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EDITOR'S PREFACE TO POEMS.
In re-editing this division of Dryden's work, I have had the advantage of the late Mr. Christie's excellent "Globe Edition," which, though I need not say that it has not been allowed to supersede independent collation of the original, has been of very great use both in checking the results of that collation, and in suggesting annotations. The merits of Mr. Christie's work are unquestionable by any one who does not allow his own opinions on extra-literary points, or his self-love as a specialist and commentator, to bias him in his judgment of other men's literary performance. But Mr. Christie left something to do, and I have done my best to do it.
As far as annotation goes on matter of fact (for, as before in the case of the Dramas, his explanation of word and phrase is a little defective), Scott has been lavish in forestalling the requirements even of the most greedy reader. To my own (possibly unfashionable) judgment the abundance of illustrative extracts from
perfectly worthless contemporaries, and the elaborate detail given to things and personages like the Fire, the Popish Plot, and the chief actors in them, which should be within the knowledge of any probable reader, are somewhat excessive. But I need hardly say that I have struck out nothing, and I have occasionally added. The arrangement of the notes in Scott's edition is, however, inconvenient, and would have been rendered still more inconvenient by the necessary addition of my own remarks. For Scott, printing the bulk of his commentary at the end of each poem, occasionally made notes on the page (which are rather an eyesore in the midst of his references to the others in large Roman numerals) and always inserted Dryden's own few notes at the foot, though sometimes in a slightly altered form. He also omitted, or transferred to the bottom of the page, the sidenotes, which occur in most of the originals, and are very characteristic. I have followed Mr. Christie in restoring these, and in numbering the verses, while I have grouped all the notes (my own bracketed, Dryden's marked with the "D" and restored to their original form, and Scott's) at the foot of the page, with the ordinary asterisk and dagger indications.
As in the Dramas, so in the Poems, Sir Walter's text leaves something to desire. In both cases he followed the dangerous plan of
taking a textus receptus, and correcting by the first editions, and it so happened that his textus receptus of the Poems (Derrick's) was an exceedingly bad one. Many misprints had crept in, and sometimes deliberate alterations, arising from sheer ignorance of the language of the time, had been made. These Scott did not always remove, and sometimes his text admits fresh ones. One of the most singular misprints I have noticed (one which seems to have escaped Mr. Christie, who annotates most of them), is in the rather spiteful account of Father Petre in The Hind and the Panther. Dryden wrote
With these the martin readily concurred-
appears in Scott
A church bigot and church-believing bird,
than which a more unhappy blunder in verse and sense could hardly be made. As before, it has not been thought necessary to annotate each individual instance in which the correct reading has been restored.
Anything that has to be said about individual poems will be said under their respective heads. With regard to the general system of annotation, I shall follow the same principle which I have observed hitherto that of explaining whatever seems to need explanation, without indulging in a luxury of parallel passages, which
appears to me useless and barbaric. This kind of excess (from which Scott himself is quite free) can have but one of two objects, either to anticipate, in an intempestive manner, the business of the lexicographer, or to display the erudition of the scholiast. I have no ambition either way, and I treat my readers as I myself should wish to be treated in the reading of a classic.
THE MEMORY OF OLIVER CROMWELL.
THESE Verses compose the earliest of our author's political poems, and are among the first which he wrote, of any length or consequence. The first edition is now before me, by the favour of my friend Richard Heber, Esq.; and, while correcting this sheet, I received another copy from Mr. Finlay, author of the "Vale of Ellerslie." It is of the last degree of rarity, since it has escaped the researches even of Mr. Malone. The full title is, "A Poem * upon the Death of his late Highness Oliver, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland; written by Mr. Dryden. London, printed for William Wilson, and are to be sold in Well-Yard, near Little St. Bartholomew's Hospital, 1659," 4to. Upon comparing this rare edition with those of a later date,† no material alterations occur, excepting that the spelling is modernised, and the title abridged.
Some of our author's biographers have deemed it necessary to apologise for his choosing this subject, by referring to his near connection with Sir Gilbert Pickering, the friend and confidant of the deceased usurper. There is, however, little reason to suppose, that Dryden did any violence to his own inclinations, to gratify the political feelings of his kinsman
* [Actually "Three Poems, etc., written by Mr. Edm. Waller, Mr. Jo. Dryden, Mr. Sprat of Oxford."-ED.]
[There was a second in the same year, printed by itself, with the subtitle of the first slightly altered, viz.: "Heroic Stanzas consecrated to the Memory of his Highness Oliver, late Lord Protector of this Commonwealth, etc. Written after the celebrating of the Funeral." Dryden may have revised this, in which spelling and punctuation were much modernised. The reprint in 1682 of the Three Poems was a piracy intended to discredit the Laureate, and the Stanzas were again separately reprinted in 1687, as "by the author of the H-d and the Pr" (London: Printed for S. H., and to be sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster)— evidently with the same intention. Tonson published the Stanzas in 1695, presumably with Dryden's consent.-ED.]