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TO WILLIAM CHARLES MACREADY, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR,
When I commenced the “Pictorial" edition of Shakspere, twelve years ago, you had recently entered upon your noble task of presenting, at one of our then national theatres, the text of Shakspere, not deformed by presumptuous innovations, and not vulgarized by stage conventionalities. We were engaged, each in our own way, in the honest endeavour “to diffuse more widely a more intimate knowledge, and in that a deeper love, of our great poet's works.” I use here the words of a letter which you did me the favour to write to me in 1839. At the precise time when you are quitting for ever that profession which you have long elevated and adorned, I shall be sending to the press the first volume of this revised edition of the Dramas which have been so many years the objects of our common reverence. At such a time, so full of conflicting feelings to yourself, and of unmixed regret to others, I may be permitted to offer a parting tribute, however humble, in saying that your living commentary upon the language, and your artistical penetration into the real nature of the characters and incidents, of these wondrous creations, have often given a coherence and force to my own imperfect conceptions, which the best criticism might have failed to supply. This consideration, as well as the coincidence of time which I have mentioned, lead me to inscribe this edition to you; with every sentiment of respect for your public exertions and your private character, and with the wish, in which thousands participate, that you may find in retirement that peace and holy rest, which make the evening of a well-spent life calm and beautiful as an unclouded sunset,
February 26, 1851.