« PreviousContinue »
S the mind of man is ever fond of variety, no
thing seems better calculated to entertain, than a judicious collection of the smaller (tho' not on that account less-labour'd) productions of eminent poets : an entertainment not unlike that which we receive from surveying a finish'd landschape, or well.dispos'd piece of shell-work: where each particular object, tho' singly beautiful, and sufficiently striking by itself, receives an additional charm, thus (as Milton expresses it) sweetly INTERCHANG'D. The first miscellaneous collection of
poems, that ever appear'd in Great-Britain with any reputation, is that publish'd by Mr Dryden : which was afterwards continued by Tonson. There are many pieces of the highest merit in this collection by Dryden, Denham, Creech, Drayton, Garth, Marvell, and many others; yet the compilers, it is evident, were not always sufficiently scrupulous and cautious in their choice, as several pieces are admitted, among the rest, which would otherwise utterly have perished, and which had no other recommendation than that they served to swell the volume. Since this, many miscellanies have been published both in Scotland and England : to enumerate which would be no less tedious than useless. It will be fufficient to remark, that thro'
want of care or judgment in their respective editors they are all forgotten, or neglected. From these the miscellany known by the name of Mr. Pope perhaps ought to be excepted; tho that, indeed, cannot properly be styl'd a collection of poems by different hands, which is such a one as we are speaking of at present; the greater part consisting of pieces by Mr. Pope only. The best miscellany at this day extant in our language, and the first complete one of the kind which we have seen, is that lately publish'd at London by R. Dodsley, which boasts the greatest names of the present age among its contributors.
As to the poetical collection here exhibited to the public, we apprehend it challenges no small degree of regard, as it was made under the immediate inspection and conduct of several very ingenious gentlemen, whose names it would do us the highest honour to mention ; and as it contains a variety not to be found even in the admirable collection laft spoken of; I mean the Intermixture of
both Scotch and English. Nor is this variety less agreeable than useful; as from it, we have an opportunity of forming a comparison and estimate of the taste and genius of the two different nations, in their poetical compositions.
It will be necessary to take notice, that our chief care has been to furnish out the following mifcellany with those pieces (regard being first had to real merit)
which have laid unknown and unobserv'd from their MANNER of publication ; several of them having been printed by themselves, and so perished as it were for want of bulk, and others loft amid the rubbish of collections injudiciously made, and perhaps not easily to be met with. Nor will it be improper to mention, that in order to render our volume ftill more complete, we have had the favour of some original poems, written by a late member of the university of Aberdeen, whose modefty would not permit us to print his name : and from these ingenious effays, the public may be enabled to form fome judgment beforehand of a poem of a nobler and more important nature, which he is now preparing. Nor must we forget to return our public thanks to this gentleman, for the service he has been to us, not only in making this collection more excellent by his own contributions, but in selecting such pieces of others as were suitable to our design.
It is hoped that the ancient Scottish poems (amongst which the ThisTLE AND THE ROSE, and HARDYKNUTE are more particularly distinguished) will make no disagreeable figure among those of modern date ; and that they will produce the same effect here, as Mr. Pope obferves a moderate use of old words may have in a poem ; which (adds he) is like working old abbey-stones into a modern building, and which I have sometimes seen practised with good success.
Upon the whole, as we have been favour'd with the best assistance in compiling this volnme, no further apology is neceffary; and as the approbation of the public has been already secured to these poems separately, we hope they have no lefs reason to claim it when thus published together.