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The LETTERS of Cowper, as most closely connected with his Life, follow next in order. The occasional obscurities which the lapse of more than half a century since their first composition had cast over these exquisite specimens of epistolary excellence, the editor has endeavoured to remove by copious notes. These are of a miscellaneous nature, historical, literary, and biographical, including, in short, whatever of collateral information seemed requisite to render the beautiful originals their own interpreters. In some cases, as will be observed, remarks have been added, more from considerations of utility than of necessity. A numerous class of the readers of every popular author possess only a floating unrealized acquaintance with dates, names, and occurrences, which it is irksome to rest satisfied with, and, in their case, always troublesome, often impossible, accurately to determine. It has therefore been deemed less reprehensible to abound, than to be deficient, in illustration. On a similar principle, some additions have been made to the present collection of Letters : all those of former editions have been retained, partly because omissions, however slight, might by some be thought important, and at all events, would have given an appearance of incompleteness to the publication; but especially because no letter written by Cowper-even the briefest note—is altogether divested of a certain ease and gracefulness of expression peculiarly his own; consequently valuable as a model in one of the most delightful of all literary accomplishments.
The Poems, the number of which, as compared with the usual collections, is here considerably increased, are arranged, the more important compositions in the order first adopted by their author, the minor pieces according to their dates. The whole collection has been collated with, and restored from the original editions, the proof
sheets of which were revised by the Poet himself; and explanatory notes have been added where such were deemed necessary. The principal poems are, besides, accompanied by introductory notices, containing such anecdotes of their origin and progress, or such views of their merits and design, as promised entertainment or instruction.
On the whole, these volumes are offered with some degree of confidence, as presenting the most complete Life and edition of the works of Cowper yet before the public.
J. S. M.
A new Edition of these volumes having been called for within a few months after the publication of the first, the Editor has carefully revised the Life, and made what he trusts will be found to be important additions and improvements.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME FIRST.