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THE SHAKESPEARE SOCIETY.
President. THE MOST NOBLE THE MARQUESS OF CONYNGHAM, K.P.
THE EARL OF POWIS, K.G.
THOMAS AMYOT, ESQ., F.R.S., TREAS. S.A.
The Council of the Shakespeare Society desire it to be understood that they are not answerable for any opinions or observations that may appear in the Society's publications; the Editors of the several works being alone responsible for the same.
The ensuing volume is chiefly composed of minute particulars; but particulars, however minute, are not on that account trifling or uninteresting, since they obviously assume importance in proportion to the prominence or distinction of the parties to whom they relate: these details have reference to Shakespeare, to the great dramatists of his day, and to the principal actors engaged in the original performance of their plays.
General readers will hardly be aware of the time and trouble employed in collecting the facts here arranged; and the compiler is afraid to dwell upon them, lest it should be imagined that he is disposed to over-estimate his labours or his acquisitions. He is fully sensible of the many deficiencies of what he now offers : he knows how much remains to be done; but he knows, too, how much more is contained in the following sheets, than was ever discovered or brought together before. Those only who are acquainted with the scanty and imperfect materials of preceding biographers in this department, will be likely to do justice to the quantity of new information comprised in the volume in their hands. Some few (the author hopes they will be only few) may be of opinion that, at best, it is a monument of time mispent, and industry misapplied.
A separate leaf of the folio of “ Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies,” edited by Heminge and Condell in 1623, contains “ the names of the principal actors in all these plays :” they are twentysix in number, and are arranged in two columns.
We have dealt with them as they there stand, beginning with the first column, and going down that, before we commenced with the second column. This seems to have been the order intended by Heminge and Condell; and perhaps, before we proceed farther, it may be well to insert the list exactly as it stands in the original, observing, that for our purpose we have throughout employed the copy of the first folio in the library of the Earl of Ellesmere. We need not dwell on this new instance of his lordship’s kindness, because towards the Shakespeare Society and the author of the present work it has been invariable.
THE NAMES OF THE PRINCIPALL ACTORS IN ALL THESE
William Ostler. Augustine Phillips. Nathan Field. We here follow precisely the spelling of the names in the original, but that some of them are wrong we have no doubt, though, as to others, it may be difficult to decide what is right, or what is wrong. Hemmings, for instance, in this list is Heminge at the end of the dedication of the same volume: Kempt is no where else found so spelt, and Poope elsewhere is always Pope. Similar observations will apply to others, but the author has been accustomed to consider the mere orthography of a name, even of that of our great dramatist himself, a matter hardly worth consideration. Any man who corrects a single letter of his writings confers a lasting favour on mankind.
Our volume consists of such circumstances, published by others, or accumulated by ourselves, as relate to the incidents of the lives of the preceding enumeration of actors, with one exception : for that exception the reader will be prepared, because the biography of Shakespeare has been so recently written and printed by the author, that he could have added little to it. With regard to the rest, he has presumed that Heminge and Condell had good reasons for the arrangement they made of the names of their fellow tragedians and comedians, and to that arrangement he has adhered. How far it was regulated by the value and amount of services rendered, by the age of individual performers, or by the periods when they joined the company, we have no such information as will enable us to decide : it is very possible that all these considerations, mixed up perhaps with claims derived from private intimacy, influenced the editors in the order of insertion. That Condell had more to do with it than Heminge, we may be disposed to think from the respective places that their own names occupy.
Some omissions from the list may appear extraordinary: the most remarkable of these is Lawrence