The present Editor has been called at the eleventh hour to edit this most important - because (although not the first printed apparently) the first - of The Shakespeare Restoration Dramas. Unhappily the gentleman selected by the General Editor, by reason of severe domestic affliction as well as by his own failing health, has been unable to perform the office, and I can only in any sort feel a possible excuse for imperfectly attempting his place, in that I am using most of the Introduction he had partially prepared. What now follows is his:
"As this is the first of the Restoration Bankside series to reprint a play of Sir. William Davenant it may be well to refresh the memory of the reader with the recital of a few details of his life.
He was born in February, 1605-6, at the Crown Inn, Oxford. The legend of his relationship to Shakespeare is too well known to need repetition. It is a legend he seemed inclined to disseminate rather than to protest against, but it rests on a very slight foundation. His putative father was the proprietor of the Inn, a man of substance, at one time Mayor of Oxford; his wife, William's mother, is said to have been a very beautiful and attractive woman. Shakespeare at all events seems to have stood sponsor in baptism for the boy and to have seen him frequently during his childhood and a warm affection to have grown up for him on the part of the lad, which it is reasonable to suppose had some influence in determining his career. He attended Lincoln College, Oxford, but left, without waiting for his degree, to take his place as a page in the retinue of the Duchess of Richmond. From her service he passed to that of Lord Brooke where he remained till the murder of the latter in 1628. In 1629 he produced his first play, the tragedy of Albovine. This seemed to please the people and he soon sprang into public recognition and, in conjunction with Inigo Jones, he engaged in the production of court masques. One of them, Britannia Triumphalis, was suppressed because - the Puritans then coming into power - the first performance was given on Sunday.
On the death of Ben Jonson in 1637, Davenant was made poet-laureate. Shortly after this event, he collected his minor lyrical pieces and published them under title of Madagascar and other Poems.