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plan is different, his design is the same: neither in his title, nor in his object, does he claim any novelty, nor is it of consequence that he should. The general scheme of this work was formed long before the appearance of the Rev. Mr. Dibdin's

Bibliographical Decameron," a work of far deeper research and far wider learning than the author can pretend to. Yet the subject of these inquiries, if not as curious and recondite, is at least as inviting and important, for, as a living critic has well said, “ poetry is the stuff of which our life is made: it is not a mere frivolous accomplishment—the trifling amusement of a few

a idle readers or leisure hours-it has been the study and delight of mankind in all ages.”

As to the matter of the work before him, the reader will find it more fully explained in the Induction; but it may be necessary here to remark that where other writers have

before him in extracts from or criticisms upon any of our old poets, the author has either shunned the track, or has freely admitted his obligation to his precursors. He knew that the chief recommendation of his work, after all, would be its originality, as far as respects the various books of which specimens are introduced; and it has therefore been a principle with him to avail himself as little as possible of other men's labours.


With regard to the manner, the form of dialogue has been selected, as allowing more ease and familiarity of observation, and at the same time a greater facility of excursion from one book or from one subject to another. It is a saying of refined antiquity, that a meeting of friends should never consist of more than the Muses, or of fewer than the Graces: the latter has been chosen in this instance for greater convenience and simplicity, and as much diversity of character has been displayed as the nature of the conversations would easily allow. Congeniality of feeling was of course necessary, and different modifications of it was nearly all that could be attempted.

There is but one of the succeeding conversations, the seventh, which can be properly called miscellaneous, for all the rest have one leading object, more or less strictly pursued. Thus in



the first, a very rare poem of much talent by Fitzgeffrey, may be said to be the ground-work ; all the digressions in their degrees contributing to illustrate it. The second treats particularly of the rise and progress of undramatic blank verse in English, used at least a century before the publication of Paradise Lost. The four next conversations are devoted to the origin and improvement of satirical poetry, of which Bishop Hall, with a little of what Lord Bacon calls “the varnish of boasting,” falsely claims and has been generally admitted to be the earliest inventor or practiser, when, in truth, he was preceded by several celebrated writers. The seventh contains a collection of curious poems, independently of such as the author had introduced in his progress in furtherance of the main designs. The eighth criticises an original novel, on which Shakespeare founded his “Twelfth Night,” very recently discovered, and unknown to all his numerous editors: it also adverts to other productions to which our great dramatic bard was indebted. The ninth and tenth conversations

embrace a review of


of the most rare productions for and against theatrical performances from the earliest times to the Restoration : it of course includes not a few interesting particulars illustrative of the history of the stage, and some tracts that have hitherto escaped notice.

In executing this task, the author has been chiefly indebted to his own industry aided by good fortune, which, as a reward for his early and zealous attachment to the pursuit, seemed to throw in his way

valuable relics and sources of information that others, who might have been more competent to apply them to advantage, had not enjoyed. He was unknown to the literary world ; and though, had he stated any important object, the libraries of many collectors would no doubt have been freely thrown open to him, yet where he had no claim, he was unwilling to ask a favour. With one gentleman, indeed, equally distinguished for his enterprise in purchasing and his liberality in lending his rarities, he was personally acquainted; and two of the most valuable tracts reviewed in the course of the work, were derived


from his beautiful assemblage of curiosities. The name of this gentleman is only not inserted, because he would think a public acknowledgment one of the worst returns for an act of private friendship

It may be right to forewarn the reader, unaccustomed to the examination of old books, that he must be prepared to meet with, and allow for certain uncouthnesses in the orthography of most of the extracts in these volumes. For the phraseology of our ancestors no excuse is made, because it is generally better than our own, and the many existing glossaries of obsolete words have rendered such an appendage here unnecessary.

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