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FORD, MASSINGER, and WEBSTER; and the lesser, yet respectable names of SHIRLEY, DANIEL, BROME, MARSTON, DEKKAR, and others, adorn the same age. All of whom either derived their principal subsistence from, or at least dedicated most of their time to, dramatic composition. Nor are the monuments of their labour unworthy of the associates, perhaps the friends, of SHAKSPEARE. These efforts of the earlier dramatic Muse are in general free from the licentiousness which invaded the Stage after the Restoration. Coarse and indelicate passages may be found by those who love to glean for them; but the general tenour of our more ancient Plays is highly virtuous: nor had the Stage at any time, or in any country, so good a title to be considered as a school of morals, as in England, during the reigns of ELIZABETH, JAMES, and CHARLES THE FIRST. Such being the case, little apology is necessary for introducing to the public, in a compendious and at the same time an elegant form; those works in which genius has aided virtue; and an elegant and classical amyseinent is combined with lessons of morality, and a knowledge of the human heart.
The ground-work of the present Collection is the excellent Selection known by the name of DODSLEY'S Old Plays. Some variations, however, have been introduced; and particularly all the Plays ascribed to SHAKSPEARE, but left out in the later editions of his works, have been extracted from JOHNSON and STEEVENS's Supplement of 1780. Some other Plays have been added, and some of DODSLEY's Collection omitted; either because they appeared to possess but little interest, or on account of their being lately republished. The Plays of MASSINGER, for example, have been left out, on account of the excellent edition of Mr. GIFFORD :
and for those of FORD, the reader is referred to that which is now prepared for publication by Mr. HENRY WEBER.
With these few preliminary remarks, the Publisher offers to the world THE ANCIENT BRITISH DRAMA.
N. B. Where references are made in this Work to the Plays of SHAKSPEARE, it was considered unnecessary to repeat his name, as the Plays of our immortal Bard are known to almost every reader. It may, however, be proper to observe, that it is the edition of 1778, which is uniformly meant.- -References are also
made, in some of the notes, to DoDSLEY'S Old Plays, without mentioning the title'DODSLEY'S Old Plays,' edit. 1780-but the intelligent reader will find no difficulty in discriminating them.