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O, how faire frutes may you to mortall men
From wisdomes garden geue? How many may
By you the wiser and the better proue ?

Nicholas Grimauln. Tottel's Miscellany: 1557.


The aim of this work is to provide students and lovers of good poetry with a comprehensive Selection of the best original Sonnets known to the Editor, written by native English poets not living; and to illustrate it from English poetical and prose literature.

In pursuance of the plan adopted, the volume falls into two equal portions,Text and Notes. The first is devoted to Sonnets by those writers who have attained the highest, or nearly the highest, excellence in this species of composition ; and the second, which is specially intended for students, to a liberal system of illustration, furnishing a complete critical apparatus for the study of the Sonnets in the Text, and containing numerous supplementary Sonnets by the same writers and others of the past suggested by them. Throughout this portion also have been interspersed, as occasion offered, examples from some of our best living sonnet-writers; but it will be obvious that these, which come in simply by the way, and form no essential part of the work, are not submitted as affording any adequate representation of our contemporary Sonnet-literature.

Definitions of the Sonnet have been so frequent since the present work was first taken in hand, now some years ago, as to determine the Editor not to encumber his volume with the

analytical Essay on the Sonnet out of which it originally grew. It may be mentioned, however, that the Selection, generally, has been made in accordance with principles enforced in that Essay, which-with all deference to such rigid disciplinarians as Mr. Tomlinson-favoured a relaxation, so far as English practice is concerned, of nearly every law in the Italian code except the two cardinal ones which demand that the Sonnet shall consist of fourteen rimed decasyllabic verses, and be a development of one idea, mood, feeling, or sentiment,-and one only.

By reducing the contents of the Text to the orthography of the present day-a wholesome test of poetic vitality-and adhering, in all quotations in the Notes, to the successive contemporary modes of spelling and (when admissible) punctuation, the Editor trusts that he has avoided offence to the advocates either of the archaic method on the one hand, or of the modern on the other.

To the respective owners by whose liberality so large a number of copyright Sonnets are inserted; and to the many good friends who by word or deed have aided him in his labour of love, the Editor takes this opportunity of repeating his grateful acknowledgments.

D. M. M.


27th November, 1879

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