SHAKESPEARE, William. The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare. In sixteen volumes


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SHAKESPEARE, William. The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare. In sixteen volumes. Collated verbatim with the most authentick copies, and revised : with the corrections and illustrations of various commentators; to which are added, an essay on the chronological order of his plays; an essay relative to Shakspeare and Jonson; a dissertation on the three parts of King Henry VI. An historical account of the English stage, and notes; By Edmond Malone. Dublin: Printed by John Exshaw, No. 98 Grafton-street, 1794. Contemporary full catspaw calf, title and volume number in gilt on contrasting red and blue morocco labels. From the library of Anthony Lefroy of Carrig-glas with his armorial bookplate on front pastedowns. Light wear to extremities and spines. A very good set. Exceedingly rare in commerce.

COPAC locates 11 copies. WorldCat 5. ESTC T138592.
Edmond Malone (1741-1812), Shakespearean scholar, editor of the works of William Shakespeare and author, was born in Dublin, to Edmond Malone Sr. MP of the Irish House of Commons and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, and Catherine Collier, the niece of Robert Knight, 1st Earl of Catherlough. He was first educated at Ford’s school in Molesworth-street (with Robert Jephson, Marquis of Lansdowne, General Blakeney and many who subsequently became distinguished), and then passed on to Trinity College. Malone excelled at his studies, “an exemplary student, naturally diligent, consistently at the top of his class”, and was awarded with books stamped with the College Arms. In the very first examination, of four in the academic year, he shared top honours with James Drought and John Kearney who later became Fellows of the College. In 1763 he entered the Temple, and three years afterwards we find him travelling in France. He was called to the Irish Bar, and for a time rode the Munster circuit, but his leanings were towards literature and he gradually yielded to the charms of a literary life, and in 1777 settled permanently in London. Remaining unmarried to the last, almost his whole life was devoted to the study and elucidation of Shakspeare. His essays on the history of the stage, his biography of Shakespeare, and his attack on the genuineness of the three parts of Henry VI, were especially valuable. His editorial work was lauded by Burke, criticised by Walpole and damned by Joseph Ritson. It certainly showed indefatigable research and proper respect for the text of the earlier editions. The result of these labours came to fruition in 1790 with a new edition of Shakspeare in eleven volumes octavo. This was followed by this sixteen volume Dublin edition in 1794, and in 1821, some years after his death, another edition, in twenty one volumes, was edited by his friend James Boswell.

He was a prominent member of “The Club,” and was consequently intimate with Johnson, Burke, Charlemont, and the best men of his time. “Of Malone it is not, perhaps, very high praise to say that he was without doubt the best of the commentators on Shakspeare. He is, compared with his predecessors, more trustworthy in his assertions, more cautious in his opinions, and more careful to interpret what he found in the text than to substitute his own conjectures. But he belonged to an age when the merits of Shakspeare were not properly appreciated; and he is, like the rest of his brethren, cold and captious. He was of a critical school which, to a great extent, is fortunately extinct.”

After twenty-three years’ residence in England we find him advising his Irish friends against voting for the Union. Intimate with men high in power, his influence was courted on both sides - by Lord Clare as well as by the members of the opposite party. Two of his correspondents lost their appointments for following his advice. Mr. Malone died, principally from over study and sedentary habits in 1812. Lord Sunderlin, his brother, buried him by the family mansion at Baronstown in Westmeath.

Although it is stated to have been his wish that his splendid library and manuscripts should go to Trinity College, where he had been educated, Lord Sunderlin made it over to the Bodleian at Oxford, in the belief that it would there be useful to a larger number of persons than if sent to Ireland. His biographer says: “His countenance had a most pleasing expression of sensibility and serenity ... He wore a light blue coat, white silk stockings, and I think buckles in his shoes. His hair was white, and tied behind.”

Volume 16 includes an alphabetical index, to serve the purposes of a glossary to the works of Shakspeare, and the contemporary dramatick writers: containing references to all the words and phrases in his plays and poems, which have been explained or illustrated in the preceding notes. Illustrated with plates engraved by H. Brocas and P. Halpin.

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