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The public is here presented with a selection of English poetry, in a chronological series, from the beginning of the sixteenth century (or, including an extract from CHAUCER, from the latter part of the fourteenth) to the present time, upon a plan hitherto unattempted, at least in this country*. It will not be thought possible that a collection in three volumes should comprise every poem of value in the language; but it may be confidently asserted that there is scarce a single poet of any eminence or merit who has not contributed generally his best,
* THE CALEDONIAN MUSE, a collection of Scotish poetry, upon a similar plan, printed some years sinces though not yet published, was, in fact, a subsequent comme pilation.
and in some cases his only, production, and that no publication of like nature ever com prehended such a number and variety of excellent poems, or was printed with superior elegance, fidelity, or correctness. No alteration (except in apparent mistakes) has been attempted either in the language or in the orthography, and as little as possible even in the punctuation, of the edition followed, which, if not always the best, will in no case be found a bad one; the only variation, if any, confifting in the orthography, which is, perhaps, very feldom that of the author: nor has any piece been inserted which had already appeared in " A SELECT COLLECTION OF ENGLISH Songs,” published in 1783.
It must be confessed that the use, or rather abuse, of Italic types and capital letters has proved a source of constant discouragement and vexation. To have entirely preserved these frivolous distinctions, of which, in many
instances, it was utterly impossible to discover the reason, would have been perfectly ridicus lous; to omit them altogether appeared an act of violence. The editor, therefor, has not the vanity to hope that either the retention or the omission will satisfy the more critical reader ; being utterly unable to discover any principle which will justify either the one or the other. It is however to be wished that, except in fixed and given instances, they could be eno tirely laid aside ; being no more necessary, one would think, to the works of Pope or Swift than to those of Virgil or Horace.
As it has been thought advisable to publish the first of these volumes before the others can be printed, it is earnestly requested that those who possess the dates of the birth and death of FITZGERALD, BRAMSTON, FAWKES, SIR CHARLES HANBURY WILLIAMS, SMART, MERRICK, LLOYD, LANGHORNE, DR. CorTON, HALL STEVENSON; LADY MARY
WORTLEY MONTAGUE, MRS. BARBER, and MISS Mary Jones, will be kind enough to communicate them to the publisher, in order that the selections from those poets may
be duly arranged : and even the births of SIR John HARINGTON, Duke, sir SAMUEL GARTH, FENTON, BROOME, and SOMERVILE, may be made use of in a future edition, Thould the collection be found to deserve it. One should indeed have naturally concluded that these important facts, for such the birth and death of a man of merit or eminence una doubtedly are, would be found in the lives that have been written of almost all the persons just named; but, in short, many of these lives, even in the excellent biographical prefaces of Dr. Johnson, may be carefully perused without betraying even the century in which the author made fo distinguished a figure.-Any suggestion, at the same time, for the improvement of the work, in matter, method, accuracy, or