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The public is here presented with a selection of English poetry, in a chronological series, from the beginning of the fixteenth 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 since, though not yet published, was, in fact, a subsequent coina pilation.
and in some cases his only, production, and that no publication of like nature ever comprehended such a number and variety of excellent poems, or was printed with superior elegance, fidelity, or correctness. No altera, tion (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, consisting in the orthography, which is; perhaps, very feldom that of the author: nor has any piece been inserted which had already appeared in 6 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 impoffible to discover the reason, would have been perfectly ridiculous; 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 entirely 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