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A Life of William Shakespeare by Sir Sidney Lee

[Picture: William Shakespeare]






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_Printed November_ 1898 (_First Edition_).

_Reprinted December_ 1898 (_Second Edition_); _December_ 1898 (_Third Edition_); _February_ 1899 (_Fourth Edition_).


This work is based on the article on Shakespeare which I contributed last year to the fifty-first volume of the 'Dictionary of National Biography.' But the changes and additions which the article has undergone during my revision of it for separate publication are so numerous as to give the book a title to be regarded as an independent venture. In its general aims, however, the present life of Shakespeare endeavours loyally to adhere to the principles that are inherent in the scheme of the 'Dictionary of National Biography.' I have endeavoured to set before my readers a plain and practical narrative of the great dramatist's personal history as concisely as the needs of clearness and completeness would permit. I have sought to provide students of Shakespeare with a full record of the duly attested facts and dates of their master's career. I have avoided merely aesthetic criticism. My estimates of the value of Shakespeare's plays and poems are intended solely to fulfil the obligation that lies on the biographer of indicating succinctly the character of the successive labours which were woven into the texture of his hero's life. AEsthetic studies of Shakespeare abound, and to increase their number is a work of supererogation. But Shakespearean literature, as far as it is known to me, still lacks a book that shall supply within a brief compass an exhaustive and well-arranged statement of the facts of Shakespeare's career, achievement, and reputation, that shall reduce conjecture to the smallest dimensions consistent with coherence, and shall give verifiable references to all the original sources of information. After studying Elizabethan literature, history, and bibliography for more than eighteen years, I believed that I might, without exposing myself to a charge of presumption, attempt something in the way of filling this gap, and that I might be able to supply, at least tentatively, a guide-book to Shakespeare's life and work that should be, within its limits, complete and trustworthy. How far my belief was justified the readers of this volume will decide.

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