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TO GEORGE HARRISON, ESQ.,
CHAIRMAN OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE,
THE FOLLOWING PAGES ARE AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
BY AN OLD FRIEND.
In case of misunderstanding, it may be proper to state that some parts of the following papers have already appeared in certain periodicals, and principally in the Inverness Advertiser newspaper. Whether the articles were worth the labour of such revision and enlargement as the author has been able to give them, with the view of publication in the present form, is a point which must be left for the decision of those competent to judge.
Regarding the spelling of the poet's name, as adopted in the following pages, a word or two may be necessary, in case some readers should deem the orthography followed to be a mere singularity. Three centuries ago people did not trouble themselves much about the spelling of any particular word, even of their own proper names. Only the educated—a small fraction of the population—could write at all, and even these, albeit bound to absolute correctness in their treatment of the Latin and Greek, were most careless and indifferent regarding the management of their own tongue. In this way it happened that the carelessness shown in spelling common words became transferred to proper names, and persons nowise illiterate would spell names in one way at one time and at another time in a different fashion, careful only that the spelling used bore some resemblance to the sound of the word. Thus we have the name of Shakspere in about a dozen different ways, such as Shakspeyr, Shaxpere, Shackspere, Shagspere, Shakespeare, Shakespere, &c., yet it is important to observe that while the name of both father and son was spelt by others in many different styles, the poet himself, in all the authentic autographs of his which have been preserved, seems to have written his name as we give it here. The autograph in the volume of Montaigne's Essays by Florio is clearly and beautifully penned, and it is SHAKSPERE. The other four autographs in existence—three attached to his will, and one to a conveyance of property, are neither of them quite so distinctly traced, but Sir Frederick Madden, who has minutely examined them, believes that the spelling is uniformly the same-Shakspere. What is curious, also, is, that in the Stratford register the name of the poet appears as Shakspere both in the entry of baptism and the entry of burial ; and not less striking is the circumstance that in the same register the entries of baptism of his three children and burial of his son are all set down in the same way. It is true that his friends, notably Ben Jonson, and Heminge and Condell, spelled the name Shakespeare, as did most of his other contemporaries ; but certainly any person, be he king or cobbler, must be held as the best judge of the form his naine should assume, and whatever he takes, should be accepted as the true and proper one. The question is thus narrowed to the smallest compass. It becomes those who have taken on themselves to change the orthography, to