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point, cooperate with irresistible energy to so desirable effects ?
But whatever ease or hopes (except of gain) those who have hitherto published Collections of this kind may have conceived, their execution of them feems, to the author of this work, as well as to the writer of this preface, the clearest deinonstration of their having greatly deceived themselves in their estimates. The models of some have been too narrow to be of any real or extensive use. Others have made half their work consist of detached epithets, fustian phrases, and di&tionaries of rhyme. Some again, in their choice of thoughts, have given us abundance of alloy with very little ore ; and, to swell their volumes,' have stuffed them with useless matter, long translations, and para phrases of well-known originals. Some have confined their collections solely to the stage ; and others entirely excluded whatever it could fupply. Some have cited their authors so blindly, that no recourse can be had to their works ; and others have not quoted them at all. Some, either through ignorance, or want of care, ascribe to one author the passages of another ; and others, officiously turning authors themselves, continually sophisticate what they transcribe, and give us their own interpolations !
blended with their authors sense, that what they cite in such a manner, cannot be adjudged either to the one or the other. Some injudiciously extract the worst parts of their author, and even insert those under improper topicks ; and others quote authors they never looked into, but take upon trust wherever they find them. Some have been so careless as to borrow passages from those whồ stole them : And all, especially Our late compilers, have neglected even to look into the many excellent ancient poets,
from whom the following sheets are taken, 01 whose thoughts might often have claimed
a preference, or, at least, an equality with lloy those they have inserted in their collecheltions, the dress of words only excepted. I lels
: would not derogate in the least from the rafes praise of the more modern or cotempo
rary poets, to whom the highest regard age and veneration is most juftly due ; but to er lexclude the merits of the dead, whom - all themselves have always admired, is so far
from being a compliment to them, that it e noe must be an unpardonable partiality in their cough sense ; especially whilst they know, that the
one old vices and follies of mankind are perthers, rátually reviving, and that the preservacom tion of as much of the knowledge of things as posible, is so necessary to correct the igance and follies, and improve the knowA 3
cribe ons 'n lend
ledge and manners, of mankind; the great ends of all useful learning, and especially that diviner species of it, poetry:
But to come more particularly to the proof of the defects we have ascribed to the poetical Commonplace Books hitherto
pu. blished, we proceed to a brief review of all that have come to our knowledge, from the first appearance of such collections in *print.
It is observed, even in the middle of Queen Elizabetb's reign, that books of - poetry, and works of a poetical nature, were more numerous than
other kind of writings in our language. Accordingly, in the latter end of it, they were thought to abound with such elegancies, that no less than two collections, principally from the poets of her time, were published in one year. One of these is called BelveDERE, or, The Garden of the Muses t. The author's name was John Bodenham, a gentleman undoubtedly ambitious of diftinguishing himself by the Laconick fingularity of his performance. Hence, we suppose it was, that he made it his inviolable rule to admit no quotation of more than one line, or a couplet of ten syllables.
This * Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, 410. 1586. Pref. + Printed at London for Hugh Altley, 8vo. 1600.
- This makes him so sparing of his sense, and gives him so dogmatical an air, that his reader is rather offended, chan lacisfied with his entertainment. The length or brevity of a passage is, indeed, no reason for either admitting or rejecting it ; its value being to be rated not by its size, but sense ; but where the former is so penurious, the latcer ought to make amends either in beauty or instruction. This, his friend the publisher seems to have understood ; for he tells us, his author would not be persuaded to enlarge his method, and promises ample additions in the second impression. So affected a piece did not escape censure. It was exposed in a dramatick * performance at Cambridge a few years after, in which the poet compares this mutilating compiler to a poor beggar gleansing of ears after harvest : (he might have faid single grains from those ears.) There is, indeed, so abrupt and sudden a hurry from one idea to another in every chapter of his book, that the sentences Nip through the reader's apprehension as quicksilver through the fingers ; he scarce perceives them before they are gone. The author had not only a friend to distribute these minute particles for him under proper
heads, • Return from Parnasus, &c. publickly aded by the Judents of St. John's College, Cambridge, 4ro, 1606.
heads, and to subjoin a section of fimiles, and another of examples, to each of them ; but a printer so observant of an odd 'method and uniformity, undoubtedly prescribed him, that there has' fcárce been a book printed since with a formality fo remarkably insignificant. But there is another fingularity of a more serious nature in this performance, which is, the collector's having omitted to annex the poets names to his citations ; which leaves room to fufpect, that he was afraid of being detected of having mangled his originals egregiously in his barbarous manner of curtailing them.
The other collection, published the same year in a larger volume, is called ENGLAND'S PARNASSUS ; or, The choicest Flowers of our modern Poets, &c. It is dedicated to Sir Thomas Monfon by the author, who, in most of the copies, writes himself R. A. but in one or two I have met with, there is R. Allot, of which name I find a bookseller at that time, but know not whether he was the collector. He has, indeed, been more liberal in his entertainment, for the generality, than the foriner ; for he does not mince his quo. tations, and is not so shy of his authors; but his performance is evidently defective in several other respects. He cites no