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FROM CHAUCER TO COW PER;
PREFACES, BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL,
BY DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON:
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON; J. NICHOLS AND SON; R. BALDWIN; F. AND C. RIVINGTON; W. OTRIDGE AND SON :
Harvard College Library,
Nov, 14, 1891, LOWILL BEQUEST,
C. WHITTINGHAM, Printer,
THE Preface to a collection like the present, necessarily involves an attempt to apologize for its defects, and from this some degree of egotism is inseparable. Candour, however, will not fail to make liberal allowance for the many difficulties which surround an undertaking of this magnitude: and it is hoped that the excuses which are offered, if not satisfactory, will at least be received as marks of respect. The labour of some years in forming this collection has been exerted with an anxious desire that it may prove worthy of public favour, but at the conclusion of the task, I cannot flatter myself that I have succeeded in forming the best plan, or in executing the plan which I formed.
The fate of the few collections which have been made of this kind readily pointed out that the objections of critics would be directed, either against redundancy, or defect, and it is as likely that I shall be blamed for admitting too many, as for admitting too few, into a work professing to be a BODY OF THE STANDARD ENGLISH POETS. It cannot, however, be unknown to those who have paid any attention to the subject, that the question of too much or too little in these collections, does not depend on the previous consideration of the merit of the poet, so frequently as on the relative rank which he seems destined to hold among bis brethren. Some may be admissible in a series, who would make but an indifferent figure by themselves, and it is not improbable that by perpetuating editions in this manner, the fame that has sunk in one revolution of taste may be revived in another.
There are perhaps but two rules by which a collector of English poetry can he guided. He is either to give a series of the best poets, or of the most POPULAR, but simple as these rules may appear, they are not without difficulties, for whichever we choose