameson's Characteristics of Women I at last found one who at least suspects—what it seemed to me no one could be blind to, -that Beatrice loves Benedick when Much Ado about Nothing opens. This reminded me that somewhere in the following volume there is an expression of my surprise that this keystone and clue of the comedy had not been discovered by any of those who had made it the subject of analytical comment.
Not a little of the more recent desultory and occasional Shakesperian discussion appears to have been carried on in the London serial publication called Notes and Queries, which, judging by the few numbers I have seen, seems to be well described in the North British Review for February, 1854, as "a melange of the public knowledge and ignorance, sense and folly, on all sides of all questions.” I have in vain tried to procure this : half a dozen old odd numbers, picked up here and there, and a set for 1853, lacking November and December, received while this volume was passing through the press, are all that I have been able to obtain. This statement may possibly be necessary to excuse my neglect to give due credit to some contributor to that literary alms-basket.
I cannot allow this sheet to go to press without a record of my acknowledgments to two gentlemen who have materially aided me in the studies of which this volume is the result. First, to William E. Burton, Esq., known to the public as a man of letters, an actor of genius, a successful and liberal manager, and a devoted Shakesperian student, I am indebted for his kindness in opening to me without reserve the rich treasures of his Shakesperian and Dramatic library, and, indeed, for the transfer to my own shelves, in a spirit that “made the things more rich,” of needful volumes which I might have sought for long in vain. To his knowledge and experience I also owe some valuable suggestions. From Joseph Cogswell, LL. D. Superintendent of the Astor Library, I have continually received all the assistance which it was in his power to give, and far more than I had any right or reason to expect. Even while the noble collection of books which he had projected, and to the gathering together of which he has devoted himself with such singleness of purpose, directed by various learning, was inchoate, almost chaotic, I found him ever ready, at no little sacrifice of personal convenience, to place whatever was within his reach also within mine, whether it was a book or the fruits of his own extended study.
To the Hon. George Lunt, of Boston, I am indebted for several favors and kind suggestions, and to President Anderson, D. D., LL. D., of Geneva College, for a useful hint. I have to thank William C. Conant, Esq., of this city, for the benefit of his assistance on more than cne occasion; and when I add that the name of my correspondent in Portland, Me., is George W. Eveleth, I believe that I have absolved myself of all the pleasant duties of this kind which friendship and courtesy have imposed upon me.