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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
When the biography of Sacred Poets was first suggested to me, my memory reverted with delight to some of the least known of our elder Bards, who adorned the reigns of James and Charles the First,—I recollected that while every other species of our poetry had been illustrated by many able and industrious scholars, the fountains of Holy Song were seldom visited. Warton, in his excellent, though imperfect, history, touches very briefly on the subject; and the subsequent publications of Ellis, Southey, and Campbell, embrace too extensive a period to afford more than a passing glance at the writers of religious verse. The most valuable contribution to this department of our literature, with which I happen to be acquainted, is a little volume of Sacred Specimens, by the Rev. J. Mitford, containing several rare and interesting poems, but unaccompanied by any notices of the writers. This omission is to be regretted, since the Editor's taste and learning seem to have peculiarly fitted him for the task.
My own position was felt to be one of considerable difficulty. An unexplored region lay before me, abounding in treasures sufficient to realize the most enthusiastic expectations, and to compensate for the most persevering toil. But it was necessary to bear in mind, that a history of English Sacred Poetry was not meditated, and that a rapid view of some of its principal cultivators, in addition to the more extended memoirs, was all that could be offered. This object appeared likely to be attained 'by the interspersion of occasional biographical and critical sketches, together with specimens. In the collection of these, some patience was required; the pearls were to be found before they could be strung; the abundance of materials, how