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PREFACE.

“To read a good comedy is to keep the best company in the world, where the best things are said, and the most amusing happen," - so Hazlitt tells us.

Sheridan's two great comedies are seen on the stage to-day more often than any two plays of any other dramatist, not excepting Shakspere ; it may be doubted whether even ‘Hamlet' is acted more than the ' School for Scandal.' They are read as freely and frequently and with as much pleasure as are the plays of any English dramatist, with the sole exception of Shakspere. Neither the “Rivals ' nor the School for Scandal' is one of the eighteenth-century classics which, like the Spectator and the Rambler, like “Rasselas,' and perhaps, alas ! the “Vicar of Wakefield,' is taken on trust and read by title only, like a bill before the House. And yet, although they bear their hundred years bravely, although they are acted half a thousand times in succession at one theatre, although they continue to come out in new editions for the table of the library and for the pocket of the traveller, they have not hitherto received the careful editing which the classics of the drama deserve and demand.

To present Sheridan's plays in a pure text, with all needful illustrative notes, with short introductions setting forth their history, and with a biographical sketch of their author, so that the reader might be provided with whatever is necessary for the full enjoyment of these centenarian comedies, - this is the object of the present edition.

For the text, I have followed that of the edition of two volumes octavo, published in 1821 with a preface by Moore. For the brief biography of Sheridan I need say little: it is the result of original research and it contains few second-hand facts; but so carefully has the ground been gleaned by earlier writers, that I can claim as my own by right of discovery only the explanation of the means whereby Sheridan became the owner of Drury Lane Theatre; - and even the solution of this problem is plausible and probable rather than absolutely certain.

I take pleasure in thanking here, RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, Esq., of Frampton Court, Dorchester, for the courtesy and consideration with which he allowed me to examine the manuscripts of his grand

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