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IT would, I apprehend, be unnecessary to assign any other reason for reprinting the following poems, than that the editor who undertakes to publish Shakspeare, is bound to present the reader with all his works. Mr. Steevens has, indeed, spoken of them with the utmost bitterness of contempt; but in the course of about forty years, the period which has elapsed since they were first described by that critick as entirely worthless, I will venture to assert that he has not made a convert of a single reader who had any pretensions to poetical taste. That these youthful performances might have been written without those splendid powers which were required for Othello and Macbeth may be readily admitted, but I question if they would suffer much in a comparison with his early dramatick essays, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, or Love's Labour's Lost. If they had no other claims to our applause, than that which belongs to their exquisite versification, they would, on that ground alone, be entitled to a high rank among the lighter productions of our poetry. The opinions of Mr. Malone and Mr. Steevens, on this subject, will be found as they originally appeared in various parts of the volume; and I have no doubt as to the decision of the public, who, I am satisfied, will gladly welcome an accurate republication of poems glowing with the “ orient hues” of our great poet's youthful imagination. BOSWELL.
VENUS AND ADONIS.
Vilia miretur vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burthen: only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land', for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable
1 - BAR SO barren a land,] p. 182, n.3. Malone.
To ear, is to plow. See vol. xii.