Imatges de pàgina
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FIRST EDITION 1779 1780.

The Booksellers having determined to publish a Body of English Poetry, I was persuaded to promise them a Preface to the Works of each Author undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very extensive or difficult.

My purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Miscellanies, containing a few dates and a general character: but I have been led beyond my intention, I hope, by the honest desire of giving useful pleasure.

In this minute kind of History, the succession of facts is not easily discovered; and I am not without suspicion that some of Dryden's works are placed in wrong years. I have followed Langbaine, as the best authority for his plays; and if I shall hereafter obtain a more correct chronology, will publish it: but I do not yet know that my account is erroneous.*

* Langbaine's authority will not support the dates assigned to Dryden's Plays. These are now rectified in the margin by references to the original Editions, the only guides to be relied on. R.

Dryden's Remarks on Rymer have been somewhere * printed before. The former edition I have not seen. This was transcribed for the press from his own manuscript.

As this undertaking was occasional and unforeseen, I must be supposed to have engaged in it with less provision of materials than might have been accumulated by longer premeditation. Of the later writers, at least, I might, by attention and enquiry, have gleaned many particulars, which would have diversified and enlivened my Biography. These omissions, which it is now useless to lament, have been often supplied by the kindness of Mr. Steevens and other friends; and great assistance has been given me by Mr. Spence's Collections, of which I consider the communication as a favour worthy of publick acknowledgment.

* In the Edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, by Mr. Colman. R.


THE Life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography, has been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has produced a funeral oration rather than a history: he has given the character, not the life, of Cowley; for he writes with so little detail, that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is shewn confused and enlarged through the mist of panegyrick.

ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one thousand six hundred and eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals under the general appellation of a citizen ; and, what would probably not have been less carcfully suppressed, the omission of his name in the register of St. Dunstan's parish gives reason to suspect that his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his son, and cousequently left him to the care of

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