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person residing here, has a share in the liberties of this kingdom; as the generality of the people are ultimately invested with the legislation. It is, therefore, every man's duty to know that constitution, which, by his birth-right, he is called to govern: a freeholder, in a free kingdom, should certainly be instructed in the original of that agreement by which he holds so precious a tenure.

These motives equally influence almost every rank of people ; but how much more forcibly should they operate upon you, whose honours, whose trusts and possessions, are likely to be so considerable. Others may have their liberties to support ; you must sustain your liberty, your property, and the dignity of your station. I shall therefore, without further preface, in some future correspondence, communicate the result of my inquiries on this subject; a subject which, I own, has employed all the leisure I had to spare from, I will not say more important, but more necessary duties. I shall endeavour, at once, to supply the facts, and the necessary consequences that may be deduced from them. I shall separate all that can contribute nothing either to amusement or use, and leave such to dull compilers or systematic writers of history, whose only boast is, to leave nothing out. A more thorough knowledge of the subject cannot be communicated without pain nor acquired without study; perhaps too minute a skill in this, or any one subject, might disqualify the mind for other branches of science, equally demanding our care. Of whatever use it may be, I hope you will consider it as an instance of my regard, though it should fail to add to your opinion of my sagacity.






Dr. FORDYCE's excellent Sermons for Young Women, in some measure gave rise to the following compilation. In that work, where he so judiciously points out all the defects of female conduct, to remedy them, and all the proper studies which they should pursue, with a view to improvement, poetry is one to which he particularly would attach them. He only objects to the danger of pursuing this charming study through all the immoralities and false pictures of happiness with which it abounds, and thus becoming the martyr of innocent curiosity.

In the following compilation, care has been taken to select, not only such pieces as innocence may read without a blush, but such as will even tend to strengthen that innocence. In this little work, a lady may find the most exquisite pleasure, while she is at the same time learning the duties of life; and, while she courts only entertainment, be deceived into wisdom. Indeed, this would be too great a boast in the preface to any original work; but here it can be made with safety, as every poem in the following collection would singly have procured an author great reputation.

They are divided into Devotional, Moral, and Entertaining, thus comprehending the three great duties of life ; that which we owe to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves.

In the first part, it must be confessed, our English poets have not very much excelled. In that department, namely,

(1) (Goldsmith's name was withheld from this Collection at the period of its publication, in 1776, but was added in a subsequent cdition. See Life, ch. xvi.]



the praise of our Maker, by which poetry began, and from which it deviated by time, we are most faultily deficient. There are one or two, however, particularly “the Deity," by Mr. Boyse ; a poem which, when it first came out, lay for some time neglected, till introduced to public notice by Mr. Hervey and Mr. Fielding. In it the reader will perceive many striking pictures, and perhaps glow with a part of that gratitude which seems to have inspired the writer.

In the moral part I am more copious, from the same reason, because our language contains a large number of the kind. Voltaire, talking of our poets, gives them the preference in moral pieces to those of any other nation; and indeed no poets have better settled the bounds of duty, or more precisely determined the rules for conduct in life than

In this department, the fair reader will find the Muse has been solicitous to guide her, not with the allurements of a syren, but the integrity of a friend.

In the entertaining part, my greatest difficulty was what to reject. The materials lay in such plenty, that I was bewildered in my choice : in this case, then, I was solely determined by the tendency of the poem ; and where I found one, however well executed, that seemed in the least tending to distort the judgment, or inflame the imagination, it was excluded without mercy. I have here and there, indeed, when one of particular beauty offered with a few blemishes, lopt off the defects; and thus, like the tyrant who fitted all strangers to the bed he had prepared for them, I have inserted some by first adapting them to my plan. We only differ in this, that he mutilated with a bad design, I from motives of a contrary nature.

It will be easier to condemn a compilation of this kind, than to prove its inutility. While young ladies are readers, and while their guardians are solicitous that they shall only read the best books, there can be no danger of a work of



this kind being disagreeable. It offers, in a very small compass, the very flowers of our poetry, and that of a kind adapted to the sex supposed to be its readers. Poetry is an art which no young lady can, or ought to be, wholly ignorant of. The pleasure which it gives, and indeed the necessity of knowing enough of it to mix in modern conversation, will evince the usefulness of my design, which is to supply the highest and the most innocent entertainment at the smallest expense; as the poems in this collection, if sold singly, would amount to ten times the price of what I am able to afford the present.






My bookseller having informed me that there was no collection of English poetry among us, of any estimation, I thought a few hours spent in making a proper selection would not be ill bestowed.

Compilations of this kind are chiefly designed for such as either want leisure, skill, or fortune, to choose for themselves; for persons whose professions turn them to different pursuits, or who, not yet arrived at sufficient maturity, require a

(1) [Two hundred pounds were said to be the price of this compilation, and the use of his name in the title page, to Griffin the publisher; an exaggeration which, though not circulated by himself, Goldsmith took no pains to contradict. When the magnitude of the sum was mentioned, his reply was: “Why, sir, it may seem large ; but then a man may be many years working in obscurity, before his taste and reputation are fixed; and then he is, as in other professions, only paid for his previous labours.” See Life, ch. xvi. ]

But my

guide to direct their application. To our youth, particularly, a publication of this sort may be useful ; since, if compiled with any share of judgment, it may at once unite

, precept and example, shew them what is beautiful, and inform them why it is so: I therefore offer this, to the best of my judgment, as the best collection that has as yet appeared ; though, as tastes are various, numbers will be of a very different opinion. Many, perhaps, may wish to see in it the poems of their favourite authors; others may wish that I had selected from works less generally read ; and others still may wish that I had selected from their own. design was to give a useful, unaffected compilation ; one that might tend to advance the reader's taste, and not impress him with exalted ideas of mine. Nothing is so common, and yet so absurd, as affectation in criticism. The desire of being thought to have a more discerning taste than others, has often led writers to labour after error, and to be foremost in promoting deformity.

In this compilation, I run but few risks of that kind : every poem here is well known, and possessed, or the public has been long mistaken, of peculiar merit; every poem has, as Aristotle expresses it, a beginning, a middle, and an end, in which, however trifling the rule may seem, most of the poetry in our language is deficient. I claim no merit in the choice, as it was obvious; for in all languages the best productions are most easily found. As to the short Introductory Criticisms to each poem, they are rather designed for boys than men; for it will be seen that I declined all refinement, satisfied with being obvious and sincere. In short, if this work be useful in schools, or amusing in the closet, the merit all belongs to others; I have nothing to boast, and at best can expect, not applause, but pardon.


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