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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The first edition of this Miscellany, which appeared in 1790, was intended as an attempt “ to “comprise, within the compass of one volume, 66 all the most beautiful small poems that had 6 been published in this country during the “ sixteenth and seventeenth centuries ;" but it was, at the same time, admitted, that the “ completion of the publisher's plan had been
prevented by the difficulty of procuring a « sufficient stock of materials."
This difficulty has been since removed by the kind assistance of my friends; and the work, in its present state, contains a selection, made with some care and attention, from a considerable number of the best poetical libraries in this country. That it is still deficient, and that by greater industry it might have been improved, is very certain : * but the reader, who shall fairly examine the stock of materials here collected, will not be much surprised if the curiosity of the compiler was at length satiated, and if the labour of transcription became too irksome to be farther continued.
It has been objected to the former collection that it consisted, almost exclusively, of lovesongs and sonnets. The objection was certainly just, but the blame cannot fairly be imputed to an editor, who must be satisfied to take such instances of literary excellence as he can find ; and who, though he may lament, with his readers, that beautiful poetry is more frequently calculated to inflame the imagination than to chasten the morals, can only lament, without being able to remedy, such a perversion of talent.
The collection, in its present state, will be
* To what degree it is defective, the reader will be better able to judge, when Mr Ritson shall have printed his
Bibliographia Poetica, a Catalogue of English Poets of “ the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and six6 teenth centuries, with a short account of their Works.” It is said to be completed, and intended for immediate publication. [This accurate repertory has since appeared in one volume 8vo, 1802. Nicol.]
found to contain much more variety. The two parts into which it is divided are, indeed, directed to one principal object; which is, to exhibit, by means of a regular series of Specimens, the rise and progress of our language, from the tenth to the latter end of the seventeenth century. In the former part, which terminates with the reign of Henry VIII. the extracts are generally chosen with a view to picturesque description, or to the delineation of national manners.; whereas the second division of the work is meant to exhibit the best models that could be found, in each reign, of regular and finished composition. In the former, which consists of very early fragments, . it was thought that a few critical remarks, as well as biographical anecdotes, were absolutely necessary; and that these could not be given more concisely than in the form of an historical sketch : but in the latter, a short outline of the literary character of each reign, and a few notices respecting the several writers, appeared to be sufficient. To the whole is added a sort of Essay on the formation and early gradations of our language, which, being little more than a repetition of some observations contained in the
first volume, is perhaps superfluous ; but may be convenient for the purpose of reference.
The title of these volumes will shew, that they are by no means intended to supersede Mr Warton's very learned and entertaining, though desultory work, from which they are, in part, abridged; but rather to serve as an useful index to his History. Neither do they interfere with the valuable modern Miscellanies of Bishop Percy, Mr Pinkerton, Mr Ritson, the late Mr Headley, and Mrs Cooper ; from all of which they differ materially, except in the general purpose of selecting what is most valuable from the scarcest and least accessible compositions of our early literature.
It is only necessary to add, that the Saxon Ode, which in this work will be found to differ materially from the text of Dr Hickes, and of Gibson's Saxon Chronicle, was kindly furnished by the Rev. Mr Henshall, who collated the printed copies with two excellent MSS. in the Cotton Library; and who had the farther complaisance to supply the literal English version, as well as the learned notes with which it is accompanied