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thors of Queen Anne's reign, produced in the public fuch a delicacy and even fastidiousness of taste, as could not be gratified by the irregular compofitions of our early poets, who therefore foon fell into disrepute, and were in a little time configned to oblivion. The difufe of the black letter contributed, perhaps, to this revolution in tafte. Of those works which had been printed in that antiquated character, a very few copies, becoming valuable from their scarcity, escaped into the cabinets of literary collectors, where they are secure indeed against farther infult, but are at the fame time inacceffible to the curiofity of the public.
IT has been lamented by many lovers of poetry, that, when a general and uniform edition of our poets was published under the aufpices of Dr. Johnson, no effort was made in favour of thefe antiquated writers. It fhould feem, that the director of that literary apotheofis might have recommended to public notice the works of Surrey, Wyat,
Sidney, Raleigh, and the feveral contributors to our earlier miscellanies, as justly and as fuccessfully as those of Blackmore, Sprat, and Yalden. The opportunity, however, is now loft, and is not likely to be foon recovered.
To those who poffefs a complete poetical library, the following collection will, of courfe, be ufelefs: it is a mere commonplace book, and very imperfect; but, it is hoped, far lefs fo than any other of the fame fize. It is confined to fmall poems only; because it was apprehended that these would be more pleafing than extracts and fragments, and would tend equally to characterize the manner of the feveral authors. The task of felection too was much easier; for any man can appreciate the merit of natural thoughts conveyed in natural language, whereas inspiration is a fupernatural agent, and what in one age paffes for fublime, may in ano ther be only confidered as abfurd,
POEMS of the ballad kind have been omitted, because they feem less connected with the history of our poetry, than with that of our ancient manners and customs. For this reafon too, the longest are scarcely fufceptible of abridgment, and their number is not so considerable as to require selection. It is to be wished that more of them may be difcovered, particularly in the class of metrical romances, as even the oldest of those in profe are claimed as the property of other nations.
As many of the names which occur in this volume will probably not be familiar to the general class of readers, it might be expected that the specimens of each author should be preceded by fome account of his life and writings: but it was thought unnecessary to attempt what has been already executed in the best and most popular of our modern miscellanies. A fufficient account of all the British poets may be found either in Percy's Collection; or in Headley's Select Beauties of
ancient English Poetry; or in Pinkerton's Scottish Ballads and Poems.
Ir is neceffary to mention, that the compiler has taken the liberty of adopting throughout the orthography of the present time. He conceives, that, although some of the variations which have taken place in our mode of fpelling may have been dictated by caprice, the greater number were adopted with a view to prevent ambiguity, and that it is no injury to his authors to render them more intelligible.
THE freedom which has been taken in fuppreffing not only feveral lines, but occafionally very long passages in a poem, is certainly inexcufable, if it fhall be found to have been injudiciously exercised: but, on this point, the reader's opinion will probably be decided rather by the merit of what is preserved, than by any apology that could be offered in a preface.