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A NEW and elegant collection of the Works of the British Poets cannot fail to be considered as a monument in honour of men who have instructed, delighted, and adorned the land of their birth; and, therefore, the Proprietors of this edition believe that they stand in need of no apology for offering it to the notice of the Public. Nor is it necessary that they should expatiate on the genius of the Poets of Britain. It would be at once idle and presumptuous in them to touch upon a subject which has occupied the pens of the most eloquent writers,
and on which no difference of opinion can possibly exist. They have only the humble task of stating what has been done for the purpose of rendering this edition worthy of the patronage which it solicits, and which they think that it deserves.
To the works of the authors contained in Sharpe's collection are added those of some of our ancient poets, and also of several of our modern; so that the series now extends from Chaucer and Spenser to Burns and Cowper.
The greatest care has been taken to ensure the correctness of these volumes. In the course of time, and in consequence of printing from unrevised copies, innumerable typographical errors, fatal in many instances to the sense, had crept into the compositions of our poetical writers. To remove these blemishes, every poem has been minutely examined by a gentleman who is supposed to be competent to restore the purity of the text, and who, as hereverences the lyre,' has naturally been
zealous in the performance of his duty. To absolute exemption from error it would perhaps be arrogant, and certainly impolitic, to pretend; but it is confidently hoped, that very few faults of the press, and those of trifling import, will be discovered in this collection.
On Dr. Johnson's Lives, which are adopted as far as they extend, it is needless to make any observation. The biographical sketches by the Editor claim no higher praise than that of being composed from the best authorities that could be procured, and of having been uniformly dictated by a sincere wish to do justice to the moral and poetical character of the illustrious dead.
With the kind intention of lightening his toil, two gentlemen, long devoted to literature, have contributed twelve lives. One of those gentlemen desires to remain anonymous, though there is no work to which his name would not be an ornament. It is useless for the Editor to dwell upon the merit of the lives which his
friendly coadjutors have supplied. Those lives speak sufficiently for themselves. They will, perhaps, cause the reader to regret that the number of them is so small; they will certainly prove that the Editor, whatever may be thought of his prudence in admitting compositions which may throw his own into the shade, is at least not contaminated by the baseness of literary jealousy and envy.
March 12, 1822.