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JOHN RICHARDSON, CORNHILL ;
J. G. AND F. RIVINGTON,
In selecting and adapting these Readings, I have been guided by the experience of some five and twenty years. During this time, it has been a part of my occupation, as it still is, to read Shakspeare in public and private circles; and, during a still longer time, another, and the more constant, part of my employment has been, to familiarize young persons of both sexes with the beauties of English literature; in the lessons for which purpose, I need not say that Shakspeare has always been a prominent subject of attention. My experience in the former part of my duty made me sensible, that, to fix the attention of an audience to the poetry even of Shakspeare, much must be omitted that is dwelt upon with delight in silent reading; and means must be used to connect the dialogue, and keep the several characters in view, less awkward than reading the stage directions for the entrances and exits, and the names of the speakers, as each comes forward on the scene.
The passages selected and adapted with these views for my Readings in public, I found not less useful in my lessons to young persons in private. They enabled me to illustrate the text of Shakspeare without displacing it: there was enough, at each lesson, for the indication of the characters, for attuning the chords of feeling to the sympathies which were to vibrate in the after study, and for making passages intelligible that would readily unlock all other difficulties; but there was not enough to stand in place of Shakspeare himself, under pretence of an adequate abridgement. The expurgated Shakspeares that I am acquainted with contain, for audible reading, still too much, since they contain a great deal more than, at the present day, can be made effective even on the stage, with all the concomitants of various persons, scenery, and action, to illustrate the dialogue; and for silent reading they contain too little, since they contain less than the text. At the first appearance of these editions, I conceived it my duty, as they seemed to be prepared with a good intention, to recommend their use,—at least, to ask, in families where I was employed, whether I was to select my lessons from the common editions. or to use those that had been especially printed for young persons. “ Are you aware,” said a lady of rank to me, whose daughters I was teaching, “that in the text of Shakspeare, as it is commonly given, there is anything to mislead the affections, to take away the sense of moral delicacy from the heart, or to vitiate the judgement of right and wrong? As for the gross expressions or unrefined allusions that modern manners will not bear, I trust my daughters have been too well brought up to think otherwise than properly of them :these of course you will pass over in your audible reading, and I wish you to tell them why. I am no admirer of a protracted nursery education: I have