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tivation of the fine arts, and, particularly, that refined taste for the beauties of poetry, and that talent for producing those beauties, for all which Mr. Rasbotham is so well known and so justly admired, will, I am sure, be thought to stamp a pecu-. liar propriety on my
Accept, therefore, dear Sir, this testimony of regard, as proceeding from the fincereft sentiments of efteem and friendship of
Your most obedient,
P R E F A CE.
N converfing with a few of my friends
who were lovers of poetry, I have
frequently joined them in lamenting that the number of excellent songs which our language afforded, were so dispersed thraugh. a variety of authors, or overwhelmed in injudicious colleЕtions, that it was a most difficult matter to discover and enjoy the riches of this kind which we pojeljed. We observed that every collection of songs, without exception, was degraded by dullness, or debased by indecency; and that song-writing scarcely seemed in any of them to be considered as a pleasing Species of poetical composition, but merely as
serving for the conveyance of some favourite tunes. We were concerned to find that the more modern
was, it was remarkably the more deficient in poetical merit; so that a total decay of all taste for genuine poetry, in this pleasing branch of it, was to be apprehended. This we in great measure attributed to the fashionable rage for music, which had encouraged such a musiproom growth of comic operas, that vile mongrel of the drama, where the most enchanting tunes are suited with the most flat and wretched combinations of words that ever disgraced the genius of a nation; and where the miserable versifier only eppeers as the hired underling of a musical composer. We thought therefore, that it would be a meritorious piece of service to the cause of poetry, by uniting into one firm body the most excellent productions in song-writing, to form a barrier against the modish insipidity of the age, and to gratify such real lovers of genius as yet remain amongst us.
This task I was induced to undertake; and were I to make a boastful recital of the numerous volumes of song-colle&tions and miscellany poems which I have turned over for the purpose, it would show that industry at least had not been wanting in accomplishing it. This kind of praise, however, is of so inferiour a nature, that, I confess, it would scarcely satisfy my ambition.
During the progress of my researches, I was insensibly led to make some remarks on the peculiar character and diversities of the pieces which pased in review before me, and to form comparisons between them, and others, the produce of a different age and country. As the subject had novelty to recommended it, and was suited to my inclinations, I was incited to pursue it to a length which seemed to render it lawful for me to take the title of an Esayist, instead of a mere compiler. If the attempts which should support this more honourable character have not the fortune to meet with approbation, a 4
I must be contented with
bumble endeavours to please by the merits of others; yet I cannot acknowledge any impropriety in the design, well remembering that Horace promises his friends not only to present them with verse, but to tell them the worth of his present.
It may perhaps be a matter of surprise, that after so much labour I have not been able to furnish a larger collection than is bere offered; but on considering the manner in which these pieces have been ushered into the world, the wonder will cease. The chief
sources of good songs, are the miscellany poems and plays from the time of Charles the second to the conclusion of Queen Ann's reign. Most of these were given in the earliest collections, mixed however with the trash of the times, and copied from one to another with no farther scriation than substituting new trash for such as was out of date. In the most modern colleЕtions, all the beauties, as well as the insipid pieces