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* for 1. Johnson; J. Nichols and son ; R. Baldwin, F. AND c. Rivington: w otRidae and son,
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c. Will Ti N (; 11 AM, Printer, Guswell-Strect, London.
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 olation has been exerted with an anxious desire that it may f: worthy of public favour, but at the conclusion of the task, cannot flatter myself that I have succeeded in forming the best all, or in executing the plan which I formed.
The fate of the few collections which have been made of this ind readily pointed out that the objections of critics would be ted, either against redundancy, or defect, and it is as likely I shall be blamed for admitting too many, as for admitting few, into a work professing to be a Body of the STANDARD NGLISH Poets. It cannot, however, be unknown to those who We paid any attention to the subject, that the question of too oth or too little in these collections, does not depend on the vious consideration of the merit of the poet, so frequently as the relative rank which he seems destined to hold among his thren. Some may be admissible in a series, who would make an indifferent figure by themselves, and it is not improbable t by perpetuating editions in this manner, the fame that has kin one revolution of taste may be revived in another. o are perhaps but two rules by which a collector of English
try can be guided. He is either to give a series of the Best * or of the most popular, but simple as these rules may #pear, they are not without difficulties, for whichever we choose
to rely upon, the other will be found to interfere. In the first instance, the question will be perpetually recurring “who are the best poets?” and as this will unavoidably involve all the disputed points in poetical criticism, and all the partialities of individual taste, an editor must pause before he venture on a decision from which the appeals will be numerous and obstinately contested. On the other hand, he will not find much more security in popularity, which is a criterion of uncertain duration, sometimes depending on circumstances very remote from taste or judgment, and, unless in some few happy instances, a mere fashion. An bookseller can tell an editor that popularity will frequently elude his grasp, if he waits for the decision of time; that authors popular within the memory of some of the present generation are no longer read, and that others who seemed on the brink 0 oblivion, if not sunk in its abyss, have by some accountable 0. unaccountable revival, become the standing favourites of the day It has often been objected to Dr. Johnson's Collection, that it in cludes authors who have few admirers, and it is an objectio which perhaps gains strength by time, but it ought always to b remembered, that the collection was not formed by that illustrio scholar, but by his employers, who thought themselves, what thi unquestionably were, the best judges of vendible poetry, at who included very few, if any, works in their series for whi there was not, at the time it was formed, a considerable degree demand. Aware of the difficulties of adding to that collection witho reviving the usual objections, what is now presented to the pub could never have been formed, had I imposed on myself the ter. either of abstract merit, or of popular reception. When appli to, therefore, by the proprietors, and left at hiberty, generally, form a collection of the more ancient poets to precede Dr. Jol son's series, and of the more recent authors to follow it, I c ceived that it would be proper to be guided by a mixed rule admitting the additions from these two classes. Although question of popularity seemed necessary and decisive in selecti from the vast mass of poetical writers since the publication Dr. Johnson's volumes, yet in making up a catalogue of the ol poets, it was requisite to advert to the only uses which suc