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THE alterations and additions in this Play (as performed at the Theatres) on comparing it with the original, were judged so necessary and judicious, and the omissions so numerous and intricate, that it was impracticable to give the Original intirc, without greatly embarrassing the Reader; such Lines as could be restored (though omitted on the stage) are printed with Inverted Commas, those in Italics are added in the Representation.
The life of this great Poet is not a subject of pleasurable retrospect-it was darkened by envy, it was saddened by necessity--and as if his suffering were never to have an end, his Wit is disparaged and GENIUS undervalued, even by that Posterity to which he might be supposed to refer his claims with assurance of justice.
Shakspere is the man before whose contempotary excellence JONSON fades away-To whose injured friendship his fame, both as a man and as a writer, is sacrificed for propitia
The COMMENTATORs upon our greatest Poet seem, with infinite industry, to have raked up the ashes of forgotten aspersions, and to have violated that Grave in which all injuries are permitted to enjoy oblivion-Jonson has written dispraisingly of their Idol, it therefore follows in their idea, that wanting gratitude, he has wanted all and they wish to deny that excellence
in his writings, which there is reasonable ground for presuming did not do honour to his life-Yet, esteemed and learned Gentlemen, Envy is a passion too apt to invade either the literate or the illiterate; and though Jonson might write under its influence, I cannot expect you to pity what you never felt. None of you have ever vindictively laboured to smother up a commenting rival-None of you are skilled in the art of plunging a name into oblivion, that your plagiarisms may never rise in judgment against you—Ye comment and criticise as though the precise accuracy of Capell had never preceded your toil. And may he continue to moulder in obscurity ! for, alas ! should a fair estimate of his researches be made, the high plumed sagacity of one Commentator, and the unpresuming modesty of another, might be expunged from the burthened pages of
“ And like the baseless Fabric of your Visions,
Let me be pardoned if any thing acrimonious should be inferred from aught above written. The Writer is just fresh from the perusal of the following play, and excellence, come from whom it may, is apt to win so warm an interest in his
bosom, that the very Gentlemen alluded to might enkindle within his breast a similar enthusiasm, were it possible to discover any congeniality of merits in their elaborate compositions.
The above I owe to the fame of Jonson, what I am indebted to his life shall be punctually paid to his inimitable VOLPONE.