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PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE. ] The flory on which this play is formed, is of great antiquity. It is found in a book, once very popular, entitled Gefla Romanorum, which is fuppofed by Mr. Tyrwhitt, the learned editor of The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, 1775, to have been written five hundred years ago. The earlieft impression of that work (which I have seen) was printed in 1488;* in that edition the hiftory of Appolonius King of Tyre makes the 153d chapter. It is likewife related by Gower in his Confeffio Amantis, lib. viii. p. 175 —185, edit. 1554. The Rev. Dr. Farmer has in his poffeffion a fragment of a MS. poem on the fame fubje&, which appears, from the hand-writing and the metre, to be more ancient than Gower. The reader will find an extract from it at the end of the play. There is also an ancient romance on this fubjea, called Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, tranflated from the French by Robert Copland, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510. In 1576 William Howe had a licence for printing "The most excellent,. pleafant, and variable Hiflorie of the frange Adventures of Prince Ap◄ polonius, Lucine his wyfe, and Tharfa his daughter." The author of Pericles having introduced Gower in his piece, it is reasonable to fuppofe that he chiefly followed the work of that poet. It is obfervable, that the hero of this tale is, in Gower's poem, as in the prefent play, called prince of Tyre; in the Gefla Romanorum, and Copland's profe romance, he is entitled king. Moft of the incidents of the play are found in the Conf. Amant. and a few of Gower's expreffions are occafionally borrowed. However, I think it is not unlikely, that there may have been (though I have not met with it) an early profe tranflation of this popular flory, from the Geft. Roman. in which the name of Appolonius was changed to Pericles: to which, likewife, the author of this drama may have been indebted. In 1607 was published at London, by Valentine Sims, "The patterne of painful adventures, containing the mot excellent, pleasant, and variable hiftorie of the frange accidents that befell unto Prince Appolonius, the lady Lucina his wife, and Tharfia his daughter, wherein the uncertaintie of this world and the fickle ftate of man's life are lively defcribed, Tranflated into English by T. Twine, Gent." I have never feen the book, but it was without doubt a re-publication of that published by W. Howe in 1576.
Pericles was entered on the Stationers' books, May 2, 1608, by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the firft folio edition of Shakspeare's plays; but it did not appear in print till the following year, and then it was published not by Blount, but by Henry Goffou; who had probably anticipated the other, by getting a hafty tranfcript from a playhouse copy. There is, I believe, no
There are feveral editions of the Gefta Romanorum before 1488.
play of our author's, perhaps I might fay, in the English land guage, fo incorrea as this. The moft corrupt of Shakspeare's other dramas, compared with Pericles, is purity itself.
The metre is
feldom attended to; verfe is frequently printed as profe, and the groffeft errors abound in almoft every page. I mention these circumftances, only as an apology to the reader for baving taken fomewhat more licence with his drama than would have been juftifiable, if the copies of it now extant had been lefs disfigured by the negligence and ignorance of the printer or tranfcriber. The numerous corruptions that are found in the original edition in 1609, which have been carefully preferved and augmented in all the fubfequent impreffions, probably arofe from its having been frequently exhibited on the ftage. In the four quarto editions it is called the much admired play of PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE; and it is mentioned by many ancient writers as a very popular performance; particularly, by the author of a metrical pamphlet, eutitled Pymlico or Run Redcap, in which the following lines are found:
"Amaz'd I flood, to fee a crowd
"Of civil throats fretch'd out fo loud:
"Did fwarm with gentles mix'd with grooms;
"Came to fee Shore or Pericles."
In a former edition of this play I faid, on the authority of ano. ther perfon, that this pamphlet had appeared in 1596; but I have fince met with the piece itself, and find that Pymlico, &c. was publifked in 1609. It might, however, have been a republication.
The prologue to an old comedy called The hog has loft his Pearl, 1614, likewife exhibits a proof of this play's uncommon success. The poet fpeaking of his piece, says:
if it prove fo happy as to please, "We'll fay 'tis fortunate, like Pericles."
By fortunate, I understand highly fuccessful. The writer can hardly be fuppofed to have meant that Pericles was popular rather from accident than merit; for that would have ben but a poor eulogy on his own performance.
An obfcure poet, however, in 1652, infinuates that this drama was ill received, or at least that it added nothing to the reputation of its author:
"But Shakespeare, the plebeian driller, was
"Founder'd in his Pericles, and mult not pafs."
Verfes by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's Jovial Crew, or the Merry Beggars, 4to. 1652. The paffages above quoted fhew that little credit is to be given to the affertion contained in thefe lines; yet they furnish us with an additional proof that Pericles at no very diftant period after